The Mississippi River is a business genius…
I know, it sounds crazy.
But there’s a huge business lesson you can learn from the Mississippi River, that will lead you to become a much better marketer.
I’ll explain in a moment, but first I have to give credit where credit is due…
The idea for this essay actually came from Joanna Wiebe, in her Masters of Response Summit interview. (Grab a 24-hour pass here or BTMSinsiders members get unlimited streaming access here.)
She used a tree as the analogy. I got it. I loved it. The idea stuck with me. And, in fact, I thought about it for long after.
And as my mind turned it over, I realized that — for me at least — using a river as the image… Is a little clearer? Helps it soak in? Flows better?
Choose your water-inspired pun. Anyway, I liked the lesson. And I thought you would, too!
Which brings us back to…
The Mighty Mississippi river…
The Mississippi river is America’s big river. It’s the longest river in the United States. The fourth longest river in the world.
A massive amount of water flows out of the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico.
At its mouth — measured at Baton Rouge, LA — the Mississippi averages 593,000 cubic feet of water flowing by every second.
At peak, over 3 million cubic feet of water flow by in a second.
That’s a gallon of water for every person in the United States every 20 seconds or so.
But here’s a little secret.
All that water does NOT come from one source.
The Mississippi River Basin — the area from which the water flows — is 1,151,000 square miles. That’s roughly 31% of the entire United States, draining into the Mississippi.
There are, of course, a few major rivers that add to the Mississippi’s flow. For example, the Missouri River, Ohio River, Tennessee River, Arkansas River, Red River, and others all drain into the Mississippi, or its tributaries.
A map of the Mississippi River system though reveals even more branches. From Montana and Alberta, Canada all the way to New York and Pennsylvania, various smaller rivers contribute to the Mighty Mississippi.
And contributing to those are a far greater number of even smaller streams, creeks, and springs.
Contributing to those is the runoff from over a million square miles of hills, plains, and other land.
Depending on how you measure, we’re talking from thousands to millions of smaller sources of water — all adding up to one Mighty Mississippi.
Every great river system is like this.
The main river gets all the glory. But it would be nothing without its many-thousands of smaller sources.
If you haven’t drawn the business parallel yet, let me make it abundantly clear…
When you look at a business and simply look at top line sales or revenue, you’re looking at the big river.
And yes, you want to increase the flow of revenue, as that’s a major measure of a business’s success.
However, you’d be mistaken if you simply try to get all of that cash flow from a single source.
Just like the Mississippi is created by thousands of tributaries, your goal in business should be to create a thousand paths to the sale, that end in massive cash flow for you and your business.
If you compare the main cash flow of a business to the Mississippi, you might think of its product lines or brands as the other major rivers that eventually join it.
Contributing to each of those are the individual products in each, and the total revenue they create.
The tributaries, if you will, to the product line’s sales, are the individual marketing campaigns.
The campaign’s total flows come from individual marketing pieces, such as articles, emails, and other collateral.
When you think about your sales and revenue coming this way, it suggests a new perspective…
I once heard Dan Kennedy describe his methods of getting customers.
And note: this is one of the world’s best copywriters, who is incredibly skilled at creating a single message that brings in a predictably-large flow of customers.
Dan said he doesn’t try to rely too much on one campaign or offer bringing in a big flow of customers.
Rather, he’s constantly putting out all kinds of different marketing pieces — articles, mentions, offers, books, etc., etc. — with the hope that each will bring a trickle of additional customers into his fold.
Yes, it’s great to have a few hits — individual campaigns that turn into big rivers of revenue.
But let’s isolate just his books. From what I can find in a quick Google search, Dan has published at least 13 business books.
For those who truly understand the book business, you know that he’s doing well if those sold at least 10,000 copies each. I think Dan’s probably well above average in that department, but even his best-selling books have probably only sold 50,000 to 100,000 copies each.
And at under $20 a pop — with most going to his publisher — he’s not making much off the sales of those books.
That said, someone who buys a business book is a buyer of business-related information. That’s one of Dan’s primary businesses. And so each book represents a pretty significant tributary to a business selling additional information. And that book placed for sale on the shelves of Barnes and Noble or on Amazon is able to collect customers as “runoff” from that soaked territory of information-buyers.
More books equals more tributaries, and more flow to his main river of revenue.
Now add to that the strategies of writing articles in influential publications, putting ads on a ton of different websites, creating all kinds of offers around all kinds of topics…
And you start to see how this strategy can pay off…
How does this apply to your business?
Consider where you want your market to flow from, and where you want it to flow to: and carve a channel.
So let’s say, for instance, that you have even just one main product.
You’re doing yourself a disservice if all you try to do is reach out through one channel (e.g. Facebook advertising) and drive traffic from there, to a sales message, to the order.
You’re trying to create the Mighty Mississippi from a single source.
You can start by creating multiple tributary messages. For example, you can write 10 articles about 10 related topics that all link to that single sales message. Then, you advertise those articles instead. Add an email opt-in, and you have another source.
That’s a simple system, but it’s a start. And it will allow you reach wider — and uncover more sources of cash flow — than the single-source approach.
Now let’s take it further. Let’s say that main product sells for $299. But you can create a handful of introductory products that each sell for $10 or less. And for each of those — let’s say five — introductory products, you can write 10 articles. Suddenly you have 50 small streams contributing to five larger tributary rivers contributing to your main river.
But even those small streams represent different opportunities. Because if you can make one traffic source work, why not try others? For example, the same article could be fed by advertising on Facebook, Google, and other platforms. Include the content network, and those ads (there can be many of them) can be displayed on thousands of websites.
And those articles could even be republished on other websites or in other channels, with clear calls-to-action leading back to your main sales message.
I hope you’re getting the point!
When you reconceptualize your customer acquisition around this river analogy, you get a brand new perspective.
YES, you still want core conversion pieces, such as video sales letters or long copy landing pages, that will make the sale.
YES, you still want to build a permission-based marketing list as a primary marketing channel (or, tributary!).
YES, direct response is still as important as ever, and being able to build big campaigns is still hugely-beneficial.
And yet, every little thing you do will simply add more and more flow, and continue to build your business and your revenue.
The blog article you write today will continue to drip prospects and customers into your big river of revenue for years to come.
The book you publish that sells mere hundreds of copies will still contribute hundreds of potential customers you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Every flood of revenue is made of billions of tiny droplets.
And that’s a breakthrough.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: This was just a fraction of the value that was shared in the Masters of Response Summit. To get ongoing access to all the interviews, try your first month of BTMSinsiders membership at zero risk or obligation.