What Business Owners Can Learn From Baseball Managers

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth

Imagine this scenario…

Your favorite baseball team has the opportunity to hire GR. Now a free agent, GR is one of the league’s best hitters. He hits more home runs than 90 percent of all other players… and has an impressive .300 batting average.

The team manager and GR meet. The manager tells GR: “Step up to the plate, and our best pitcher will throw to you. Hit a home run and you’re part of the team. Strike out or pop out and you’re history.”

Does that make sense? No. I mean, with a .300 average, GR fails to get a hit seven out of every 10 times he steps up to the plate.

But that doesn’t stop otherwise savvy business owners from thinking like this manager every day.

They hire an employee and start to put him to work. If he doesn’t generate home-run results the first time at bat, they fire him or move him to a marginal business operation.

The TV commercial doesn’t win a Clio? Start looking for a new agency. Sales letter didn’t beat the control? The copywriter is history. Website not getting a million hits a day? The designer and webmaster are fired.

So what’s the problem?

Unreasonable expectations… and an unwillingness to experiment and test things until you find what works.

Thomas Edison failed to invent the light bulb with a thousand experimental models that didn’t work. In experiment #1,001, he finally tested a tungsten filament that burned brightly without burning out.

What makes a small business profitable and competitive over the long haul is a lot of small, sensible tests… trials and errors… and meticulously planned roll-outs. Unfortunately, you don’t hear much about them.

If you want to produce marketing campaigns in 2008 that make you money, you have to keep two things in mind.

First, most marketing tests don’t make money.

Second, even one winner out of every 10 tests can make you rich.

Of course, I hope you do better than that. But as long as you keep your tests small and modest, and watch every penny, you can afford to be wrong a lot – as long as you are occasionally right.

This is one area where the Internet can give you an edge that we didn’t have in the old days.

At the 2007 AWAI Bootcamp, entrepreneur Gary Scott noted that “the Internet is very forgiving of mistakes.” You no longer have to risk $10,000 to $50,000 on printing and postage for a mailing… or buying ad space in the newspaper… to test a new marketing idea. On the Internet, you can buy a domain name for $10… host the site for a month for $20… put up a website featuring your new product for $200… and drive traffic to your website with a limited Google AdWords test for $1,000.

Another advantage of Internet marketing is that you know in just a few days whether your campaign is going to fly. But with offline marketing, it takes weeks (for ads) or even months (for mail) before you know whether your test is a hit or a flop.

One other piece of advice…

Lots of people are obsessed with finding the next million-dollar idea. For instance, they want to make a million dollars a year on the Internet. So they work like the devil on some big mega-project which… they hope… will be that million-dollar business.

I’m not discouraging their efforts or disparaging such ambition. In fact, I wish I had it myself.

But I’m lazy. And for the average lazy person who wants to make a million dollars online, I find it’s much easier to have 100 working websites making you $10,000 a year each… than to try to build one site to $1 million a year.

Others may feel differently, but that’s the approach I’m using to build toward that million dollars a year. And, so far, it is working for me.

A million-dollar site requires constant innovation, attention, fresh content, and a lot of administration and management. My little “micro sites” need minimal time and attention. Once they’re up, you pretty much don’t have to touch them, as long as you know how to drive traffic to them.

That way, you can earn a full-time income on the Internet “working” part-time – as little as a few hours a week – as if you were retired.

[Ed. Note: Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter, the author of more than 70 books, and co-creator of ETR’s Direct Marketing Masters Edition program.]