Ask Dan Heath: Patience Is THE Virtue

great daneDear Dan,

After 15 years of marketing for Fortune 500 companies, we're going to publish Diamond's Dog Dish®, a series of free postcards delivered to dog-lovers' inboxes bringing them a daily dose of "creature culture" with the goal to inspire, connect, educate, and entertain readers with interesting new pet product trends, pet-friendly destinations and activities, animal health, welfare, and everything in between. It will be uniquely written in the whimsical voice of the company's adopted spokesdog, Diamond.

How can I get the subscription list growing like a Great Dane and have a PR campaign that sparkles like a diamond? It's the chicken and egg story. Help!

- Fur Majesty

Dear Fur Majesty, I don't think you've got a chicken and egg story, I think you've got a horse and cart story. And you're putting the cart out front.

Here's what I mean: You shouldn't be worrying about a "PR campaign" right now. You should be obsessing about how to create email postcards that are heartstring-tugging. Cackle-triggering. Postcards so furrific® that cutesy-pet-skeptics like me will retch immediately.

I don't doubt for one second that there's demand out there for "creature culture"—we live in a world, after all, where people buy pet tattoos and doggie thongs. (I'm not making this up. See Cracked for evidence.)

But there's a whole lot of competition for the attention of those pet fanatics. Which means that Diamond the Spokesdog will need to be exceptionally charming.

Even more than that, he'll need to be consistent and tireless. Here's Seth Godin, one of the most popular bloggers in the world, revealing the secret of his success: "Patience. ... I discovered a lucky secret the hard way about thirty years ago: you can outlast the other guys if you try. If you stick at stuff that bores them, it accrues. Drip, drip, drip you win."

My question to you is: Are you ready to send those postcards for a year or two—drip, drip drip—before anything cool happens? Are you willing to keep tweaking the content and style of the postcards until they are Tail-Waggingly Good®?

If you can answer "yes" to both of those questions, my prediction is that you'll find an enthusiastic audience (regardless of your PR efforts). If you can't, then you've got an endurance problem that won't be fixed with a PR campaign.

Good luck raising your Great Dane.

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  • Richard Geller

    Excellent piece, which my personal experience supports. I launched a rather unique ( ok very unique) site to promote my books and music about six months ago. It took at least three months before we got our first sale. Our traffic is now at 2000 plus visits per month from up to 63 countries. The average individual makes 2+ visits and looks at 6 to 7 pages per visit. Sales are slow but starting to shift from drip to trickle. Every time someone purchases a book or downloads a book or music, it feels like Christmas morning, but we need to refine our site experience further, introduce new content, get reviews, and refine further. Having an excellent product or service is just table stakes; it gets you into the game. Beyond that you need to be prepared to market tirelessly.

    Richard Geller