Shoshin and the Power of Data-Driven Marketing

Posted by Jack Wilkinson on Oct 31, 2018 7:00:00 AM
Jack Wilkinson
Find me on:

In my last post, I mentioned the concept of shoshin, or beginner's mind. In my jiu-jitsu training, shoshin has proven invaluable, but it has also influenced other areas of my life. Shoshin allows me to approach each endeavor with an empty, open mind -- free of preconceived notions. But how does this help? And how does this apply to marketing strategy?

My first exposure to the concept of shoshin occurred at the age of eighteen. A close friend gifted me a book entitled, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. The book transcribes a series of talks given by Suzuki to students at a Zen center in California. In these talks, the Zen master encourages students to approach their practice with "beginner's mind" -- a mind free of accomplishment, attainment or expertise. It is human nature to repeat learned behavior, but with shoshin, Suzuki explained, we can rid ourselves of expectations and preconceived ideas of how things should be. This can have a profound impact on our lives, and there is modern scientific research that backs this up.


Are You New to Inbound Marketing? Never Fear--


Several of my training partners and I were having dinner with jiu-jitsu legend Saulo Ribeiro a few years ago. During the course of the evening, I was talking to Saulo about my viewpoints on politics, religion and life in general. I noticed he seemed to be tuning me out. I asked him what he thought. He looked at me and said, "I think you have a lot of opinions. Everyone has a lot of opinions." Ouch. In those two sentences, Saulo reminded me that all of my preconceived notions weren't special or unique. In fact, having a bunch of opinions made me just like most people who suffer from the limitations of being an "expert". Experts are allowed to be close-minded. Why? Because they are the experts. They believe things based on knowledge and experience. These beliefs allow their brain to stop problem-solving in real-time. They already have the answers. But divest yourself of the expert's mindset and you can again look at things with a sense of curiosity and wonder. You become more perceptive, flexible and present.


"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few."

Driving Success With Data

AdWeek recently published an article about leaders in the world of marketing despairing at the lack of data-driven marketing professionals. As organizations shift marketing strategies and resources to increase collection of marketing data, they are finding that they do not have the talent to properly analyze and leverage the data. When I was done reading the article, an interesting thought occurred to me: the reason many marketers might avoid leveraging data is because they think they already know the answers -- and they don't want to be proven wrong.

Rather than using subjectivity or relying on what you believe to be true, try using shoshin. Thinking about re-designing your website? First try creating a heat map for your current site and learn about the elements that your visitors love (or completely ignore). Want to create a persona for your target audience? Rather than creating stiff, demographic personas, try interviewing a few dozen clients and asking lifestyle questions. Or mine the implicit data associated with their content downloads and blog views to identify key behaviors and interests. The point is to approach the project with a beginner's mind. Empty your cup. Collect and analyze the data that will help you build the best framework for decision-making. Insights are everywhere, for those that want to see them.

One word of caution -- if you're going to tell the story with data, tell the whole story. Don't cherry-pick the data that tells the story you want to tell. With beginner's mind there is no disappointment, only learning. Gather and review the data without preconceptions or motives, and let the data tell you the story.


Lead Generation Guide

Topics: Marketing