Nathaniel Ward

Three lessons every online marketer can learn from Moneyball

At first blush, Moneyball has nothing at all to do with marketing. After all, it’s a book about baseball. But there are three important lessons online marketers can draw from the book.

1. Start with a clear objective, and focus all your activity on that

To ensure the Oakland As won more games than anyone else on a shoestring budget, general manager Billy Beane identified those metrics, like on-​​base percentage, most correlated with scoring runs and winning games. He then ensured his lineup included players that could get on base, and  discouraged tactics like bunting and stealing that kept players from getting on base.

Online marketers should use a similar goal-​​oriented approach. Start with your highest measurable objective (sales or brand awareness, for example), and then identify those activities (sending e-​​mails or running a particular kind of ad) and customer behaviors (like commenting or browsing a product page) most correlated with achieving that objective.

And since you no doubt have limited resources, you should focus on these activities that give you the most bang for your buck—and stop doing those things with low or even negative correlation with success. (more…)

More confirmation that young donors like to give online—but they don’t give as much

Generations X and Y are far more likely to give online, and as many Baby Boomers say they give online as via direct mail.” That’s according to a new report from Blackbaud.

The study also confirms that donors older than 49 are a better target for fundraisers: they represent 69 percent of all charitable giving. Those under 32, meanwhile, give just 11 percent of donations.

Why those ‘one weird trick’ ads are so effective

The “one weird trick” ads and their absurd-​​looking landing pages work well because they focus on human psychology, Alex Kaufman reports:

Research on persuasion shows the more arguments you list in favor of something, regardless of the quality of those arguments, the more that people tend to believe it,” [Harvard marketing professor Michael] Norton says. “Mainstream ads sometimes use long lists of bullet points—people don’t read them, but it’s persuasive to know there are so many reasons to buy.” OK, but if more is better, then why only one trick? “People want a simple solution that has a ton of support.”

Marketers—even those not selling diet drugs and miracle cures—should be paying attention.

The consequences to marketers of Gmail’s inbox changes

The new Gmail inbox design, which diverts marketing e-​​mails to a separate “Promotions” tab, could pose a threat to e-​​mail marketers, Jordan Cohen writes.

While it is still too early to tell what the impact on open and click-​​through rates will be, marketers are right to be concerned that emails placed in a separate tab will be out of sight, and may also be out of mind (or, in the very least, not top of mind). By last count (June 2012), there were 425 million Gmail users in the world, and it may be up to half a billion by now — so the effect can potentially be substantial.

For now, users’ ability to disable the tabs and the increased use of mobile devices to check e-​​mail could limit the damage, he adds. Kimbia suggests a few workarounds as well.

But perhaps the bigger threat is that other providers follow Google in hiding marketing messages from recipients.

Young people prefer to donate online

This, from a survey of young donors, should come as no surprise:

The donors also prefer to give online, with 84 percent saying they want to give through a Web site. The second most-​​popular way to give, with only 48 percent of donors, was to make a donation in person at an event.

It’s yet another reason to make sure you have a solid website and an easy-​​to-​​use online donation process.

But don’t rework your fundraising program just yet. The real question is not what young people claim about their giving behavior—people have a tendency to lie about such things on surveys—but whether they actually give at all.

Measure your results on effectiveness, not whether you think you’re annoying

Mike Allen quotes from Jonathan Alter’s new book on the 2012 Obama campaign (emphasis added):

The fundraising emails – more than four hundred in all – appeared hour after hour, day after day because they worked. An elaborate ‘More Emails Test’ showed conclusively that the more fundraising emails that went out, the more money came back – simple as that. Even the $3 ask – just enough to cover the credit card processing – helped build lists and increase a sense of ownership on the part of supporters. The growth in the number of people unsubscribing because they couldn’t stand the alarmist emails was much slower than the growth of cash flowing in, and Chicago knew that peeved unsubscribers would end up voting for Obama even if they thought the emails sounded like sketchy pleas from Internet con artists. Goff concluded that ignoring the human desire not to be annoying may have been the single greatest conceptual breakthrough of the campaign. It turned out to be worth more than $100 million.

Marketers, repeat after me: You are not your target audience.

You can preorder Alter’s book on Amazon.

Don’t let perfectionism stifle your marketing

When creating software, it’s often worthwhile to prepare a quick-​​and-​​dirty demo to see if the concept holds promise, argues Jason Fried of 37 Signals.

But bureaucracy and a need to “get it right the first time” can stifle this sort of innovation, he writes:

I suspect we’re not the only company dealing with this problem. In fact, I bet that obsessing about quality too early in the creative process prevents a lot of good ideas from taking shape. As businesses grow, all sorts of things that once were done on the fly–including creating new products–have a way of becoming bureaucratized. As a result, the wrong sets of pressures are brought to bear. Doubts, deadlines, resource planning…all of this stuff is essential. But only later on. Fretting about such matters at the outset only gets in the way.

This lesson doesn’t apply only to software. In marketing, our desire to launch the perfect product or the perfect campaign can keep good ideas from seeing the light of day. And since perfection in marketing is measured by results, we won’t know what works until we try it. Our instincts are probably wrong, so we have to remain open to new ideas and to running tests to find out if they’ll work.

How do you keep the marketing juices flowing in your organization?