By Bradley Honan, CEO

In short: boil it down!

My family and I recently returned from spring vacation where among other things, my kids and I made maple syrup from some trees in my mother’s yard.  As we did this, I was struck by the critical lessons that maple syruping could teach us marketers!

For those of you unfamiliar with the process of making maple syrup, here is a quick overview:

As springtime approaches, trees begin transferring the sap they have stored all winter in their roots up to their trunks and branches in anticipation of building their leaves.  The sap – with nutrient rich (and delicious!) sugars – is vital to the system of photosynthesis – turning the sun’s rays into energy.  While almost all trees move sap up from their roots during springtime, the sap of the Sugar Maple tree (Acer saccharum) is particularly sweet – it has the highest sugar content of any tree.

But Mother Nature diluted the sugar content in sap considerably.  Even the sap of the Sugar Maple is only about 1.5% sugar – meaning what flows out of the trees is only somewhat sweet – nowhere near what you ultimately put on your pancakes, waffles, or ice cream.

So while the process of making maple syrup isn’t difficult– the process is indeed long and arduous.  You need to boil down, distill, and concentrate the sugar content from about 1.5% to about 66%.  And that means you spend a great deal of time boiling away and discarding a great deal of unsweet sap water.

The actual numbers may surprise you: 40 gallons of sap water needs to be boiled off and evaporated for every single gallon of syrup you make – that’s right a 40:1 ratio of discarded water to delicious, golden syrup.  Hard work!


So as my family and I were making some great tasting syrup, I kept being reminded about some of the most important marketing challenge that we face today.

Down with Data Dumps:  I see lots and lots of data presented most of which are “data dumps” where the key points haven’t been distilled down/ boiled down to their essence.  Less is more.  As a pretty sophisticated consumer and analyst of data I find reviewing these to be a real slog – hard to get through and difficult at best to interpret.  I can only imagine how less data savvy clients make sense of these reports that have in some cases they have paid tens and tens of thousands of dollars for.

Within this Data Dump reality are three sub-points:

1)    The Wrong Data Rules: I see far too much of the wrong data presented and not nearly enough of the right kind of data.  That’s like tapping a pine tree and hoping for sweet sap and syrup – it just isn’t going to happen.

2)    No Clear Objectives: In analyzing and synthesizing data there should be no other mission that understanding what, if any, steps should be taken as a result.  The best data informs you or help you figure out how to act, react, or think differently.  If it isn’t or doesn’t, it’s not valuable.  If you are not boiling sap to make syrup, you are just boiling water!

3)    Zero Link to ROI:  Marketing services are retained for a single reason – to help our clients further monetize their business opportunity.  It’s not about celebrating creativity.  It’s not about better navigating pitfalls.  Your data, insight, and strategy needs to focus like a laser beam on the business opportunity – how do you improve your client’s condition.  People don’t want to buy unsweetened sap, they want refined maple syrup!

Boil it down!