The Internet: The thing that ate marketing?

Sometimes I think that traditional offline marketers look at the Internet like the title character of some monster movie–the Internet is the thing that ate marketing. It doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, things are changing for those of us that have worked in marketing for some time, but it doesn’t mean that everything you know is wrong. Internet marketing is still marketing, and what you know is still true. You just need to apply what you know to a different situation than before. Sometimes I wonder whether it is we experts that bring these fears about, starting with how we portray the changes that the Internet has brought to marketing.

I was reminded of this when I spoke at the Marketing Executives Networking Group meeting in New York City on Monday evening. (Follow the link to download the slides on “How the Internet Is Changing Marketing.”) The room was about evenly split between marketers who had made the transition to Internet marketing and those who had not. Luckily, I was able to spend enough time with the audience that I was able to address the needs of both groups in the audience, but I was especially struck by what a disservice some of us so-called experts do to marketers struggling to adapt to the Internet.

Often we show up dressed all in black, so that everyone knows we are the cool ones, and we passionately explain to these poor dinosaurs that the world has passed them by. That everything they know is now over. That this is a mind-boggling change that sweeps out the old for something new and different.

And that’s just a load of crap.

It might make us experts feel self-important and cutting edge and oh-so superior, but it just isn’t true. Internet marketing is still marketing. The difference is how you do it.

Now if you want to tell people that doing keyword research for search marketing is breathtakingly new, go ahead, but it’s really just a new way to do market segmentation. If it makes you feel smart to tell people that viral marketing is like nothing anyone’s ever seen, fine, but it’s just word of mouth marketing on steroids. If it’s important to you to describe social media as though it’s never been done before, great, but I know a lot of PR people who have helped me immensely with what they know. And if you think Web analytics is the biggest change ever come over marketing, I bet you don’t hang out with too many direct mail marketers.

The truth is that all of us experts would be wise to learn about all the marketing, public relations, market research, and sales techniques that have already been done. That way, we could explain the new stuff as variations on the old whenever possible, so that we’d help the people trying to adapt instead of scaring them into the fetal position.

And maybe we’d also realize that we experts don’t know everything, either. It’s rare that I work with traditional marketers when I don’t learn something more about their craft that I can apply to Internet marketing. I’d rather understand more and be able to explain it better than frighten people with apocalyptic visions of the brave new marketing world.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a 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 served 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 was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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