Are You Addicted to Big Numbers?

I love math. It has an uncanny way of teasing apart the truth, but alas, it can also just as easily be used selectively to manipulate or create false impressions. And if we get addicted to a certain type of math – tracking eyeballs and households for example – then we can be inadvertently wasting time and money on our way to building brands and selling stuff.

In the old days of business, it was not possible in most cases to communicate with just the people who were a good fit for your products and services. So your agency developed campaigns for you that involved sending out millions of mailers or commercials broadcast to hundreds of thousands of households.

Typical rates of return? Less than one percent. We all know that. But those big campaign numbers are still so addicting. “I need the big numbers in order to get the rates of return to justify this expense.” Well, you only want the actual end result numbers.

The point is that now with technology, new media aka podcasting or downloadable media and social networks, you can actually reach the precise people who are most likely to buy from you, on the first round. You don’t have to bother interrupting or shouting at gazillions watching a mainstream TV show knowing that in there a few customers (who are probably fast-forwarding the commercials anyway…) You have other more powerful ways of having “private” conversations with your target audience instead of hoping your target finds you in the midst of all that noise.

I call it the phenomenon of having people actually self-enrolling themselves and it’s one step faster and juicier than “targeting.” Though there were dozens of companies here at ad:tech promising better and better targeting of audiences, wouldn’t you rather be able to just show up with your stuff knowing that people had already organized themselves around a related “something”?

I have a couple of examples for you.

iPhone Users and Web Software
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal wrote about a new iPhone software:

bq. Earlier today, we wrote about new software that lets businesses customize Web sites for visitors with iPhones. Our take: Businesses that sell to other businesses shouldn’t rush out and buy this software because iPhones only account for 0.18% of Internet traffic…

iPhone graphicThat’s a really small number. 0.18%. Who wants to bother with such a small, even microscopic group of people? Well what if you knew that iPhone users as a group (link has expired) are high income and highly educated phone users, and as early adopters they are also trend-sensors as well as trend setters? They are the people who have the money and the intellect to detect smart moves in the marketplace and tend to have others who follow them.

Now, not every company wants to meet the smart, rich, trendy, 24-7 movers and shakers, but if you do, iPhone users have already identified themselves as such, and making your web site i-Phone-compatible is an incredibly easy way to say to them: hey you! over here. My company wants to make it easy for you to play with us.

Mainstream Media Placement or Podcast Placement?
logo of mightyj musicThere’s a local girl band here in Hawaii, MighTyJ. During the production of their album, they set up a blog and filmed a vidcast aka video podcast with their recording engineer, Doctor Trey. When it was time to start promoting themselves, they used a combination of approaches. For one they got booked on the CBS-affiliate morning show (about 25,000 households). After that appearance, there was zero uptick on their web site traffic and no increase in downloads or subscribers to their vidcast.

Then they made an appearance on our daily Internet TV show, Beach Walks with Rox, average daily download of about 2500 or one-tenth the reported size of morning network TV. Their site traffic jumped enormously and they doubled the number of subscribers to their podcast.

So do you want to waste your time contacting 25,000 and get no response or contact 2,500 and get an enormous response?

Welcome to the new new math people. Fall in love with small numbers. Be willing to pay a higher CPM/CPA because other things (technology) and other people (podcast creators) are doing the heavy lifting for you.