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Why you should run your marketing like a Hollywood studio

You’ll inevitably have ideas which flop, or don’t perform as well as you’d hoped. This is a fact of direct marketing. There’s no point crying about it. Chalk it down as a dud, and try to figure out why it didn’t work.

I once wrote an email for Motley Fool, all about “how to beat HMRC” (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) in the stock market. I spent a decent chunk of time on the idea and was certain it would be a roaring success. It wasn’t. Sure, it sold a handful of units, but not nearly enough to get excited.

“I hate it when that happens,” I told the marketing director Chris Nials. My payment terms were split 50/50. I made 50% of the available cash for writing the promotion, and the other 50% for reaching the sales target. You’d think, being a greedy bastard, that I was upset about losing half my pay. Actually the opposite was true. “I hate taking any money for copy that disappoints.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m desperately insecure. In my early twenties, I was a nervous wreck. I went through violent bouts of insomnia and had no emotional resilience. Now older and wiser, I’m better at dealing with these problems. But that side of my personality never went away. I crave results. I feel worthless if I don’t get them.

“See, I don’t view it that way,” Nials replied, magnanimous. “You have to run your marketing like a Hollywood studio. A studio might produce five or ten movies and only one will be a hit. That hit pays for the flops and funds your future tests.”

Thankfully, my success rate is somewhat above 1-in-5. Most stuff I write does pretty well, and may even knock it out the park. But the pressure always stays. This Hollywood analogy is a healthy way to think about your marketing. It makes the pressure easier to bear. Don’t overthink your problems or psyche yourself out. Have fun.

If you’re not having fun, then you’re doomed. I can tell you that from harsh experience.