3A LITTLE HISTORY WHATISTHIS‘D&D’OFWHICHYOUSPEAK? Now,
prepare yourself. You’re about to dive deeper into nerddom than ever before. Before I dig into the marketing stuﬀ, it helps to get a 1-minute lesson in Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D, or DnD) is a role-playing game. Players assume the identity of characters and participate in a story. Think of it as Choose Your Own Adventure on steroids.
A typical interaction might go
like this: Dungeon Master: You hear a sound down the hall. Player: I charge towards it!!!! Dungeon Master: A swarm of spiders attacks you. Player: @)#($*!@ Then the‘combat’is resolved using dice.
Photo by Philip Mitchell
h.p://www.dwarvenforge.com/dwarvenforums/viewtopic.php?pid=15595#p15595 dice ‘minis’ character sheet Here’s a great D&D gaming table, set up with all manner of neat stuﬀ. You can easily play, though, with your characters written down, a few dice, and a pencil. Of course, there’s one essential component…
A bit about me. Don’t
worry, this is going somewhere marketing-related, I promise. I got my first D&D set when I was 12. My aunt bought it for me. My mom didn’t speak to her for 2 months. Now, this was kind of a new thing. In my innocence, I invited some friends to try it out. We played, but they blabbed. Word got out around the middle school… You can imagine what happened…
I became social roadkill. Now,
it wasn’t all because I played D&D. I was pretty far into the nerd vortex by then. But D&D didn’t help. I’ll spare you the details. I stopped gaming for about 3 years. But now, I’m going to indulge a bit: I have a message I need to send to all the neandrethals who spent their days knocking books out of my arms, slapping me around and other fun stuﬀ, then peaked in high school and and are now making a living screwing caps onto toothpaste…
PEOPLE ARE WEIRD LESSON 1
Aaanywayyyyy… In a futile attempt to survive, I brought the start of my gaming career ground to an inaupsicious halt. But when I was 15, we moved from NJ to Los Angeles. First few weeks at my new school, one of my new friends says,“Hey, you look like you play D&D. Want to join our game this Friday?”
WOMEN Here’s another story from
my youth. I’m sure this comes as a shock: On the high school dating scene, I had a bit of a hard time. The audience is really small. Face it: When you’re a teenager, you’re not all that picky.
WOMEN WHOLIKENERDS TOUGHSELL WHOLIKEME BOOMSOLD!!!
STILLTOUGH At the age of 27, I finally met my wife. Before I proposed, I figured I’d better come out of the gaming closet. When I did, she didn’t leave. She didn’t even look at me like I was a cuttlefish. What she did do was tell all of her friends, who asked me“So, what’s D&D like?” I’d found the perfect audience.
WOMEN WHOLIKENERDS TOUGHSELL WHOLIKEME BOOMSOLD!!!
STILLTOUGH By narrowing my audience and focusing more and more on the people who were least likely to avoid eye contact, I got married. OK, it wasn’t that scientific. There was romance, I promise. I bought flowers. I pointed out binary star systems (seriously). But you get the idea.
No, I won’t demonstrate. Actually,
the entire state of Washington has a restraining order against me every trying to do anything other than slow dance. Psy found his audience – his‘weird.’It’s people who like his style of music but can’t dance. The response was completely oﬀ the charts. I’m only slightly tongue-in-cheek here. It really worked whether he meant it to or not.
You can be more scientific
about it. This is Google Analytics data from the Portent web site. People who find us after a search for our Title Maker tool or the acronym‘PPC’may be more likely to sign up for our e-mail series. The sample here is tiny, but a longer study bears this out.
USEAMAZON:SEARCHFORAPRODUCT …but other times, they
don’t. To find those‘other times,’take a look at Amazon.com. Find a book related to your core product. For example, pretend you’re writing a travel book that will compete with Lonely Planet’s Europe guide. I search for their book…
SORTARANDOM …and then take a
look at the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’section. There are several items that appear pretty much random. I call stuﬀ like this a random aﬃnity.
TRAVELS LIKESSMOOTHIES I’ll go with
smoothies. If I want to sell to a niche audience, I might include a section in my book about the best smoothies around Europe (I’m not kidding). Or, if I’m the marketer in charge of selling the book, I’ll test ads on smoothie-related sites, and write a“Guide to Smoothies in Europe.” I can check the results and see if this random aﬃnity worked.
FOLLOWERWONK SEARCH BIOS One easy
way to find random aﬃnities is to find an audience‘center’– the person who dominates the topic – and then move outward 1-2 degrees of separation, and see what that broader audience likes. It doesn’t always work perfectly. Here I searched for‘puppies,’because I want to sell a puppy-related product that drugs them so they’ll sleep at night (kidding. mostly). I find Dara O Briaian. OK. So now, I need to look at his followers and see what they like.
34A LITTLE HISTORY HOWDIDIKNOW? Sure
enough: Business apparel. How can I use this data? Pay per click marketing key phrases, obviously. But I can also use it to guide copy, imagery, message and the sites I use to buy ads. Two little words can change a whole campaign.
PEOPLEAREWEIRD DON’T FIND 10000 PEOPLE
FIND 10 AUDIENCES OF 1000 So, the rule is: Don’t find one audience of 10,000. Find 10 audiences of 1,000 and sell to each, precisely. Focus on the weird. If you’re a gamer, it might just save your life.
ARMOR + DEX = ARMOR
CLASS DOUBLE DAMAGE THAC0 D&D is surprisingly mathematical. Other, similar games even more so. I used D&D to improve my kids’math skills. I’m sneaky that way. There are all manner of calculations that can change at any time depending on conditions.
ARMOR + DEX = ARMOR
CLASS DOUBLE DAMAGE THAC0 you are so puny. I just got 1500 experience points! I leveled up. why? The player has to do the math. It’s not so much that the calculations are hard as the fact that you must have those calculations at your fingertips. In many confrontations, math determines success or failure.
ARMOR + DEX = ARMOR
CLASS DOUBLE DAMAGE THAC0 because math Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Won’t happen again. Horrible jokes aside, marketing is shockingly similar to D&D in that math can come up and bite you in the ass at any time.
LTV = VALUE/CUSTOMER LEAD TO
CUSTOMER VISIT TO LEAD CLICKS TO SITE B2B I don’t care if you’re selling to 10 people or 10,000,000. You need to do the math. Know the essential numbers, by heart. Sell Business-to-Business (B2B)? Figure out the average value of a visit like so (LTV = LifeTime Value).
LTV * VISIT TO LEAD
* LEAD TO CUSTOMER B2B UNIQUE VISITORS $$/VISIT= MAXIMUM VISITOR VALUE Now you know the value of a visitor. Apply desired margin and you also know exactly how much you want to spend to acquire that visitor. There is no more important number for you, the marketer.
LTV * VISIT TO CUSTOMER
B2C UNIQUE VISITORS $$/VISIT= MAXIMUM VISITOR VALUE There you go. Note that you’re not even considering attribution yet. Nor are you considering all the stuﬀ you can learn by analyzing reams of data. My motto: Before you do big data, get the small data right.
USESOMETHING AVERAGE SALE AD SALESAVERAGECLIENT$
DON’T KNOW LTV? If you can’t figure out lifetime customer value, find an alternative. Do not simply throw up your hands. If you don’t know this number, you cannot do smart marketing! That doesn’t mean you should give up. Start figuring out LTV. If you have customers, and you know when they start and stop buying in any broad sense, you can eventually figure out LTV. Go do it.
MEASURE Here’s the other half
of the‘math’equation. Once you know your basic numbers, use measurement to better target, find the‘weird’and apply segmentation, improve user experience and so on. I did this all the time in D&D. If my character had X ‘hit points’(your health – if you lose them all, you’re kind of comatose), and the first 10 times we played every opponent had 2X hit points, and finally killed me, it’s time to adjust. Zarth the Destroyer may be dead, but at least I know how to build my next character.
CONVERSIONSMICROCONVERSIONS FORM BAILOUTONSITE SEARCH DATA
CALLS TO CALL CENTERSITE SPEED SITE ERRORSPRRANKINGSPPC SOCIAL MEDIA SHARESCONTENT WRITING GRADE LEVEL CLICK LOCATIONS All manner of stuﬀ to measure. Don’t make yourself crazy. Pick what you can handle and start there. However, certain things have a very broad impact: Conversion rate – If you improve it, every channel improves Site speed – Everything improves, including conversion rate. Content performance – Helps you build the‘house list.’
Keep stats on content performance.
This is a tool we use in-house at Portent. We’re maintaining an ongoing set of performance numbers for every site page. We’re also maintaining stats regarding words per page, social shares, topic, etc. That lets us start to consider and test hypotheses, like“Pages at a 10th grade reading level perform better.” This data is not the answer. It’s the first questions.
No need to start with
a custom tool, though. You can start with custom reports in a tool like Google Analytics. You can import this using the link in the link bundle.
BUT YOU CANNOT MEASURE EVERYTHING
Great! Measure!!!! Measure!!!! Measure more!!!! Don’t even go out to lunch without measuring!!! Yeah. No. You have to be willing to try stuﬀ you can’t measure. And be prepared to be wrong sometimes, even if you do the math. You can measure your way right into paralysis, because…
RANDOM HAPPENS LESSON 3 Random
happens. It just does. We’re not selling to computers. There’s no formula. We’re selling to highly evolved apes. They change their minds. And they’re weird.
PEOPLE ARE WEIRD LESSON 1
HAPPENS In D&D, there are at least two things that introduce utter randomness. First, there are these pesky dice. If you get into any kind of confrontation – say an argument with a troll, or a fight with said troll – or try to do something very specific – say, pick the pocket of the same troll, if you’re really a slow learner – you’ll probably roll dice to figure out if it works. Yes, there are things about your character that modify that die roll. A veteran thief has a better chance to successfully pick a pocket than, say, a fully-armored fighter dude. But the dice are there, and everyone fails if they roll a 1.
Start here End here Fun!
Adventure! YAY!!!!!! And then there are those pesky players. As a dungeon master, I’ve often spent time carefully preparing a detailed adventure with nifty twists and turns. Maybe I designed it to last 4 or 5 gaming sessions. Maybe only 1. But I created story, and with it people they’ll meet, monsters they’ll fight and treasure they’ll collect. It’s a lot of work.
Start here End here SONOFA…
So it’s really aggravating when the players evade everything and head straight to the conclusion in 2 hours. But that’s the way it goes. And you’re better oﬀ not forcing the players into a predetermined course. You can say“Hey, go this way, it’s better,”but eventually the players find you out and lose trust in your game. It’s a bit like, I dunno, deceptive advertising saying “Hey, buy this, it’s better.”Eventually, consumers find you out and lose trust in your brand.
PEOPLEDOCRAZYTHINGS Part of random is
people’s never-ending ability to do crazy things, like flush four days of work preparing a D&D game down the toilet. You can do research until your pupils weld themselves shut. You still won’t be able to say“I am 100% certain this will work.”
HAVE A PLANBUT KNOW IT’LL
CHANGE AND BE READY WHEN IT DOES So yes, have a plan. But understand that no matter what you do, it’s going to change. And be ready when it does. Clients and bosses hate this. They hate it. There’s always someone out there who will guarantee it. There’s a simple question you can ask: “Doesn’t that seem too good to be true?” Because it probably is.
PEOPLEDOCOOLTHINGS Also, the flip side
of this is that people do really cool things. Probably more often than crazy things, actually. I published a blog post thinking,“Hey, folks might like this.” It went ballistic. I know some people will look at these numbers and say“yawn,”but I was really flattered.
RANDOM CAN BE GOOD So
random can also be really good. Don’t fear it. It’s part of what makes D&D fun – if nothing was random, and you knew every outcome ahead of time, it’d be pretty boring. It’s what can make marketing fun, too. It’s certainly what makes us valuable. Without random, no one would need marketers.
SOMETIMES, RANDOM MEANS TURNING A
FRIEND INTO A FROG this was Not the plan Remember random? Sometimes, in D&D, random means you turn a fellow player into a frog, or accidentally pitch them oﬀ a cliﬀ. I’ve had one fellow player blow me up. Twice. But you do not fear it. It happens. With good players, it’s part of the story. Things go wrong. Move on. If you know me, you know how ridiculous it is that I’m making this statement. I’m a neurosis, wrapped in a phobia, inside a personality disorder. But, I’ve come to accept this. You can’t be an entrepreneur for 20 years without accepting it. So there.
FEAR LEAVING CUSTOMERS FEELING LIKE
THEY GOT You should have that kind of fear when it comes to screwing customers, or deliberately bumping oﬀ fellow players in your D&D game. These are things that you can foresee 80% of the time. If you have a healthy fear of them, you can avoid them.
ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap There’s the other 20%,
when random causes the worst kind of screw-ups (or things that appear to be screw-ups). For those times, avoid the cranial-rectal inversion (a term learned from my brother). That leads to you ignoring trends, ignoring mistakes, ignoring your audience and instead running in circles gabbling like an idiot.
In 1982, someone poisoned random
bottles of Tylenol capsules. People died. The first case occurred September 29, 1982. Many corporations would have had the crainial-rectal inversion, hired an army of lawyers and hunkered down. In less than a week, Johnson & Johnson had distributed warnings to all hospitals and distributors, stopped production, issued a nationwide recall (the deaths all happened in and around Chicago) of 31 million bottles and bought advertising warning consumers not to take the capsules. They also oﬀered to exchange the capsules for safe tablets, instead. I can’t even guess how much that all cost. That is a company responding well to a huge mistake. Because no matter where the tampering happened, J&J was going to wear this for decades. It was a mistake for which they’d be blamed. Instead, they’re a case study of how to respond to a crisis.
100 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Day Orders(thousands) In less fatal circumstances, maybe you tweak a marketing campaign and sales plunge. You could panic and turn back the clock. Or, you can dig into the numbers and realize that a power outtage aﬀecting ¼ of the United States population might be hindering online sales just a tad.
DON’TGET PARALYZED Most important, don’t
let fear completely paralyze you. Back to D&D for a second: If you’re fighting a horrific monster, and it’s kicking your butt, yeah, you’re in trouble. I don’t know if you’ll survive. I guarantee you won’t survive if you just stand there.
HE WHO ACTSISN’T DEAD AND
THEN WHAT HAPPENS? It’s a long story. Suﬃce it to say that no D&D player appreciates being left to get chopped into fist-sized chunks simply because the other players stood around watching. And yes, it happens.
No bashing here, but the
Republican Party really failed to adjust in the 2012 presidential campaign. More and more data showed their audience wasn’t on land lines. They forged ahead, looking at poll numbers. They got stomped. They needed to do something. They didn’t. Would that have won the election? I have no idea. But it would’ve helped.
COMPUSA responded to lower in-store
performance by doing nothing. Unless you include reducing in-store salaries, of course. Conde Nast flew Gourmet Magazine right into the ground by ignoring everything from site speed and user experience to organic search and social media. Thud.
Next, show really easy wins.
If a phrase costs 4.2% of your budget and generates .6% of your traﬃc, it had better generate serious revenue. Otherwise, cutting that could save a lot of money. In this case, the phrase only generated .3% of sales, and lost money. We yanked it.
you're not doing a regular
newsletter right now. you should. Also, start with stuﬀ you can predict reasonably accurately. Here, e-mail sure seems like a powerful channel.
PEOPLE INVEST TIME FIRST The
first thing most people invest in any activity is time. If you want to keep their attention, you need to generate a good return on time invested (ROTI).
IF I’M GOING TO BE
A SOCIAL OUTCAST, MAKEITWORTHMYWHILE Playing D&D requires sacrifices: Staying up until 3 AM. Eating crappy food. Becoming a total social outcast. If I’m going to do those things, it had better be worth my while from hour 1.
86A LITTLE HISTORY 330,000 gold
pieces 110,000 ounces of gold $143,000,000 A quick aside: I did some math. I figure in a 33- year gaming career, I’ve collected about 330,000 imaginary pieces of gold. That comes to 110,000 ounces of gold (yes, someone figured out the size of a D&D gold piece. No, it wasn’t me. That comes to $143,000,000
NERD Whatever. But here’s the
thing: I collected all that fake gold days or weeks into a particular D&D game. It wasn’t there, sitting on the imaginary ground, for my character to collect on day 1. So, why’d I stick around?
BUT FIRST A GOOD STORY
A GOOD SETTING GOOD SNACKS Something else got me my Return on Time Invested. Maybe my fellow players brought good snacks. Maybe I had a crush on a girl in the group (yes, girls do play D&D). Or maybe we’re just all really good friends. Regardless, there’s a great ROTI, and I’ll stick around because of it.
CONTENT IS YOUR FIRST PRODUCT
Whether they’re reading a blog post, watching a video, looking at a product or reading about your Board of Directors, content is the first product they sample. Content generates ROTI. There is no escaping this. That means you have to look to many factors:
SPEED Site speed – the
speed at which a page appears in a visitor’s browser – may be the single most important factor in internet marketing. OK, that’s a bit much. But think about it: The speed of your site aﬀects all channel performance, conversion rates, customer satisfaction, user experience… It’s a big deal.
75kb I could do a
whole other talk about this. Go run Yslow on your site. But at least, please, don’t have a 75kb, 4 pixel wide image designed as a background. OK? Please?
But I’m not a design
pro. I can’t just pull great typography from one nostril. So I go by the numbers. Use Pearsonified’s awesome Golden Ratio Typography Calculator and you’ll get a great starting point for font size, line spacing, etc. Or, maybe you’re better at this than I am.
The way you write matters,
too. Don’t use 11 words when 1 will do. I love Nozbe. They’re awesome. So I can gently poke fun at their home page copy. That’s one sentence. I nearly passed out reading it. Not good.
I used a metric called
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease to gauge the Nozbe copy’s diﬃculty. Yikes. FKRE isn’t the be-all end-all. But it does provide a basic measure to verify gut feelings. I’ve got a link to this tool in the link bundle.
WRITE WELLBelieve it or not,
customers do care whether they can actually understand your writing. No, I don’t have test data. No, you don’t need to test it. Which Harrison Ford movie do you remember? Witness or Hollywood Homicide? Case closed. So write well, or hire someone who does.
NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE
COWS MOO. I HAVE 3 HIT POINTS AND AN ARMOR CLASS OF 10. One of the best dungeon masters I know has one terrible habit: He etches out every detail of the imaginary setting. Down to the number of cows each farmer owns, and the total hit points of each cow. Not kidding.
EGO I do the same
thing with my company. When writing a proposal, I feel like I have to show every detail of how we do what we do. Does anyone care? Probably not. My trouble starts with my ego. It’s usually small, damp and badly shredded, but get me talking about my company and it swells into a football stadium.
EGO XTake ego out of
the equation. Maybe we’re right. But the audience won’t appreciate our brilliance. Remember ROTI! Your audience will appreciate it if you use their language and cut to the chase.
SLAYING MONSTERS IS HEROIC you
slay me. Uh, figuratively speaking. Part of D&D is doing extraordinary things. The worst games are the ones where you have to attend to every detail of buying supplies, negotiating a night at an inn or experience mile by grinding mile of travel. The cows thing, again. I don’t know about you, but I get plenty of that in real life. D&D – and most games like it – is about being heroic.
SLAYING MONSTERS IS HEROIC i
am stuffed with awesome You Beat The Bad Guy. You beat the odds and come out in one piece. Or maybe two… This is not a D&D mini. I got so much hate mail the first time I used this guy, I have to point that out. It’s from a diﬀerent game. I painted it. I’m using it. So there.
UNTIL IT’S NOT OH Boy.
golly gee. i found another +12 sword of slaying. i am excited. But you can ruin a great game by making it too easy. Campaigns where great stuﬀ falls from the sky are just boring. They ruin the story arc we all love.
EXPOSITION COMPLICATION CLIMAX RESOLUTION STORY
ARC The classic story arc: First, you get familiar with stuﬀ in the exposition. Then, something happens that sets up a challenge of some kind. Then, you resolve it. Then you get your cool stuﬀ, or die, or fail, or whatever.
YOU’RE IN A BAR YOU’RE
HIRED IT ALL GOES HORRIBLY WRONG SCREAMING OCCURS YOU GET TREASURE (OR KILLED) STORY ARC Here’s a typical D&D story arc. It’s pretty straightforward.
LIFE PROBLEM CRAP! GET STUFF
STORY ARC Most customers are going through this when they start looking for your product or service. They are likely at ‘Problem’or‘Crap!’ Respect the arc.
DISCOVER RESEARCH BUY REWARD STORY
ARC Here are the most likely actions at each phase of the arc. Before there’s a problem, the audience may simply discover you, without searching. Social media excels at this. Once the problem pops up, they start actively researching a solution. Then they buy or not, which resolves the problem.
SOCIAL SEARCH SITE REWARD STORY
ARC Think of your channels like this. It changes, of course. But if you’re running a simple web business or services firm, this is pretty much what happens.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
I’m happy to bring new people into the cult of Dungeons & Dragons. But at some point, you gotta learn the rules. There is nothing more maddening than stopping the game for 25 minutes every time one player needs to swing a freaking sword. Tell me I’m wrong, fellow gamers. I dare you.
again?! wtf people??? …I don’t
like playing the evil folks. It’s just not fun. I want to be Captain Kirk, not Khan, no matter how awesome the the bad guy seems.
LESSON 10 NEVER,EVER TOUCHANOTHER PLAYER’S
DICE I SAW THAT!!!! YOU ROLLED A 4, NOT A 14! GAAAH! DUDE! LIGHTEN UP! Don’t cheat. In D&D, you just won’t be invited back. In marketing, it’s called‘lying,’‘scumbaggery,’and sometimes‘a crime.’ In D&D terms, this is evil.
MARKETING IS COMMUNICATIONS And what
we do is a form of communiations. It’s important because it makes other things important. It impacts folks’perception of what’s important to them and what’s not.
That’s the last reason I
love Dungeons & Dragons, too. It lets you, for a few hours, completely change what’s important from‘pay the bills’to‘save the world.’ Which may tag me as crazy, but I find it pretty fun.