I’ll have what she’s having is not a marketing strategy

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Jessie Tracy

29. 05. 2013 | 5 min read

I’ll have what she’s having is not a marketing strategy

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There is a regular conversation that happens about 12:25 in Velocity HQ which goes a bit like this:

Jessie: What are you having for lunch?

Neil: I’m going to the deli to see what’s there.

Jessie: Hmm. I think I’ll just go get something from the supermarket.

Neil: Ok, see you in a bit.

* approximately 20 minutes later *

Neil: This frittata/ruben/broccoli salad/vegetable pie/spicy tomato soup is amazing.

Jessie: My sandwich is terrible. I should have gone to the deli.

Neil: You should have. This (fill in food stuff from list above) is life-affirming good.

Jessie: I hate you and your good decision making skills.

Reasons I don’t go to the deli automatically:

  1. The deli is more expensive than most lunch places
  2. Most things are made-to-order so it takes longer than walking to a store with pre-made sandwiches

I somehow think that spending less time and money will deliver me the same positive experiences that Neil seems to have. And it doesn’t.

There is a general understanding that if we look at what our competitors, industry influencers and peers are doing then we can mimic the strategy/platform usage/whatever, adopt it for our messages and brand and have a successful ride as we already see it works.

Except our marketing budgets, timings, resources, knowledge base and skill sets differ from the people we are copying. It’s unlikely we know for certain what their arsenal contains. It’s automatically flawed to think if we apply our own marketing toolkit to a strategy/platform/whatever then we should have similar (if not better because obviously we’re us and they’re them) results.

The famous “I’ll have what she’s having” moment in When Harry Met Sally is indicative of our desire to cut to the chase, copy what we see is working for someone else and expect the same results.

If you apparently get that much joy out of a pastrami sandwich, we assume you’re onto a good thing.

I know you aren’t going to fall for that because you are a clever and experienced marketer but I decided to do a social experiment of my own.

I briefly adopted a policy of copying Neil (this is a real story) in a series of decisions to see if I got the same positive outcomes.

I wrote a post a while back about measurement and which KPIs are worth benchmarking against industry standards and which ones need to be evaluated simply against what worked for you previously.

Disregarding my own advice, I didn’t bother measuring my success prior to this experience in any quantitative or qualitative way and just charged ahead.


Here is a rough report:

Hypothesis/Campaign Strategy: Adopt a “What would Neil do?” approach when faced with decisions.

Objective: Sustain increased positive results in three key areas:

  • Lunch decisions
  • Fitness (Neil has just founded the Velocity Running Cycling and Swimming Club which makes this a relevant KPI)
  • Project management

Results by key area:

Metric A: Lunch

Great success as I could apply exactly the same amount of energy and budget as Neil, even saying “I’ll have what he’s having” at times and have a great result. Lunch is a highlight, not a disappointment. And I have some great banter with the deli staff now. A win.

Metric B: Fitness

I started introducing a 2 mile walk into my daily commute and so far it’s been ok but only on nice days (if you’re in London you know these are not common for us this season), days when I’m not super busy and days when I feel like it. I’d say it’s a 40% success rate.

Metric C: Project management

Absolute failure. I feel completely unable to get through a day without a series of lists and sub-lists and generally I want to go into the recovery position if I can’t have the satisfaction of crossing something off those lists. Neil doesn’t feel wholly dependent on lists and I haven’t been able to feel any satisfaction from this mindset. In fact, I think I’ve developed a short-term nervous twitch.


Ultimately I’m going to continue to copy Neil’s lunches because adopting his spending and time investment in this area has been successful. My ambition to copy him has failed because I don’t have the same resources available, namely the enthusiasm to sustain regular exercise or a casual relationship with lists.



Even if the competition is having great success from their Twitter/Instagram/Facebook über-social-strategy there are many factors that are making that campaign a success that need to be examined.

Perhaps it was a year in the making and they changed social platforms every 2 months before they settled on the one they went for.

Maybe they hired a team of people simply to research and then hired a separate team for implementation with a third team for reporting and optimisation. And when I say team I don’t mean pulling Jane from product marketing, John from PR and Dylan your marketing automation support to look after a bit of social media. I mean an army of worker-bees who buzz around living and breathing nothing but this project.

Or more realistically they threw quite a lot of money at an agency to do all of these things.

There is still a need for industry benchmarks when it comes to measurements like CTR from emails and online banners. Simple metrics that are easy to compare. But for more complex programmes, compare your success against your previous campaigns’ results and don’t rely solely on comparing your own success/lunchtime happiness to your peers. There are just too many variables to know what their tipping point was.

If someone is totally nailing it, see if there are elements that are adaptable as part of your own strategy. But there is no reason to be sad when you don’t get the same delirium from pastrami as your table-neighbour.



NB: The working title of this post was “Why I failed in my endeavour to copy Neil Stoneman.” He didn’t believe me so I put it in writing to make it more believable.

Published in:

  • b2b-marketing-analytics

  • b2b-social-media

  • marketing

  • persuasion

  • web-analytics

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