Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Somewhere in the packaged goods hall of fame there’s a plaque to the executive who found out how to double his company’s shampoo sales by adding a single word to the package. Up to that point, the instructions for using said shampoo were straightforward to the point of parody: Lather. Rinse. Our erstwhile marketing genius suggested that adding the word Repeat to the formula would get customers to use up the bottle twice as fast.

Damn! Marketing was so simple then.

It makes me wonder, though, why the overwhelming majority of the proposals and ideas and RFP responses we crank out never even suggest the concept of Repeat. We build every program and concept to happen exactly once. There’s never even a suggestion of year two or how we’ll reinvest the data and do it again.

Have we so internalized the campaign nature of advertising that we just can’t imagine continuous business? Or is the revolving door of talent at agencies and the constant reshuffling of agencies by clients to blame? Hard to say for sure, but if we’re not designing and asking for the second iteration or the second year, then we are making the bed that we’ll sleep in… exactly once.

When I lead sales workshops, I challenge teams to diagnose a potential client problem or issue and then prescribe a solution to the client using a single sheet of paper: show them graphically how you would arrange your products and capabilities to solve the problem. Sometimes these charts look like funnels or customer journeys or timelines. But almost without exception, there’s never an arrow or loop that suggests what happens next.

Can the data gathered or profiles developed be put back into the system for even more success? How does the program you’re developing learn and get smarter as it runs? We don’t know – and they certainly don’t – because we never ask or suggest such a thing.

Multiple times a week I hear from ad technology, audience and data companies who all seem to be running toward some kind of SaaS (Software as a Service) model. I know there are a lot of legitimate reasons to package and price their products this way. But I also wonder if they aren’t motivated by the staggering cost of replacing business every year. When you start each year with a base of zero, locking your customers into long term contracts must seem quite appealing.

One more thing to consider. If you haven’t thought through how your products will help the client in year two, why would they ever buy them in year one?