In the age of information, it is quite remarkable how many completely avoidable business mistakes are made despite the fact that everything is out there in terms of learning resources, including case studies generously shared by some of the world's most successful investors and entrepreneurs, who don't mind also talking about the things they did wrong.
Bottomless Pits or When Marketing Campaigns Go Wrong: Large and Small-Scale Examples
As a relatively recent example, Michael Saylor (during his DomainSherpa interview) admitted that he essentially wasted $20,000,000 on a marketing campaign with practically nothing to show for it and as anyone who has a bit of experience when it comes to running campaigns can confirm, his example is hardly isolated. It is simply far too easy to blow through a poorly managed budget with not even the breakeven zone within reach. If you want to make a marketer happy, put a significant budget at his disposal and tell him you are interested in branding rather than sales, it will be guaranteed to make his day for the simple reason that he gets to burn through whichever budget you are putting at his disposal without that much in the way of accountability.
But even if you make it a goal to track sales and tweak campaigns to the best of your ability, marketing campaigns are oftentimes still a bit of a gamble. To contribute with a lower-budget case study of my own, I distinctly recall how excited I was about the blockbuster level of sales I would generate for my first book (Wealth Management 2.0).
I was confident in my ability to generate sales since I was among the first who tested Facebook's self-serve ad platform back when it was introduced and to give you an idea as to how long ago that was, let's just say that back then, marketers were even more excited about MySpace following suit with its own self-serve platform because yes, MySpace actually had more traffic than Facebook at that point in time. But I digress. The main idea is that my initial Facebook Ads experiments were success stories but as time passed and deeper-pocketed competitors stepped in, profit margins on my own campaigns dropped accordingly and when "branders" entered the race... game over.
But still, my experience with Facebook Ads, Google AdWords and various alternatives made me confident enough that I can pull off an online advertising success story with my first book. Since Wealth Management 2.0 is the only personal finance book written specifically for those who make money online in one way or another, it wasn't difficult to create a wide range of targeted campaigns: one for freelancers, one for online entrepreneurs, one for crypto investors and so on. Custom-made creatives, excellent landing pages... I was ready. Except not really because after drawing the line, I had to put pretty much all of my campaigns on pause for the simple reason that no matter how diligently I tweaked, the advertising costs were just too prohibitive to make running a profitable campaign possible. Fail.
Asymmetrical Opportunities: Digital Assets and the Opportunities They Bring About
Fast-forward to the launch of my second book and unlike with my first launch, I had bet big on building my own digital real estate, for example the One Minute Economics YouTube channel, which because a household name in the academic space as well as among those who simply wanted to learn a thing or two about economics. Armed with the data gathered after my first campaign, I was no longer willing to be as generous with respect to the marketing budget dimension and on the contrary, wanted to leverage my own digital assets so as to receive traffic that is as close to free as possible.
I did just that and contacted a LOT of fellow YouTubers, podcasters and so on, asking if they'd be willing to have me on their platform and collaborate. I've initiated the process about 3-4 months prior to the launch and ended up securing approximately 100 collaborations thanks to my brand, with each collaboration generating... you've guessed it, 100% free traffic. Yes, there was hard work involved and of course, some collabs did better than others but after drawing the line, I ended up easily receiving traffic worth $xxx,xxx at a cost that tends to be difficult to beat: zero dollars. All of the collaborations I had recorded as much as 4 months in advance were published during my big week, I also did a fair number of live appearances and this strategy ended up being the decisive factor which led to book #2 (The Age of Anomaly) hitting the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists back in 2018. Yes, I've experimented with a wide range of other strategies as well but nothing came close to leveraging my own digital assets in terms of results. Win.
The same principle is valid when it comes to Michael Saylor's strategies which involved building on absolute blockbuster one-word domains, with digital assets essentially being able to give you the much-needed credibility boost you need to explore opportunities you would have otherwise been forced to bring your proverbial checkbook for.
Let's just say that if you knock on doors (like I did when securing collaborations for the launch of my second book) and recommend yourself as "Michael from Voice.com," you are likely to receive a far better response rate than if "Michael from TheVoiceWebsite.net" would have been your introduction. Broadly speaking, digital assets open doors and while you can also pay your way toward that same result, let's just say it most likely wouldn't be cheap.
Ironically, having solid digital assets also helps if you decide to launch paid marketing campaigns. Ask any half-decent marketer if he thinks that when running an AdWords campaign for example, an ad with Voice.com as the website is likely to generate a better CTR (clickthrough rate) than one with TheVoiceWebsite.net as the domain and he will most likely reply with two simple words: of course!
Digital Assets = Generating Dividends in Perpetuity
As amazing as it may be that digital assets oftentimes lead to asymmetrical opportunities compared to traditional marketing campaigns, there is yet another selling point that way too many individuals/businesses overlook: the fact that while marketing campaigns have an expiration date (with the expiration date being around the day you decide to cease spending money on the campaigns in question), digital assets essentially generate dividends in perpetuity.
Even when it came to my very best Facebook Ads campaigns from back in the day, it was still a "money in, results out" situation which went well up until marketers with deeper pockets (and oftentimes less common sense with respect to spending their money and especially the money of their clients!) essentially ruined the party. Once that happened, I had no choice but to stop spending money because I no longer had an edge. It was a good run but the minute I stopped spending money... back to the drawing board.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are Michael from Voice.com, you will always be Michael from Voice.com... well, at least for as long as you maintain ownership of the domain in question. The same way, being Andrei from One Minute Economics or the author of The Age of Anomaly opens doors as well and the bottom line is that whether we are referring to domain names or other digital assets, they can and will continue to open doors indefinitely, for example:
- Giving you a credibility boost whenever pitching one idea or another, with that credibility boost frequently leading to deals which would have otherwise been unavailable... can't talk about Michael's situation but in my case, it would have been difficult to secure as many collaborations (especially the ones which resulted in solid traffic) without the "street cred" provided by the One Minute Economics YouTube channel.
- Helping you whenever you run paid marketing campaigns as well, once again for credibility-related reasons, as explained with my AdWords example involving a campaign that has Voice.com as the domain listed in an ad clearly outperforming campaigns with lower quality domains as their foundation.
- Being essential when shopping around for JV opportunities and/or partnerships, the let's call it brand alignment angle. After all, who wouldn't love to have their brand associated with a stellar domain such as Voice.com for example?
The Ultimate Business Head-Scratcher?
After going through various examples and understanding the situation with respect to digital assets when compared to marketing campaigns, one remarkable head-scratcher stands out: the fact that many of the world's top companies wouldn't even think twice about spending let's say $20,000,000 on a marketing campaign similar to the one Michael Saylor remembered flopping with (after all, it's something pretty much any household name does, everyone HAS to run paid marketing campaigns... right?), yet the same businesses aren't nearly as generous when asked to spend such an amount on a blockbuster domain name like Voice.com, as should be obvious upon understanding just how much of an outlier the $30,000,000 Voice.com sale was.
As frustrating as this situation may be, you are oftentimes left with no choice but to come to terms with the fact that it might take a fair bit of time until the market catches up with your vision. Or in our case, until CEOs change their attitude with respect to digital asset acquisition and understand the asymmetrical opportunities being more generous in this department can lead to. As an investor who owns the best of the best in terms of digital asset or at the least aims to, it's important to understand that you're fighting the proverbial good fight but at the same time arm yourself with patience, because this isn't something we can win overnight!