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Swimming against the current for fun and profit

For every industry – including ours – there is ‘common knowledge’. As in: ‘It’s common knowledge that millennials approach work differently’. Or ‘Using direct mail to promote a job board is stupid’. Or ’42 million people will be working in the gig economy by 2020′.

Some of this common knowledge comes from experience – perhaps you repeatedly tried to promote your services via direct mail, and failed miserably. Some of this knowledge becomes ‘common’ because lots of people say it’s true – so it must be, right? And some of it is based on ever-shifting definitions (what exactly is ‘gig work’?).

Nevertheless, we all (myself included) rely on common knowledge. Why? As mentioned above, perhaps you’ve had enough experience that you know that retargeting works really well for promoting your site to job seekers. Maybe a few years back you did a carefully calibrated test between multiple marketing channels and learned which ones delivered the best results. Or maybe you feel you are pressed to make a decision, and you don’t have the time for a new test – so you rely on the advice of a trusted colleague.

However, I want to argue for the value of doing something different on a regular basis. Trying something you’ve never tried. Or trying something that failed in the distant past. Or trying something that you know works in a completely different industry – but isn’t common in ours. In other words: try swimming against the current at least once a year.

What do I mean? Here’s one example. Several years ago, when ZipRecruiter was still a scrappy upstart, they landed a big infusion of funding – $63 million, to be exact. Now, that kind of cash would be likely to generate growth for any business – and it did for Zip. But…the way Zip used part of it was somewhat unexpected. They launched a massive direct mail campaign targeting employers.

Direct mail? Were they crazy?? Well, maybe. But…direct mail had been falling out of favor in all types of marketing for many years. Thus, the total volume of mail received by employers had dropped substantially. So what did that do for the mail that was still being sent? It made what mail was actually sent more visible, and thus increased open rates. Which in turned increased the effectiveness of direct mail marketing. So maybe Zip wasn’t that crazy after all.

And in fact – although many factors have played into their growth – Zip has grown dramatically since those days (I believe current valuation is $1B+). So swimming against the current paid off.

Take a look at what you’re planning for 2020 – and leave a little room for swimming against the current. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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