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Stop overthinking your digital marketing

I had a great time speaking with the New Jersey Advertising Club yesterday. Lots of marketers full of good questions, especially questions about how to take their experience and use it in the brave new digital world. But after talking to a few people after the event, I was struck by how one of the big problems marketers have is that we are too smart for our own good, and we believe that we can think our way out of every dilemma. We can’t, and it is time that we stopped trying to.

We’re overthinking everything. Our marketing history says that advertising is risky, new campaigns are fraught with peril, and people get fired for mistakes. Unfortunately our history is not helping us in our present, where we need to try things out and experiment.

This is not an excuse for making big mistakes. Instead, it is the realization that only by trying things do we really learn what markets want. Only that way will we test whether our big well-thought-out ideas resonate with our audience.

Stop trying to anticipate everything your customer wants. Instead, just try something small–new ad copy, a new offer, a new marketing tactic–and see what happens. Don’t spend a lot of time or money at it. Don’t do it on a large scale. Don’t do it in a big way. Just try something small that no one will notice if it flops.

If it works, even a little bit, then change it to see if it can work even better. If it doesn’t work at all, then drop it for some other small idea.

Eventually, your customers will tell you what works and what doesn’t. And you can start thinking of the next thing to try instead of thinking of all the ways it could go wrong so that you can prevent any whiff of failure. Because overthinking it paralyzes action. It feels safe, but it is actually the most dangerous approach of all.

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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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