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The “PFF” problem that dupes marketers into boneheaded mistakes

If you’re a fan of football, then you probably know about Pro Football Focus, or PFF for short.

PFF is supposed to be a grading system based on a variety of key analytics, including “advanced analytics,” which is relatively new to the game of football.

And you know what?

PFF embodies the epitome of over relying on analytics—a problem that dupes marketers and copywriters everywhere into making boneheaded mistakes.


Well, oftentimes, as I’m about to show you, the analytics fly in the face of… real life.

For example:

Take TJ Watt, the edge defender for my Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite my biased opinion, TJ Watt should be the frontrunner of Defensive Player of the Year this year for one simple reason:

(I’m writing this on Week 6 of the NFL season, so that may change, but the lesson embedded inside of this email is evergreen.)

He leads the league in sacks with 8 (two more than the person behind him—and more sacks than entire teams have).

Sacks disrupt the entire other team. In fact, they’re probably the most important statistic when it comes to wrecking the opposing team’s game plan and will to win. While most team’s best player is their quarterback, for my Steelers, TJ is by far our best player.

He also has two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a touchdown on the season.

If you don’t watch football, each of these are game-changing plays that have, quite literally, resulted in the Steelers winning multiple games.

Despite this, he’s like the 10th best linebacker as ranked by PFF and their stupid advanced analytics.


I don't know the exact reason, but they overemphasize “pressures” (when you pressure the quarterback, but it doesn’t result in a sack) and seemingly ignore sacks.

But how does this apply to marketers?

Well, let’s take my bread and butter (email) for example:

Many brands overemphasize open rates and seemingly ignore sales. Or they focus too much on unsubscribes, which dupes them into sending fewer emails, which, in turn, results in fewer sales.

In other words:

PFF and marketers alike put too much emphasis on meaningless statistics than real life.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Your open rates don’t matter. Unless, of course, you’ve noticed a significant decline in your open rate trends—which could signify that your emails aren’t sending to the proper inbox, that you’re running too many damn sales, or something else that needs your attention.

Your unsubscribe rates don’t matter. Unless, of course, you’re seeing a trend of more and more unsubscribes, particularly from your customers versus leads (which, I’d argue forcing leads to unsubscribe is a good thing).

At the end of the day?

You can’t print out your open rate percentages or how few people unsubscribe from your email and cash it into the bank.

But when you make sales? And design your email strategy to focus on sales (while all but ignoring your opens and unsubscribes)?

Well, then, you can cash in your revenue to the bank.


Need help from an email marketer that will maximize your revenue and ain’t afraid of a few unsubscribes here and there?

Hit reply, and let’s chat.


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