Bizarre marketing mysteries I never solved

You would think after all these years exploring a trivial subject – marketing and advertising – I know the answers.  But I have only learnt how little I know.

A few years ago I got a new client that sells an investment course.  Their approach had worked for years. Nothing beat it, despite a meticulous testing program.

Finally, they asked me to try. What happened was as much to do with the client and her partners as with me.  They were very perceptive.

Their marketing exploited something rather shocking very few people know.

Most ready-made investments do a lousy job – partly because of their charges. It is a scandal.

You would do better throwing darts, blindfold, at the Financial Pages.  So why not do it yourself with expert help?

My mailing suggested that as the property boom was over your house wouldn’t make you rich – so why not try this new programme?

This beat their old mailing by 9%. Great!

Then I learned the conversion rate to sales was worse, so we were no better off.

Then the client converted the opening of my letter into an insert. It did far better than their existing one. I have no idea why. None at all.

Then I wrote another mailing, based on the lottery.

You have more chance being run over crossing the road to buy your ticket than of winning. So why not try something more reliable?

This did about 40% better – but when it was converted into an ad it did better still. Again, who knows why?

Such oddities give this business much of its interest. But sadly, few marketers test enough to know they exist.

In this case they sold the business for millions. And I mean millions.

How can I help?

Well, the best business expert of the 20th century may have been Peter Drucker who said that the first aim of business should be to avoid going broke.

I have gone broke three times.

I have never forgotten that my 10 year old daughter had to sell a pony she loved after the first of my cock-ups.

Not the end of the world, but it is these seemingly silly things that stay with you.

Going broke is a bloody miserable, depressing experience. You lose all confidence. Your relationships shatter.

And what is the difference between those who go broke and those who don’t?

Those who test don’t go broke.

Two out of my three disasters were because I didn’t test.

The other was because I trusted people and got screwed right royally.

There is no secret recipe for spotting rats or idiots.

But there is a recipe for testing – and everything I know comes from testing.

You won’t make the same dumb mistakes I did, if I can help it.

If you’d like my colleagues and I to help you, send Gerald ( an email with a subject of ‘No mystery’.  And avoid the ghastly – and costly – mistakes I’ve made.