May 01, 2016


In many forms of auto racing, the fastest cars have to start in the middle of the field, or in the rear. This is done to make sure that there is plenty of passing. Fans love passing. Racing fans hate watching cars run in circles without passing.

Say 24 cars are starting a race, but the fastest 12 are inverted. This means that the fastest car starts 12th. Well, the fastest drivers didn't like this at all ... so they learned to do something tricky ... they learned to do what is called "sandbagging". They don't drive as fast as they could, so that they qualify about 10th fastest ... which means after inverting the fastest 12 cars, the driver starts 3rd. The driver quickly passes the two cars in front of him/her, and cruises to a win.

The smartest marketers sandbag their plans.

The CEO of the online business at Nordstrom used to ask me how much I sandbagged my plans by? I'd say 3%, and then he knew that I created a cushion for success. He and I would tell the inventory VP how much I sandbagged the plan by, so that we purchased an appropriate amount of inventory. Regardless, the expense structure of the business was based on a plan that was conservative by 3%. So when the business truly performed to expectations, it would look like we were 3% above plan, and the financials would look very, very good. Nobody complained when the bonus checks were big.

Again, only the smartest marketers (like you) sandbag their plans.

When you are rebuilding your marketing team around customer acquisition efforts, you sandbag your plan, no doubt about it.

Not the total counts, no, you don't sandbag those, because you cannot hide from actual counts ... they are what they are.

Here's what you do.

Let's say you have to acquire 100,000 new customers, in order to keep your business on plan.

You have your marketing team swap circ out of housefile buyers into co-op names, in the short term. Your goal is to increase customer acquisition circulation by 10%, which means you will increase customer acquisition counts by about 5%. Nobody is going to miss a handful of books that are swapped out of housefile names into customer acquisition names. Your favorite co-op will love this strategy.

You only tell your Brand Response Marketing Team, your own Marketing Team, and your CEO that you are doing this. If your company requires considerable transparency, and that is frequently normal, then tell every single employee, have at it. No need to hide behind your strategy.

Then, three months into your plan, you communicate to the company that new customer counts are 5% over plan. You communicate that you are "winning". You communicate this fact to every single employee at your company.

Employees support "winning" strategies.

This tactic buys your Brand Response Marketing Team and your Marketing Team time to find real strategies that work. By the time they find strategies that work, you have employees on your side. You will be acquiring customers above-and-beyond baseline, above-and-beyond your typical catalog marketing strategies.

In other words, you will be generating the success necessary to move your initiatives forward.