Posts by "Stephen Pratley"

How to become a Grand Master, or throw it all away

After the high of Wednesday night’s event I needed a bit of downtime last night, so I treated myself to a binge-watch of Billions.

There’s a great scene in the first series where Chuck Rhoades, the District Attorney, has screwed up a case against Bobby Axelrod – a billionaire hedge fund manager accused of insider trading.

He apologises to his team in a speech where he talks about how he almost became a chess Grand Master as a 14 year old, but how he used to screw up in the heat of competition if he felt he wasn’t getting respect from the other player.

He’d get mad and try to intimidate the other player.

He’d become rash, make bold moves and leave himself open.

And lose.

When he calmed down he’d get back to just playing the game the way he knew how, and start winning again.

It struck me that it’s a lot like most fledgling online businesses.

If we don’t see success early enough, it’s easy to watch others in the market and get frustrated, start making rash moves and trying to copy people who are already at the top of thier game.

But we’re only copying the icing on the cake, without knowing what’s underneath.

We know deep down that what’s really needed is to get look at our foundations and make sure they’re solid before we start attempting Grand Master moves.

In marketing, our foundations are our market, and yet so many businesses start with their product, then try to find that market.

It’s like a chess player learning the finishing moves before you’ve mastered the opening moves. It’s the wrong way round and they’ll never get there.

That’s why the first step of the MAPPED method I introduced yesterday is the Market.

If you want to make sure you’ve got that step right, you can get on the VIP list here:

All MAPPED out

Last night I gave a talk to about 40 up and coming digital marketers in London, all about increasing conversion rates when you’re selling online.

I shared some foundation work I do with private clients before I even start mucking about with their ads, landing pages or emails.

From the stage I could see a lot of wrinkled noses. People thinking “this looks hard”.

But lots of nods.

The realisation that all the tech gadgets in the world won’t fix a weak offer or the wrong audience.

One slide had almost everyone in the room pulling out their iPhones and snapping the checklist I put up.

So, I’m pushing forward with turning this into some more complete training, but today, I’m going to share the checklist with you here.

I call it the MAPPED Method – 6 things you need to get right in your marketing before you think about scaling and optimising.

Without further ado…..

**M is for Market**
Are you in a market with Pain + Money?
No pain = no motivation. No money = you ain’t gonna last long.

**A is for Audience**
Are you talking to the **best** people in the market?
Do you know where to find the people with the most pain and money?

**The First P is for Positioning**
Is there a clear reason to buy you ahead of your competitors?
Price, quality, less risk. There are all sorts of ways to not be a me-too.

**The second P is for Process**
Are you walking cold prospects through to becoming buyers, or letting them find their own way?
How can you remove friction AND show the full value of your product along the way?

**E is for Ecosystem**
Do you have anything to sell after the first sale?
Do you have products at different price points so you can cover more of the market?
Existing customers come at way less cost than new ones. Use that.

**D is for Data**
What do you know about your customers that will help you serve them better and find more people like them?
How are you making decisions about what to improve or cull?

How well do you think you score?

These principles are all wrapped up in a scorecard, some training on how to level up in each area, and a book later in the year.

If you’re interested in any of these, and you want to get some VIP list deals as they come out, add your name to the list at…

Back to the scene of the crime…

On Wednesday night I'm giving a talk at ASOS, the UK-based online fashion retailer, which is fairly decent of them considering..

  1. The chaos I caused the first time I worked with them (more on that in a moment).
  2. My total apathy towards fashion retail in general (more on that another day).

Many years ago, around 2002 ish, I ran some of ASOS' first email campaigns.

They weren't the company they are now, in fact few people know that ASOS stands for “As Seen On Screen” and they were selling movie memorabilia and clothes spotted on celebrities.

The website was still run out of the founders' houses and they'd hit a limit with their homespun email marketing tools so they came to E2 Communications, the business I ran the consulting division for.

We took on the first email campaign, one they already had set up for their own systems and that's where the problems started.

You see E2 were capable of pushing out millions of emails per day, so their list which I think wasn't much more than about 10,000 took seconds to send.

These people all hit the ASOS website at the same time, and it crashed.


But that wasn't the end of it.

The stock we were promoting ran out and the people at the back of the queue started complaining.

They had to pull people in to make sure the orders were sent out, (previously this would have been spread over a week, not an hour).

It was a mess.

However, we had a magic wand up our sleeve.

E2 had a feature called “Adaptive Sequenced Messaging”, an early forerunner of the Marketing Automation tools which are spreading like wildfire today.

We could send follow-up emails when people signed up to the mailing list, and change the messages based on what emails they opened of clicked after that.

All standard stuff nowadays, but back then it was revolutionary.

We'd create short email campaigns that would run one-by-one as each new name joined the list, whatever hour of day or night.

No spikes, no stress, and the shoppers got introduced to the company at a pace that suited them.

This episode, and others that followed, convinced me that these short simple marketing “funnels” were the way to manage your marketing for the maximum impact and minimum stress, and I've worked with everyone from the UK's biggest direct responses businesses like Reed Business Publishing, down to one-man training businesses, refining this simple art.

If you want to find out how to get started with it in the quickest way possible, “The Foundation Funnel” is your first step.

You can find it here: