Or, How I went broke in 6 weeks flat – and maybe you can too
I try hard to avoid boasting – not always successfully – but there are two things I am very good at.
The first is spotting twaddle when I see it – and there’s no shortage in marketing.
Yesterday for instance I read about something called “content emails”. Perhaps someone can tell me how you can have emails – or any other communication – without content. Answers on a sheet of toilet paper, please.
Another skill I have excelled in is going broke through unwise optimism.
I’ve done it twice, and was reminded of the second time when a friend sent me a blog which posed and answered this question:
How do marketers measure content marketing success?
Can you guess the answer?
Well, it seems 85% think the “key metric” – pretentious phrase people use to feel important – is increase in traffic.
Maybe you think the same. You might easily conclude you should judge success that way.
If so you would be making a huge mistake.
In the heading I call it “the lazy man’s way to go broke”. And if you read on I will tell you how I did go broke because of it.
Why is this a mistake?
I can understand why you might think an increase in traffic is a good guide to eventual profit.
It is – but not nearly good enough.
The reason is simple, but very few people know it – and nor did I until I had very nasty lesson.
Measuring how many people looked at, read or even replied to a message will not always tell you if it will make money.
This applies to ALL media – direct mail, advertising, email – everything.
It’s not totally useless. An increase in traffic gives you a better guide to eventual sales than nothing.
In the same way, how many people open an e-mail is a better guide to likely sales than nothing.
But often the quality of those who open or click-through has nothing to do with the true value of each of those responses.
Very often their quality is lousy, and fewer click-throughs of better quality will get you more sales.
Maybe you don’t believe me but I promise you it’s true.
I discovered it nigh on 40 years ago at the cost of going completely broke.
It was one of my early ventures into marketing. I was selling an exerciser designed by the inventor of the Bullworker.
One newspaper was getting replies for half the cost of every other.
That newspaper was The Sun.
My ghastly mistake
Because I didn’t know then what I know now, I poured all my money into The Sun. More than I could afford.
But what could go wrong? Quite a lot.
Because I discovered, to my horror, that the quality of response to The Sun was – to put it mildly – crap. The enquiries just didn’t convert into sales.
This helped me go broke in a very short period of time.
Some years later Bart Casey, a colleague at Ogilvy & Mather, showed me some very instructive figures from a U.S. Mail Order company.
They showed that:
- The ads that got most replies for the money did not get the most customers.
- The ads that got the most customers did not make the most profit.
Why? Because some customers spent more than others.
What’s more, even the ads that did make the most profit were not, in the end, the most profitable.
That is because, over time, some of the profitable customers spent more money than others.
An utterly vital lesson for you
Apart from anything else, there is a second lesson you can learn from this.
Knowing what everyone else does is a very poor guide. Just because they do it doesn’t mean you should.
Very often you should do exactly the opposite: zig when they zag.
After all if you do what they do, what makes you different? How can you beat them?
What’s more you will usually learn more from mistakes than successes.
The figures I just mentioned are in my book Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing.
After reading the first edition David Ogilvy said “This book is pure gold. Read it and re-read it”
Since then I have improved it a lot, and it has swollen and gained weight. Now it is an excellent door-prop.
But maybe you don’t like big fat heavy books. In that case you can join me at My Last Hurrah.
I shall be discussing everything I have learned for two days. I suspect it will save you a mint of money and a lot of misery.
In fact I guarantee it will be worth at least 10 times what you pay.
But you have to be there, because I will never do this again.