Got Your Mind on Your Money and Your Product on Your Mind

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DM CONFIDENTIAL – Our industry has pooled together people from all walks of life. We’d say both young and old, but really it’s more like young and a few old. I suspect, though, were we to collect stories of how people ended up in performance marketing, we would find some common themes but countless individually fascinating stories.

Given our diversity, something must tie us together beyond just the desire to make money or work in an industry that doesn’t require a strict dress code. In thinking further about the ties that bind, some things stand out while others do not. Low start-up costs are a plus. Quick results are also a plus. Working on a performance basis might seem like a factor that brings us all together, but I don’t think so.

We all work in performance-based marketing, but we didn’t seek out this type of marketing because it pays on a performance-basis. We chose it because it enables other things — like rapid execution.

If there was one thing that I would say we all have in common, it’s that we have product on the mind. Product is a slightly misleading word. In today’s advertising-technology world, product tends to describe the underpinnings. It tends to refer to code and iterations of the code to make the core site perform better, faster, etc. It is Google tweaking its algorithm or the Gmail team unveiling a new feature. It is Facebook implementing Skype or Apple updating the iPhone.

Products all, but they speak to a one-to-one or many-to-one relationship where a company has something that it continues to shape or improve for the market. Product for us is different. Product for us is really offers. Only a small handful are thinking about better subid tracking, or getting to truly real-time reporting. These wonderful few make sure the plumbing works, but the rest of us can’t get our minds off what will run.

We are the privileged few, for example, that would take pleasure watching infomercials. For us, seeing infomercials just helps us sell better. That late night bra commercial? Yes, it’s a little weird to admit to watching that at two in the morning on a Saturday night. It’s probably a little weird to take screenshots and even DVR a particular infomercial. At least to others that’s a little weird.

To us, it’s all about trying to get in the mind of the user and some sense of what offers might work well or ideas for something new to run. Much as a journalist listens to the world with a distinct filter, trying to tease out a story or a source, those in our space view the world from the lens of trying to find a new offer, tweak landing pages, and eCPM.

How many times has this happened? You are sitting in a public place, maybe a lounge, at dinner, or even on an airplane. You hear someone talking, and there is something about the words they say that attracts your attention. You can’t quite tell, but it sounds as though the person has a direct to consumer offer that has some success offline but little focus online.

It kills you because you want nothing more than to find an excuse to talk to the person or to make sure you heard them correctly so that when you get back online you can look them up and find a way to connect again. It’s like those guys who try to get a full name from a girl in order to Facebook them. We don’t want to be creepy stalkers. We want to make them money.

The hard part about so many of these relationships and chance encounters, including the intros that friends of friends make once they know you as the internet person, is that most aren’t in a position for scale. It looks promising, discussions go well, but something almost always gets in the way of a full-on launch.

These are more than business development deals. They are almost mini M&A deals, more likely to not happen than happen, and equally likely to fall apart even after the first few months of traffic. As we have no doubt lamented before, we could use a better discovery process.

There are countless amazing offers. If only there was an America’s Got Talent for potential offers — a few have toyed with a reality show.

Others wish we could create an Angel List for those with concepts and products and those with the ability to turn them into offers. As we know, though, it’s hard. How great would it be to have an industry organization dedicated to discovery. It would exist to educate product owners, to help them become more performance marketing savvy, and put them in a position to succeed when they connect with networks. That we don’t have it is the same reason why many of us work in this space – we want to have more fun and see the results of our efforts…yesterday.

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