I met my friend Jeff for lunch recently and it went like this:

Jeff: Notice anything different about me?

Me: You’re licking the inside of a Pop-Tart wrapper. Tell me you didn’t find that in the subway.

Jeff: I mean do I look thinner? I have a high school reunion coming up.

Me: So you’re on the diet where you eat only the packaging?

Jeff: Pop-Tart debris is 8.35 calories; that pad thai you’re inhaling in is, let me check my app, about 941 calories.

I don’t care. I don’t count calories because I’m confused enough about my phone numbers. So while Jeff miserably tucked into a meal replacement bar that had clearly been a dry erase marker in a former life, I mused about the calorie problem for marketers.

Last week we looked at Random Acts of Marketing, and their origins in not thinking through the problem thoroughly enough. But just because you know what problem you are trying to solve, doesn’t let you off the hook just yet: you need to do a calorie count. Here’s where the frog comes in.

There is a type of frog that lives in temperate forests. The CBC tells me, and I believe them, that this small frog has a big problem. In the winter the little beast does what all good amphibians do and hibernates by more or less shutting down its metabolism. (Which is likely a good skill to have about six months ahead of a high school reunion).

The problem is, the frog uses a ton of energy to power down in the fall, and another ton of energy to start things back up again in the spring. If you’ve ever been first to the photocopier in the morning, you know that exiting Power Saver Mode is a lengthy process that makes you late for meetings.

In the frog’s case, bringing things back on-line takes so long and uses so much energy, it’s basically a small green lozenge sitting on the forest floor begging to be eaten by whatever eats frogs in temperate forests . This is a bit of a disadvantage for the frog.

Marketers can place themselves at a similar disadvantage by not understanding the calorie count for a marketing program or campaign. In this case, it’s not the inbound calories in the form of your morning Kahlua and kale smoothie (720 cal if it’s a double using 2% milk), it’s the calories you’ll need to expend actually executing your RAOM, such as:

  • Setting up a whole new call queue to speak to all those shiny new prospects
  • Creating manual processes to fulfill that client referral program
  • Chewing up twice your budget in postage to send out the personalized calendars you thought were so brilliant last month
  • Renting storage space for the 5,000 cases of Tom Peters books that seemed like such a good deal
  • Paying a construction crew to build your two-storey house of mirrors trade show booth
  • Building and testing new landing pages
  • Making your summer student spray the key messages all over Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Burning through your agency retainer three times over making them stuff the swag bags at your posh event

Let’s not forget the hours and hours and hours that go into helping the Sales Squirrels understand what you’re doing, why it’s a good idea and why you keep whining about updating the CRM database

Sometimes, like the frog, we end up so stretched, burned out and over budget on our RAOMs, that we’re looking a lot like an afternoon snack for our competitors.