Rage against the (vending) machine - Trial and Eureka

Rage against the (vending) machine

By Alp | List-building

I wish I could be more passive-aggressive.

Secretly, I yearn to develop an acidic wit to melt away stupidity and scour it off the face of the earth.

Until that day, I suppose I’ll have to content myself with reading other people’s fits of enraged brilliance.

Such as this note taped to a vending machine at a Fortune 500 company:


“There are quite a few people here who went to prestigious business schools. Others have many years of experience in the finer points of profit-and-loss. Still others bring innate acumen for business, marketing, finance, operations, accounting and service.

Some ran lemonade stands as kids.

Some aren’t sure why they didn’t just drop out of school society and raise alpacas.

Yes, we’re a diverse group.

But today, we’ve distilled our thoughts, opinions, and business sense and crystallised it into this bit of advice:


As you consider the sharp sales decline from this particular vending machine, and undoubtedly analyse various data, construct extensive spreadsheets, build pivot tables, hold meetings, and evaluate market forces and traffic patterns that could explain this unexplained loss in revenue, be sure to factor in the reality that THIS VENDING MACHINE - WHICH ONLY ACCEPTS CASH - DOESN’T ACCEPT CASH.



I believe that’s MBA-speak for “machine’s broken”.

This teaches us a number of things about life and business:

First, someone on that second floor could really use a Snickers.

Second, that little uppity tantrum perfectly illustrates the employee vs entrepreneur mindset.

It’s easy to complain. Much harder to do something about it (and turn a profit while you’re at it.)

What strikes me is that in a building stuffed (staffed?) with people from the world’s most “prestigious business schools”, there isn’t one person business-minded enough to see the opportunity here:

The vending machine has been broken for 3 months.

There is clearly a need not being met, as evinced by the fist-shaped indentations in the metal casing and the three dozen passive-aggressive notes plastered all over the machine.

Yet nobody buys a vending machine, sets it up, and watches the “passive income” roll in.

I totally would have.

But then again, I’m from the Aegean where the Seven Deadly Sins start with leaving money on the table. (Or in the vending machine, har har.)

Hey, my suggestion isn’t as ridiculous as it seems.

Did you know that’s how Warren Buffett got started?

By setting up pinball machines in barber shops.

When he was 17, he bought this old pinball machine for $25 and convinced his barber to let him put it in the waiting area in exchange for half the profits.

The idea was a huge success, bringing in $4 in its first night and thrilling the barber. After a week, Warren Buffett walked away with $25 and reinvested it into another machine.

He continued until there were seven or eight pinball machines making him money around town.

And how on earth did this idea occur to Warren Buffett?

He was getting a haircut and noticed how people waiting in line were twiddling their thumbs in boredom.

They all felt the same need.

The employee-minded sheep complained about it to the management. Warren Buffett turned it into a business opportunity.

And you know what?

I’m reminded of that story every time I see an online business owner complaining on social media about the new reality.

Facebook ads are getting harder and more expensive to run because the demand and the cost are increasing.

Guest posts are longer working (or are they?)

Podcast interviews are just not yielding returns.

Alas, as I said, I lack the wit to contribute to those heated discussions. I just don’t have it in me to extemporize a rant that rages against the traffic machine while showcasing an effortless mastery of sarcasm.

But I do have uncanny intuition.

And here are the predictions of the Oracle of Eureka:

Prediction #1:

You will see a lot of marketing gurus launching “traffic courses” in the coming months.

I bet they are having a field day reading those complaints.

Quietly watching from the shadows, furiously scribbling in their market research notebooks, capturing customer language for their sales pages.

Just you wait and see.

Prediction #2:

Most businesses will drop like dead flies left and right once Facebook ads stop working…

… while those few smart souls who “get” how online business works will start pulling ahead, by a large margin.

Personally, I *LOVE* it when things get hard.

It means all the time and effort you invested into marketing courses and your craft will now become a much greater competitive advantage.

Don’t buy into the doom and gloom. This is a great time to be an online entrepreneur.

That is… IF you have a growth mindset (i.e. you believe that any skill can be learned)...

IF you are an action taker (i.e. you go out and play instead of sit there and complain)...

IF you educate yourself on the game that is being played around you.

Natural selection has finally come to social media.

Goodbye, dinosaurs.

Prediction #3:

As traffic gets harder, your opt-in rate will be worth its weight in gold.

Not really a prediction. Just pure math.

Let’s say you spend $100 a day on ads.

That money used to get you about 1,000 visitors per day.

1 in every 10 visitors joined your email list, so you got 100 new subscribers each day.

Cost per lead = $100 ad spend / 100 subscribers = $1 / lead

But now that Facebook ads are getting much more expensive, let’s suppose your cost per lead has climbed to $5/lead.

To keep adding 100 subscribers each day, you now have three choices:

Option #1:

Spend $500 per day to get those same 1,000 visitors.

Option #2:

Optimise your ads, your targeting, your copy so you get 1,000 visitors when everyone else in your industry gets 200 visitors for each $100 spent.

Option #3:

Raise your opt-in rate to 50%.

The $100 you spend now only gets you 200 visitors (instead of 1,000 visitors).

But 5 in every 10 visitors joins your list, so you can still add 100 subscribers per day.

Unless you have a war chest of advertising gold stashed away somewhere in the garden, the only way out is Option 2 or 3.

Option 2 is haaaaaard.

Especially, if you are in a crowded industry.

For example, I’m in the online marketing space, which is notoriously competitive. All the big dogs I’m competing against have teams and teams and teams of paid traffic geniuses.

It would be a prime example of hubris to think I can beat them at their own paid traffic game.

Optimise targeting and ad copy better than their A/B testing teams can? Forget it. Not going to happen.

But why bleed, and suffer, and roll the boulder uphill, when you could push it downhill?

Why rage against the machine and post passive-aggressive rants when you can treat it as a business opportunity?

Before you rage against the traffic machine, consider this:

Option 3 gets you to the same end goal.

And it’s (comparatively) easy.

That’s where FAST50 (http://fast50optins.com/ ) comes in. It shows you how to create a buyer-catching lead magnet with 50%+ opt-in rate, so you can squeeze more profit from every ounce of traffic that lands on your site.

While everyone is complaining about the broken traffic vending machine, do the Warren Buffett thing and quietly invest in your future.