‘Putting Lipstick on a Pig’ remains a rhetorical term generally used in reference to someone who’s trying to make cosmetic or superficial changes to something or someone that clearly doesn’t deceive anyone. How can anyone claim this as a successful project on their CV? I can.
Back in 2009, AdTrader was a magazine with a website.
AutoTrader – and all of its sister titles – were set to be 100% digital in the near future. Sadly, AdTrader magazine sales were in decline and the website analytics were in freefall.
Accordingly, I was hired to return the title to growth and profitability and for the teams involved, to provide some stability.
Soon, AdTrader became a website with a magazine.
And, within a year – it was profitable once again.
Unquestionably, a great team effort by all concerned over the tail-end of 2009, into 2010 and beyond.
Lipstick on a pig
While sitting in the Madejski Stadium one evening, the successful mission was summarised well by one of my colleagues as ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ hence the title.
Chiefly, this was a FREE ads proposition with a new ‘penny gap’ upsell approach.
We were not trying to deceive or mislead anyone. Just, turn around the fortunes of a much-loved and respected publishing title.
Executing the 30, 60 and 90 day plans
Explicitly, a 30/60/90-day plan is designed to help new hires focus on the 3 elements: people, process, and product however it also provides an outline of the prioritised areas of emphasis in the first 30 60 90 days.
As you begin to write such a plan, you should ask yourself: What changes would you make and how would you go about your new role in the first ninety days? This will help you create a solid plan that will impress hiring managers.
Do we need a whole new product strategy? Yes, we did.
Will we need an updated product staircase? Yes, we did.
Think we’ll need to revise the digital & magazine pricing structure? Yes, we did.
Create a new multi-media sales package. Yes, we did.
Overhaul the Ad placement process online. Yes, we did.
Introduce a new Content Management System (CMS). Yes, we did.
Devising an SEO strategy was the envy of AutoTrader itself. Yes, we did.
Instil a Paid Ads campaign to support the growth of organic traffic. Yes, we did.
Produce some new Radio Ads. Yes, we did.
Orchestrate plenty of Local Giveaways. Yes, we did.
Develop a trade marketing plan that delivered results. Yes, we did.
Rework all of the magazine filler to help drive online migration. Yes, we did.
Championed the use of Google AdSense to drive additional revenues. Yes, we did.
We signed other new revenue partnership agreements. Yes, we did.
Make some awesome hires. Yes, we did.
Surround yourself with great people. Yes, we did.
I did however make a few mistakes.
That’s for another day.
Why use a 306090 plan?
As shared during the interview process, the 306090 plan should detail everything you want to achieve in your first three months of employment and the SMART goals to facilitate this. If done correctly, this plan will help make a good first impression, for it shows your employer or recruiter that you are motivated, dedicated and have taken the time to learn about the company.
If it quacks like a duck
You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. A profitable pig, that’s back in profit.
Giving away things for free eats at your bottom line. Basically, AutoTrader knew that.
However, giving ads away for FREE had very little effect on growing a PAID customer base of AdTrader or AutoTrader. Chiefly, we all used the word ‘FREE’ with caution!
Good customers generally look for good service and are willing to pay a reasonable amount for it. That was and continues to be, AutoTrader.
For me, it was finding a balance between derivative products, platform upgrades, and breakthrough innovation. We knew that self-cannibalisation occurs at different levels.
We replaced both replacing existing products and platforms with incrementally better ones and then, replaced them with something completely different. Other companies have found the latter more challenging, but the best companies pursue both.
I was empowered to develop unique business models and launch derivative products to best serve our unique segments; and in the process, disrupted and competed with AutoTrader itself.
Something that we all knew and, relished.
Given the strategic direction of the AutoTrader business at that time, the closure of its free classified proposition ‘ADTRADER’ in 2013 was inevitable as AutoTrader became, even more, laser-focused on its core efforts.