16 Aug 2020 » Opinion

The English expression put (oneself) in (someone’s) shoes has similar versions in many languages around the world. In the case of Spanish, for example, instead of “shoes”, we say “skin”. The older I grow, the more important I find this idiom. Personally, I think that, in order to be successful in life, you need to think about it every time you interact with others. It applies to every aspect of life but, since this blog is about digital marketing, let’s concentrate on this area.

What you sell vs what I need

The conflict in marketing arises with the messaging. On the one hand, the marketeer, as an employee of the company trying to sell something, will tend to take the company’s point of view:

  • The product/service is cheaper than the competition.
  • The quality of the product is superior than similar products.
  • This is a unique offering; nobody else has anything similar.

We need to also be very conscious that the product managers are in love with their products. They believe that they have the best product in the universe and the consumers will immediately see it. As a marketeer, however, you know this is not enough to sell a product.

On the other hand, as a consumer, my starting point is completely different:

  • I have a maximum budget to buy a product I do not really need.
  • I am looking for a replacement of a product I already have, which broke a few days ago.
  • My wife’s birthday is coming up and I need to impress her.

In summary, consumers are looking for solutions to their problems. And you, as marketeer, need to offer the solution they are looking for.

This differentiation of points of view applies to all marketing, both traditional and digital. While I understand that it is impossible to match exactly both, the narrower the gap, the more likely to succeed in getting the message through. In other words, when you, as a marketeer, have to send a message, remember to always think in terms of the consumer.

Attention limitations

Another reason to put the consumer at the centre is that many people struggle with attention. To start with, people have a very limited attention span and this span is getting shorter over time. With so many messages hitting each of us every day, we end up spending less and less time analysing each message. If it does not resonate, we ignore it.

Also, in relation with attention, you have to consider what you are not saying in your message. If you explain “cause A” and “consequence B”, but you do not explain how you get from A to B, most of the people will get lost. How to spot these cases? Very simple: every time you omit something because you think it is too obvious. Let me tell you something: it is obvious only to you; for the rest of the population, it is black magic or an act of faith. I know it sounds ridiculous but, often, you should treat your audience as children.

Finally, an example from my own experience. A few months ago I was explaining to a web analytics manager of a bank how they could use Adobe Analytics to achieve one specific requirement. I used an example of a retailer I worked with in the past. Obviously, the example was not an exact match of what the bank needed, but about 80% was still applicable. This person dismissed my example saying that it did not apply to them. He could not see beyond the fact that the example was from a different vertical. So, again, if you expect your audience to know how to apply what you are saying to their personal experience, unless it is a very close match, they will likely not get it.

Digital marketing

How to apply it in digital marketing? I do not have answers to every question, but here you have some ideas you may want to explore.

Web analytics

This case is an outlier, but still very relevant. I will illustrate it with a real life example.

Many years ago, in one of my first assignments as an Adobe Analytics consultant, the web analytics manager repeatedly received a request from another person in the organisation for a specific report. Every time, this report had to be created manually, taking a significant amount of time. The analytics manager did not consider creating a dashboard, as he did not like them (I have to admit that I had the same feeling). However, one day, tired of building the same report again and again, he built a dashboard, shared it with the person requesting the report and never had to build the report again manually. In fact, this person requesting the report never came back.

Although web analytics is not about sending messages to consumers, it is still as key as any other marketing activity. Creating the right report for the right person is critical for the recipients to take good decisions. As a web analytics manager, you should avoid letting your prejudices create the wrong reports.


This is probably the area where it is easiest to find the best message for your audience. Since you do not know what message will resonate the most with the consumers, you can create many messages, each with a slightly different point of view. Then, you should run an A/B test on these different messages, for the specific audience you are targeting, and let the consumers tell you what they like most. After a couple of weeks, the winner experience should be promoted as the personalisation for that audience.

If you have Adobe Target Premium and a lot of traffic, you can even take advantage of Adobe Sensei. You just need to create multiple messages, again, putting yourself in the shoes of one type of consumer at a time, and let the machine match message and consumer.


The first and most important piece of advise is, as I said at the beginning, put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Do not just write an essay of how good your product, service or employer is. Think about yourself as a consumer: what makes you decide between clicking the spam button or reading the email? We all receive dozens of emails every day, with all sort of offers. Ask your colleagues to get more opinions.

As with personalisation, technology can help you. You can use A/B testing to find which email works best.

Web content

How many times have you visited a website, read the contents, did not understand anything and left for good? I have been in this situation too many times. Somewhere, someone suggests a website for something that looks exciting. I click on the link and after a minute or two reading the website, I just abandon wondering what they are offering or even trying to say.

I understand that some very specialised websites have a language difficult to understand to outsiders. This is OK if your target audience understands this language. However, if you are trying to reach a wide audience and use jargon or vague expressions, people will abandon. I have seen this situation in very technical companies or start-ups trying to impress. Also, if your website focuses too much on your company and not on how your products or services solve your audience’s problems, do not expect too much success.

Once more, think like your audience. Even better, invite people who could be your audience, and ask them whether they understand your content. A quick search offers multiple suggestion of what not to do. You also have an ally in technology. Using technologies like Adobe Target, you can create multiple versions of the same page an perform an A/B test on them. You will then be able to choose the version that your audience finds most useful.

Another tip is to be very conscious every time you think “this is obvious, I do not need to document it” when you are writing content. Guaranteed, someone will not find it obvious and will get lost. As an example, this very blog: I always think about you, the reader, when I write my posts. Especially in the more technical posts, I am very verbose, making sure the most novice of you will be able to follow the explanation.

Display advertising

This is probably the area marketers have abused the most and the reason why we see news like these. Most people want free contents and are willing to accept banners, but not obtrusive advertising, like pop-ups or full-page overlays. I could write a couple of paragraphs about what you should do, but I think you know what to do by now: do not annoy the consumers with your ads.


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