Marketing Lessons We Can Learn From a Thief

by Paul Wilson


My good friend emailed me the below excerpt a while ago:

I was woken up about 6:30 with a banging on my door (my neighbour) telling me that my car had been broken into and so was hers and the cops were on their way. I panicked at first thinking of my golf clubs in the trunk.. However when I got down there aside from a car full of glass from the broken window, and a massive rock (I mean like a boulder) in my front seat nothing was stolen.. Not even my ipod sitting on the front seat. Stupid junkies looking for cash it had to be.. They did not take anything at all.. even my neighbours camera was sitting on the front seat and they did not take that.. It was more than super annoying..

This real-life story is a great analogy to modern day web marketing. It is not a far stretch to liken us marketers to a thief taking using a large rock to smash through our users realities. Yet, how often do we leave behind the most valuable objects. We are so focused on our own agenda that we miss the obvious. As with my friend, in the end we only annoy our users because we are not taking what they expect us to take.

It’s really the small things that make the biggest difference. Here are some of the top things that I think web marketers overlook.

Consistent contact – We work so hard to drive traffic to our sites and to even get the users email address. It is rare, even for the big companies, to consistently keep in touch with their user base. I once heard that if you do email marketing right, each email address should be valued at $1. So, if you have 5,000 email list you should be making that much or more every time you send it out. The religious website,, understands and monetizes on this principle flawlessly. Last time I advertised with them they had 60,000 email list. They send out a daily and bi-weekly email to their readers. If you ever get a chance take a look at how they do their advertising. I personally believe they make more then $1 an email, but I don’t have hard proof for this belief.

True Permission Marketing – We’ve worked hard to get our communities trust, they let us market to them, but do we ask them to be a part of our marketing? The idea is simple, create a marketing campaign that incorporates parts of your community. For example, if you are an herbal company doing a sale on your clay detox products, call up a user who orders your product and interview him or her. Then name your sale after the user and post the interview. It gives a human face to your sale, and often times it also creates an unpaid sales rep—the user you interviewed.

Monetizing – This one seems so obvious, but I don’t think people truly optimize their campaigns for the most money. One of the best examples I can give is this website. I am uncertain of why anyone would build this website for anything but marketing purposes. It could be a great lead generator, but in no way have they monetized it. It truly is hard to see a fun and great website not reach its full money making potential. If they did market it right, they truly could say to us: “Give Us All Your Money,” without us realizing it!

Strategic partnerships – A few years ago an old friend convinced me to start a speed dating company. This was at the beginning of this craze and we put our hearts into the company. After two months of trying every marketing tactic we could think of we decided to give up on the idea. Three days later I received a phone call from one of Utah’s largest online dating website. They wanted to partner up with us and help promote our little speed dating company. With their endorsement we doubled our price of admissions and were hugely successful for a season. Lesson learned: two companies working together are more successful then one.

Originality – It’s amazing how unoriginal things are on the web. Someone comes up with a great idea and thousands of people copy the idea—usually unsuccessful. A little originality goes a long way. Do you remember the website Really cool site that actually worked. However, you saw similar sites popping up all over the web copying the idea. I never saw any of these sites be able to pull off what these guys did.

I know that there are many other things that we as marketers forget. However, I hope this eclectic list can be useful in your marketing endeavors. At least remember that if you are going to make the effort of smashing into a car with a boulder be sure to take the iPod that is sitting in plain view.

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