The AdWords Dip

Seth Godin’s new book, The Dip, is relevant to AdWords Jugglers in several ways. To summarize, the tiny book (which took me 25 minutes to read and enjoy cover to cover, and will take me about that much time to blog about) is a quick and clever riff on Jim Rohn’s advice: "Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better." The Dip of which Godin writes is the learning curve, the unnecessary hurdles, the barriers to entry; all the stuff that separates the exceptional winners from the average losers. The key to success in life is to anticipate and recognize Dips – as opposed to dead ends and cliffs.

Godin encourages quitting early and often: when the Dip leads to an outcome you’re not passionate about achieving, and when you’re stuck in a situation where excellence and the accompanying market predominance just aren’t possible. Quit so you can focus all your energy on getting through appropriate Dips to achieve your own remarkable potential.

In this mindset, a true Dip doesn’t have to be frustrating, felt as a delay or a doldrum or a punishment. When my AdWords students complain about the agony of optimizing their campaigns and doing long hours of competitive research, I remind them that their competitors probably aren’t expending the energy – and that’s precisely why they should. 

When Pain is Good

My college roommate Geoff was on the crew team. He used to get up before 5am every day and work out, or go running, or get on the lake in weather fair and foul and pull until his muscles burned. One day he returned to the dorm room aching and angry after a particularly difficult practice. I (sensitive friend that I was) asked him if it really was worth it. He thought for a moment and replied, "The thing that makes it worth it is when I beat some other sucker who put in almost as much effort and pain as I did."

Godin exhorts us to be the best in the world, or not try. He’s not speaking globally – otherwise Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods would have been very lonely and bored when nobody else showed up to play. Godin is really talking about positioning yourself or your product or your company as #1 in the minds of a particular niched market segment.

If you’ve ever been confused about the concept of the USP – Unique Selling Proposition – grab The Dip and read Godin’s definition of The Best. It will help you write great AdWords ads and landing pages, and hopefully encourage you to mobilize your business resources towards the goal of utter predominance in a marketplace.

Is AdWords Dip-Free?

If you’re getting started with AdWords, you may be in danger of being suckered into the belief that AdWords is dip-proof. After all, you can write an ad and start making sales in a few minutes. You can leapfrog to preeminence with a laptop and an affiliate link or a drop-ship arrangement. Surely there’s no "beginner’s penalty" in this business. "Instant Success" is what AdWords is all about, right?

If so, why did I just write a 408-page book about AdWords? Sure, in a new medium there are always clever loopholes and funky tricks that give a short-term edge to those who think laterally and pay close attention. But that’s all they are – tricks. You can’t build a long-term, value-add business on keyword arbitrage and cloaked redirects (if you don’t know what these are, don’t even worry about it) because there’s no Dip involved.

You only benefit from the Dip when you’re willing to do and endure what others are not.

Once you enter the AdWorld, you’ll be bombarded with courses and teleseminars and ebooks and software packages from people who want to sell you the "Idiot-Proof Way to Make Money While You Sleep" using AdWords. The marketers trying to sell you these resources have a choice: they can tell you the truth, that the only competitive advantage to having access to a tool or a skill is in using it in ways others will not or cannot. Or they can deny the Dip and promise that just giving them your credit card number will inevitably and quickly give you the income and lifestyle you want.

Just remember that if you buy into a Dip-less opportunity, your competitive advantage (if it exists at all) will be fleeting and indefensible. Don’t buy the land in the valley for your fortress. Scale the hill and put your castle there, and you may still have something worth defending in a few years.

Godin gives some advice for getting through the Dip. One suggestion is to keep score – to notice and mark your progress. The AdWords’ interface, a bunch of numbers and graphs, makes it easy to keep score and see your ascent from the Dip – if you train yourself to pay attention to Reports and Analytics. Simply keeping score will catapult your AdWords Juggling far above the average user.

Avoiding the Dip Leads to Dizziness and Despair

Perry Marshall has written powerfully and poignantly in his last two Marketing Letters about the serial opportunity seeker, always chasing new markets and new ventures and never taking the time to accomplish anything of value, either in his character or in the outside world. He has identified the three-mindset cycle of this person: idealization, demoralization, and frustration. The second phase, demoralization, comes either because the person is not ready to slog through a Dip or because they’ve unwisely chosen a path without a Dip. And the frustration just leads them back into another cycle, where the idealization is even more dogmatic because "this one’s gotta work."

Marshall quotes Margaret Halsey – "In some circumstances, the refusal to be defeated is a refusal to be educated." – to echo Godin’s advice to quit everything but the good Dips. But Marshall’s talking about something else, too: if we don’t learn from the Dips, the dead ends and the cliffs, we’re going to keep hurting ourselves and getting nowhere.

There’s a delicious irony in the fact that the man who wrote All Marketers are Liars has revealed a truth so obvious and powerful that 99% of the marketing we encounter is designed to make us forget this truth: worthwhile achievements and results don’t come easily. Just about every industry sells us the snake oil that their products and services make it easy to have the income/looks/health/love/status we desire. And of course, it’s the scarcity of those results that make us pay money, and keep us coming back for me.

Thank you, Seth, for the gentle slap and wake-up call that is The Dip. Keep ’em coming!

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