More than once, I’ve stood in front of a room of people and shown the results of a marketing campaign, only to have some remark that there weren’t as many leads generated as they thought there would be. Those who are critical of the campaign then start to characterize this as a ‘low response’ and the tone of the discussion shifts to what was wrong with the campaign.

While I may not be popular for saying this, even great marketing programs draw a small portion of their target audience to take action. The percent that respond is almost always in the single digits. I want to state as clearly as possible that response rates like this are normal. Just as it’s normal for those working in the sugarbush to collect 40 litres of sap in order to produce 1 litre of Maple Syrup.

This is a numbers game; get over it. Some call them ratios, odds, predictions or yields but no matter what you call them, you must accept that campaigns can be successful when 1 out of every 20 people reached becomes a prospect. Lets put marketing campaigns in context with other activities that are also governed by statistical probabilities.

Being accepted into Stanford (assuming you meet the academic requirements): 1 out of 10
Winning a straight up on a single number in roulette: 1 out of 37
Being born a twin (without fertility drugs): 1 out of 90
Having a child that’s classified as a genius: 1 out of 250
Being at a Baseball game and catching a ball in the stands: 1 out of 563
Playing golf and hitting a hole-in-one: 1 in 7,707
Finding a four-leaf clover: 1 out of 10,000
Owning an object that gets a high appraisal on the Antiques Roadshow: 1 out of 60,000
Dating someone who’s a supermodel: 1 out of 88,000
Getting a royal flush in five-card poker: 1 out of 649,740
Finding a pearl in one oyster: 1 out of 900,000
Creating a YouTube video that gets 1,000,000 views in 1 month: 1 out of 3,100,000
The fertilization of an ovum by one particular sperm: 1 out of 12,000,000,000
Having a meteorite land on your house: 1 out of 182,138,880,000,000

I hope I’ve shown here that, like everything else, marketing and sales rely on percentages. Acknowledging and tracking these probabilities helps you evaluate payback, informing the decisions you make on which marketing activities you do.

There is one statistic that explains why, in business, marketing and all other endeavours are worthwhile…
The odds of failing if you don’t try anything: 1 out of 1.

image credit: chiot’s run on Flickr