Quit Making Emotional Decisions About Business Growth

Let’s Talk About Making Marketing Investments

I’m frustrated.

Why?

Because I’ve been building a business in the marketing consulting industry for the last 18 months and I think that most businesses think about growth and investing in growth in completely the wrong way. And that is hurting these businesses.

This post is primarily addressed to marketing agencies and consultants. I’ve worked with over 100 in the last 18 months and helped many get new clients and make more money for their agencies or individual consultancy.

Imagine this statement in an email from a potential client, which if you’ve worked as a marketing consultant or within an agency will be all too familiar to you:

I want to give it a one month test and from there decide if it’s worth it. If so I have more budget.

Cringe.

How about this one?

We tried (SEO, blogging, ads) for a month and it just didn’t work for us, so we are trying something else.

Double cringe, am I right.

So here is my question:

Why would you do that to your own business?

I started blogging seven years ago, much to my partner-at-the-time’s dismay. I wrote for MONTHS and YEARS before it really did anything for me. Sure I met some great people who are still my friends today. Sure I honed my craft and got better at writing (but I’m still getting better every day).

But imagine if I had stopped writing at the end of 2012:

Screenshot 2017-03-06 10.00.12

 

When traffic did this over the next year:

Screenshot 2017-03-06 09.57.52

 

Then guess what I did? Stupidly, I stopped writing nearly as much. In reality I met my now-wife and had less free time, then took a new job and moved across the country and got married and got a dog and moved positions and got laid off, but I stopped writing nearly as much.

Traffic did this:

Screenshot 2017-03-06 09.58.16

 

BUT.

I had built a base. I had built a base of traffic that even when I was publishing only once a month (and not even great posts!) I was still getting businesses coming to me wanting to work with me:

Screenshot 2017-03-06 10.02.38

Still around 3,000 visits per month just from organic traffic even when I wasn’t writing!

What if I had stopped in early 2011 after two months of writing because “I’m not seeing a monetary return from it yet”?

Well, a few things would’ve happened:

  1. I would’ve missed out on 80% of the people who have now seen my work over the last six years just on my own blog, not to mention the other blogs I’ve been able to write on because of my blog. I’ve had OVER 433,000 sessions on my site since I launched it, and 342,000 users. 
  2. I wouldn’t have my own business today. When I first got laid off in September 2015, it was my blog that I was able to go back to and spin up again and get new clients. Otherwise I would’ve taken a job back with another company and been miserable.

Here’s another one for you.

What if I had stopped working on Credo when revenue went the wrong way for a few months at the beginning of 2016?

Screenshot 2017-03-06 10.15.46

 

The answer is simple. I would’ve missed out on this:

Screenshot 2017-03-06 10.15.51

 

I’m not just writing this because I’m frustrated that agencies will get onto Credo for a month and then say “this isn’t working for me”, though that is the impetus for this post. I’ve not implemented a minimum trial period because people hate those, but when people come to me four weeks after they’ve been on-boarded and tell me they’re stopping, I reconsider that decision all over again.

I’m writing this because I’m frustrated that business owners don’t make data-driven decisions when building their business. They don’t look at what’s working or what’s break-even long-term (pro tip — if you don’t give it time, you won’t know if it’s working), and so they make rash emotional decisions that don’t suit their business.

If you’ve invested in something for two months and it’s break even, you shouldn’t stop doing it!

You should ask yourself how you make it more profitable!

Screenshot 2017-03-06 10.07.56

There are ABSOLUTELY times when something isn’t profitable and never will be and it’s not driving something else in your business (that’s key!), so you should cut it out.

But if something has made you $100, why are you going to quit it? I ascribe to the “If you can make $100, you can make $1,000” school of thinking. It’s going to require work, it’s going to require tweaks, it’s going to require working with others. But if you’ve made $100, you can make $1,000. And if you can make $1,000, you can make $10,000.

So please business owners. Don’t give up when you haven’t given it time to work or if it’s break-even.

Be wise and grow your business from data, not your gut.

Sigh.

8 thoughts on “Quit Making Emotional Decisions About Business Growth

  1. Love the passion and agree that you really need to test a system to its fullest, and yes 4 weeks isn’t at all enough time to do that. However, I wonder if many of the folks that approach you saying that, also agree with you that any good system needs time to deliver a good ROI…. but maybe they have realized that it makes better sense for them to make that long term investment at a different stage in the company’s growth.

    Business owners have to manage all channels, so if they are seeing a really high ROI in one channel and no ROI in another… and an additional 6 months investment to right that ship… they might choose to start that investment next quarter, or year.

    In other words, their decision to cancel after 4 weeks, might not have anything to do with you at all. #my2cents

    1. Joe – thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment! I totally hear what you are saying and you may be right. That’s where my market research comes into play, and it’s definitely something I plan to dig deeper into.

  2. 100 fucking %, John.

    Your message example made my gut turn lol. If we get leads that say that, or “we’re reviewing you and other agencies” – I immediately lose interest.

    It’s a two way street! Some people have no patience and they would hate it if their clients said what they’re saying to you.

    Hypocrites 😂

  3. Exactly John!

    I feel these type of statements come from clients who underestimate what it takes to really “try something”, and not just go through the motions. People often have the feeling they need to try everything while their budget can’t possibly support that.

    It’s our job to make that clear how our offerings work, and how they don’t. That tweet you posted about LTV is a great example of that.

    1. Hey Dennis, thanks for the comment. I totally agree. As I’ve thought about it more in the last day, I think it’s primarily about expectations being set wrong. That’s maybe part of the frustration – when you set expectations (“expect it to take 2-3 months to close your first deal”), and they don’t give it that.

  4. I have so much love for this post on two fronts. 1.) as a consultant/agency owner, there have been so many times along this journey that things get tough and it’s easy to just want to throw in the towel. Every time I’ve powered through to something more awesome on the other side. If I went back and measured before and after those decision points I’d be curious to see what I would have missed out. Love the data you share and it’s a great warning! 2.) for clients or prospects who ask up front about an exit strategy, I cringe as well. Especially when it happens early in the sales/discovery process. it tells me a few things. First, that they likely aren’t seeing marketing as an investment or business partner, but wholly a cost center. That’s a problem. Second, if you’re starting the relationship by asking how quickly you can get out of it, I’m not interested. I’m looking to build partnerships and work through the iterative process of a data-driven marketing strategy. If you can’t come along for that ride, then go somewhere else, but you’ll miss out on all the optimized opportunity that comes with it.

    – So glad I found your blog, authentic content like this really is awesome! Thanks!

  5. As someone who has worked for agencies and hired them, I’ve been on both sides of this. Your examples are familiar.

    I’d propose that frustration with clients is counterproductive. It’s not unfounded, but I don’t think it helps.

    Here is my idea: When I end an agency contract or don’t sign up after a trial period, it’s not usually because I’ve lost faith in the marketing channel or discipline in question. Here’s how it normally goes.

    Vendor: Look at our case study that says that we’ll grow your revenues by 10x
    Me: That’s too good to be true all the time. What about my business?
    Vendor: Of course we’ll be successful for you, AND it’s so easy to sign up. Let’s do a trial period.
    Me: Ok, I guess it couldn’t hurt.
    (trial period passes)
    Me: So, initial results aren’t amazing so it’s not a slam dunk. What’s your plan for the next 6 months/1 year?
    Vendor: These things take time. We need to keep working.
    Me: Ok, but how is it going to get better? What’s the strategy/process by which doing the same thing leads to better results in the future?

    At this point, the vendor usually can’t explain things concretely so I can’t recommend that my company commit to a $XX,000 contract with the vendor.

    All this to say, your clients aren’t usually experts in the service you are selling. They don’t know how it works. They don’t know that it’s a pretty safe bet that consistent (and often costly) investment will pay off in spades after several years. That’s a big challenge for the SEO industry but one that I would recommend spending a lot of time overcoming. It takes an uncommonly-high level of strategic skill, trust, and communication.

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