Digging out the bin full of holiday light strands can teach us a lot about new home marketing. No, I haven’t binged on too much turkey, and I’m not suffering from too many blows to the head during black Friday crowds. In fact, the Oakley family put up our outdoor lights on black Friday instead of venturing out at all. Expecting a few strands to no longer be working (even though we test them all before packing them away – how annoying is that?) I went to the store before we even got started and purchased an extra six strands so we’d have enough. A little more than halfway through we discovered that I hadn’t bought enough. Well crap.

There are lots of great parts about putting up lights outside. Playing a Spotify playlist of Christmas classics on an outdoor speaker, getting the kids involved, making hot chocolate when you’re all done, and family memories that will last a lifetime. The list of downsides are short – untangling the lights, the lights not working, and cold weather. We chose a warmer weather day, and my wife packs lights away with great care to avoid tangling. That only leaves the lights not working which truly is the most horrific of them all.

Manufacturer Recommendations

The manufacturer recommendations are straightforward. Replace the fuses, check each and every light on the strand individually, or buy a new strand of lights. As I spent entirely too much time replacing fuse after fuse or trying to turn checking each light into a game with my two younger boys – my mind (as a safety mechanism I think from the mind-numbing task) drifted back to marketing and the lessons I was being reminded of. Let me tell you – it was all too tempting to skip the first two steps and just go buy some more lights. After all, new lights are pretty darn cheap at Target or Walmart. Working through each bulb for 15 minutes or spending $3.99 plus tax seems like a no-brainer, and that’s typically what ends up happening. It’s also precisely what you can’t afford to do with your marketing efforts.

Changing The Fuse

I’m not an electrical specialist. I’m not 100% sure what fuses do except prevent things from burning down. Seems like a good thing to me. The great news about a strand of lights needing a new fuse is twofold. First, the entire strand no longer works. It’s easy to spot the problem before getting half the strand hung up in the tree (ARGH!). It also is a quick fix. There are ONLY one or two fuses per strand that are quick to find and replace. Ninety seconds later, you’ll feel a huge rush of accomplishment when you swap them out, plug in the lights, and are rewarded with the warm soft-white glow of consumerism.

Replacing the fuse is relatively easy and delivers big results

image credit: lightsforalloccasions.com

When your marketing doesn’t seem to be working, making a simple fuse-like fix is similarly straightforward. Perhaps your competitive analysis needs to be updated because a competitor – or the broader market – has shifted without you realizing it. Maybe your creative approach is no longer getting the attention it deserves and needs refreshed. Sometimes operations hands down a new price point or product design and BANG… like replacing a fuse sales and other metrics take off again with that single adjustment.

Dashboards and other reports likely act like a fuse for you and your team. Like an entire strand of burnt out lights they should help guide you to investigate further when something isn’t headed in the right direction. The best time to replace the fuse is right before the strand burns out, and the right data can help you make the switch before anyone else even knows it – that’s real marketing unicorn stuff right there. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to actual holiday lights.

The takeaway is that as marketers we’re generally ok with replacing fuses (single-step solutions). No one really complains about it or says how hard it is to do. We accept it as part of the job, get to work, and keep the lights on. That’s not the case with the next step, and that’s also your opportunity to grow.

Checking Every $#^@! Light

I’ve started down the process of checking each individual light countless times over the decades, but I don’t think I’ve ever completed the process. I might push on them or fiddle with them all a bit, but taking each bulb all the way out, replacing it with one I’m certain works, and then repeating that step another 149 times? Never done it.

You know you have an individual bulb problem when a portion of the strand still works. That’s the first problem. It is really tempting to try and just get by with the portion that IS working and just try to hide the remaining strand in the mulch or add another working strand overtop. If it was completely broken there would be no other option but to address it, but I think non-marketers especially are tempted to carry on and ignore the dark portion of the strand.

Has anyone EVER successfully done this in the past 5 years?

image credit: balsamhill.com

The main problem though is patience. It takes a lot of patience to test every bulb. It takes a lot of focus to pull each one out and replace it without breaking even more bulbs. Focus and patience are HARD WORK. Really hard work. Especially when your kids keep asking “have you fixed it YET daddy?” every minute or so. It’s really hard work when it is cold and your fingers are going numb. It’s really hard work when everyone else loses interest and goes inside to work on something else and leaves you alone. It’s really hard work… and then you realize it isn’t worth the effort. You can just replace the whole thing for half the cost of a Starbucks. Heck, you can pick up a Starbucks on the way back from the store!

You Can’t Afford It

The unfortunate truth is that you can’t afford to just toss out the broken lights and buy new ones in marketing. Tossing your old lights and getting new ones is cheap. Tossing out communities or homes and getting new ones are not. Hitting the jettison button on your company reputation and starting over isn’t an option. It may seem unfair, but it isn’t. After all, it’s why you have a job in marketing at all. Anyone can point of the problem and offer the solution of starting completely over – anyone. That isn’t how you add value as a marketer. In fact, it’s a great way to get fired.

Checking every “light” on your strand as a new home marketer is hard work. At Do You Convert, we’ve been right there with you at the builder’s we worked at previously. It takes similar focus and patience to test the 5 Ps of marketing – Promotion, Price, Product, People, & Place. You’ll have pressure from outside forces asking “are you done yet?” You’ll feel isolated at times as others leave you alone to get it fixed. You may feel unappreciated because everyone else expects you to simply “get it done.” That is the reality of the job, and you need to find a kind of masochistic joy out of finding a solution that no one else wants to put in the work to find.

It Gets Easier With Consistency

Your competition won’t likely put in the work either – that’s the first bit of good news. The other is that as you put in the work consistently each and every day it does get easier. If you pack away your lights when times are good, and only get them back out once or twice a year when you need them it will be a much harder process. I fully recommend going full Griswold and leaving up your lights (ie: putting in the work) all year round. I’ve been working to solve the same set of problems with new home and communities for over 15 years now. I can rattle through data, check conversions, and pinpoint problems with what seems like remarkable speed to others, but that is only because of putting in all those years of consistent hard work. You’ll get there too if you remain disciplined in times of plenty or times of scarcity. Put in the work consistently, and the work gets easier. Or don’t… and expect to pay the price – in results for the company, your department, and your career – for getting new lights every year.

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