Marketing Lessons I Learned From Lizards
AKA - What On Earth Do Reptiles Have To Do With Marketing?
I got my start in digital marketing by working for a reptile company – LLLReptile and Supply Co, Inc. You can read a bit more about that in an earlier post of mine about where all of this got started, but this post will start to touch on just how much overlap there is between reptiles and marketing.
What marketing lessons are there to learn from lizards, really?
First, you’ll need to understand a couple basics about reptiles.
It’s more than just keeping a scaly animal in a cage, and tossing it things to eat every now and then. Reptiles can actually be somewhat complex creatures, requiring specialized lighting, heating, humidity, and/or diet. The majority of them couldn't survive for long in the average family home (despite what you remember about so and so's iguana or tortoise free roaming in the living room).
So why do we keep them as pets?
HOW do we keep them as pets?
Most reptile care sheets and information came from people who had to figure out how to care for them through creativity and detective work. For example, I wrote one of the first (accurate) caresheets for a small, brightly colored little lizard that was inexpensive, but never really bred or kept long in captivity. To figure out how to care for a neon gliding lizard, I had to look up research papers, information on the weather in the region they were from, and I had to figure out not just the exact location they were most commonly found in – but which ecological niches they were found in, too.
Are you drawing any parallels in my research on an obscure, tiny lizard to the research required to figure out demographic data for marketing strategies?
You should be!
Just like in determining the best care for neon gliding lizards, to determine the best strategy for a particular business, you need to do thorough research ahead of time. You need to know what your target audience is looking for, what they care about, when they do various activities. If you can't look it up, you have to design experiments to figure it out.
When I first started looking up information on gliding lizards, most advice said to keep them dry, and relatively hot, similar to some of their cousins – lacertas. I set up my gliding lizards a bit differently than most new keepers, though, and offered them a choice of environments. Not only did I give them quite a large cage, but I set up four “quadrants” of conditions around hot, cold, wet, or dry.
Then I watched, and while I waited to see results, I did research.
I found a single scientific study on their gliding abilities, and found that the paper (the actual paper, not the summary linked) mentioned these lizards living in the area of a forest under the tree canopy. In the region of Africa that these animals are from, those areas under trees and in bushes are quite humid. This preference for warm and humid was shown in my little captive gliding lizards – they stayed entirely on their warm and humid section in the cage.
While your customers aren’t likely to need specialized lighting in your store, some of the methods I used to learn about my gliding lizards apply to your target audience, too.
1. Provide a range of options. If you only ever offer a subpar choice, your target will perform poorly – in the case of the poor gliding lizard, many people kept them on sand, which resulted in short lifespans.
For your target audience, you can’t determine what they’ll like best if you only give them a few options. Some marketers only try one thing – and wonder why it doesn’t do well!
Keep in mind that a poorly performing post or ad might just not be giving your target audience what they want or need…so try something else. It’s not just trying a ton of things willy nilly, either. Your experiments should be structured and allow you to easily identify what the preferred ‘environment’ for your target audience is.
2. Look for information in unusual places. I had to dig up a research paper and check in African field guides to figure out where the little lizards I was keeping came from – beyond just the country they were exported from. Not many reptile keepers check the weather in the country their pets come from, or where in the ecosystem they tend to live.
Look for creative ways to learn more about your audience. Where do they "live"? Go beyond just your niche; telecom can be about more than just spreadsheets and data management, for example. What about the latest free apps, tips for staying energized throughout the work day, or other information that’s likely to be enjoying by the typical office worker?
There’s more to the customers or clients you’re trying to attract than just their work life. Find out what motivates them, and figure out what they’re likely to engage with. Use Twitter chats, for example, to find your audience and to find what they find interesting.
3. Make sure your experiments are measurable. I kept a notebook by the gliding lizards’ cage, and made a tally mark for the quadrant of the cage that I saw them in at a given moment. After a week, I had clear data showing they greatly, greatly preferred the humid sides of their cage.
You’ll need to keep track of the performance of your website, blog posts, or social media statuses somehow, and be sure that you’re seeing what’s working, and what’s not. It’s boring, but it’s what works. As Neil Schaffer points out in his book, Maximizing Your Social, social media is pretty much just a giant experiment. You can't figure out what works (or doesn't) if you're not tracking what's happening.
I kept my funny little gliding lizards for years, successfully encouraging breeding behavior for multiple seasons. They were hilarious and extremely educational animals to keep, full of behaviors I never would have expected from such small animals. The amount of time it took for me to write their care sheet was significant - but worth it, just like a quality marketing plan takes time and effort to create.
You don't have to boil your marketing efforts down to a science experiment driven purely by numbers, but it will help your efforts to figure out how to make them measurable.
This is where identifying your KPIs leading to your big goal comes in handy. You can even boil it down to sorting out topics or types of content that you share - do pictures get more engagement, or links? Posts about office productivity, or posts about major industry events?
You can't make an informed decision about your marketing plans without the right data, just like you can't take proper care of a reptile without the right data.
If you're not sure where to start - start with tracking your basic website metrics. Figure out how long people stay on your site, where they come from, and how many of them there are in the first place. From there, you can update your strategy appropriately.
I've made it easy to get started. Just click here and you’ll be able to download my starter metrics tracking sheet – all of my data is tracked with these, and each one customized to the exact KPIs for the client.
Guest Blogger: Jennifer Greene
Jennifer Greene gained her experience in digital marketing through the challenging task of managing the marketing for one of the largest reptile & supply companies in the US. Jen founded her agency, Tyrannosaurus Marketing, in October of 2014, using her fondness for helping others do well to assist B2B companies in improving their digital marketing efforts.