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I am old, so I remember the Walt Kelly comic strip from the ’60s called Pogo, of which the most famous line ever was “I have met the enemy and it is us.” In Internet marketing, it is so often true that we are our own worst enemies. I was reminded of that recently when I taught one of my many classes to veteran marketers looking to understand this Internet thing. Most traditional marketers have some amount of struggle with the Do It Wrong Quickly concept, but on this occasion I ran into one who was apparently so threatened by it that nothing was going to penetrate. And my diagnosis is that the fear she was grappling with was preventing her from moving forward—that she was literally her own worst enemy. And it happens to all of us sometimes.

The woman in question was a longtime market researcher who has spent her career gathering copious amounts of data—the more the merrier—the better to inform our big decision.

Try as I might, I don’t think I convinced her that you can make decisions while you are gathering data and then make them again if the data sends you in a different way. This was all too much for her and she was absolutely rooted in place in opposition against such an idea, so much so that she refused to take part in the case study at the end of the class, because there wasn’t enough data to make a decision.

I felt sad for her, because she will have a tough time in Internet marketing, which means that each year it will be harder for her to succeed at any kind of marketing, as more and more becomes digital. In traditional marketing, it made sense to do whatever you could to make a better informed decision, because a mistake was so costly. You might blow your yearly ad budget with one wrong move, and it was extremely hard to reverse. In digital marketing, it’s exactly the opposite.

Most decisions cost almost nothing and are easy to reverse—there is almost no risk. In fact, the biggest risk is failing to do something, because when you are idle you can’t gather any execution data about your idea. It’s almost like how sharks work, where they have to keep moving in order to get oxygen. In Internet marketing, you must keep moving to breathe in your feedback data, so you know where to move next.

So, I am keeping that poor woman in my prayers, hoping that someone else can reach her where I couldn’t. She struck me as extremely intelligent, fully capable of coming up with endless reasons why she didn’t need to do this Internet thing the way I suggested, but I hope she comes around. We all need to recognize when we are sabotaging ourselves, so that we can move on again.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

6 replies to this post
  1. Sometimes, and I hate to say it this way, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, some people are so resistant to change that it ends up sabotaging them in the long run. The fear of the unknown gets the best of them and there is no changing that!

  2. You might be right, Nick, but I hope not. She was clearly extremely intelligent, so I guess I hope that someone smarter than me will persuade her to come around.

  3. Hi Mike,
    Can you suggest any tips for figuring out if one is in the process of sabotaging oneself? Or does it always take someone else to point it out?
    - Alan.

  4. That’s a good question, Alan. My suspicion is that you’d know if you wanted to know. In this case of this smart woman, she told the class during introductions that she was taking the class because she wanted to see if anything in digital marketing was real, because she thought t was all hype. So, she is this interesting combination of someone who was going to spend dozens of hours taking this class in something she believed was worthless, likely because other people keep telling her she needs to pay attention. So, despite her resistance, she is still less resistant than someone who didn’t come to the class at all, which is why I hold out some hope for her.
    I think we all must keep ourselves open to feedback from others. If you have people who are honest with you, that is where you’ll find out what you are doing that sabotages yourself.

  5. Isn’t that the truth.
    Isn’t marketing all about reinventing new ways of communicating? We’re lucky that trying a thousand different avenues isn’t so costly anymore. The more we try and fail, the more we’ll succeed and I find as resistant human beings we face a difficult challenge when approached with something new: we have this need for everything to look perfect before we try it, yet when you’re carving a new road, the fact is it’s a little messy.
    Great blog. It’s really a testament to “Just Do It!”
    And as for that lady, sometimes the ones who are most resistant are the ones who are the closest to breaking through it :). You planted the seed. She’ll come around.
    Cheers!

  6. So, in spite of her opposition, she is still less challenging than someone who didn’t come to the class at all, which is why I grasp out a number of trust for her.

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