We Only Need 5% To Say Yes

Comments 15


I work in a cubicle and I’m 35 and my life is always going to feel a little crappy and disappointing unless I do something about it.

Going to bed every night and doing the same thing each day is NOT a viable strategy for improving your life. We wait for things to change. But they rarely do.

Before you know it, it’s too late and you’re old and you can’t afford to live until you’re 85 anyway, so maybe it would be better to just die because at least that would be affordable.


Just maybe there’s an opportunity to play a leading role in making our lives what we want them to be.

Being 35 sometimes scares me because I feel like I’ve lost so much time, but it’s also not without its perks.

Remember Bill Murray’s Phil Connors character in Groundhog Day?

“Maybe the real God uses tricks, you know? Maybe he’s not omnipotent. He’s just been around so long, he knows everything.”

There’s an important truth there about life experience that you can’t fully appreciate until you feel it.

I don’t know when it happened. And it had nothing to do with my chronological age.

But at some point, I recently concluded: I’m not a kid anymore. I’m good at a few things. I’m capable, and I need to do something.

When I lost my job on Jan. 1, 2010, I knew my newspaper career was over.

The recession had slaughtered newsrooms everywhere. When no one’s making money, no one’s advertising. When no one’s advertising, news organizations are making less money.

That, combined with the breakneck speed with which the internet has grown as everyone’s primary news source, sealed print journalism’s fate.

The news business will never be what it used to be.

I needed to reinvent myself.

And I’ve never done particularly well with change.

Because of people I knew through my wife, I got some seed projects to get started as a freelance writer. And just like that, I became a guy who wrote marketing copy for websites and stuff.

I’m not shitty.

But there are limitations to what you can do when your primary discipline is writing. I was never going to be able to provide the comprehensive services people need from their internet marketing agencies, consultants, or in-house departments.

And frankly? I’m just not responsible and disciplined enough to handle all of the administrative aspects of business operation on my own. It’s because I’m a large child.

My business was never going to blossom into something more on the merits of my writing projects.

Damn. I need to get a job, I realized.

And I did.

I was offered a pretty good job writing website copy and blog content for two top-1% (by global traffic) sites. I also write email copy. The kind you get from Kohl’s or Groupon or Walmart or Victoria’s Secret.

We send lots and lots of email to customers.

We get an enormous amount of traffic from Google and other search engines and social media networks.

And you know how many of those people buy something? Single-digit percentages.

Sometimes less than 1%. Sometimes closer to 10%.

Let’s split the difference and call it 5%.

That means that for every 100 people that interacts with something I write—a blog post or retail email or an individual part page on a website where something is for sale, only a super-small fraction (maybe 5, at most!) ever buy anything.

We call it the “conversion rate.”

And guess what? In my line of work, a 5% conversion rate is fairly awesome.

Is There a Point?

A couple friends and I are talking about taking the skills we’ve developed in marketing and trying to build something from it.

A business of our own.

There are a virtually infinite amount of small businesses out there who do a subpar job marketing themselves on the web. We can make them more money. We know it. And better yet? We can prove it. Because almost everything is measurable on the web.

It will be a side project at first.

And God-willing, it will grow into something meaningful. Only time will tell.

But here’s the mindset I want to have, and I think it applies to most facets of my life.

In business, as in life, we’re going to hear “No” a lot. It’s probably going to feel too often.

Rejection hurts. And we get discouraged.

Based on the math I see, 95% of everyone who sees my stuff doesn’t do what I want them to.

That’s 95% rejection!!!

And without context that might feel like a lot.

But I do have context. You can change the world with a 5% response rate.

If 5% are going to do what we want to, then we only need to increase the amount of people we’re communicating with to grow. If 5% out of every hundred businesses we pitch say yes, we have five new clients.

Work twice as hard, we’ll have 10. And so on.

The conclusion? Success is a virtual certainty IF only you’re brave enough to ask enough people to let you help them, and then deliver good work.

We can hear “No” and feel the pains and discouragement of rejection 95 out of 100 times, and still win.

It may end up nothing. Or it may change everything.

No matter what, it’s another opportunity to choose ourselves and control our own destinies.

And there aren’t many things in life better than that.

15 thoughts on “We Only Need 5% To Say Yes”

  1. And even better news? It’s only going to sting the first few times you hear “no”. After that, rejection becomes more tolerable. It’s in the bag! 😉

    1. Ha!

      Even with some semi-recent self-confidence issues, I’m pretty sure I’d never be happy about a 5% response rate in that department. 🙂

      1. 🙂 I just got tickled thinking about when I used to bartend…and I’d watch guys “play the percentages.” Now that I’m *cough* older and wiser, I understand it better! (And I completely agree…I think I’d be unhappy with 5% in that department, too.)

  2. I love the hope that I feel after reading these posts of yours.
    Though this one primarily deals with the work/career component of life… to me, it builds on the whole ‘anything is possible’ idea which can be applied to any part of life, neh?
    Somehow, you always manage to create so much inspiration with words alone and always remind me that no matter what’s happened, what we may have left behind… there’s still so much to look forward to, even when it may not seem like it.
    Wow – it’s more than clear you are in the right business and are definitely using to best advantage what God gave you. Thanks for posting, Matt.

    1. Yes, it absolutely applies to everything and I’d do wise to keep it in mind. Makes my day that things I write sometimes make you feel hopeful. Means a lot to me. Hope you’re well, Jade. Thank you for this note.

  3. You feel 35 is something to wonder about?…you’re still a teenager with the whole world in front of you. I had a internet shop two years ago, selling ceramic. And I would have loved selling 5%. It was excatly as you write…many visitors, but very few really bought something. Good Luck!

    1. Thank you! I know I still have a lot of time left. But when youre a world-class procrastinator like me, it’s best to keep the mindset that you don’t have a lot of time. You know, so you actually do something. 🙂

  4. Totally inspiring reminder. It’s one of the things I wish 21-year-old me understood. And it’s something I told a group of high school artists last week. “When you get rejected, smile, shake their hand and continue moving forward. You NEED all those rejections to finally get to that one opportunity that’s going to say yes.”

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Matt Fray

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