More Lessons from the Stripe Life

A while ago, I shared some things about marketing that I’ve learned refereeing my kids’ soccer matches.  I wanted to add one more: how and why to spread the work across multiple channels and campaigns.

Soccer pitch with referee running routes; also candidate for a really cool flag

See that big orange S-shape in the middle of the pitch?  That’s roughly the route that the center referee (CR)–the boss on the pitch–runs during a match.  Those red and blue lines that each follow half the sides of the pitch?  That’s where the assistant referees (ARs, formerly known as linesmen) run.  This setup gives the officials reverse angles of play on either end of the pitch.

Last weekend, I worked as an AR with a CR who simply ran along one side of the field, the same one I was on.  Thus, during any play on my end of the pitch, the CR and I had either the same view or, worse, she blocked mine.

In short, the CR tried to do both my job and hers.  To be fair, this CR officiates better than I do, hands down.  However, she can’t possibly do both her job and my job as well as I can do my job.  In fact, when I work as a CR (heaven help those games), I have to remind myself to run the S-pattern so I only have one job to do, not two.

This same attitude works in marketing strategy.  Since technology keeps improving and digital channels keep evolving at a rapid pace, we sometimes fall into the trap of leaning on one technology or one channel or even one campaign to carry too big a load rather than splitting up responsibilities.

For example, an colleague of mine once taught me that we could optimize an email campaign around total sales or around response rates, but not both.  In this case, the client wanted to drive maximum possible sales from the campaign, which generally involves loud tactics (SALE! ACT NOW!) that deliver a one-time bump in sales while turning off customers who aren’t ready to buy right now.  Yet he also expected, somehow, for response rates to remain high.

Yes, it’s a dessert topping and it’s a floor wax

Trying to do both means that the brand can reach neither goal; one blocks the other.  Let the email campaign take one one goal; find another channel for the other.  Or segment frequent purchasers for the hard-sell emails in one campaign and treat the rest of the list with a campaign designed for higher overall engagement.  Same goes for any marketer trying to stuff too many objectives into a single social network or advertising platform.  Don’t expect Facebook or YouTube to handle every objective you can throw at it, no matter what your sales rep says.  There no sense in using one tool to do two jobs if you have more than one tool.

And please, CRs, try to defer to your AR when he or she calls offside.  It’s the best part of the AR’s job.

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