Paid Traffic Manifesto
What you’re about to read was eighteen months (and twenty-one years) in the making. It started as a long conversation between two friends, and evolved day by day, month by month, into a personal and professional calling.
I have shared these ideas with colleagues and clients, refined them with razor-sharp marketers in exclusive groups and in intensely demanding boardrooms, and I have implemented strategies based on these ideas on behalf of clients generating thousands of dollars in revenue, as well as clients generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Others have implemented these ideas as well, and their feedback has been consistent, and overwhelming. Simply put, these ideas work.
Now I’d like to share them with you.
Before I do that, I want to give you some context so you understand my perspective. “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” as the saying goes.
I have owned a digital marketing agency for twenty-one years, worked with nearly two-hundred clients, completed more than 650 projects, managed thousands of campaigns, spent many tens of millions of dollars on Google, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other ad networks, and worked with some of the most demanding clients in the most competitive business categories in the world.
I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours thinking deeply about my craft and developing mental models and frameworks to further improve my understanding (and results), and I have had countless conversations with some of the most capable marketers, strategists, writers, and thinkers in my field.
More importantly, I’m just like you. I’m a creative professional, marketer, and business owner who is 100% responsible for the stability and growth of my business. I’ve faced the same professional challenges you have, and I’m certain we have shared similar struggles.
Experience has led me to the conclusion that there are a small number of simple truths in any endeavor that really matter, and respecting those truths is the difference between success and failure.
Here are seven simple business and marketing truths I’ve found particularly powerful.
Simple Truth #1 — High-Quality Traffic is the Lifeblood of Any Business
At its core, a business is a system that generates revenue and income by combining qualified prospects with an offer that converts those prospects into paying customers. No matter how great the offer, how well-written the copy, how extreme the value, if no one ever sees it there’s no chance it’ll succeed.
Value, wealth, opportunity, and personal freedom emerge from the ROI-positive combination of traffic + conversion.
Simple Truth #2 — There’s No Such Thing as ‘free traffic’
There are lots of ways to acquire traffic. Broadly speaking, there’s organic traffic, affiliate traffic, and paid traffic.
I don’t like the term ‘paid traffic’ because it implies the other options are free. They’re not. The method of payment is just different. Instead of paying mostly with time, energy, and attention — all of which are finite resources — I prefer to pay for traffic with money which, under the right circumstances, is effectively limitless.
How can money be ‘effectively limitless’?
Here’s a simple example. If you create a system where it costs you $10 to acquire a customer, the average value of a customer’s first purchase is $15, and over an average customer’s lifetime you’ll earn an additional $250, how many customers can you afford to purchase?
All of them.
My friend Todd Brown describes this best. “A typical entrepreneur gets a customer to make a sale. A smart entrepreneur makes a sale to get a customer.”
Simple Truth #3 — Paid Traffic Gives Us What We All Desire Most — Control
Let’s be very clear about what we all really want. As business owners, creative professionals, and marketers, we need to create awareness, generate leads, make sales, fulfill our obligations to our clients and customers, and make a profit that keeps us in business.
That’s what we need.
But, what we really want — more than anything — is a sense of control. We want to know that our business results (and our income) are stable, predictable, and scalable. That next month will be better than this month. That there’s opportunity to increase the value we contribute to the world, expand our horizons, our relationships, and our income.
Just for a moment I want you to imagine what it would feel like to experience that. What if you knew — really knew — that you could thrive month after month, year after year? Later I’m going to explain what it takes to get there.
Simple Truth #4 — The Rules Of The Paid Traffic Game Have Changed
The old model for paid traffic — still widely used today — was based on cheap traffic and pliable traffic platforms that allowed aggressive tactics, over the top messaging, and shady business models. If an advertising account was shut down, no big deal — just move on and open a new one and you were back in business.
The old model was based on low-cost and high-volume. The answer to every traffic question was always “more.”
The new reality is that traffic is expensive, prospects are increasingly skeptical, and the biggest traffic platforms (Google, YouTube, and Facebook) are shutting down entire business models and categories, while significantly limiting the tone and content of messaging.
The new model is based on high-quality and lower-volume. Now the answer to every traffic question is “better.”
The old model’s days are numbered. The future belongs to those who understand the implications of this new reality and change their strategies accordingly.
Simple Truth #5 — The Way To Win Is To Avoid Losing
Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger are arguably two of the world’s greatest investors and sharpest analytical minds. Decade after decade they’ve been asked about the secrets to their success, and they’ve consistently attributed that success to avoiding dumb mistakes rather than pursuing innovation.
“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” — Charlie Munger
In my experience, this insight is universally true. The overwhelming majority of benefit I have provided to my clients over the past two decades has come from showing them how to systematically avoid costly, performance-crushing mistakes.
A recent, profound example:
‘Client X’ was spending $200,000/month on Google Ads, of which $140,000 was objectively, demonstrably waste. Overall ROI was positive and no one wanted to turn off something that, on balance, was working. However, a minority of spend was driving the results and, within weeks, well over a million dollars in wasted ad spend was returned to the bottom line (while simultaneously improving overall performance).
That’s the power of avoiding big mistakes.
Every advertising platform has unique ways to make costly mistakes, and some of those mistakes are recommended as “best practices” because they drive significant revenue to the platform. If I do nothing else, let me help you identify and avoid those costly mistakes.
Simple Truth #6 — Your Prospects Are Far More Valuable Than You Realize
In October 2019 I had an opportunity to sit across from legendary marketer Dean Jackson at a speakers’ dinner prior to Kevin Rogers’ Copy Chief Live.
Dean explained to me that he had analyzed many of his clients’ businesses and found that all of them had something in common. When sales were calculated over time, 15% of sales occurred in the first ninety days after acquiring the lead, and the remaining 85% of sales followed over eighteen months.
“Think about that”, he said. “There’s 4x the revenue opportunity after ninety days.”
The implications of that analysis are staggering. Marketing is a long game and a clear understanding of the financial incentives tells us that we should be over-investing in long-term relationships with our prospects. That investment begins with where and how we acquire our audience.
Simple Truth #7 — There’s Only One Thing To Do To Improve Your Results
When we accept that our businesses are systems, we realize that they’re subject to the insights of systems theory. Perhaps the most profound insight is this one, from Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints: the only way to increase the throughput of a system is to improve the performance of its weakest link.
In Goldratt’s terminology, we need to focus on improving the system optimum, not improving local optima. Improve the whole, don’t tinker with the parts.
In layman’s terms, that means there’s always one — and only one — place to focus our attention to improve our results. We just need to know where and how to look, and then act accordingly.
When we internalize these simple truths and then begin to act on them, we tap into the most powerful force in the universe — leverage. Our measuring stick becomes progress instead of effort — relentless forward motion, not spinning in circles.
That leads to the obvious question — how do we do that? I’m glad you asked…
André has created the definitive guides to customer acquisition (Sphere of Influence) and customer conversion (AutoResponder Madness). He set the bar impossibly high, which is why this announcement has been eighteen months in the making.
Beginning in early April, I’m going to lead a cohort of people through an eight-week hands-on paid traffic training we’re calling The Traffic Engine.
We’ll start with core concepts, timeless foundational principles, and a behind-the-scenes look at the new reality of paid traffic and digital marketing.
Then we’ll apply those concepts and principles to create retargeting and prospecting campaigns on Google Ads (including search and the Google Display Network) and Facebook. There will be live Q&A calls with me, in-depth hot seats, and performance/metrics review.
Additional options will be available for freelancers and agency professionals who want to implement these ideas for their clients. This is a limited time offer (available from April 1-7).
A course outline, pricing, and other information will be available here beginning on April 1.
My goal for this course is simple — to externalize and share my decades of experience with a group of people who can multiply its value far beyond anything I could ever do alone by building ‘traffic engines’ for their own businesses (or learning how to help others do the same).
And, in the spirit of transparency, I have a selfish reason as well. Teaching is the ultimate forcing mechanism for me — it requires depth of thought and insight to pressure-test my ideas, explain them clearly, and distill them into actionable insights. For years I’ve done that individually with clients and now I’m looking forward to doing that with a motivated group of early adopters.