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Every company is normal until you get to know them

Today is my first big client meeting as the high-fallutin’ Chief Strategist at Converseon. The meeting is with a big company that they’ve worked with for years and hope to do even more with in the future. Like any big company, it takes time for them to make decisions—IBM was always that way when I worked for them. And lots of smaller companies like to sit around and complain about how slow and disorganized large companies seem to be. But I think the real problem is one of expectations. We all expect that big companies know what they are doing—I mean, that’s how they got so big, right? But the truth is that they are stumbling along just like everyone else.
corporate headquarters

There’s a great book called Everyone is Normal Until You Get to Know Them, and we need to think the same way about companies. From the outside, those name-brand companies seem like they must be efficient and smart (and in many ways they are), but they have problems just like everyone else. Look at any company long enough and closely enough and you’ll see all sorts of weird things they do.
Remember, no big company ever got to be where they are by doing things the way they do them now. (That’s an old saying I just made up.)
From my time at IBM, I realized that there are many advantages from being big, but many disadvantages, too. For example, it can take a very long time to get everyone mobilized around a change, but once you get over the hump, you have huge leverage to make things happen. I remember that it took almost six months to even get started with search marketing at, but a year into the project it was worth tens of millions in added revenue.
I think that people in small companies enjoy hearing that big companies are clueless. I mean, all companies are clueless sometimes, but we pass along the stories of big company dopiness because it’s more entertaining. And the fact that people will make fun of their mistakes is one of the things that makes it braver for people at big companies to try the big experiment. I tell people to Do It Wrong Quickly, but at big companies, many people are afraid to ever make a mistake, because people will talk about it.
So, if you are working in a big company, or with a big company, give them a break. Don’t expect that they will have it together just because they are big. Big companies have just as much trouble to adjust to Internet marketing as small ones do. In fact. the adjustment is harder for big companies because their past success gives them so much more to lose.
We all need to take the brave step of moving past the past. If you work for a big company, it’s a bigger step and a step more fraught with risk than for smaller companies. And how come nothing is ever fraught with anything good, anyway? Maybe this whole Internet marketing thing needs to be considered a “fraught exercise.” Every action is fraught with danger, but the only way to success is to try as many of those actions as possible. Keep trying and some things will start to work. Even in a big company.


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,, most recently as the Manager of 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 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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