Faith is taking the first step when you can’t see the rest of the staircase.
I’ve rarely mentioned this, and within this email you’ll come to understand why, but for the last five months I’ve been working* with one client on retainer. That designation warrants an asterisks because I’ve come to realize that my definition is quite different from that of other people — not right or wrong, just different.
The client, a venture backed startup in the international travel space, brought me on late last year following on the tails of a successful venture raise of $600K. Their platform enabled travelers to earn money with their unused luggage space by carrying the purchases of foreign shoppers unable to buy the items in their home country. While they were eager to invest into development, they had a functioning platform and needed to acquire travelers and shoppers… simultaneously.
Atop this already substantial challenge, they needed to squelch public skepticism as “make money transporting goods internationally” raises a few eyebrows.
It was a monstrosity of a problem that their predecessors had failed to accomplish with three times the funding and connections with partners — my kind of party.
When someone says “that’s impossible” I say “watch me” and you should too.
The crux to their success, as I saw it, were the travelers. Everyone else had failed because they had been unable to target ads to travelers based on where they were going and thus developed interest in countries where they hadn’t yet established infrastructure (or demand from shoppers). If you can’t match the demand of a traveler (seller) and a shopper (buyer) — your platform will never succeed.
I did a month of research and even bribed friends with wine to pick their brains to learn the lifestyle with which they traveled. How did they plan trips? What was they catalyst to them leaving? Why did they book tickets in the ways they did? Etc. Etc.
“Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” ~ Wayne Gretzky
Research and testing had a massive payoff. I was able to create a surprisingly simple method for geo-predictive targeting that enabled me to target international travelers based on where they were going, not where they had been. Not only could we now target people based on their intent to travel to the countries where we had established infrastructure, but it was an entirely scalable strategy.
The campaign converted 681% better than competitors and acquired users that were estimated to be five times more engaged over time. This is indeed a humblebrag, but to teach a very important lesson — it was brilliant because it was simple.
I could summarize this strategy in a sentence and a competitor could deploy it in less than a day. I’d love to break it down, but can’t (proprietary) and will comfort you by pointing out that the strategy is only effective with this particular kind of business.
The lesson here is simple — start simple, complicate only as needed.
If you’re in need of some simple inspiration, watch Tim Ferriss’ The Next Web as he explains how to master any skill by deconstructing it, The D.I.S.S.S. Formula.
You’re likely asking why the subject of this email is ‘Stepping Into Uncertainty’.
I automated the majority of that campaign in the first month of working with them and, accustomed to working 80+ hour weeks, never felt I had a full workload. Their development team couldn’t keep up with me. While they were happy to pay me every month, I was 32% of their company’s month burn rate (aka expenses). It didn’t matter that their monthly retainer was less than my weekly consulting rate, I didn’t feel I was providing my value and not able to contribute more — I felt drained.
Yesterday we mutually parted ways and the CEO was quite appreciative saying, “you didn’t have to do this.” While consulting prospects seem bountiful now, it feels (for the time being) back to living in the abyss of the financial unknown.
The opportunity cost and emotional drain of the “safe bet” had become too high. Knowing that I excel under pressure (and a little duress), it needed to be done. While I know my next step (relaunching Ghost Influence in March), I don’t know the outcome and that’s never not terrifying… but I kind of like it that way.
- Start simple, complicate only as needed.
- Refuse to average into those you don’t want to model.
- Take the first step and trust yourself to find the next.
What’s more draining, the certainty or uncertainty of your future? What’s your step?