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In digital marketing, sometimes the enemy is us

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

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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