In Online Marketing, Better Is Good Enough

  |  May 22, 2009   |  Comments

Online marketing success isn't about hitting the most home runs. It's about the ability to keep moving to the next base.

I get to meet the greatest online marketers in the business. Some are geniuses and others are just smart. Some are great managers and some aren't. Some are great with analytics, while others rely on their team to sort through data. Some have a huge arsenal of resources, while others have small budgets that they're expected to maximize.

Good online marketers come in many sizes and shapes, but all have at least one trait in common: They are never satisfied with their results. They always want more. More traffic, more sales, more leads, more visitors who convert.

I can't think of a great marketer who isn't aggressive and competitive. Most aren't satisfied simply to win; they want to annihilate the competition. I can't blame them. I'm the same way. When I step up to the plate, I can't help but want to smack one into the right-field bleachers.

Swinging for the fences is great.

Until it's a bad thing.

Trying for home runs with your online marketing is good, and marketers should never pass up a fastball right down the middle. If the home run is there, take it. But keep your eye on the whole game. Sometimes getting on base is just as good.

Pete Rose liked to say, "Somebody's gotta win and somebody's gotta lose, and I believe in letting the other guy lose."

Rose earned the nickname "Charlie Hustle" for his unique playing style (and not for his gambling problems after his playing career). He might not have been the athlete with the most talent, but he worked harder than anyone. Even when being walked, Rose would sprint to first base instead of doing the traditional trot to the base. Rose was known for sliding headfirst into a base, his signature move. He played his heart out and would do anything to score runs on the board. He understood what it takes to be a winner. Some of his accomplishments:

  • Most career hits: 4,256

  • Most career games played: 3,562

  • Most career at bats: 14,053

  • Most career singles: 3,215

  • Most career runs by a switch hitter: 2,165

  • Most career walks by a switch hitter: 1,566

  • Most career total bases by a switch hitter: 5,752

  • Most seasons of 200 or more hits: 10

  • Most consecutive seasons of 100 or more hits: 23

  • Most consecutive seasons with 600 or more at bats: 13 (1968-1980)

  • Most seasons with 600 at bats: 17

  • Most seasons with 150 or more games played: 17

  • Most seasons with 100 or more games played: 23

  • Record for playing in the most winning games: 1,972

  • Only player in major league history to play more than 500 games at five different positions: 1B (939), LF (671), 3B (634), 2B (628), RF (595)

Rose was consistent and persistent.

Businesses, especially marketers, love the excitement of the home run. Hitting the long ball is definitely one way to win ballgames. But there's another. "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game," by Michael M. Lewis, looks at the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager, Billy Beane. Its focus is the team's modernized, analytical approach to assembling a competitive baseball team despite Oakland's disadvantaged revenue situation.

Statistical analysis proved that on base percentage (define) and slugging percentage (define) are better indicators of offensive success. The As became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities, like speed and contact.

The same is true of online marketing. It's not about having the greatest creative talent and increase conversion by multiples but about who has the ability to keep moving runners to the next base.

Getting results online is about consistent, persistent execution. It's about continual improvement.

How can you implement this piece of wisdom? First, determine if you are passing up small wins in exchange for big ones. If you are, stop.

Are You Always Swinging for the Fence?

Here are few signs of home-run-itis:

  • Are you too much of a perfectionist? Requiring three or more revisions before pushing even a minor change live?

  • Do you spend more time sifting through data than actual implementation?

  • Do you only report and measure major increases?

  • Do you pass up easy improvements instead choosing a major revision that takes much, much longer to implement? In other words, do you spend more time on major revisions, passing up smaller improvements?

  • Are you waiting around for the next big insight or revelation from your analytics?

If you answered "yes" to at least two of these questions, you might be shooting for the fences too often.

The Value of Continual Improvement

Improvements on a Web site's conversion rate are typically compounding, meaning that a small increase typically stays an increase as long as that campaign is live or the change is online. Unlike traffic, a site improvement doesn't cost more to continue. It only adds, incrementally, to a company's top line. For example, if your Web site earns $100,000 in revenue per month and you increase conversion by a mere 5 percent each month, over the course of a year you would have added more than $79,000 to your monthly revenue.

It's the same principle as compounding interest.

So when you get a base hit, stop thinking of it as a failure to hit a home run. Instead think of it as a compounding improvement. Today's best online marketers aren't mastering the home run; they're mastering continuous improvement, banking improvement after improvement.

Better Is Good Enough

The real goal in your online efforts shouldn't be perfection or even amazing 'home-run results.

Your online goal should be a better Web site.

If you know something will make your site better and you have the power to change it, then change it. Then change the next thing and the next.

Don't wait around to fold your improvement into another major revision that will launch this summer. Don't test it ad infinitum. Don't wring your hands over the data again and again. Do something to improve your site. Do it now. Just make your site better.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting you avoid testing or ignore analytics. What I am suggesting is that you don't always have to wait or set up an A/B test for everything. Don't get strangled by data and perfectionism, or even your expectations. Instead, do something to improve your Web site now. Make something better.

Take a base hit today. Then another tomorrow. Soon the bases will be full. Do it over and over and over.

Continual improvement pays, and pays big. Not just from the results, but from the experience you gain. You'll get better at implementing changes and likely get better and more efficient at increasing your ROI (define), one base at a time.

Before you know it, the third base coach will be waving you in.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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