When Marketers Are Too Smart For Their Own Good

Blog Categories:  Internet Marketing  

Recently, I read an extremely funny critique of the ad business by former industry exec Bob Hoffman, Laughing@Advertising. In the book, he tells a story about a meeting at which one of his staffers asked the client, “What is your goal in this campaign?” After the meeting, Hoffman (hilariously) scolded him for asking such a stupid question, pointing out the only goal for any client in any campaign is to sell more stuff.


Selling more stuff applies to marketing campaigns as well. It’s easy for marketers to lose sight of that, to take the long way around the barn, to miss the forest for the trees, etc. This happens easily enough because marketing — especially Internet marketing — is technically complex and generates mountains of data that can be interpreted and acted upon in hundreds of ways.

Furthermore, Internet marketers are always tempted to chase the latest trend. When they are in hot pursuit of whatever that trend is — social media, blogging, content marketing, influencer marketing, etc., etc., etc. — robust execution of that thing becomes all-consuming, whether or not the work winds up adding any revenue to the client’s business.

Losing sight of that simple goal — selling more stuff — does the client a disservice, because that’s for what the client is paying. No matter how enamored clients are in the short term with their slick white papers, hordes of social media followers or resounding customer endorsements, the day will come when those clients fire the agency because they have no ROI to show for it. That is the day when “smart” becomes stupid. Thus, it’s crucial to ask such things as:

  • We’re publishing 20 off-site articles a month. To what end?
  • We’re optimizing 10,000 keywords. To what end?
  • We’re posting to Twitter 50 times a day. To what end?

Can a line be drawn between the work and the desired outcome of selling more stuff? Can the connection between the work and that outcome be supported by reliable data or at least anecdotally? These are questions we should be asking ourselves, because sooner or later the client will be asking them of us.

Staying focused on the simple goal of selling more stuff keeps campaigns from growing out of control, like weeds. Justifying campaign work in terms of client ROI may well lead to the conclusion that fewer articles, fewer keyword targets and less social media activity trim cost without sacrificing lead or online revenue generation. Without doubt, focus on ROI will lead campaigns to shed unproductive work and do more of whatever is productive.

Critical internal examination of campaign performance puts marketers in the position of telling clients, “Hey, we made a mistake,” or “This turns out to be a better approach.” We’re sometimes reluctant to make such admissions, for fear of being thought of as stupid. But in reality — in terms of producing results and retaining clients — what could be smarter?

Ready to Make Every Click Count?