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The Old Fable Of Marketing – Profit, Data & Three Little Pigs

With a new series of The Apprentice back on our TV screens Lord Alan Sugar will be resuming his role as the big bad wolf of British business

It’s a role he’s perfected over the years; blowing away the dreams of many, and then gifting a fairy tale ending to one.

Thinking about fairy tales reminded me of the old fable of marketing. You know the one. It’s often confused with ‘The Three Little Pigs’, but I can never understand why. It starts like this:

Once there were three little pigs. And a big bad wolf…

Ok, maybe it is similar, but stick with it.

The big bad wolf was offering ONE job to whichever pig could sell the most conference tickets in a week. Each pig could decide how they would go about selling them and what they would charge, and the winner would be the pig who made the most profit.

The first little pig decided to get an email list of business decision-makers in the area, and send them an invitation via email.

The second little pig decided to get a mailing list of business decision-makers in the area, and send them an invitation in the post.

The third little pig thought a bit harder. Assuming her creative was up-to-scratch, and she bought targeted data from a leading data supplier, she realised that if a percentage of people were likely to open and react to an email, and a percentage of people were likely to open and react to a letter, she would increase her chances of improving her response rate if she did both an email and direct mail campaign. And if she followed up these campaigns with a phone call the number of conversions could increase even further.

The day before the event, the big bad wolf asked the three little pigs to meet him at his office. He asked how many tickets they had each sold.

The first little pig said: “I found cheap data at £10 per thousand records. I purchased 5000 email addresses for £50, and sold no tickets at all. I lost £50.”

The second little pig said: “I found data at £40 per thousand records. I purchased 2500 mailing addresses for £100, and sold 4 tickets at £25 a pop. I broke even.”

The third little pig said: “I sent a mixture of email and direct mail. I also phoned everyone who hadn’t responded. The data cost £350 per thousand records…”

“£350?!” the wolf huffed and puffed, “that sounds too expensive. YOU’RE FIRED.”

“…But you didn’t let me finish,” she said. “I only bought 1000 records for £350, yet sold 45 tickets at £20 a pop. Because I integrated my marketing to include different channels, I made £550 profit. The data may have cost more initially, but it was a more effective tool over all.”

The third little pig got the job, and the first two pigs were fried (woops, sorry. I mean fired).

OK, I may have just made this up. But as the contestants on The Apprentice begin their fairy tale journeys, it’s a good reminder that you should never skimp on your marketing budget, especially when your back is against the wall.

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