Category Archives: yield

A conversation with Uncle Yield


In the incestuous world of advertising, most offspring have useful traits and yet, like in-laws seen years later at an unavoidable wedding party, also have grating flaws. You may find direct-response specialists focused on lead gen and costs per inquiry, all metrics, no vision. You encounter brand masters worried about identity and consistency and positioning, strategic geniuses who can’t spell results. You have creative types who ideate their way to castles in the clouds, visionaries who can’t count. You find young social media gurus, casting dispersion on traditional ad habits and talking about collaboration, communities and curation, all eloquence to little effect. And of course you know the New York City ivory-tower grandfathers, not really ad specialists but they’ve worked with Coke or Pepsi so they’ll skewer your ideas with a glare that says, where we come from, back in the day, we did everything so much better.

Yet, sometimes, rarely, you find the long-lost bearded-results mountain man, a crotchety oldster who legend has it once hiked the Appalachian Trail while making wine coolers hip in the 1980s. If he were an ad himself, he’d be Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World. We call him Uncle Yield. If you are lucky enough, you might ask Uncle Yield for real advice on how to make advertising work better.

He’d fix you in the eye, scratch off a heap of dandruff, stick a finger in his ear to adjust the wax, and say, inspecting the nail:

“Sonny, you’ve got to increase the yield.”

What the heck is “yield,” you ask? Why, you’ve just spent a million bucks on advertising with a sharp agency owned by an acronym in New York City, made the phones jump, captured 20% as leads and then sold a fraction of those respondents your product. The ads worked. You did your job. The arrogance of this old fart!

But your grumpy old uncle wouldn’t be satisfied with back-talk. He’d opine, “Laddie, when I was a child, we never threw anything out — especially your lost leads. Here’s what to do.

“Remember those people who called but you never caught as leads? Well, a lot of people get off the phone without giving you their contact information. But they called you, didn’t they? So they must be interested, right Sonny? So look up their originating phone number, append their address information, and put them in your prospect database. If you’ve only caught 20% of respondents as leads before, now you’ve increased your prospect pool by 5x!” Uncle Yield has been reading HBR, and he knows how to calculate a 400% lift in prospects. You blush.

“You with me lad? You’ve now identified a lot of people you didn’t sell! Now, get aggressive, Sonny! Do something! Call those unsold leads, and if you can’t get them on the phone, hit them with direct mail. And then hit them again. Because those unsold leads already told you they’re interested, like a girlie batting her eye at you in the downtown bar, so step up, you’ll reap double your regular conversion rate. You’ll be gaining many more customers for almost zero incremental cost. Why, a 10% increase in sales from your untouched, unsold leads equals hundreds of thousands you won’t have to spend on advertising next year!”

Well, damn, if he just didn’t teach you a trick about remarketing. You feel OK, it’s a good idea. Sure, there are risks. You bring up DNC requirements for remarketing, the need to get lawyers involved to make sure your contact approach is in line with the law, the fact that your direct mail budget may need some tweaking to free up funds from what until now had been an elegant intellectual exercise in targeting people who don’t know who you are. It won’t be easy, you say. Your uncle digs out more earwax, scoffs, and says, “For Pete’s sake, boy, turn up the office thermostat. Don’t you know cooling this operation costs money?”

Image: ToniVC