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David Bradley of MarketBridge on big company web marketing

I’ve been writing a lot lately about how big companies and small companies might use different approaches (and have different problems) when it comes to Web marketing. I’ve noticed that some folks in small businesses seem a bit skeptical about how hard it is for big businesses to do Web marketing well. They know it is hard for them but think it’s easy for the big guys. I decided to speak to David Bradley, veteran of several large company Web efforts, to get his take. I’d worked with David years ago at IBM, and thought he’d have just the experience to shed some light on this. See if you think I was right.


David, a veteran Web marketing executive of IBM, SAP, and Corbis, is now a Senior Vice President of MarketBridge, the Web Marketing Consultancy. David firmly agrees that big companies have unique Web marketing problems not seen in smaller ones.
David believes that many big companies are stifled by their division into specialties because “The Web is not [treated as] a profession. Industrial designers get it. Web user experience does not fit into the normal org chart. Only born-on-the-Web companies have done it as a fundamental extension of their brand.” As an example, he recalls that while at Corbis, “We dealt with the same information technology and application issues, and were constantly asked, ‘Why do you need an agency?'”
This frustrated David no end, as it would anyone, who lamented “How you search for and find images on the Web was fundamental, which all [the Corbis executives] agreed with intellectually, but they never addressed it as a priority.” He also recalled that at IBM, “Every [organization] wanted to control the Web, but most didn’t ‘get it.'”
None of this is news to me, having spoken to many different medium-to-large organizations. David asserts that part of the problem is that large companies haven’t adapted as quickly as they need to: “The Web is still an oddly-shaped peg that doesn’t fit into the organizational hole, [at least] in organizations that have 20-30 year-old organizational ideas.”
David believes that you start your corporate religious conversion with an understanding of direct marketing and your business model. (I like this guy.) He told me how they did this at Corbis and at IBM:

You need a business model around unique customers and transaction types. You need transactional use cases, such as end-to-end commerce, where the Web can start the process but you close over the phone, and where you read about it on the Web and generate a lead [for an off-line sales channel].
At Corbis, we sold royalty-free images end-to-end on-line, but not royalty-bearing ones, because the photographer still owns rights to them. The Ansel Adams collection is a great example. [The rights holders] want to approve usage and negotiate pricing.
Corbis also offers rights services, such as the image of Steve McQueen or another celebrity. If you’ve ever seen the U2 video Window in the Skies—many special licenses were required. [For that kind of business,] the best you can do on-line is to create interesting stories to generate a lead.
Business models cut diagonally across your organization chart. Usage occasions don’t fit into the rows and columns of an organization chart. When ibm.com changed from a corporate Web site to being a channel business, there was contention over whether the PC Division should have its own store. [Some thought] the only thing people would buy online were PCs. It was a huge decision to have one overall commerce experience. [IBM head] Lou Gerstner looked at this and said we need to think about commerce across the whole portfolio.

David’s take on how to approach Web marketing at large companies will serve him well at MarketBridge, because this is exactly the kind of experience their large clients need. It’s so easy for a large company to just move forward under its own momentum, because it can take a long time to notice you are going in the wrong direction. You can laugh off small problems precisely because you are so big, where those early warnings would be taken far more seriously in a small company.
If you work in a big company, have you tried to steer the ocean liner in a new direction? Or are you happy to go along with the ride? If you are, you might want to take a peek at where you’re headed, because a lot of the ships need to plot a somewhat different course. If they don’t adapt to Web marketing, then you might want to be boarding a new ship.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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