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June 7, 2016

The ‘Oak Tree Formula’ for long-term marketing success

This is an oak tree, near Oxford in England. The tree is approximately 400 years old.

Oak Tree

In mid-summer this tree contains about 700,000 leaves, providing 700 square metres of leaf surface area. Lain out flat this would cover three square tennis courts.

Despite being 400 years old, this tree is still growing. If you look carefully at the way it is growing the growth is lop-sided. More growth happens on the exposed side of the tree, away from the shaded woodland.

This response to the environment happens below ground too. This is a different tree but an oak tree’s roots actually look like this.

Oak tree roots

The big root dropping directly from the stem was the first root to grow from the acorn when the plant first germinated. At some point the root hit an obstacle, maybe a rock. The root then split in two, sending one branch off at a sideways angle.

While the core of the tree’s root system will remain in place, many of the smaller roots you might consider temporary. Over time a tree can adjust its roots to match the opportunities that surround it in the soil.

Your marketing system, the system that feeds leads in to your business, ought very much to be like an oak tree. The leaves are your ads, or your ‘ways in’ to the process. The branches are your follow-up systems. The roots we might consider as upsells or back-end sales.

To borrow an analogy from Perry Marshall, most marketing systems look like a solar panel rather than an oak tree.

Oak tree vs solar panel

The solar panel has just one ‘winning’ ad, letter or sales page (our panel). It has one single autoresponder pole supporting the panel. And it has no roots, so little consideration and process for upsells and back end sales.

Most companies operate their lead generation like the solar panel rather than the tree. One ad targeting one audience, leading in to one autoresponder sequence. Many companies that think they are split-testing are actually testing different variations of the same ad.

Structuring your marketing systems in this way might work, for a bit. But you can’t base your long term business success on a single traffic source and opt-in sequence.

The oak tree equivalent is much harder and slower to build.

It requires you to systematically test new audiences and different offers. It requires multiple opt-in incentives, not one. The opt-in incentive that works today probably won’t work in five years’ time.

The best time to prepare for that is now.

As your opt-in channels evolve so must your autoresponder sequences. Instead of a single sequence containing 50 emails, create ten sequences of five emails. That’s what the oak tree would do.

Each year you add more wood to your tree. New follow-up sequences appear for specific audiences you have identified – specific patches of untapped sunlight. New roots appear offering high ticket or continuity programmes.

Is a this a ‘hack’, or a quick fix?

Umm, no. It’s a lot of regular, ongoing work. Sorry.

I’m a big believer in strategy before action, but many companies I speak to are trying to strategise the ultimate solar panel. You aren’t trying to build a giant solar panel. You are trying to grow a tree.

Start small and get to work.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.