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The Learned Responses of Pain and Denial

I remember when I was a kid my parents loaded up the family van and we went on a bit of a road trip. The destination was “camping”. No one seemed to know where camping is exactly; maybe that’s the idea. In my mind at the time I remember pretending that the van was something cool like the A-Team van (it wasn’t.) It was one of those big conversion vans, with a table inside. That alone says something about the chosen mode of transportation – it had a table inside. I hope that never happens to me again. I don’t feel comfortable as the sort of person who drives a kitchen. This particular kitchen had huge (at least they seemed so at the time) exhaust pipes that ran down each side. The van had an identity problem – part kitchen, part optimums prime. To begin our trip I promptly stuck out my youthful, ignorant, un-knowing calf and placed it squarely on that industrial looking, pre-safety regulation, disco era glowing red manifold. It hurt like a sonofabitch. I doubt I said that word, but I did scream like one. That was the last time I did that.

Not that many people knowingly touch their skin to hot exhaust pipes but doing it once will make you more than cautious of the experience. Fortunately these days there are fewer and fewer conversion vans and an even smaller number of them sport the kind of free-love era carelessness necessary to put two huge pipes on either side of a van, right below the exit doors. Still there are plenty of these experiences that have taught me life long lessons and general areas to avoid. We all have to go through this process. A lot of people have different names for it, some call it trial and error, some call it maturity, some call it wisdom, and I call it denial.

You’d have to be in denial about how painful pain is in order to make it the main process by which you learn. That doesn’t sound fun. Denial to me would be waking up every morning and running face first into a wall to see if it still hurts. It sounds completely stupid but people seem to do it a lot. I don’t want to do that – I want to cheat. Cheating in my opinion has too many bad connotations. Cheating at someone’s expense, bad – cheating the learning curve, good. Another way to put this is simply learning from those who have already run into the wall and expressed the pain. And that’s a good goal to have. Trust me you will still have plenty of opportunities to fail and experience pain – but lets jump over the obvious hurdles shall we?

Everyday I see marketers getting in their own way. Doing the same old thing, or even worse the same old thing with new technology. Are they doing this learn what works and what doesn’t? If that’s what you are after I can think of a ton of better odds on far less valuable things to gamble with. It’s easy to gamble with the tangibles involved, it only takes money. Go ahead and buy that new Marketing Automation Software, dump some more money into website design; pay that list vendor for a ton of “opt in” lead data. Eventually the pain will expose itself – that pain is the fact that nothing, not the best software, or amount of money will work without skill to run it all and a process to back it all up.

We have clients of all shapes and sizes but every so often I see something come across that puzzles me. One of those scenarios came across my desk the other day and I’m going to share it here. They had been using a popular Marketing Automation platform for just about a year. Like most of our clients when we first meet them, they weren’t using the platform for anything I couldn’t do with constant contact. Their CEO was fed up with the platform and they were fed up with several other services agencies and after talking with Dave for a few months they wanted to get their feet wet. They purchased a very small engagement. Their goal? Get leads. How? Email. What’s the offer? A download.

On the surface it almost doesn’t sound as bad as it is. This campaign is to be their “make or break” with their Marketing Automation vendor – as if that were the problem. The campaign is completely ridiculous. Send an email to their database, offer them a whitepaper – if you download the whitepaper you’re considered a lead and sent to sales. What happens if you don’t download it? That’s right, you get sent to sales.

Now this type of situation really circles the wagons out west at LeadMD. We spent far more hours than we even had within the engagement trying to convince this client of how this campaign should have been structured. We went as far to research the firm, build out a sample lead scoring methodology, build the campaigns we wanted to execute, have them in the office three times, conduct a half dozen conference calls and no, we did not change their minds. Why? Because they learn via pain. In this case even the lesson is false. Their take-away is that the technology isn’t right for them. Wrong, your process and your strategy and your learned behavior are preventing you from truly learning – about your customers, about your business and even about yourselves. They haven’t even executed this campaign yet and already it has failed. After all that effort my services team donated the hours to build their simple terrible campaign in the way they wanted. It made my team feel terrible to – they told me.

The clients view of lead generation is a big, prehistoric exhaust pipe and their insistence upon not evolving has them burning on that pipe daily. At what point will that lesson finally be learned? Maybe never. Companies go out of business all the time, which is fine. Better organizations take their place and clients get better services and solutions as a result. That’s a painful experience however that I think most would agree is one that we’d like to avoid. As for us, we learned a lesson as well. We wont be sticking our legs back on that exhaust pipe. There are plenty of organizations out there that are hungry for change; we don’t need to fight the ones starving, due to lack of it,

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