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What does “Do It Wrong Quickly” really mean?

I was privileged to keynote the Webdagene event here in Norway this morning, and they requested that I talk about “Do It Wrong Quickly Marketing” (link to slides), which I was happy to do. If you haven’t read my book (I assume that’s most of you), you might not be seduced by the idea of doing anything wrong. And I have noticed over the last few months that there are more and more critics of this “fail fast” idea, who are starting to talk about a “cult of failure.” Now, I am sure that there are folks who are embracing failure to take off the pressure or to be unaccountable or for other weird reasons. But that’s not me. (I swear.)

The title of my book, “Do It Wrong Quickly” was supposed to be a joke–the kind of New York sarcasm that gets you to think differently. If you’re anything like me, you don’t need anyone to coach you in how to do things wrong. I am great at that with no help at all.

But what I noticed is that many people were paralyzed by the fear of doing things wrong.

Instead of trying things and learning from them, they wanted to investigate and study and seek advice and fifteen other things that all serve to delay doing something. They wanted to make sure they were doing it right. But my whole point is that waiting to do it right is itself often wrong.

Ship in Oslo harbour
Image via Wikipedia

And my book is also about marketing. Digital marketing. I don’t advocate “do it wrong quickly” aerospace. (You can be on that first flight, thank you very much.) This is marketing, not NASA.

Traditional marketing had lots of risk. It cost lots of money, it was hard to change, and you needed to commit most of your budget before you knew how well it was working. Digital marketing is nothing like that, so you need to adjust.

It is not that you are trying to do things wrong. You are just accepting that most first tries in marketing are wrong. They aren’t the best. They can be improved.

That’s where the “quickly” part comes in. If you know how to keep score–which metrics are the ones that tell a success from a flop–then you can quickly adjust and try something else. That’s what digital marketing allows–no, demands. With Internet marketing, you have to be willing for your original idea to be wrong and quickly go to Plan B, Plan C–all the way to Plan Z–until you get it right. Or you abandon it and try something else completely.

That’s not embracing failure. It is accepting that initial failure is the fastest way to learning what works.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet 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, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. 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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  1. Avatar Jennifer Smith

    I have found doing it wrong quickly is the means to an end of success. If I had not gotten our website up and running in fair condition it would still not be done for fear of doing it wrong. Now it is in very good condition. Doing it wrong quickly embraces the PROCESS of getting it right. It is like getting the green light to do things imperfectly. That’s empowering! I’m still learning, making mistakes and moving forward at a pace I never dreamed possible.

  2. Avatar Andria Bolandres

    If you keep on doing wrong quickly you will also learned quickly. Learning by experience is the key to success…

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