Know When To Walk Away

by Erik Doescher


A few days ago, I finished the book “Showdown at Yellow Butte” by Louis L’Amour. It’s the story of a man who agrees to help a group of New Mexico landowners (aka “the company”) kick squatters off their land.

The man, Tom Kedrick, initially feels justified in removing the squatters because he believes the land rightfully belongs to the company. However, as he continues to investigate, he learns that the company is actually trying to swindle innocent people off their land, and decides to fight against the company on behalf of the “squatters.” He’s smart enough to know when it’s right to switch his allegiance.

In addition to Kedrick, several other hired guns are employed by the company. As the book progresses and they learn the truth, each man has to make a decision on whether to continue to fight against people they know are innocent, or stand up for what is right. A few choose to change their direction and stop fighting on behalf of the company, but more keep doing what they were doing with some good old-fashioned tunnel vision — they feel they’ve invested too much time and energy to stop now and simply walk away.

I think marketers often fall into the same trap as those hired guns (minus the killing of innocent people, that is) who wouldn’t stop what they were doing, even though it was the wrong thing to do.

We spend so much time and energy coming up with what we think is a winning campaign. We write a plan that makes sense (to us, at least), copy that should win an award, and design pieces that no one should be able to resist looking at.

Then we set it all it motion and let it fly, expecting the phones to ring and folks to trample each other trying to get in the door to sign up for our services.

And sometimes it just doesn’t work. The campaign doesn’t produce the results we expected.

Like Tom Kedrick, some of us immediately recognize what we’re doing is wrong and change course. We accept the truth of the situation, and look for the right path to take going forward, whether that means tweaking our message, our offer, or trying something entirely different.

Others, like many of the hired guns, just can’t let go. Because they’ve invested so much time and energy in the campaign, they’re determined to see it through to the bitter end, even if they’re not gaining customers and losing money hand over fist.

Folks, this is just silly. As marketers, we need to constantly monitor the campaigns we’re running, and know how effective they are. We should never have a “set it and forget it” mentality. If a campaign isn’t working, it’s not working, and it’s time to change course no matter how much work we’ve put into it.

As our ol’ friend Kenny Rogers would say, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run…”

Don’t be a gambler. Know when to walk away from your campaign and try something new.

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