What World of Warcraft Can Teach You About Marketing Cooldowns

cooldowns

In World of Warcraft, your characters have special abilities that are used with a mandatory wait between uses, called a cooldown. Some abilities have longer cooldowns than others, meaning that you have to wait longer in between uses, but the tradeoff for a longer cooldown is often a more powerful ability. For example, paladins (like the one shown above) can use a special skill called Divine Shield that stops all harm to them for a few seconds with a mandatory 10 minute wait between uses. At the other end of the spectrum is an ability called Sacred Shield that reduces 20% of damage taken but you need only wait 30 seconds between uses.

When it comes to marketing, our tools and abilities have cooldowns, too. Take a look at this brief, incomplete list of marketing tools:

  • Press releases
  • Email newsletters and promotions
  • Search marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • Earned media placements/bylines
  • Tweets
  • Blog posts
  • Facebook posts
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube videos
  • Direct mail
  • Cold calls

How often can you use each of these tools, assuming you have great content and great products and services? If you were to send out email promotions day after day, hour after hour, you’d burn your list to the ground very quickly. People would unsubscribe in droves. If you were to send out press releases, how often could you spend $200-$600 before you hit diminishing returns? (fairly quickly, actually) If you were to Tweet as fast as you could, how long before people got tired of you being the only thing in their stream and unfollowing you?

That’s what I’d call a marketing cooldown – the time you need to let a marketing tool or ability rest and let your audience reset so that you don’t suffer diminishing returns. If you’re putting together a calendar of marketing efforts, knowing the cooldowns on the various tools you have at your disposal would let you best determine how to allocate your resources in advance, rather than on the fly. Your marketing cadence would be timed to maximize the impact of each channel.

You’d know, for example, that your particular house email list (every list varies) has a 5 business day cooldown – that if you send more frequently than that, your unsubscribe or complaint rate goes up. You’d know that your Twitter followers drop off faster if every 9 tweets is about your company vs. every 22 tweets. You’d know that SEO has diminishing returns after a point and once you get close to that limit, your efforts are best spent elsewhere. You’d know there is only so much money you can pour into AdWords before it becomes less effective than other channels.

I can’t tell you what your marketing cooldowns are, because every company, every industry, every customer database is radically different. Some house lists don’t mind 3 emails a day, like the Help a Reporter list, founded by Peter Shankman. Other lists won’t tolerate more than a quarterly update. Invest time determining what your audience’s cooldowns are, and you’ll rapidly improve your marketing effectiveness.

Bonus: as you level up in World Warcraft, meaning your characters become more and more powerful, your cooldown times decrease. (assuming you gear properly, etc.) A level 90 character can use their spells faster and more effectively on average than a level 1 character.

The same is true for your marketing efforts – the better your products and services are and the more skilled a marketer you become, the more often you can use your marketing tools to promote them, because more people will actively want to hear about how you can help them solve their problems. Once you know where you stand in terms of your tools and their cooldowns, work with the rest of your company to buff up your products and services, and you’ll find that marketing them becomes easier and easier.


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  • http://thoughtsinaction.org/ Graham

    This is a great article Christopher, as someone who loves marketing and has played plenty of MMOs I seriously appreciated this read.

  • http://www.erikaheald.com/ Erika Heald

    I’m a WoW player (shadow priest) and content marketer as well — love the tie-in!