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For Marketers, It’s Not a Mobile Phone. It’s a Window (Thinks Out Loud Episode 262)

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For Marketers, It’s Not a Mobile Phone. It’s a Window (Thinks Out Loud Episode 262) — Headlines and Show Notes

Data and mobile go hand-in-hand for marketers. That's not a secret. But have you thought about what that really means for your business? We live in a time of radical transparency. Because the radically transparent information that customers can gain about your business tells them everything they could want to know about your products, services, quality, and prices — whether you want them to or not.

But their mobile phone isn't really a mobile phone. It's a window. And just as they can see into your business, you can see into their lives. Savvy marketers understand this. They also understand what's appropriate to look at… and what ought to be off limits. Savvy marketers know how to ask permission… and know what they maybe shouldn't ask for at all. And savvy marketers know how to put that data to work for their business… and for the benefit of their customers.

The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud looks at why it's not a mobile, and why it's a window. And we also take a look at you can succeed in a world where both you and your customer can see everything about one another without being creepy.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

For Marketers, It’s Not a Mobile Phone. It’s a Window (Thinks Out Loud Episode 262) — Relevant Links:

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You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

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Running time: 14m 32s

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For Marketers, It's Not a Mobile Phone. It's a Window (Thinks Out Loud Episode 262) – Transcript

Well, hello again, everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, and this is episode 262 of the big show. Thank you so much for tuning in. I really, really appreciate it.

I think we have a really cool show for you today, and I want to talk a bit about mobile and data and your customers, and how all of those tie together in a way that means a lot for your business. Now, it's really clear that mobile changes behaviors tremendously. We know this. I mean, this is something I've talked about in show after show after show, and I'm not going to rehash all of those, though I will link to many of those episodes in the show notes, but I want to point out that your customers now live in a world of radical transparency, of a world where all of the information that matters to customers about your company is available to them anywhere and anytime. They use that data to make decisions. They use that information to make decisions about whether or not you're the right product or service for their needs in a given time.

They have more information about your products, your services, your prices, your benefits, your weaknesses than any of your employees do. Actually, than all of your employees do. Obviously, any of your employees can access the same information and the like, but most of the time they don't because your customers have greater incentive to ask those questions and to seek out that information. They're the ones who have the need. They're the ones who have a problem. And so they're using mobile wherever they happen to be and whenever it matters to them to look up the information that answers their question.

You know, there's an old joke, I've told it many times on this show, in marketing that nobody looks to buy a drill. They look to buy a hole. The drill is just a way of making that happen. And so what your customers are doing is saying, "Well, I have this problem. I need something, a hole. I need a hotel room. I need a place to stay. I need financial advice. I need the coolest new gadget," whatever it happens to be, and they're asking the questions of, "What product, what service, and that what price can I get that thing that serves my purpose, that fills this need for me?"

Clay Christensen, Clayton Christensen, the guy who wrote The Innovator's Dilemma and other books that basically lay out the idea of disruption always refers to the job to be done. What is the job to be done that your customers are hiring your product or service for? And mobile answers all their questions about whether or not your product or service is the right solution to hire for what their need is.

But here's the crazy thing, right? Radical transparency works both ways. It cuts in both directions. Your customers aren't carrying a phone, they're carrying a window. It's not a one-way piece of glass. They can see into your business. They can see deeply into your business. But you can see into their world too. In some ways, and I'm not the first person to say this, but the mobile phone is sort of the TV that watches you if you're a customer. If you think about all of the sensors that exist in a mobile phone, we've got accelerometers, we've got gyroscopes, we've got proximity sensors, we've got digital compasses, we've got barometers and biometrics and all sorts of other things. We get a sense of all of the massive amounts of data that customers share with us, whether they intend to or not, or at least share with the manufacturer of the phone and the manufacturer of the operating system, so Apple and Google, and sometimes Facebook and sometimes Instagram and sometimes whomever else.

I always think about it as, you go back to the inventors of some of the greatest technologies that ever existed, Gutenberg and Daguerre and Marconi and Bell and Farnsworth, right? Your customers have a printing press and a camera and a radio and a telephone and a television studio with them everywhere they go, and all of it is at their fingertips. So when I talk about data, see, and this is where we come round to the data side, but when I talk about data, I'm talking about all of the things that your customers' behaviors and their posts and their sharing tell us about what matters to them.

Think about the technologies that you use regularly today. You know, you use things like social media monitoring. You use things like search analytics. You use things like web analytics or mobile analytics to tell you how your customers behave. That was the kind of data people would have given their right arms for a decade ago or two decades ago, and today it exists everywhere. So we live in a world of sheer radical transparency. There's nothing that you can know, that you could want to know, that's not available to you, at least from a technical perspective. And this is where things start to get really interesting and really important for us to think about as marketing professionals and as business professionals.

You know, let me ask you a question. There are biometric sensors… So I'm wearing an Apple watch right now, and it has biometric sensors that measure my heart rate, so it can tell a lot about my heart rate. Right now, I assume my heart rate is pretty normal, pretty standard, but is that data something that my insurance company should have access to? If I didn't own my own business, is that something that my employer should have access to? If you're the insurance company, is that something that you should have access to without your customer's permission? We don't like it when customers look deeply inside our business and look at details that we really wish weren't public. Is it fair of us to expect customers to give over that data to us about themselves that they might wish weren't public? And I think there's some very real questions we need to ask about what kinds of data should we access and what kinds of data should we never access. And this is a really big debate and a really important debate.

You know, I've said many times, quoting the philosopher Paul DeLillo, "When you build a ship, you build a shipwreck." And the question for savvy marketers is, are the shipwrecks that could potentially begin to exist worth the risk compared to the benefits we might get from the ship?

I don't think there's any one definitive answer to that question.

You know, maybe it makes a lot of sense for an insurance company to have access to my heart rate. Maybe it makes better for everybody, including me, if they do, because maybe I'll get a better rate. Maybe my risk of heart attack will be reduced. Maybe they can provide me customized information to help me manage my heart rate and manage my health and manage my stress levels or all of the various things that could in fact make my heart rate accelerated and put me at greater risk of dying. But that's the argument we should be making as a business.

We should be saying, "Here's the benefit you get when you provide this data to us." If you the customer say, "Okay, I understand the benefit, but I'm not comfortable providing that information," then we also have to say, "Then that's okay," and we can use combinations of carrots and sticks to say, "Okay, you don't want to give us the information. Maybe you pay a higher rate because we don't know. We don't know how to assess your risk." So all of these are things that are worth asking about and worth thinking about.

I have mentioned before that regulations like GDPR and CCPA have come in … the California Consumer Privacy Act … have come into effect because we as marketers maybe didn't do a good enough job of protecting customer information. And so I think we have to remember that it's not a phone, it's a window. And yes, customers can use it to see inside our business and we can use it to see inside their lives. What we need to do is also ensure that when we're doing that, we're doing it with permission, we're doing it in a way that's transparent, no pun intended in this case. You know that they're very aware of the kinds of information we access and why. That we maybe give them the right to opt out, or at help them understand why the various carrots and sticks exist, because people who look through windows without permission, it used to be they were called "peeping Toms," but today they're just called creeps.

So don't be a creep. Use the window for what it's designed to be. Use the window in cooperation with your customers and understand that sometimes they may want to draw the shades or draw the blinds and keep us from seeing certain stuff, and that's okay, but we also have to understand that if we're going to look deeply into the lives of our customers, they're also going to look deeply into the lives of our businesses, and we need to make sure each of us on both side of the glass are comfortable with what we're letting others see.

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but I would want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode, as well as an archive of all our past episodes, by going to Again, that's Just look for episode 262. While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single episode. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts or Stitcher Radio or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. You can find us on all the finest podcast services anywhere in the world. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud, or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those.

While you're there, I'd also very much appreciate it if you could provide us a positive rating and review. That provides other listeners a window into the show and helps them understand whether or not it's something they would like to listen to too. It makes it easier for people to find us, and it would mean a ton to me.

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Facebook by going to You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter, or of course you can email me by sending an email to Again, that's

As ever, I'd like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter by going to

With that, I want to say thanks so much for tuning in. I very much appreciate it. I hope you have a great rest of the week, a wonderful weekend, and I'll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, as ever, please be well, be safe, and take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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