The bravery of Richard Phillips, merchant captain of the Maersk Alabama, remains unquestioned. His crew insists that when faced with four gun-wielding pirates that they stabbed at one and were attempting to repel the others when Captain Phillips offered himself as a temporary hostage.
The pirates apparently reneged on the deal and even stood fast in their little lifeboat with a tightly trussed Phillips in the shadow of Naval vessels carrying hundreds of sailors. Much of the world knows now that Phillips was rescued by three simultaneous sniper shots and applauds the action and skills of those U.S. Navy snipers who ended the crisis.
But while scanning the news about new piracy efforts today, I was surprised by the number of words that mirrored my own presentations to small business clients. Laser-like, target, surveillance, strategy, negotiation, training. The Gulf of Aden is not your local small business conference room and Microsoft PowerPoint isn’t a sniper rifle, no matter what we geeks did with those little laser pointers in the 1990s.
But the concepts behind Captain Phillips’ rescue operation and a well executed marketing plans remain as close as when the publishing world compares every business to every past military leader. But online marketing really uses the kind of precise science that a sniper may use in calculating ballistics.
My online biography often encourages people to contact me if they know the difference between bidding for a singular term and a plural term. Between real time web analytics, tracking phone numbers, ROI models focused on gross profit and pre-built seasonal campaigns, I can often tell a client that a certain conversion occurred because of the use of a word or link on a site on a given day. Some of those words or links or ads don’t get much traffic and activate with stunning success when a casual visitor happens upon them. Others are like the local shooting range’s manager — the person who can put round after round in the same spot.
Two of our tutoring clients, for example, consistently win new business on three clusters of topics. The offer only matters in adjusting the response rate. The real payoff is that we know that the words mixed with the proper creative work so well that they are like laser-guided sniper shots. There is no broad advertising here. This creative is like a single sniper shot when visited by a person in the right demographic.
The costs for these campaigns are far lower than the typical branding campaign, someone learning on the job, or heaven help us, some service that promises all the right results. To be a true sharpshooter, a sniper fires round after round in all sorts of conditions and environments. So do marketers.
John Wanamakers famous grumble about not knowing which half of his advertising works is quoted on our site. The difference, as we proudly boast, is that we track client advertising to the penny. We’re no heroes like Captain Phillips and the Navy personnel who rescued him. But we use their words in every day life to convey the precision a professional armed with knowledge, practice and the right tools can bring to a problem. Now I just have to remove the sniper slide from my PowerPoint deck. Some real snipers on another deck deserve the attention this time.