The New Normal

I asked a question and I got the seven deadly marketing words: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

“What Do You Think Business Priorities Will Be Post-COVID?”

Happy Friday.  I wanted to do a quick video on what, I guess I’ll call the new normal.  I live in Calgary, AB, Canada, and our city lifted its state of emergency last night.  So something that I think is super important as we start reopening and going back to our new normal, is if you change nothing, nothing changes.  

Simple, right?  But I’m serious, because businesses are doomed if that very simple sentiment is not followed. eCommerce and digital marketing is no longer optional or TBD or when we get around to it.  Before the world stopped, I had a client who had 10% of their inventory available online. 10%!  I was the one jumping up and down in a clown suit in board meetings saying we need the website to reflect 100% of available inventory, and the clients sentiment was because they had such a huge retail footprint, that people would simply shop in their stores for the rest of their products.  

Look what happened.  So you need to get that mentality out of your head right now.  Business owners, executives, entrepreneurs, I’m talking directly to you.  In addition to that, a number of times now, I have been hired as a subject matter expert in ecommerce, digital marketing and analytics… and then told exactly what to do, step by step.  So the very idea that you’re hiring someone for this purpose or this position is indication that you don’t exactly know what to do, hence requiring help via subject matter expert in the first place.  

Don’t hire an outside service or consultant or subject matter expert and then just tell them exactly what to do.  In fact, there’s a famous Steve Jobs quote, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”  So once your experts are on board, get out of the way, let them do their job, let them help.  So, side note to the new normal because the new normal will be uncompromising toward data driven decision-making. I’ve walked into organizations where an online campaign is being run at the wrong time of the year, according to the data.  

The business, this particular business was running paid search campaigns for golf over the months of March and April, but the analytics showed the highest search volumes for their region was September and October. The booking-to-consumption window was roughly 60 days, as this was a resort, it was a destination booking, not a city golf course in your backyard, so people are looking at booking [here] and they are consuming their booking and their arriving [here], but you’re advertising how great the facilities were [way over there] and [way over there] and you’re just you’re missing that ideal window by a margin. 

So, while I understand that there are two sides to the coin, you may want to put the pedal down in the offseason and try to drive more traffic, but if that’s your goal paid search is the wrong medium.  You’d only want that tactic in the first place if your occupancy was already maxed out during your peak period, which in this case it it wasn’t.  Paid search is designed to capture existing traffic, not create traffic. 

You can spend $10 million a month in paid search, and I have, and you still cannot force the general public to increase search volume, or the rate at which people sit at keyboards and search for you or your business.  There are a finite number of searches for any given product or service, and advertising via search captures existing traffic, it does not create new traffic.  To stimulate more eyeballs on your offers you need to go outside of search, especially outside of branded search.  

But back to the golf scenario, the correct play here would have been to fish where the fish are.  The data showed when and where the searches were happening, and when the bookings were being consumed. So, smart money is doubling down and making sure that you’re maxed out on your occupancy where we know is your peak season.  So I asked why we were, A) using search as the main medium, and B) applying the greatest share of budget to these off peak months of March and April, and I got the seven deadly marketing words:  “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”  Why March? Because it was run in March last year. Okay, well then why March last year? Because that’s when it ran the year before.  So you see where this is is going?  

Eventually you get to the root of the issue, when it ran in March for the very first time, and it was a non-data-driven decision, because the numbers were not available back then, so a gut feel from a decision maker was, let’s push golf using page search in March.  

An argument can be made that when that campaign was first ran, there was no supporting data to argue otherwise, and once it was running there was no baseline or year over year data to know good versus bad campaign performance.  But years later, once the data exists you must be willing to make a change.  If you change nothing, nothing changes.  You are leaving money and opportunity on the table, and if you full-circle back to bringing on an outside resource, such as a consultant or subject matter expert, there is a fantastic chance they will tell you something you don’t want to hear.  

If you aren’t prepared to hear it, don’t bring them in in the first place.  I’ve provided recommendations and assessments grounded in cold, hard data, ‘here are the facts’. I’ve been thanked for my time, no action was taken.  That is a recipe for disaster.  You cannot bring in someone such as myself, ask for an assessment on what you’re doing, what you’re doing well versus what you’re doing not so well, and only ask for the positives.  It’s like asking someone you’re interested in if they like you back, and telling them they they only have two options, either say yes or don’t tell me anything.  

So if you aren’t willing to adapt to our now-forever changed landscape, then something terrible will happen, nothing!  Your business will flatline. Nothing is what will happen. You will fall into the footsteps of those before you.  Kodaks, Blockbusters, Sears… time after time they failed to adapt, and trusted ‘that that’s the way we’ve always done it’, and that may have been the way that paid everybody in the past, and kept the lights on last year and the year before and the year before, but that is not the mentality or the mindset that’s going to guide you into the future.  

Believe me, it is wrong, you have to be prepared to hear difficult recommendations that you may not want to hear, you have to be prepared to make decisions, you have to be prepared to make changes.

Student Feedback


Kevin O'Leary

Shark, Dragon, Entrepreneur

“Anything you can do to enhance the productivity of your marketing in the digital world is extremely valuable, and Mike has the credibility to do this.”

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