A ship seen through a rock tunnel.
Pirates have a surprising amount to teach us about digital advertising. From Pexels.

Jim Collins used pirates to teach us about digital advertising.

In his book, Great by Choice, Collins talks about how to use resources effectively. Using small commitments and small investments to measure what works before you go all in. We want to take some time to revisit his brilliant analogy, and how it informs what we do at Kokopelli.

Picture yourself on a pirate ship (this is where I usually picture myself, but in this case, it’s relevant).

Through the spyglass, you see an enemy ship come over the horizon. You have a limited amount of gunpowder left on board, and they’re bearing down on you. There are two different strategies you could take.

On the one hand, you have a cannon. Bigger is always better, right? You load the last of your gunpowder into it, toss in a cantaloupe-size cannonball, aim, fire, and…miss by forty degrees. You’re out of gunpowder and the enemy ship is getting closer. You’re sunk.

A blue cannon
Maybe we don’t lead with this. From flickr.

Consider the second option. You have the canon, yes, but say you take a little bit of that gun powder, load it into your fancy flint-lock pistol your first mate gave you for your birthday, and fire a bullet first. You still miss by forty degrees, but you have enough powder left to fire another shot. This time you miss by only fifteen degrees. One more shot and you hear the distinctive ping of your bullet ricocheting off the enemy’s hull. You scrape together the last of your powder, load the cannon, take aim and sink the enemy beneath the waves.

Collins used this metaphor (he just talked about ships, not specifically pirates, but the point still stands) to describe the methods used by businesses and individuals like Steve Jobs who seem to have a single moment of inspiration that drives all their success.

In reality, that success is the result of a long process. Closely studying the results of smaller efforts and fine-tuning processes before investing finite resources in a major effort.

A small treasure chest on a beach
Don’t spend your resources without testing your methods first. From Pexels.

This holds true for our approach to digital advertising here at Kokopelli. Before launching cannonballs (i.e, large amounts of advertising dollars), we test the aim first: designs, slogans, outlets—anything that can be made better, we try to make it the best we can.

This starts with in-depth learning about our clients. Who they are, what they do, and what makes them unique. Before we can tell your customers about you, we have to know you, we have to operate as a natural extension of your organization.

When we run advertisements, we start by firing bullets and see where we can find success. As we dial in our aim, then we prepare the cannonballs.

This is a longer, more complicated process than just firing the canon. Firing the canon is immediate gratification or grand disappointment.

Firing bullets first is harder. It asks us to constantly be evaluating our work and pushing ourselves to be a little bit better with every project. In the end, though, it means the difference between wasting a cannonball and actually hitting your target.