How not to lose your shirt with crap marketing


Marketing has one purpose and one purpose only — to make you money. If it’s not doing that, then it’s not just a waste of time, but it’s costing you money, too.

And the only way you’ll know whether your marketing is working or not is by measuring it and crunching the numbers. Then, the only way to improve it is to test alternatives and see which one works the best.

See, in the past most business owners would throw an ad into the local paper or drop a postcard in the mail and then wait to see what happened. And what usually happened is business just went on as usual: customers came in, visitors hit the website, the phone rang... and sometimes they might fancy they detect an increase in business, and sometimes not.

In recent years as businesses have moved almost exclusively to online marketing this attitude hasn't changed, something I find appalling given how easy tracking, testing, and measuring are with online tools.

Consider your typical social media marketing efforts: you post shit, "engage" with people who comment on or like your post and occasionally get an enquiry in your inbox.

This is all woefully inadequate and deeply unscientific.

Worse, many so-called professionals actively resist suggestions they should be measuring this stuff rigorously claiming social media marketing is somehow "different" and a "new paradigm".

Bullshit. That's a smokescreen to hide the fact they know it's ineffective. But if they can hide from the truth they can pretend it isn't there and carry on doing what's comfortable and easy even though it's largely ineffective.

To be worthy of the name, your direct response marketing must be trackable to the point where you can tell with very high probability exactly where every sale came from.

You’ll never get a 100% record on this because you’ll find the oddest coincidences and events conspiring to bring you traffic and customers, but anything is better than nothing, and so long as you build the notion of testing and measuring into your marketing you’ll soon be able to track the vast majority of it.

Why Do We Test?

We test because unless we do, we won’t know if something works or not when we put it in front of our target market.

I am forever being asked about specific strategies and tactics, and invariably the business owner wants to know, “will this work?”.

And I don’t know. I can tell you with a high degree of confidence if something won’t work, at least most of the time; but saying if something will work is almost impossible.


Because even if you do everything “right” the capriciousness of the random factor — luck — means on any given occasion things might go horribly wrong.

Back in 1997 one very smart and wealthy direct response marketer had a tested and almost-certain-to-succeed campaign set to run over one weekend in the Summer.

Unfortunately that was the weekend of 31st August, when Princess Diana died. That weekend no one was interested in his ads, even if they actually ran.

This is a classic example of how Fate can intervene to nuke your tried and tested plans.

Why Do We Measure?

We measure so we know what results our tests are getting us.

If they’re making us money, then we know we’re onto something; if they don’t then we know we have to think again.

If we neither test nor measure, then we simply don’t have a clue what’s going on (which accurately sums up most of your competitors).

Alas, social media marketing and the glass-eyed proponents of such have worked hard to delude themselves into thinking marketing has somehow "changed" and the "old rules and metrics" no longer apply.

Well, of course that's what they say because it then allows them to abdicate the responsibility they have to ensure their efforts are working and be held accountable for results.

If they can kid you (and themselves and their clients) testing and measuring is somehow impossible, undesirable, or unnecessary then they can take the credit for any sales and pass off the blame for any failures.

Bottom line: if you can't measure it, don't do it.

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