The Other Million Dollar Marketing Question Nobody Ever Asks

I’ve been teaching entrepreneurs for a decade now.  I tend to attract beginners and advanced marketers alike.  The thing my customers have in common is a level of seriousness other educators don’t seem to attract…plus a penchant for detailed analysis and “left-brained spreadsheet-type thinking”

But they also tend to neglect the MOST important marketing question of all.  Which is understandable, because this most important question is also the most difficult to answer…and the most unpleasant one to think about too!

In fact, it’s so unpleasant, marketing educators rarely (if ever) discuss it…

You see, the most important marketing question is “WHEN?”

Entrepreneurs will talk about anything and everything besides WHEN.

  • Ask them WHAT they sell or are planning to sell and most have a fairly articulate idea.  (Yes, beginners obsess about this for a while before settling on something, but eventually they almost all do)…
  • Ask them HOW they plan to sell it and they’ve got all sorts of traffic and conversion methods in mind.  In fact, there’s almost nothing which gets an entrepreneurs “feel-good-juices” flowing more than talking about traffic and conversion techniques.  There are no drugs at a “marketer’s rave”…just people talking about AdWords, Facebook, Video Sales Letters, etc!
  • Ask them WHY they’re going to sell it and there’ll be fewer people who can answer articulately… but even then most entrepreneurs get around to understanding you’ve got to have a strong “WHY” to make things happen…so they eagerly start articulating the mission behind their project…

But ask them WHEN it’s going to start selling, and more importantly WHEN they’re going to start earning a significant profit from their project, and most entrepreneurs just shrug their shoulders.

Because, you see, the answer in most of their minds is “SOON.”  And as long as they can keep thinking “SOON”, the feel-good-brain-juice keeps on squirting.

But do me a favor… go check your calendars.  Do any of you see a day which is actually marked “SOON” on it?

People HATE to talk about WHEN because WHEN is a fantasy killer.  WHEN forces that all-too-unpleasant shot of reality into the marketing rave.  WHEN takes away the feel-good juice.

But WHEN is also what separates the men from the boys.   (Or the women from the girls.  Or the gorillas from the chimpanzees)

Deciding WHEN your project will need to make a certain amount of profit is a brave person’s game.  Because it forces you to allocate resources.  To earn a certain amount by a definite date you’ll need to make very good guesstimates about:

  • HOW MANY tests you’ll need to execute by that date (and at every step along the way) in order to reach the goal…
  • Exactly WHEN your product, packaging, customer service systems, and other operational elements will need to be ready…
  • HOW MUCH traffic you’ll need at every step…
  • WHERE you’re going to get that traffic, and WHEN you’re going to take the necessary steps to do so (affiliate promotions, PPC, SEO, social media, etc)…
  • WHO will need to be involved in your project, and WHEN they will need to act…
  • HOW MUCH money will you need to spend to put all this in place?
  • WHAT will you offer to affiliates and joint venture partners (and what deadlines will you use to motivate action)…
  • And so much more!

Asking WHEN is THE process which forces your dream to crystallize into a discrete and executable plan.   But there’s no sugar coating it… this is a painful process.

Projecting your WHEN is also always an inaccurate process by definition.  Because there are so many impossible-to-predict-with-any-degree-of-certainty variables to consider along the way.

  • You can’t know exactly how many tests will be required to reach your goal.  And the more complex your system is (the more you break it up into small pieces which can each be optimized), the more permutations and combinations of tests there are to guesstimate.  Moreover, marketers really do tend to horrendously underestimate this particular part of the project because “elephants always look small in the distance”… there are always more obstacles than you think there will be, and things always take longer than you plan for.  Still… if you want to be successful, estimate you must!  (The most successful military Generals like to quote Eisenhower “Plans are worthless but planning is everything nonetheless.”  What that means is that the army who has a well thought through strategic plan is more likely the victor, even thought that plan itself may need to radically change the moment the battle begins.  It’s the process of planning which forces the necessary thoughts and decisions for success)
  • There’s no way to know how much volume any given affiliate will send your way.  You never know if they’re going to change the email you send them, tweak the subject line and attract a totally different audience, or mail to a smaller section of their list, etc.  Still, you’ve got to guesstimate what they might do…
  • Paid traffic costs and volume varies greatly.  The major platforms are prone to tweaking their algorithms.  They might not give you the impression share (exposure) you were counting on.  Or they might give you a lot more.  You’ve got to do what you can to estimate this based upon available data… knowing all the while you’re going to be wrong.
  • People are perhaps the most unreliable of all.  Your employees will get sick, freak out, under-perform, over-perform, etc.
  • It might take you longer to understand a given traffic source you’re trying…
  • Or you might come across a windfall opportunity you just didn’t expect

There’s NO way to know for sure…

But spreadsheet loving nerds (like me) who take their best guesses and plot it all out not only wind up with a reasonable estimate of when they’re going to get to where they need to be, they wind up with a MODEL they can adjust for any given variable when reality hits the fan.

And since “the name of the game is staying in the game until you win the game” (my favorite thing I ever said, if I do say so myself), asking WHEN is infinitely better than living on feel-good-juice and hoping for the best.

For what it’s worth,

The Very Good Dr. G 🙂

PS – If you missed the recent opening of my coaching program, I’ve got three options for you.
(1) If you mostly want to work on your website conversion, traffic sources, etc., consider working with my partner in at approximately half my rate;
(2) If, on the other hand, you want to work on getting over your “head trash” in the business, and/or developing your brand, consider working directly with my wife.

Submit a ticket at if you’re interested in either of these please.
(But do it soon ’cause their time is limited)