One make or break skill every marketer should have

When a connection is made value is created, writes Ken Murray, so for marketers there is no more critical ability than connecting the dots. 


Have you noticed there are two invincible topics for marketers?

Social media and big data are two different fields, but what underpins them both is the idea of connectivity. Social media (in best practices) is about connecting ideas to people, whereas big data provides people the insight to generate ideas.

For example: when I proposed to my fiancé, she changed her Facebook relationship status and instantaneously her Facebook advertising evolved from seemingly-irrelevant content (that she paid no interest in) to ads scoping the full spectrum of wedding-related products and services – and suddenly now she takes interest.

Google’s remarketing rolls this out further: you spend a couple of hours browsing a real estate website, then, when you’re ready to take a break on Netflix or ProjectFreeTV, there are more unaffordable houses chasing you everywhere!

You’ve probably encountered this yourself. Nowadays we encounter this so often that we can almost push this phenomenon to our unconscious mind, unless it is very relevant. The effectiveness of your ability to reach out to your customers is directly related to how you enter into a conversation your potential customers are already having with themselves or those significant to them.

Therefore, the greatest ability we all must have as marketers is the ability to make connections.

All of the greatest inventions, ideas and campaigns were brought about by the human creativity process which is powered by the connecting of one notion to another.

This is the underlying skill that marketers must cultivate in themselves and throughout their organisation in order to pull-ahead of competitors or carve their own niche. You can find examples of this by tracing through the recent successes of social media from Facebook to Instagram. We could go right back to the Wright Brothers physics of flight connecting to the shape of bird wings, or Thomas Edison’s light bulb connecting the principles of Michael Faraday’s work on electricity. However, to better serve your purpose today I’ll assume you are not trying to invent the next Facebook or light bulb.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but nowhere is this winning principle more relevant to you than reflecting on the common denominators of your own successes, big or small.

The new measure of productivity is the effectiveness of our ideas, ideas that are quickly turned into results. The very best ideas we have can always be traced back to the connections we made.

If you sell a monthly subscription or a regular cycle consumable product and someone drops off it is easy to recognise there is a connection of events that have taken place, and ultimately you know this customer’s circumstances have changed. At this point you may not know what has happened, but it could be indicative of a weakness in your organisation’s customer service or the result of competitors undercutting you.

In one of my earlier marketing roles it was clear that competitors were entering the market. We weren’t tracking customers, only sales, which were steadily improving, so there was no cause for concern from shareholders in the company.

Customer retention is more important than slow but steady sales. If there is a problem in the relationship between business to consumer, this deserves your focus. By tinkering with an SQL Database for our invoicing software and an ODBC to Excel I was able to extract the customer’s buying habits of a certain product and when it stopped. This insight gives a consultant a target to aim for, the humble beginnings of a focus on customer retention and, later, a CRM implementation.

Within three weeks of implementing this new system and supporting the consultants through marketing and training we clawed back every single customer we lost. This is now an ongoing practice.

Is connecting the dots the most important skill you have in your repertoire?

If so, here are four techniques that will help you sharpen this skill:

  1. Seek first to understand: Learn your customer’s behaviour. What do they do before and after they find you? What else do they want that relates to the value you can offer?
  2. Look for connections in everything: From the contrasting colours in a design, to the fact your pen rolls off your desk the same way your car drives down the freeway.
  3. Brainstorm with Venn diagrams: My favourite combination is to map using the three Ps: your product, the person you are reaching out to (customer archetype) and the problem they’re encountering.
  4. Practice root-cause analysis: to find the underlying common denominators in your customer’s problems (I recommend asking five ‘why’s).




Ken Murray
BY Ken Murray ON 14 October 2014
Ken Murray is the director of marketing for MEI Group, having now clocked over seven years of senior marketing experience specialising in the industrial sectors and B2B. 
Ken's background stems from a keen interest in pattern recognition and problem solving, which would eventually lead to an academic background in sociology (the 'why' question) to strategic marketing and business (the 'how' question). He believes success in business and marketing is about connecting the individual customer's 'why' to the business' 'how'. Next step is to operate efficiently and then you've got results, which is all he's interested in. Follow him @Kengetsitdone.