Vengeance, Nevada Is Back With Issue #4

Vengeance, Nevada Is Back With Issue #4

Just a quick note that issue #4 of Vengeance, Nevada (VN) is now online.

This is the second year we’ve been running the comic, and this time, Piotr and I decided to do something different. Instead of releasing each issue in three parts like we did the first year, we’re now releasing the entire issue all at once.

Issue #4 is also the first one where Nakoma isn’t present. You probably won’t see her again until issue #6 beyond a flashback scene. I’m attempting to do a Game of Thrones thing where we follow different sets of characters that will all intersect as the story progresses. So in Issue #4, we get to see what Open Grave and Liberty is doing in Chicago. And then in Issue #5, we’ll see what’s going on over with our supervillains in The Kingdom.

I figure since it’s my comic, given away for free on this website, and released on my schedule, I can do what I want with it. Hopefully, you like the end result.

Issue #5 will be out in August.

Issue #6 will be out in December.

I know. It takes a long time between issues. Everyone is busy. I’m happy if we can hit three issues of the comic a year.

There’s really no rush to doing them, you know? I pay for VN out of pocket. I write the comic because it’s fun and I always wanted to write one, and there’s no real end game to doing it.

You can also tell there’s still stuff I struggle with. How much action goes on one page, how much dialogue. I look at this more as an experiment than anything else. So by the time VN finishes, I hope to have that all worked out.

Someone asked me recently what I wanted to do with VN. I’d love to take the first eight pages and turn them into a short film, but we’ll see. That will take more money than I have at the moment.

Until then, enjoy the comic. The podcasts will return to this site soon, as will the book summaries. I just have to adjust to my new schedule first.

 

Who Should You Hire To Do Your Marketing?

Who Should You Hire To Do Your Marketing?

Every day, I make it a point to answer a marketing question on Quora. This is mostly to get my brain working because it usually needs some kind of prompt to get me writing. One of the questions I see come up on there frequently is how to hire someone to do social media, SEO or other digital marketing work. And then a second question that goes with that, which is, “should I hire an employee or an agency?”

As you might have guessed, I have an opinion on this. And rather than answering the same question over and over again on Quora, I figure I’d just answer it here. So …

“Who Do You Read?”

Most marketing people are clowns. Not all of them. There are some great people that work in this industry, but they’re outnumbered by the bozos and doofuses that we all like to make fun of. You can tell who the clowns are based on where they get their information from. If they tell you they read Forbes and follow Gary Vaynerchuk, you shouldn’t hire them. Gary hasn’t had anything interesting to say since 2007, and Forbes lost all credibility when it moved to a content farm model (and still to this day has not moved away from that like everyone else.)

I struggle with this, but sometimes if they namedrop Tim Ferriss, you should also be skeptical. I like Tim Ferriss’s books, but I think he suffers from the “Fight Club Problem.” The “Fight Club Problem” refers to how there were two kinds of reactions among people who read “Fight Club.” They either thought it was awesome and totally serious, or they got that Chuck Palahniuk wrote an excellent satire on hyper-masculinity and generally where we were as a culture before 9/11.

So Tim Ferriss has that same thing going, where people either read and appreciate his work for what it is (great advice for rich people), or think that what he writes is the be all, end all on how you should live your life.

Anyway, the clowns like Ferriss and Vaynerchuk and go to crappy places like Forbes to keep up with things.

The good people struggle through the Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, name check and UNDERSTAND (this is important) Ryan Holiday’s first book, and pull their information from a variety of sources. So for example, right now on my desk is the two most recent issues of Fortune. The February / March Harvard Business Review, this week’s Adweek (although Adweek and Adage can often be problematic in their own right), Sam Walton’s “Made in America,” and Stephen Oates’s book on Abraham Lincoln, “With Malice Toward None.”

Let me be blunt: I don’t know anyone who enjoys reading the Harvard Business Review. Turgid doesn’t begin to describe how most of the content in there is written, but if you can work through it, you’ll often find one or two things that are useful. I’ve been suffering through reading that magazine since grad school in 2007, but I can honestly say it’s worth it.

The Ryan Holiday book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying” is good as long as you understand what he’s saying and don’t walk away from it going, “Wow, journalists are dumb! The media sucks!” No. That’s not the point. The point is there’s a particular process to get news coverage that existed (and still kind of does) today that can be exploited for a variety of troubling societal and business reasons.

The other magazines and books I mentioned aren’t to show off; I just mention them because my larger point is this: If you’re going to hire someone to do your marketing for you, where they get their information from is incredibly important; Especially if they are pulling their information from unexpected places (an old biography of Abraham Lincoln) or from excellent case studies from wildly successful people (“Made in America”).

So, “Who do you read?” is the question you want to ask when determining who to hire.

You also want to ask them for case studies. “What have you done?” is the second, and arguably more important, question to ask. Past performance and past campaigns, especially in marketing, don’t carry as much weight as you think because every company, brand, product, not-for-profit, etc. is different. But it’s important to ask for references and to look at previous work.

I know. This all seems like common sense, but the fact that the question appears as often as it does on Quora tells me it’s not.

Reputation Design

This will get me some shit for sure, but you should always hire an employee (ideally) or a freelancer (less ideal) to handle any aspect of marketing that you’re looking for help with.

An agency can be great. The problem is a lot of the big agencies today are too busy chasing rebates and automating themselves out of existence that I have real concerns about the overall health of the advertising industry at the moment. And the trends suggest I’m not the only one with those concerns. A lot of brands are parting ways with their agencies and moving the marketing work in-house or creating their own agency like McDonald’s just did.

So keeping in mind the caveat that everyone is different and has different needs, my own preference is that you hire someone internally. Especially because marketing takes time.

I’m going to repeat that because over the past year I’ve encountered many people who don’t seem to understand this: Good marketing. Takes. Time.

If you’re doing content marketing, unless you’re spending money to support it, you’re looking at six months at least before it starts to take root, and even then, maybe even a year before it starts generating the kind of results you’re going to be happy with. The same is true for SEO. Unless you’ve got the cash to juice it, SEO takes months and even then, you need to stick with it because things change all the time between Google, Bing and others like DuckDuckGo.

PR, social media, Influencer Marketing, Digital Reputation Management and word-of-mouth? Same deal. I like to roll those all together and refer to it as “Reputation Design.” Reputation Design takes at least a year to get it right. You CAN see some success before that, especially if you have the money, but all those things require an extensive infrastructure to be built, and most people don’t know how the fuck to do that.

And, you guessed it, the people who do know how to build the infrastructure to launch and operate a successful reputation design campaign will tell you that it takes time.

So, you can hire an agency and spend a ton of money, or you can hire people internally and control costs because you know it’s going to take a while to lay the groundwork.

Better still, the stuff I dump into the bucket of “Reputation Design” (Word-of-mouth, PR, Digital Reputation Management, Social Media, Influencer Marketing), works the best when it’s baked into the internal functions of your organization. Not when you bring in an outside party that doesn’t understand you, your culture, and your organization and frankly, they don’t care to understand it in most cases. They just want your money.

By hiring people to work internally for your company, you’re able to have the Reputation Design conversation early, meaning you can bake it into the product as you develop it. That’s the big joke with “Growth Hacking.” “Growth Hacking” is bullshit. “Growth Hacking” is word-of-mouth Marketing with a new fancy term to describe it because some asshole in Silicon Valley thought there was an opportunity to cash in on the general ignorance and distrust of marketing people among the tech crowd.

That dislike and distrust come with good reason. Do you want to know why? Because in the first dot-com Bust, a lot of tech companies went under because advertising and marketing agencies like Razor Fish were bankrupting them. (This is even more insulting when you recall the guys behind Razor Fish, a marketing agency, couldn’t explain to 60 Minutes what they did at their company before the bubble burst.)

So, I get why “growth hacking” became a thing, but you should know it’s just “Word-of-mouth Marketing” and the idea that you should bake that, and PR and influencer marketing, into your product as you develop it. Not when it’s finished. Which is why you want to have marketing employees working for you internally.

All of this stuff takes time, and the sooner you start doing it within the internal structure of your products, the better your results will be.

(Also: Before anyone throws shade at me for coining the term reputation design, I got nothing to sell you. If you want to read my book, email me, and I’ll send you a free .pdf copy of it. BJ@BJMendelson.com. The only reason why I invented the term was because I was lazy and got tired of writing “Digital Reputation Management and Search Engine Optimization” on a Chicago startup’s marketing collateral.)

Moving on to the Next Thing

Moving on to the Next Thing

If you count March 2016 to March 2017 as one year, I’ve had the roughest year of my life personally and professionally. So much so that I think I went and undid any and all progress I made since my book came out in 2012.

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

So, I’ve decided to do something different. I’m shutting down work on “The Internet is Magic.”

I can’t seem to crack it as a book. I don’t feel I’m the appropriate person to write a self-help book given where my life and career is right now (the toilet) and that I’m in therapy and getting my OCD treated.

The second part of the book, which acts as an updated version of “Social Media Is Bullshit” could be great, but there’s not enough in there for it to be a book on its own. A series of excellent articles, for sure, but not a book.

Besides, I can sum up that second half of the proposed book like this:

-I told you so.

-“Content Shock” and “Peak TV” are not a thing because most content sucks.

-Everything I said from the last book still holds. Just swap out some of the names of those old platforms with names of current platforms and it’s still the same deal. (See: Snapchat’s most recent IPO, Facebook flat out lying about video views, and the increasing number of news stories about bots generating fake traffic.)

-Most marketing people are clowns that shouldn’t be trusted. You can tell who isn’t a clown based on what they read and who they quote.

-Barring a revolution in the advertising, marketing and media industries, nothing I say matters because we’ll just jump from one hot mess to another. See Chatbots and AI right now. Nobody knows anything, everyone with a financial interest is going to exaggerate, the tech people are (mostly) assholes taking advantage of media, marketing, and advertising people who have developed tunnel vision to ensure job security. The bullshit cycle will continue in perpetuum.

(That’s fancy asshole speak for “forever.”)

That brings us to the third, and final, part of the proposed book, the advice.

There’s certainly a framework I can present to you that can increase the probability of your success. Note the key word here: probability. There is NO guarantee of success when it comes to this stuff. Every situation is entirely subjective, and there are variables that you may have to deal with that someone else won’t.

For example, if you’re an afro-Peruvian jazz band, how you’re going to promote yourself is going to be different from a rapper or a rock band. You have different audiences with different expectations and different tastes, and even though you’re all musicians, the tactics the jazz band is going to use are going to be distinct from the rapper and the rock band.

And that’s just within the music industry!

Are there some things you can all do that might work? Maybe. Facebook ads do work, they’re just expensive and become ineffective the longer you run them. SEO is something everyone can do, but most SEO today is just good PR. And social is driven by offline word-of-mouth and what the media is talking about (usually), which means that it too is an extension of PR.

That means you have a PR book on your hands. That’s not quite something publishers want. At least, I don’t think. And it’s also not something I want to write. If you want to be good at PR, all you have to do is read books by Edward Bernays and know how not to bother a reporter. (In other words, pitch the reporter by email, wait a week, follow-up once, and then never bother them again if you don’t hear back. And when possible, always see if someone can introduce you to the reporter instead of pitching them cold.)

Good news: Edward Bernays has been dead for a long time so that you can find his books out there at the library for free.

Bad news: Nobody wants probability. Everyone wants solutions. And that’s not their fault; it’s the fault of decision makers chasing bogus metrics to justify their existence and tech companies justifying the billions of dollars they’ve raised.

The question you should be asking is not, “How do we hit our traffic goals?” The question is, “how do I deliver legit, high quality, repeat traffic to my advertisers and build a relationship between us as content providers, the sponsor as the people who keep our lights on, and the audience as the people we serve where everyone is happy.”

Hint: Auto-playing videos, ads that invade and abuse a users’ privacy without their permission, full-page takeovers, and other units that make browsing the web (regardless of browser or device) a horror show are not the answer.

“Less, but better” traffic is a hard sell. I haven’t encountered many people in the corporate world that want to hear that.

So given all that, I’m throwing in the towel on the book front. When I have something interesting to say that can justify an entire book, I’ll let you know.

Until then, I’m going to post everything that would have gone in “The Internet is Magic” here.

If you have not read my first book, don’t worry. Just email me at bj@bjmendelson.com, and I’ll hook you up with a free .pdf of it. The only thing I ask is that if you like it, feel free to pass on and share the .pdf with anyone you want.

I know this will be disappointing news for like the three people who care about what I write, but I think it’s the right choice.

You don’t get rewarded for being right. Instead, you get to spend years after saying something that was right watching people attack you, and then those people completely flip their positions and repeat what you had to say on their own as if you didn’t exist. And then when the industry does catch up and absorbs the ideas you’ve put out there into their system, it doesn’t correct itself. It just keeps plowing ahead while everyone winks and nods and goes, “Yeah I know it’s all bullshit, but our boss loves it, so what are you going to do?”

The answer is that you move on to the next thing.

That is not the only change I’m going to be making given the past year I’ve had, but it’s the only one I’m ready to talk about at the moment. I’ll have more news eventually.

You’re Better Than That

You’re Better Than That

In life, you’re going to make giant, horrible mistakes.

If you’re lucky, you won’t make too many of them. Maybe one or two. You went to kiss that girl that one time because you thought you were on a date but thought wrong, and now in the back of your head, you think you’re a creep for the rest of your life.

Or maybe you should have said no to the crazy people who offered you a job and focused all your efforts on dating this awesome woman you totally would have had children with. But your new insane co-workers made it impossible to devote the time and attention needed to grow that kind of relationship to get it where it should have been, instead of where it ended up.

If you’re like most people, you acknowledge what you did wrong, you feel bad about it for however long that you feel sorry about it, and then you try to move on with your life the best that you can.

If something was outside of your control, you learn not to think about it because there’s no point in worrying or thinking about things you can’t solve.

If you’re like me and have OCD, you obsess over everything that has ever gone wrong in your life all day, every day until it drives you just a little crazy and makes it virtually impossible for you to open up to another human being in a non-professional setting. Mostly out of fear of adding to the list of giant horrible mistakes that you constantly think about.

You don’t want to be like that either.

You can’t let the mistakes you make define who you are. You also can’t let your mistakes prevent you from taking the steps you need to take to do what you want to do with your life.

You know I hate the “fail and fail often” thing that startups believe in. It’s real easy for them to say that when they’re wasting money that’s not their own. I’m not suggesting you go that far and embrace failure at every turn, but I do believe you have to make a concerted effort, every day, to try things without having that fear in the back of your head about what you’re trying turning into another giant, horrible mistake.

The biggest problem I’ve encountered over the past four years is that people don’t know what they want, so I’m not able to come up with a plan to get them to where they want to go. The second problem though is that, once the plan is put together, they’re afraid to try things. “I can’t.” “I won’t.” “That won’t work. “We can’t do that because …”

You have to get past all that. Unless there is a logical reason not to try something, then you’re just working off emotions. And unless there’s a strong feeling in your gut saying not to try something at that point, you should try it and see what happens. (If your gut is telling you not to do something, don’t do it. I’m a big believer in trusting your gut.)

Life is short. It’s cruel. It’s random. It’s unpredictable. And for that reason alone, it’s up to you and me to take risks and be adventurous.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

There are plenty of people out there today who are utterly miserable because they’ve let that fear keep them from doing what they want to do with their lives. Don’t be that person. Don’t be just another person in the long, exhaustive history of them, who didn’t want to take the action they needed to get shit done because of some convenient excuse.

You’re better than that.

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 4)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 4)

This is the last installment in a four-part series about measurement. I get asked a lot by people how to figure out if their marketing efforts are working or not, and so this is my answer. You can catch Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Give it 90 Days

You might be wondering, “OK. I know what to look for to measure success, but how do I know if the campaign is a failure or not?”

No volume, no velocity. Sure. Obvious signs of a failure, but what about this patience thing? How long should you give any campaign before you decide to pull the plug on it?

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote a concurrence in Jacobellis v. Ohio. In the case, the Supreme Court was attempting to define obscenity because the state of Ohio was trying to ban a film from being watched because the state said the film was “obscene.”

In the concurrence, Stewart was trying to explain how he knew something was pornography or not, and he said, “I know it when I see it.”

I know our data-obsessed culture isn’t very big on gut instinct and feelings, but that’s what I go with. You should always trust your gut.

I know. Like the rest of this advice, that’s easier said than done, but it’s the truth. And look, I don’t always follow the obvious advice either. Nobody’s perfect. We all fuck up. Just recently this company wanted me to work for them, and I met one of their executive team members and everything in my gut was screaming, “You’re not going to get along with this person, don’t work with them,” and I said yes anyway. It was a huge mistake. I should have trusted my gut, but I didn’t. So I know when I say stuff like that, it sounds obvious, but the challenge for you and I is to be mindful of what we’re doing every day. If our gut is telling us, something, you have to stop and listen to it over all the other noise that bombards us on any given day.

Of course, if you design the marketing campaign correctly, it should NEVER get to the launch phase where you have doubts about it. That’s a post, or maybe a book, for another time.

But let’s say the campaign somehow gets past the planning phase and you still have your doubts. Then you see people aren’t responding in the way you had hoped. Or how about this. Given that this world is wild and unpredictable let’s say something happens which just completely blows any chance of this campaign working, no matter how well planned or executed it was.

What I suggest is this: You launch the campaign and give it 90 days. A month is not enough time to carefully evaluate anything. Diffusion among people regarding ideas that stick and resonate with them takes longer than that. (My hunch, not yet backed up with data, that’s why I’m researching for the book right now. I suspect the research will show that I’m right on this.)

At the end of 30 days, if something needs to tweaked, you can make those tweaks on Day 30, which resets the clock. So that brings you to Day 60, where you can recalibrate again. If after the second recalibration things aren’t working, then you can safely kill the campaign. I think that’s more than fair. 90 days is plenty of time to test, evaluate, tweak, and test again while also giving the campaign enough time to diffuse among your target audience (and the people you want your target audience to share the campaign with.)

Just Do It

I’ve spent most of my life broke. My family wasn’t poor, but we were broke. And then I went to college just as the dot-com Bubble Burst, and then got married just months before the Great Recession started. (One of the key reasons we got divorced was money. The other was that I was an asshole.)

I tell you that because when we talk about promoting yourself, your business, your cause, whatever it is you’re looking to share with the world, I know these things cost money.

And don’t buy into that crap that you don’t need to spend money on marketing, PR and advertising. You do. The game you’re playing is rigged. You may not need to pay for those things if you were accepted into Y-Combinator and had access to all their resources and connections, or if you went to Harvard, but for the rest of us? You gotta put money into this, and that can be scary because we don’t have a lot of it to work with.

So when I talk about volume and velocity and talking to your customers, and picking the metric that matters most, the suggestion I want to make is this: Be patient. I don’t believe any campaign is a success unless it makes its money back. Or, the campaign pays off in some other way. I should be clear here: Not all marketing and PR campaigns are done to make money. For example, your goal may be to get something, like a deal with a record label, or to show people within your industry that you know what you’re doing and can walk the walk.

You may, also, not make money back in the way that you think. I made more money speaking and consulting than from book sales, for example., So it’s possible that if you do make your money back, it may not come from the source you expect.

Now that being said, you have to give it time. That’s not something our metrics obsessed culture is comfortable with. Good marketing, advertising, PR, sales, it all takes time. That’s why the velocity metric is so important. You might get real hot out of the gate, but then that’s all the activity you ever see. The only way to know for sure is to allow for these campaigns to breathe. Set the budget, and then let it go to work for you. Don’t second guess it or get bent out of shape if it takes a while to see results.

You may find that the volume increases slowly over time, and then the velocity of that activity spikes and then stays spiked because success breeds success. But you can’t get to that point if you panic and cut the legs out from your campaign because the MBA types get nervous.

That was Ray Kroc’s attitude with McDonald’s. He knew he’d make the money they spent on marketing back. Can any of us argue that he didn’t?

So set the money aside for the campaign, take a deep breath, and do it. If you did everything else right (and we’ll talk about “everything else” soon), then you won’t have anything to worry about.

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 3)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 3)

(This is part three in a four part series on how to simply measure the success of a marketing campaign. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Regardless of what metric(s) you choose to use, the thing you have to look at with them is volume and velocity.

When I get asked whether or not a campaign is working, those are the two things I look at.

Let me explain.

I was writing what we would now call “viral” content back in the early ‘00s. I was lucky in the sense that places like Boing Boing, College Humor, Fark, Something Awful, Gorilla Mask, and a whole bunch of other link aggregators would link to different comedy articles I would write.

But back then you didn’t have a good metric to measure things. You had website “hits,” but hits was always a bullshit metric. You had unique views, but even today that’s not the best metric either because the traffic can be faked. For example, you could just buy traffic and then turn around and say, “Hey! Look at all these unique views I have!” Don’t think for a second those days are over because ad fraud costs companies billions each year, and much of that is caught up in fake traffic through bots and other sketchy sources.

The other thing is that unique view doesn’t matter if those viewers leave (or “bounce”) quickly and never return. That’s what I’m always telling people about places like Buzzfeed. Sure they get a lot of traffic ( a lot of which they were paying millions of dollars for Facebook ads for at one point), but if you’re an advertiser for Buzzfeed, and all the traffic they send you bounces within seconds of arrival and never returns, what’s the point? Why are you paying for that? All those unique views they have? They don’t matter if that’s the case.

So back then I came up with metrics of my own to figure out how I was doing: Volume and Velocity.

Volume

I knew something I wrote, like The Universal Breakup Card or a column called “What Would The Hulk Do?” performed well based on the volume of emails I received.

Today, you don’t necessarily need to go with emails as the metric; I prefer it because I don’t have to sweat the algorithms and wonder whether or not my emails are reaching my customers (and vice versa), but regardless of the metric you pick, you want to look for an increase. The bigger, the better during the campaign you’re running.
So if “What Would The Hulk Do?” got linked by College Humor, I would immediately see a huge increase in the number of emails I was receiving from people who liked the piece.

That’s volume. Is there a spike in the metric you’re following during the campaign you’re working on? IF yes, then you know it’s working. Is that a perfect measurement? Nope. Not at all. There are always variables outside your control that could influence performance, but is it an acceptable flawed metric in a world filled with deeply flawed metrics? You bet your ass it is.

Plus it’s easy for anyone to measure. The increase in in-store traffic? The increase in emails? The increase in sales? The increase in Twitter followers? The increase in press coverage and mentions? Increase in potential business opportunities coming your way? Pick whichever one you want. It’s dead simple, and anyone can happily and easily use this as a simple metric to measure their campaign’s success or failure without getting caught up in all that MBA bullshit of measuring things to death and finding things to complain about in order to protect someone’s ego or play office politics.

By the way: When people like to complain about marketing, advertising, and other fields where they can’t readily quantify them, they like to break out this old chestnut, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The quote is often attributed to John Wanamaker, who was an early pioneer in retail and advertising. What often gets lost to history by the assholes who use this quote is that Wanamaker put a TON of money into advertising to promote his stores. So the remark, as funny as it is, doesn’t reflect the reality.

Wanamaker, like a lot of early advertisers, used volume and velocity to measure their success. If they ran an ad and saw an increase regarding the metric they were using’s volume and velocity, they knew the advertising worked. If Wanamaker sincerely believed he was wasting money on advertising, he wouldn’t have been a leading pioneer in the industry.

Velocity

As you might have guessed from the name, this one is all about speed. During the campaign, the speed in which you’re getting email signups, or in-store traffic, whatever it is you’re measuring, is the thing that matters most.

Because speed will tell you one of two things; If the campaign starts off red-hot regarding the volume of whatever it is you’re measuring, but then falls flat on its face, you need to go back to the drawing board. Something is flawed in the campaign. The goal of any campaign is to generate long term results that sustain themselves. Short bursts of activity are nice but expensive and not practical for any of us to pursue.

You don’t want to rely on viral hits. It’s not sustainable. It’s REALLY nice when it happens, and I’ve been lucky since I was 18 to have a string of them, but you can’t count on it. There are too many variables beyond your control to consistently replicate a viral hit. You might get one, two if you’re lucky, but after that, unless you’ve got the money, press connections and business relationships, it ain’t happening after that.

So you look at velocity. If you start off hot and then the campaign fizzles, you know you have to rethink it.

If you launch a campaign and it stays hot, and the volume of whatever you’re measuring continues to grow at a faster and faster clip (because success breeds success), then you have a hit campaign on your hands.

So, I know. This is probably sending quantitative people up a fucking wall, but I don’t care. I think for the past 20 plus years we’ve allowed the MBAs, tech people and some enablers in the advertising and marketing industry to pollute the waters and give us all these dumb metrics to pay attention to. I’m asking you to do something big.

What I’m saying to you is to try something, pick the metric that matters most to you, talk to your customers about whether or not that something you’re trying is working, and then look at the volume and velocity surrounding the metric you selected.

If there’s a lot of activity and it’s sustaining itself over time, then you have a hit campaign on your hands. If it doesn’t, and your customers are NOT citing the campaign as the thing bringing them in store or to whether it is you want to drive them, then you know you need to retool things.

Is this common sense? Yup. But as you might have heard me say over the years, common sense isn’t so common. And thanks in no small part to the years of bad advice we’ve all received, I think it’s important someone advocate a very simple, back to basics approach to determine what works and what does not.

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 2)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 2)

(This is Part 2 in a short series on how to measure your marketing campaign’s success. You can check out Part 1 here.)

You have to talk to your customers and ask them how they found you. I’m going to repeat that because while it may seem obvious, we kind of suck at doing it. You have to talk to your customers. Full stop. And then, if you’re running some marketing or PR campaign, you have to ask those customers how they found you; Because your customers will tell you if they found you through whatever campaign you’re running. Getting people to share something they’re excited by is easy. You just have to make that effort and ask.

Sadly, for the MBAs and tech people, getting them to talk to their customers is like pulling teeth. They don’t want to do it, so they’ve come up with this excuse that I’m sure you’ve heard me mock over the years, “That doesn’t scale.” Fuck you. Talk to your customers.

And this is true, by the way, regardless of anything you’re trying to sell or how you try to sell it. Online. Offline. It doesn’t matter: You better be best friends with the first 100 people who buy your shit. And then the next 900? You have to make a good faith effort to get to know them; Even if it’s tangential like you have an event and they’re there, and you get some face time together. And then! Then you have to follow-up with them in some way. Get their mailing address, send them a postcard (thanks, Phil), give them a call, send them an email. Don’t try to sell them anything.

If it sounds like common sense, good! Then why aren’t you doing it? You’re going to hear me say this a lot: There is no secret to marketing. None. Just act like a person interacting with another person and leave aside all the other bullshit. It’s the same deal with sales. You know what the “trick” is to being a great salesman? Including the person, you’re trying to sell something to into the process Day 1 and empowering them to lead the charge within their organization going forward. Not you. Them. Nobody cares about you. You’re an outsider. But people very much are about themselves and what others think of themselves. So assuming your product isn’t shit, and the person within the organization you’re working with is leading the charge and advocating for it, the odds are much, much higher that the deal will close because it’s their reputation and credibility on the line. Not yours.

I’m not kidding when I talk about getting to know your first 1,000 fans well. If you make time to get to know three of them each day for one year, you’ll get to know all of them. And you shouldn’t stop at the first thousand either. As more come in, you should make an effort to get to know three of them each day. That’s your responsibility as someone trying to sell and promote something. You have to know who your customers are and learn everything you can about them. The better that you can do that, the better your marketing campaigns and offerings will be.

So, you have to talk to your customers and get to know them. AND you have to ask them these two important questions:

1. What can we do better?

2. How did you hear about us?

You WOULD NOT believe how little that second question gets asked. The first one is a no brainer. Of course, you’re going to ask that question because you should always be tweaking and looking for ways to improve what you’re doing. But that second question? It seems so simple, but it often gets forgotten.

Regardless of the industry. Regardless of the profession. Over the past four years, I have rarely encountered people and companies that ask their customer how they found them. And I don’t mean like in a survey. I mean the company CEO or owner, or whoever is running the marketing, personally reaching out to the customer and having that brief conversation with them that I’m talking about. And in that conversation, asking their customers how they discovered their company. It’s just not getting done. Usually for the lame excuse of, “That doesn’t scale.”

How do you know what you’re doing works regarding marketing, PR, and advertising? ASK YOUR CUSTOMER HOW THEY FOUND YOU!!!!

I don’t care that it doesn’t scale because if that’s your attitude, I’m afraid to ask you about your customer service. And if your customer service sucks? Forget it. Nothing you do is going to matter because your customers aren’t going to be advocating for you. It’s your responsibility to make it work.

You have to get out there and in person, talk to your customers whenever possible. You will learn so much. What works regarding reaching them, what doesn’t, what they think about your product, where they first learned about you. That information is gold, and if you’re looking for answers as to whether or not your initiatives are working, this is how you find out.

Customer Personas are nice, but they are not an acceptable substitute for the real deal.

But ultimately, the responsibility is yours. People like metrics because it’s easy. There’s less work involved than actually making an effort to talk to other people. I’m asking you to do something hard. Your customers will tell you if your marketing efforts are working. They’ll also tell you when they’re not working. But that’s hard to quantify, so we’ve let the wrong people, who get bent out of shape at the thought of any human interaction, mislead us and push us away from doing the obvious thing.

I believe there’s a simpler way to do this. One anyone can practice that’s practical and useful. And this is the way to do it. The online stuff? All those bullshit numbers and metrics? I’m not saying to dismiss these figures entirely, but I’ll take an actual person over a view any day of the week, and I hope I can convince you to do the same.