Fighting With My Boss About Direct Marketing

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[widget:author_image-243913401] In the last Dilbert Cube job I ever had, I was mastering the craft of Direct Marketing and my boss named Nick didn’t like it.

There were two things he didn’t like.

1) He was a corporate guy who loved (and I mean, LOVED) chest-beating, ego-building brand advertising.   I remember one time walking down the street in downtown Chicago, he was laying out for me the grand vision of his DREAM.

“After we raise Ten Million Dollars of Venture Capital, we’re going to launch this product into the marketplace and every single trade magazine is going to have full page ads with the name of our company – [ACME CORPORATION] – in HUGE letters, and EVERYBODY is going to know who we are!!! We’ll be EVERYWHERE!!!”

Contrast that with our lead generation website with lots of simple informative articles and my relatively ugly, humble, 4-Page self-mailing sales letter that put butts in seats at our seminars with an 8:1 return on investment – that stuff didn’t stroke his ego one bit, let me tell ya.

The other thing he didn’t like was:

2) Every time I did something and it worked (like the email blast that got a 27% response from a list of 2 year old dead leads), it made him look bad and me look good.   Nick did NOT like that, no siree bob.

He secretly wanted to discredit me and get rid of me, and I could feel the heat on my back.

So one day we’re having this phone conversation….

“Perry, I want to help you out today. I’m going to coach you a little bit, OK?”

“OK, Nick, go ahead, I’m listening.”

(Nick was always “coaching me” and “helping me out.”)

“Perry, we’re playing with the big boys now.   We need to get rid of this K-Tel stuff.”

K-Tel was the company that sold those greatest-hits records on TV, like “Rock 80.” My marketing reminded him of infomercials.   Probably because I studied infomercials to learn how cost-accountable advertising really works.

“OK, so what do you want to get rid of?”

“I don’t like that letter we use to sell the bootcamps.”

“But it works.   Every time we spend $2,000 mailing those out, we fill a class and bring in $16,000.00.”

“Perry, one of the things you’re going to need to understand as you mature in this business is that you can’t do things that are unprofessional.   This is not K-Tel, Perry, this is industrial engineering.”

For a second I felt lost. But then I got an idea and regained my bearings. I said:

“OK, Nick, then let’s do this: You write a different sales letter, different brochure, or whatever you want.   We’ll mail out yours to half and mine to the other half, we’ll use separate phone numbers and FAX numbers for the orders, and we’ll track both of them. We’ll let the NUMBERS decide. We’ll have a winner and a loser. If yours beats mine, then be my guest!”

(In Direct Marketing, testing settles ALL arguments. The Court Of Last Resort.)

He quickly changed the subject. “Perry, your marketing is too emotional.   It has too much personality. Our people want facts. People make decisions based on facts, not emotion. My wife buys a vacuum cleaner based on emotion. But I make my decisions based on facts.”

“So Nick, you mean to say that when you bought your car, when you bought the investments you have, when you bought your house, all your decisions were made from hard cold analysis with no emotion whatsoever?”

“That’s right, Perry. Factual. No emotion.”

I busted out laughing. LAUGHED at him, out loud, right there on the phone. I could feel his face turning beat red through the phone line.

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“Nick, you are one of the most emotional people I’ve ever met. You mean you’re going to tell me you don’t make emotional decisions???   I don’t believe that for a split second. You’re a walking, talking, roiling bag of non-stop emotions all day long, Nick.”

Then he got angry and started yelling at me.

“Nick, you’re getting emotional NOW!”

I hear his breath suck in and he tries to regain control of himself.

He changes the subject again. He manages to bring the conversation to a close and I can feel him re-calculating how he’s going to thwart me, I can almost hear the gears grinding inside his head.

Yes, just another one of many episodes of the Perry vs. Nick show.

I hang up and my buddy Dave sitting there next to me, HE busts out laughing. “Perry I think that’s the funniest one-side of a conversation with Nick I’ve ever heard.”

My friend, let me explain something.   There are two kinds of people in advertising:

1) People who learn how to do it, using Their Own Money, and

2) People who learn how to do it, using Other People’s Money.

I was the in category (1).   Yes, at that job I was learning on somebody else’s dime – that’s true.   But what’s also true is I had projects on the side, my own business stuff, where I was learning all of this for myself.

And at this job they never, ever gave me more than $2,000- $3,000 for any marketing campaign; it all had to come back to us with friends attached in 90 days or less, or I’d never get a 2nd chance.

Nick was one of those “Other People’s Money” guys. Remember the thing about the Venture Capital? Nick was trying to raise it.   Didn’t get a dime from the Venture Capital guys, but he had fond dreams of what he’d do with the money.

People who advertise with their own money, make ads that WORK.   There’s something about spending your own money on a mailer or a Google account or print ad that makes you learn real, real fast, what actually works and what does not.

People who advertise with other people’s money, make ads that LOOK GOOD. Ads that make for ego-stroking conversations with their friends on the golf course. Those people waste billions of dollars putting messages in the marketplace that do nobody any good at all.

Here’s a little heads up about something. The media has now talked us right into a recession, a recession which is very real – especially for people in real estate and finance; a recession that’s mostly fiction in other industries.   But the reality is, the landscape is different now.

One of the things that happens when budgets get cut is, people do less corporate brand advertising and more direct marketing. People have egos but they ain’t completely stupid.

What you can expect during the next 24 months is a world where the “court of last resort” – testing and tracking and measurement of results – is REALLY important.   The stakes are higher.

I hope you’re paying attention. I hope you’re learning everything you’re supposed to learn from every dollar you’re spending.

I also hope you’re taking advantage of every REAL educational opportunity.   Reading free email newsletters is cool, but I hope you’re investing in coaching and education that gets down to the meat of things and guarantees bottom-line results.

Here’s to your success in the Court Of Last Resort: Results-Accountable Direct Marketing.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: Feel free to post your own fighting-with-a-boss story, below.

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

26 Comments on “Fighting With My Boss About Direct Marketing”

  1. Great story, Perry! How do you consider you marketing style evolved since then? Do you still have a copy of those “call for training” letters?

      1. “learn from someone else’s experience”
        “absolute satisfaction money back warranty”
        “David and Goliath”
        Yes it does read like your current style :), thanks for sharing
        By the way I loved the option to split the payment between credit cards – very creative and it made me laugh – you thought about everything when PayPal wasn’t an option. :D

  2. Perry,
    Great post. Love it!
    Reminded me of lots of managers I know in B-to-B, who still truly believe that their decisions are purely based on facts and figures. Emotions may be in the game with others but not with these guys: That’s what they believe. They do not know nor would accept how wrong they are… :-)

  3. I can never get a job selling industrial electrical stuff in my area of the world because all the existing sales guys do the, “dial for dollars, work longer hours, and burn more gas and shoe leather” to get more sales. No one here wants to do any original out of the box thinking. And so everyone follows everyone else in one huge circle jerk and the dumb get dumber. So since I do not fit in with these “Schmendricks,” word gets out that I am not the guy to hire because I don’t subscribe to what everyone else is doing. They seem almost afraid – I can sense their fear on some days. And the politics get played where their bosses are convinced that I am “bad medicine” for their company.

    So I am slowly developing some of my own products to take to market. Been a long grind because I have to do this in the evenings after the regular work is done and the kids are put to bed. But once the product is ready to go, you can bet I am going to get Perry’s B2B program and start chewing up the competition with it.

    Alternatively, if anyone out there has a great technical gadget they would like introduced into Western Canada, drop me a line and let’s talk further.

    The moral of the story: never confuse sales with delivery

  4. Great article Perry.

    I just read Tested Advertising Methods last month and then wrote my first ad for my dad’s art gallery. It was the only ad in entire magazine with a coupon. It was frustrating having just learned so many fundamentals, writing the ad and then getting the ad sent back to me totally missing some “key ingredients”. My dad believes that advertising is a waste of money. I believe that artistic beautiful ads that blend into a magazine like a tree in a forest are a waste of money. I kept telling the guy that puts the magazine together that I want my ad to stick out like an ugly sore thumb. I still think that he thought I was joking.
    I’m looking forward to learning more about writing copy and keeping track of my results.

  5. Hello :-) That was a great story. I don’t have a fighting with the boss story but I do have a fighting with the boyfriend story. He says to me one day, when he saw my stack of one million papers and books: You worry me” he says, “in fact you disturb me” And I said “why?” and he says “you really think youre gonna make money with all the crap that you read? And I said “yep!” and he says “you know you have so much paper in there that you are responsible for bringing down half the amazon rainforest with all that stuff you have printed. And anyway if it really worked then everybody would be doing it” And I said “it’s called advertising and everyone IS doing it. Its what businesses have been doing for hundreds and thousands of years to make money” And then I pick up all my papers and he says “what are you doing?” And I said “I’m just getting my business plans together” and he said “they’re not plans, they’re delusions”


    Which is precisley why they say “When you want to do something new, never ask other peoples advice before you start, because all you will get is there old conditioning”

    Too true!

  6. Hillarious!!! I had a client like that just this week.
    I spent 2 weeks writing a video sales letter that excited the viewer and had strong calls to action.
    He said the same thing & asked me to be more exact quote… “sterile”. “These are serious, experienced business professionals that have been in the industry for 25 years, you can’t talk down to them with all that emotion”

    Perry, I’d love to hear if you just moved on from that person or ever helped him to see the light.

  7. I worked for a Fortune 5 Company for 6 or 7 years.

    One day my boss came in to the store. I asked him what was the name of the person at the register. He didn’t know. How much money does that person spend at the store on an annual basis? He didn’t know.

    His response was that I knew my customer base better than most of his managers.

    My response was, “Cathy spends over $30,000 per year at this store. I have other customers like her. Yet we spend NO money finding out how to cater to her so she spends more money here while spending $250,000 a month on an institutional ad that isn’t driving any additional sales into our retail outlets.”

    The entire conversation was over his head (he had the MBA and I didn’t (at that time)).

  8. I was new with a company here in San Diego and at a sales meeting the V.P. of Marketing and the CEO came by to pitch the new and improved marketing campaign. The two did their song and dance and told us how much money we just spent on these new full color marketing pieces. They hand it out to us and ask me for my thoughts, I asked “how come this new marketing piece does not state what we do?” No where on this piece did it even come close to mentioning what we do, it just had a few stupid ad agency slogans. The two fore mentioned executives have moved on the greener pastures.

  9. Perry,

    You are the man again.

    What do think about the people who just manage AdWords accounts for other people, but never play the game with their own money?

  10. Boy does that big ugly beast called “ego” destroy people eh? Pride goes before the fall, and seems like anyone who has the strength and courage to be objective and diligent, well, they usually have the spoils of victory. Great story.

  11. You definitely had the better plan.Your boss let his ego get in the way. It was a simple profit solution that your boss made complicated.It has paid off in huge rewards for you Perry.

  12. You sound very ligit. What is your end game? Will you videos help me get up and running the best way? Do you actually interact with this request.

  13. Perry, I operate within a franchise. The person that grants the licences says ‘he doesn’t like my style’ ‘my site is too american’ (im in the uk). That it simply won’t work!

    Last year, following your advice I generated 1.1 million in business.

    Now he doesn’t talk to me, but rubishes my marketing behind my back.

    Your system certainly doesn’t help you make friends, but it does make money.

  14. This is my favorite email Perry! I liked it the first time I read it and I like it again.

    “Testing settles ALL arguments”. I love it.

  15. Once I worked for a restaurant in Chicagoland as their promo guy before I started my own company. I helped the owner creating marketing campaigns and designed newspaper ads. I kept telling him to polish his message and focus on his mailing list instead of blowing money on huge ads in the newspaper, but he was always ‘smarter’. He definitely had an ego problem besides being cheap. I kept telling him to track and measure the effectiveness of the ads, find out the ROIs for each marketing channel he uses and stick with the best one, but he never got around doing it. He always thought his buddies would eventually take care of him as he was always able to raise ‘venture capital’ from them. In my experience, small business owners tend to be more flexible, but most of them have huge egos and many of them are very emotional about their business.

  16. hehe, the thing that I wonder is how they become nr3 in the industry with such a strategy or rather such a lack of strategy:)

  17. They are the “third biggest”?

    If they had listened to you and followed your advice… they would be #1 …

    It doesn’t take Socrates to come to that conclusion! ;)

    I’ll stick with my initial statement… just because I’m being self righteous and anal today.


    Have a great day! :)

  18. Actually it was not my direct boss. I was asked for making some analysis of a company’s maketing activity. I tried to be as short as possible so it ended as a 12 page document since they are lack of marketing strategy at all. When I asked what their plan is to approach target market the marketing director told me “we check in newspaper where the main competitors are present and we put a bigger ad there” So I consulted the executive that it is not okay, he liked my ideas and offered me a position immediately. However he always consults his management before making such decisions. You can imagine that the local “Nicks” convinced him of “im to skilled (= expensive) and they have to cut costs in the recession (they are cutting marketing cost first)”.

    Just an example: They wanted to force internet marketing, in their language “we want to spend 20.000 USD on our website”. When I asked them about the possible return, they had no idea, and the marketing director told me that actually their client (in his opinion) rarely use Internet. I asked him then why you want to spend thousends on it? The answer was because the main competior just created a new look on their website. :)

    This is the 3rd biggest tool dealer in the country and the main competitor is the 4th with about a half of “my company”‘s turnover.
    This example is from Hungary, European Union. :)

  19. your old boss sounds like an @$$! A classic example of some bureaucratic kiss up who suffers from hardcore inferiority dressed up as a Will Smith supervalistic complex.

    Give me his contact info and I will send him 3 pounds of rat poop (even though the rats themselves are highly intelligent animals).

    We are grateful that you dissed that loser and went into business for yourself. Kudos! :-)

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