Jeromy Sonne


Posted by Jeromy Sonne on

You’re Losing Top Talent and It’s Your Fault.

I am not a recruiter. I am not an HR expert. I don’t really even have that much management experience. I just see the people around me, especially the ad industry, losing top tier talent left and right with no real actionable plan to stop the root problems. First, we need to frame the problem.

“It’s 2017″- Some Canadian Guy.

Freelance opportunities are exploding. In fact there’s more freelancers in the US economy than there have ever been. Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork are only accelerating in popularity.

Companies like Stripe, Etsy, and Shopify are making concrete steps to make it easier to get started freelancing or starting boutique businesses than ever before. Not to be overlooked, but doing a startup is in vogue. Lots of people want to be an entrepreneur, or at least pursue what they envision entrepreneurship to be. The point is that your top tier workers don’t need you as much as you need them. If you give them a raw deal they can and will forge their own path.

Now this isn’t the cause of why you’re losing talent. This simply is the reality that the modern economy makes switching costs much lower than they were in the past. As I’ve seen it, there’s 3 core reasons this happens.

You’re Punishing Innovation.

I’m sure you’ve had lots of meetings about how you’re going agile, and you have a growth mindset. Totally.

The truth is most organizations aren’t ready to accept the other side of the coin when it comes to innovation. Failure.

They repeat mantras about the path to success is filled with failures etc. etc. But very few people are ready to actually accept the reality. Failure hurts, and more importantly it doesn’t fit into the modern spreadsheet driven projections that is the modern corporation. You aren’t setup to let people try, and by extension, fail and you’re losing the most innovative and highest performing people because of it.

You’re Optimizing for Pedigree Rather Than Performance.

Be honest with yourself. A resume comes across your desk that says Yale you give that person an interview. When you have people with an advanced degree on your team you give them deference in their decision making. You think you’re giving your best performer the ability to drive productivity and results, but are you? Going to an Ivy League is the ability to optimize for a legacy system when they were 17. That’s literally it.

It’s not just education. I see these biases all over with lots of things. You’re ignoring the people taking the chances and doing truly bleeding edge things, instead focusing on the person who takes safe options and moves the needle just slightly. Most people wholesale aren’t willing to deal with their biases so I expect this section to get hand-waved away. If you are willing to look though, think about how you’re treating employees that take the chances versus the ones truly trying to build and grow new things and initiatives in your company.

Your Business Model Doesn’t Reward Performance.

I’m going to make a bold statement. There would be a lot less startups today if large companies did revenue splits with the teams that built the products that make them so much money.

To quote Office Space “It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime; so where’s the motivation?”

Your top performers are leaving in droves because they can be making more money doing their own thing and they know it. Truthfully though these people shouldn’t have to be leaving. Big companies have the resources to make many the failed startup a success. The reason they’re leaving though is there’s no upside to being innovative. You’re already punishing them if they fail, and on top of it all, there’s currently 0 financial upside to fighting through the organizational issues to try and make it work anyways. So what happens? They leave and start a company, or freelance, or whatever. You lose top tier talent and then years later your company, or your competitor, ends up spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire the company they built. Why? The reason is you wouldn’t give them 20% of their time to work on their idea and wouldn’t profit share with them.

I realize this comes off as a rant. I realize I’m likely missing tons of nuance as people read this shaking their heads going “Yeah but you don’t get it man”. Which is fair. Life isn’t fair though.

These issues are very real and are pushing out the best resource your company has and is making you less competitive at a time when the world continues to get smaller and smaller and your industry is getting more and more competitive.

You’re Losing Top Talent and It’s Your Fault. was originally published in Thoughts On Best Practices.

Posted by Jeromy Sonne on

Your Metrics Obsession Is Killing Your Marketing.

I’ve always been a stickler about metrics. I’m actually known for a phrase that has led some people to dub me as “inflammatory” or an “asshole” that has to do with my love of marketing metrics.

“Your opinion on marketing doesn’t matter.”

Now of course that’s nothing but a truism designed to shock people into changing their mindset about how marketing works. For the vast majority of people data driven marketing is a new thing. For even more people interpreting the results correctly is even more difficult. Let me explain.

You’re reading this on Medium. Likely you came here either from one of our social properties, reddit, Hacker News, or some other similar technologically savvy community. You likely have made the jump from 0 to 1 when it comes to thinking about marketing and data. That is, you understand that modern marketing can be measured for it’s effectiveness, it can be tested and iterated on, and marketing can be tied to revenue.

You are probably just dangerous enough to kill your own marketing program.

Now this isn’t intended for me to be a jerk, although as I re-read this I’m starting to see why I have that reputation. Rather it’s to point out that knowing enough to be dangerous isn’t the same as truly knowing. When you know the lingo and jargon but don’t truly understand what it means, you can often do more harm than good.

A great example. I hear people, especially in the tech community, running around saying things like “value” and “conversions” as goals of their marketing programs all the time. Yet very few people understand what either of those things mean, nor how they’re defining it.

I hear a word like value, and that doesn’t mean anything particular to me. It’s so vague that, to me, it could mean any of the following:

  • Return on ad spend
  • Return on investment
  • Shiny things people like
  • Things your nephew who is good with computers likes
  • Awareness
  • Brand Recall
  • Market Penetration
  • Authority
  • etc. etc.

The truth is value is defined by each individual largely as what’s important to them. They substitute their own biases for objective reality and expect, either maliciously or in a more benign sense, for everyone to perceive and anticipate what they want. What’s dangerous about this is that data driven marketing is not a personal experience of marketing, it’s a thing. More so it’s a thing that you don’t get to decide, your customers do.

Conversions is another one of these. People shout from the rooftops they need conversions, but conversions to what? Conversion to get an email to a newsletter? To a customer? To visit a specific page or perform a specific action? This is a term that has great value (ha!) that has been stomped into the ground by people posturing and trying to say the right things. When you think about conversion as literally just x to y in a granular sense, you can work on your funnel piece by piece rather than running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

This also manifests in other ways like optimizing for a specific metric like click through rate, or cost per click etc. People start focusing down on these things like they’re a silver bullet that will fix everything. Nah.

Metrics are only valuable in the context of other metrics. Having a dirt cheap cpc isn’t worth anything to me if it’s an irrelevant and un-engaged audience. A great ctr is meaningless if the people clicking through aren’t my audience. A form completion conversion is wasted if the potential customer isn’t qualified. In fact I can envision many scenarios where these metrics could be in the metaphorical toilet where I would be happy. It’s all about how they work together, not alone.

I’ve seen it before, and I’ll see it again, otherwise smart people getting stuck on specific points for seemingly random or emotions based reasons. I say all of this not to be a jerk, but to help you. Too many companies and teams that I see have brilliant insights in front of them that could make them successful but they’re too blind or self interested to seize very real opportunities. Don’t be the team that focuses down on specific things you feel are important. Be the team that looks at all the data and knows what the market is saying to them.

The point of this long winded rant is basically this. It’s awesome there’s a lot more people thinking about data than there were even 6 months ago. If you’re thinking about data that’s great. Learn more. Try stuff. Ask lots of questions. Don’t get tunnel vision, and understand that you know enough to know there’s a lot that you don’t understand. That’s okay. I wake up every day learning about things I’ve never heard of as a marketer. If you don’t you’re stagnating, and in this industry stagnation is akin to death. So be confident and bold, and always keep learning and testing. Just don’t become arrogant and reliant on your incomplete knowledge set.

Your Obsession With Metrics Is Killing Your Marketing. was originally published in Observed Reflections.

Posted by Jeromy Sonne on

In Advertising, Value Can Be Found Everywhere.

Most lay people have a very poor understanding of the craft of advertising. You only have to see the entire cottage industry of awards and certifications that exist to know that for a bunch of communications professionals, we have a really hard time communicating our value.

Another example of this is a constant march of “me too” style requests that come from clients wanting some new piece of ad tech or to buy ads on some new platform in order to be relevant.

To be clear, I’m not blaming clients for this. In the vacuum of information, the veritable island of ignorance we leave them on, this sort of response is only natural. I’m going to challenge the notion that new is inherently good, and that the latest bell or whistle is going to magically going to make your marketing click.

What I’m saying is: value can be found anywhere.

Nielsen came out with a report not too long ago saying that, I kid you not, radio is actually the most valuable advertising medium out there at this moment.

You’re probably wondering why. I mean, doesn’t radio predate just about everything? Surely it’s saturated and doesn’t offer nearly the targeting options and data insights that digital does?

All that may be true, but at the end of the day it’s all about that arbitrage.

I have a unique perspective working in a media agency as opposed to other more creative agencies. While most people think of Mad Men and Don Draper making the big pitch, we’re more like Harry and the computer in the backroom.

My job has more in common with a hedge fund manager than it does with Don Draper’s pitch meetings. For people like me, it’s all about the numbers. It’s all about finding a medium, or some platform, or a place to buy ads that’s ignored by the mass market due to human bias or just plain old missed opportunity and exploiting it to make people more money.

That’s why to guys like me radio is really exciting.

A hedge fund manager may get really fired up about a really boring business, not because they’re trying to buy sexy businesses for the sake of being cool, but because they care about acquiring assets that are undervalued and making money off them. (Gross oversimplification, I know).

Radio is just a single example of this phenomenon. There are thousands of these opportunities that exist all over the place in the modern and constantly shifting media landscape. If I can leave you with a lesson here’s what it should be; Don’t chase new for the sake of new. Chase value over whatever’s hot or sexy at the moment. If someone comes to you with an idea that seems dated or strange, consider it, but also demand a justification with hard numbers, not conjecture.

Oh and, if I were you, I’d think about buying some radio.

In Advertising, Value Can Be Found Everywhere. was originally published in Multimedia Marketing.