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Football, Landing-Page Testing, and Passion

Published: August 30, 2012

Author: Sean Marshall


banging head against wall
It takes passion to do this willingly.

Football is finally back. College, pro, whatever your preference – America’s favorite sport is back and ready to consume entire weekends of productivity. Fool that I am, I find myself rooting for my alma mater, UC Berkeley, and it’s no picnic. Sports fans love a good underdog, but it’s been 50 years since the Bears made the Rose Bowl, and it doesn’t seem this will change anytime soon.
How does this relate to SEM? Frankly, not very directly. I could make comparisons to the competition of football, some loose connection to late-week launches and lack of weekend oversight as you stuff yourself with wings and beer (watching football, of course). I could compare different parts of SEM to players on the field or teams to companies in the space. But I won’t.
It’s just about passion.
I’ve heard that the definition of insanity is doing to the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. By that definition, sports fandom (my love of the Cal Bears in particular) is insanity, though I’d rather call it passion. Every year, I, along with thousands of Old Blues, get my hopes up about this possibly being the year. I dissect recruiting classes, depth charts, and scouting reports, and I somehow manage to convince myself that hey, this is worth the emotional investment.
There’s something to be said about rooting for your university vs. a pro team. While I’m a fan of pro sports, I think there’s just something unique about college – pride and ownership. Local fans own their city’s team (not literally, unless you’re from Green Bay), but college fans have a shared experience with the athletes on the team and folks in the stands that has a more tribal, connected, vibe to it. It’s that connection that keeps them coming back – 1-10 seasons and all.
So what’s the takeaway here? Well, it’s pretty simple. Passion keeps you coming back. Starting a business (and building SEM programs) takes a lot of effort, and if you aren’t driven by a passion for success, failure is inevitable. To be fair, I wouldn’t say SEMs keep trying the same thing over and over again (maybe some are, but those aren’t the ones you should hire).
Take the example of ad and landing page tests. Have you ever gone on a testing losing spree? One of our account managers recently broke such a streak. After two years of regular landing page testing (every 1-2 months, depending on resources and data), she finally hit a winner. You would think that after a dozen tests, she would have thrown in the towel. Didn’t happen. It didn’t hurt that there were a dozen different things going on with the account and other buttons to push to drive growth, but she recognized the importance of an LP breakthrough, and she kept the tests coming.
While this might say something about the quality of the pages being tested (homer that I am, I liked them), let’s focus on what it took to get to a win (nearly 20% lift in CVR across the entire account). Passion is what it took.
It seems trite – and some might say “what kind of passion can you have if these aren’t YOUR accounts or YOUR business?” Fair points. To me, it comes down to that same shared experience you feel rooting for your college team. No, you aren’t on the team and you weren’t powering through two-a-days in the summer heat. But you can influence the outcome in such a way that you feel connected to the whole operation, and it keeps you coming back for more. Failure and all.
 Sean Marshall, Director of Client Services


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