Archimedes (287 – 212 BC), born in Syracuse, was one of the greatest mathematicians and inventors of the ancient world. But little did he think he’d also made a major contribution to modern digital marketing.

One of his famous inventions was the “Archimedes Screw”. A device to lift water from a lower to a higher channel (see picture). But as well as lifting water, it gives us an insight into what we are looking for from our marketing engine. Rather than thinking about moving water from one place to another, let’s use it as an analogy for moving a prospect to being a client.

The screw needs motive force to turn the handle. That’s our marketing budget. The beauty of Archimedes idea was that a relatively small amount of force could shift a large amount of water. It had gearing. Converting modest force into lifting lots of water. That’s our strategy. Using our budget to get the best bang for our buck. Targeting the right people in the right way with the right message. Fishing where the fish are. Using the right bait. You get the idea.

The second element of the Screw is it permits and acknowledges inefficiency. It leaks all over the place. BUT the key thing is that enough water comes out the top to fuel the engine – its worth the effort. That’s our conversion funnel. You only care if you get enough sales out of your engine, so don’t worry so much about the one’s you lose on the way. It’s inevitable. Indeed in marketing, maybe it’s a good thing – some of those lost prospects might have been a big waste of time! A great marketing engine gives you a good ROI regardless, so you can keep turning the handle (putting in budget) indefinitely .

Interestingly, an Archemides screw can work in reverse. So, if you force water down the tube, it will turn the screw. Stretching the analogy a bit, this is a bit like organic referrals. Clients experiencing your product tell other people and push more prospects into your funnel (your pipeline).


Two things to note from this analogy, then:

  • Work out how to gear up your budget to sweat every pound harder
  • Don’t worry about leakage, its OK. Focus on what you get out, not what you lose.

Thank you Archo, old chap.


PS before you write in, I do know it’s historically unrealistic to credit the idea to Archimedes, but everyone else does….

Roger Jackson

CEO of ShopperIntelligence and Founder of SenseCheck