Marketing Math: The Odds of Getting Your Campaign Right

With the seemingly unlimited places to spend your marketing dollars, clients ask us if we can nail down three things in almost every study we do:

  1. What is the right message to win over customers?
  2. Which customer segments should I be targeting?
  3. Which mediums should I be using to maximize ROI?

And they should be asking these three questions if they want to close more business.  Just getting close on any one of these can be a game changer for any business.  But when we start down this path with clients we typically find that they really don’t understand the magnitude of variables involved in their marketing campaigns.

Well, lucky for you the nerds at PROOF have done the math and will explain it in simple, relatable terms.

Most marketing campaigns involve making decisions in 6 stages; product, target market, messages, mediums, investment and measurement.  Here is a simple example of a typical campaign cycle (Not necessarily in chronological order) to illustrate the variables associated with the process.

  1. Product: Select a product or service that you want to promote.  Let’s say for the sake of simplicity that you only have 3 products or service offerings.  In reality I know you likely have many more.
  2. Target: How many target market segments do you have?  This can vary widely depending on your business but let’s say you have only 10 possible targets segments (note: if you only have 10 target segments you better be incredibly specialized or you likely aren’t segmenting your customers effectively).
  3. Message: The actual number of possible messages you can communicate is infinite but typically marketing and leadership get together and make a short list and pick one or two to roll with.  Let’s say that list only has 20 options and you pick 2 you think might work well.
  4. Medium: The number of marketing mediums are really countless, anything from a simple email drip campaign to Snapchatting and running Facebook Live while giving hot air balloon rides at an industry convention.  Not all of them are applicable to every business so let’s say you are reasonably considering only 20 options and selecting 2 to invest in.
  5. Invest & Execute: Once you and your team have selected which product, target market, message and medium you are going to use all you have to do is organize, invest and execute your campaign.  No problem, this is what you pay them for.
  6. Measure: Now let’s hope you have you have taken the proper steps to create your funnel and measure the effectiveness of this campaign.  The overall campaign will look something like the chart below.  Now it’s time to cross our fingers and pray for positive ROI…

The actual number of possible combinations of this wildly simplified example is….


So that’s 1 in 1,083,000.  Basically, you would have a better chance of being struck by lightning in the next 12 months (1 in 960,000) or being crushed by a meteorite (1 in 700,000).  So, how probable do you think it is that you are getting the best results out of your marketing efforts?  If you have been following along and you guessed “about 0%” you would be right – actually its 0.000092336%.

What’s more troublesome is the fact that in the event you DID happen to get one or more of the variables correct there is no way to know.  So, for instance let’s say you got the target market correct based on the product you selected but you got every other variable wrong and your campaign had negative ROI?  Most marketer’s instincts are to try an entirely new set of variables or simply A/B test one variable.  Regardless of what you do or how well you measure behavioral output there is simply no way you could know which parts of this equation you had correct and which you missed on.

What can you do to improve your odds?

  1. Keep Your Campaigns Clear. We see many campaigns that are really creative but they often lack a clear purpose, messaging and goals.  A mentor of mine always said “clarity above cleverness, always.”  Good advice.
  2. Show Discipline. Marketing and advertising has turned into a slippery slope game of tactics and mediums.  Our attention spans are shrinking and so is our patience to see results.  Trying new things can be addicting especially when we don’t see immediate success.  You likely chose your campaign messages and tactics for a reason so stick with it for a bit.
  3. Get Your Blocking and Tackling Nailed Down. Generally, we see that few organizations do any one thing really well on the marketing front while the more successful organizations we see execute one or two tactics incredibly well.  Get really good at a couple of your basics that support your business strategy and align with your customer’s preferences (i.e. email and SEM) and leave the experimental mediums when you are confident and have discretionary funds.

While it is easy to get overwhelmed with the number of possible options of products, targets, messages and mediums available, your best odds to produce positive ROI is to keep it simple and limit experimentation.  If you are ready to experiment beyond your core marketing competencies it might make sense to engage an expert to help you understand the probabilities of success using different mediums to minimize wasted efforts and dollars.

Lucky for you PROOF’s process allows you to isolate all of the variables associated with your different products and services, your different target market segments, value messages and communication mediums.  Instead of guessing, we simple reverse engineer all of these variables and can show you what to say, to which people using what mediums so that you are confident in your strategy and spending and can close more business. 

Click here to contact us to learn more about getting the marketing math right for your campaigns.


Your Customers Don’t Care About You

It’s true.

The moment you start talking about yourself is the moment you start losing.

Personally, I am just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to this, it’s challenging not to engage in self-gratifying communication.  Like most, I am passionate about what I do and I want the person across from me to be confident that I am able to deliver on our company promise.There is no doubt that as human beings we have a natural affinity to talk about ourselves; self-promotion is hard-wired into our DNA as a survival mechanism.  However, when it comes to our businesses it seems that all we do is talk about ourselves.  At least in most personal conversations there is some give and take. But whether it is on our website, in our client presentations or in a sales pitch all we do is talk about our capabilities, longevity, happy clients, experience with a little bit of the client peppered in so we don’t look too selfish.

We have had several clients ask how much they should be talking about themselves to their customers so we starting digging into our data to find some answers.

For reference, our company, PROOF, uses customer insights and data to help companies identify the most effective messages and communication to differentiate themselves and drive sales.  So we have mountains of data around what kinds of messages are most effective across a litany of industries.

Out of the last 100 studies we have run we tested an average of 15 communication concepts per study. On many of these studies we tested communication concepts that were about the client (i.e.  “We have won several industry awards,” “Our company has worked in your industry for XX years” and “We have a proprietary process that does XYZ”) and then tested how important those communications were when considering whether to hire them.

Here are the 5 most commonly used self-important communications used by companies, what percent of the time we tested those communications and where they ranked (out of 15) in importance to their customers and prospects:

Communication tested % of the time How important (out of 15)
Industry expertise 74 percent 12th
Awards 71 percent 15th
Experience / Other clients 65 percent 9th
Proprietary IP / Method 59 percent 11th
Exclusive partnerships 42 percent 14th

What this means is that there is an average of 11 different communications that are more important to your customers than something about you.

So, if you are talking about yourself you are losing the battle to win over customers and losing big.  Think about your elevator pitch, the content on your website, your collateral, etc. How much of it is about you or your company?

Here is a quick exercise:

  1. Write down 10 things that you think will win over your customers and you can’t talk about yourself.
  2. Which one of those things do you think is most important?
  3. How many times do you talk about that vs. yourself in your communications?

Is your pitch getting emotional? Because it should be.

When it comes to selling your product or service, the devil truly is in the details.

Despite what bad salesmen might tell you, people don’t buy based on features or price. Decision making is rooted primarily in the part of our brain that controls emotions.

Science shows that regardless of whether we are buying a car, purchasing a pair of jeans or choosing a place to eat lunch, our emotions are making the call and we will oftentimes disregard hard facts to make sure that our emotional brain is satisfied.

Allow me to illustrate by getting a little nerdy. Neurobiologist Antonio Damasio created the Somatic Marker hypothesis.  The hypothesis refutes the old neuroscience that our decision making is rooted in logic. Damazio studied people who had damaged their limbic systems and were unable to produce emotions. He noted that these people were unable to make even the simplest decisions and became paralyzed with endless logical deliberation.

The findings of the study were that our emotions are responsible for decision making. A product’s features justify — in a logical fashion — emotional response.

Features become convenient logical consequences that we are excited to retain or decide to live without based on how we feel about the brand or product. We typically only examine features to logically support the emotional decision that we have already made.

I frequently hear from sales teams that they lose a sale in the features conversation. What they don’t realize is that, without an emotional connection to the product, they never had a chance at the sale in the first place. Features help us rationalize purchases, but emotional connection must come first.

As an example, ever ask someone why they bought the new iPhone? People will tell you things like, “it has a faster processor, a bigger hard drive and a better camera,” which are criteria that multiple products could satisfy, and at a lower cost. Push harder, and you’ll likely get, “I just like it more, alright? Apple is just a better brand!” We are often unable to articulate the emotional — and often subconscious — connections we have brands.

The best way to sell your brand is to emulate the emotional connection first, and sell the emotional benefits to your product or service second.

An indication that you aren’t selling emotion is if you think price is paramount. Any brand, product or service devoid of emotion is forced to compete on price and become a commodity.

A simple exercise to find your product’s emotional connection is to ask yourself what situation(s) must exist for your customer to pay double what they do now. Make a list of your answers. Then triple the price, then quadruple it and so on. Developing a brand around these answers will make your value proposition stronger, and you will likely gain a better understanding of your target market.

Ultimately, we are all at the mercy of our emotions. The moment you start selling on features and ignoring the emotional connection to your brand is the moment you start losing the sale.

Subjective Language is Making Your Elevator Pitch Completely Forgettable

Your elevator pitch is the single most important communication of you or your business and why you are relevant.

Last month I wrote about how you can use your elevator pitch — or 20-second summary of your business — as a litmus test to determine if you are creating your own market or if you are competing in someone else’s.  I received a litany of emails and comments about the elevator pitch exercise so I thought this month I would point out the critical error most of you are making: subjective language is making your elevator pitch irrelevant.

Subjective language is usually used in elevator pitches when businesses try to point out a perceived advantage in the market.  This usually manifests itself as an ignorable “we focus on the customer first” or “we deliver a quality product at a competitive price” statement. Because these typified statements contain only subjective language the brain does not know how to categorize them, so it ignores them.

Next time you listen to someone give their elevator pitch pay attention to how you actively listen.  Without realizing it, your brain is filtering through all the words that are being said and attempting to create a simple categorization of what the person is trying to communicate.  You might even translate someone’s elevator pitch that isn’t objective enough for them: “So, you sell insurance to people who own small airplanes?”

Your brain is trying to translate what you hear into a simple, objective category called a “schema.”  Our minds use schemas, or groups of cognitive elements that are associated with a single concept, because we are bombarded with so much sensory data that acknowledging all of them consciously would be paralyzing.

Consider an objective pitch like one Zappos might use; “you can return anything, anytime, for any reason.”  Zappos is using measurable concepts that mean the same thing to everyone.  Because objective words are measurable and finite, our brain can easily categorize and remember them.

Here is another exercise to determine how effective your elevator pitch is:

  1. Write down your elevator pitch.
  2. Cross out the subjective words
  3. Circle the words that are objective and measurable.

A great elevator pitch is only one or two sentences and contains only objective, measurable language.