You Can’t Handle a Two-Week Spike in Website Traffic!

A lesson in marketing resilience from A Few Good Men

Controlling perfectionists are impossible to please.

And the mistake we make is fooling ourselves into thinking that, if we just try hard enough, our marketing work will win their approval.

But that’s not how these people operate. There’s no winning with them. It’s not personal, they’re just not a fan of anyone’s work. There will always something to criticize, some aspect of the task that everyone else isn’t doing right.

I once had a marketing director who repeated the exact same conversation every single week. At our regular meetings, I’d share the numbers on company growth through the lens of web traffic.

Month over month, we were trending upward significantly. The number of users was double what it was six months ago, and ten times what it was a year ago.

But that still wasn’t enough. Whatever efforts I did to increase web traffic, he disregarded the wins and immediately followed up with the same pressing questions.

That’s great, but what can we do to go viral? How are we going to get huge spikes in traffic? What’s our plan for getting our content into the hands of influential people?

Each week, I’d test a different response.

  • One time I shared a detailed marketing distribution plan.
  • Another time I highlighted in detail which campaigns were performing well.
  • Another time I shared my research on how expensive and time consuming it would be to dramatically increase our reach with influencers.
  • Once I gave him a progress report on several of the new activation programs we were working on.
  • Another time I proved to him that for brands posting content that went viral, their websites didn’t see any long term increase in traffic before the content was posted versus after, and that virality has a window of about two weeks before the brand receives virtually the same amount of attention that they received before going viral.

But nothing ever satisfied his insane demands. It still wasn’t enough.

He said the marketing team had to do more.

I swear to you, the richest man in the world could have retweeted our last five blog posts, and he still would have shrugged them off and said, “Yeah, that’s great, but we need to get a retweet from the President of the United States in order to reach our revenue goals.”

Have you ever worked a personality like this in your marketing career?

It’s deeply demoralizing. You can’t help but feel rejected, drained and criticized after talking to them.

Because it’s not like they’re trying to help you become the best version of yourself. They’re just overly critical.

Now, for compassion’s sake, it’s possible the controlling perfectionist has their own overly demanding boss looming over them. It may be their personality, but it may also be the pressure from their manager, and they’re simply transferring that anxiety to us.

Which doesn’t make all of their unreasonable demands any easier to meet, but at least it reminds us that it’s not personal.

My friend is a family therapist, and her recommendation for dealing with this personality is to step into the role of being the calm, adult observer, instead of being the hurt, criticized adult child.

Rather than getting defensive, we simply notice what’s happening. In the air, in our bodies, and so on.

This is a subtle shift, but it improves our experience. If we learn to predict people’s behavioral patterns, then they can become less problematic. If we can come prepared to meetings with evidence to support their inevitable objections, then all we have to do is point here, then point there, then point here, to show people that real progress is being made.

Personally, since my manager is prone to fault finding at every turn, I like to think of myself as the lead attorney’s assistant council. To quote Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men:

Poker faces. Don’t flinch in front of the jury. Something doesn’t go our way, we don’t hang our heads, don’t shift in our seat and don’t scribble furiously. Whatever happens, we have to look like it’s exactly what we knew was going to happen. And when we pass people documents, do it swiftly, but don’t look overanxious.

Look, controlling individuals are all the same in that they don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t see the big picture like they do.

To which we say, fine. Let them have their precious little vision. Let them be right.

We just keep our internal monologue on repeat. Reminding ourselves that we’re a welcome presence who brings value everywhere we go. We know that our contributions are undeniable. And we remember that if everyone else at the organization is raving about the great work we’re doing, but there’s still one overachieving psychopath who finds fault in everything, that’s his problem.

Look at the scoreboard, mate.

In conclusion, I’d like to say, if only to reiterate to myself, that controlling people rarely change. Even if they do, it ain’t gonna be because you stood up to them during meeting or bought them a book management.

The only true solution for dealing with a hypercritical person is to accept them for who they are, and learn how to change your reaction to them. That’s the only thing you can control.

And in fact, if you treat it like a simulation, it’s actually kind of fun. You can test out different words, nonverbal cues and strategies to see how controlling people react to you.

Knowing full well that you’re never going to change them anyway, and they’re just going to keep on doing whatever they’re gonna do, you may as well enjoy the spectacle of trying to throwing them off their game.

If their intensity is the control in this experiment, then make yourself the variable.

Since there’s no winning with these people, why not find a way to enjoy the game?

Ironically, doing that might actually go viral.

Enjoy your two week spike in website traffic.

When a controlling person makes you rejected, drained and criticized, what story can you tell yourself to rise above that?



Looking out for our fellow over-40 biz owners by providing practical, time-tested digital marketing tips and strategies.

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Author. Speaker. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. CEO/Founder of Pioneer of Personal Creativity Management (PCM). I also wear a nametag 24/7.