Clutching at nickels

Let’s say your media brand’s most important business goal is to gain and retain newsletter subscribers.

Your website gets very little traffic, so it doesn’t contribute many new signups.

To grab every chance of capturing those few visitors, you’ve plastered five or six signup modules on every article page – top banner, right rail, in-text box, bottom banner, exit popup.

Basic audience empathy tells you this creates, at best, a pretty silly user experience. Do you enjoy sites like this yourself?

In this very situation, I proposed a test: Let’s remove most of the modules, so a clean interface can contribute to our efforts to dramatically raise website traffic. That’s the best shot at increasing newsletter signups, I argued. We need a big bump in traffic in order to get a big bump in subscriptions.

But the company said that each one of those five different signup modules collected a few signups every month, so we couldn’t take the risk of removing any of them.

That’s clutching at nickels — clinging to meager scraps, keeping underperforming stuff on life-support, instead of using those resources to reach for bigger payoffs.

Are you doing this?

What to do instead: A useful question for your team is “If we improve this metric by 5%, so what? What does that get us towards our business goal?”

If the answer is “not enough,” then you have to stop accepting 5% solutions and brainstorm some 25% and 50% ones. And big ideas usually require bolder actions.