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Stop marketing like a squirrel

Posted by Dan Hatch on 30th January , 2020 in The Write Fit
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I have fallen out of love with my longtime spirit animal, the squirrel.

Partly this is because the little b*****s have spent the last two months digging up my tulip bulbs, but that was really just the first chink in my squirrel-fanboy armour.

The nail in the coffin was realising that squirrels would make terrible marketers.

How can I, in all good conscience, continue to claim a spirit animal that is making such a fundamental marketing mistake?

And my great fear, and why I’m sharing this with you today, is that many of us may also be marketing like squirrels ­– often without even realising it.

Are you?

The case against employing a squirrel to do your marketing

Let’s take a close look at where the squirrel is going wrong.

What is the squirrel’s business goal?
To have enough food for the winter.

What is the strategy?
To collect up all the nuts, bury them safely, and dig them up later for noms.

What does success look like?
Lots of nuts have been buried before the weather turns cold.

Do you see the mistake the squirrel is making?

He’s measuring the wrong thing. He’s measuring success based on activity, not results. He’s been busy, sure. He’s buried a lot of acorns, sure. But that scatterbrained little rodent has no idea where he buried those damn nuts and he’s never going to find them again.

So while he sits back as the first snow falls, satisfied with his work, he doesn’t realise he’s going to spend the next few months running around like a madman without a scarf and gloves in freezing temperatures because he’s looking for something to eat.

Apart from poor record keeping, the squirrel’s failure here is that his business goal and his KPI are not actually related. He should be measuring the number of nuts he digs up again and consumes. That’s the conversion.

It’s the same thing we do when we measure the success of our content by page views and not by sales, signups or subscriptions.

And that’s why my new spirit animal is the bowerbird.

The case for employing a bowerbird to do your marketing

Determined to find a new spirit animal that could do marketing well, I discovered the bowerbird. These little guys are every bit as single-minded, entrepreneurial and bonkers as the squirrel, but the execution is flawless.

What is the bowerbird’s business goal?
To attract a mate, so he can continue the species.

What is the strategy?
To build really awesome digs, decorated with dazzling blue objet d’art, to convince a blue-objet-d’art-loving lady bowerbird to come around for Netflix and chill.

What does success look like?
The squawking of little baby bowerbirds.

See the difference? The bowerbird is measuring success by conversions, not by activity. And it is has a direct relationship with his business goal.

On top of this, his strategy is sound: he’s built the nest (his platform) and he’s collected a lot of blue stuff (content) to attract his target audience (lady bowerbirds who love blue stuff). And while perhaps a few lady bowerbirds will visit his nest and inspect his blue stuff (page views), he’s not sweating on the numbers. All he needs is the right lady bowerbird to come along, be impressed by his blue stuff, and stick around to start a family with him (a successful conversion).

Be more bowerbird

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of marketing like a squirrel and confusing activity with success. Don’t get me wrong, things like page views can be useful metrics to keep an eye on. But real success comes from measuring outcomes that are directly linked to your business goals. If you’re not doing that, then it’s time to switch spirit animals and be more of a bowerbird!

Dan Hatch
30 January 2020


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