How to Waste 100% of Your Marketing Investment

2013 got off to a great start. I got an e-mail on New Year’s Day from a friend who is on the board of a company that needs to reach internet marketers.

This company is a SAAS startup — the kind of company the Sand Hill Road crowd dreams about: huge potential market, scaleable, and no competitors I know of.

We’d met with the CEO of this company about 18 months ago. He’s a young guy with an MBA from a prestigious school who I’ll call “Steve”. At the time Steve was preparing to go into beta. The strategy was to to acquire thousands of beta users by employing college students to work the social media. We wished Steve luck and promised to stay in touch.

After getting the e-mail last week, we reached out to CEO Steve and arranged a call. Steve told us during the call that he wanted to buy one of our products. There would be no point to sharing this story if we let him.

As the discussion went on, we were surprised to learn that Steve decided to call because he “just felt like it was time” to start doing some marketing. He couldn’t say how he would measure the success of his investment. No metrics to go on, no expectations, and no real plan to measure anything to determine if there was ROI.

Given all that, we were certain Steve would be dissatisfied. With no way to measure success or progress, how could he be anything but convinced that he’d blown 100% of his investment?

Our advice to Steve was to keep his marketing powder dry until he’d developed the business metrics and site tracking capability to understand the return. I’ll talk more about doing that next time.

About Chris Elwell: Chris is a founding partner and president of Third Door Media, the publisher of Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. TDM accelerates customer acquisition for its clients by providing trusted content and targeted marketing programs that deliver qualified prospects. You can reach Chris at chris[at]