You Sunk My Battleship!

This morning my 7-year-old son and I played a rousing game of Battleship. Well, it would have been rousing if he hadn’t been too excited to mark the results of his guesses. He’d say, "F-8" and I’d say "miss" and he wouldn’t put a white peg in the F-8 hole. Two turns later, he’d say, "F-8" again.

Even though I was giving him two guesses to my one, I was still able to hold my own because he didn’t register the crucial feedback provided by the game. By the time he grew bored (which happens without compelling feedback in most of life) and started building lighthouses by stacking the white and red pegs vertically, I was winning.

I say this not to brag – well, maybe a little – but to point out a serious problem with most marketing – lack of attention to feedback. In the offline world of newspaper and magazine ads, radio and TV commercials, direct mail pieces, etc., feedback was reasonably hard to come by. But online, everything you need to know to make intelligent decisions is readily available to you, for free.

If you’re using AdWords and don’t have Conversion Tracking set up – both the code and reports scheduled to run on a regular basis and sent to your inbox – you’re shooting at battleships and ignoring the results. If you don’t have Analytics running, you’re throwing away profits on sub-optimal (a fancy direct marketing term for "lousy") web pages.

Never before in the history of marketing has there been a feedback mechanism as immediate, precise and statistically valid as pay per click. Use it fully, and may your battleships float in peace.

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