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What marketers can learn from swimmers

I do a lot of training for large companies–mostly executives trying to understand digital marketing. One thing that I notice over and over is how some of them are very willing to sit and listen to me, but are somewhat unwilling to actually try anything. At first, I just thought that it was just that they were older (but still usually younger than me) and they wanted to talk about technology more than to actually experience it. But I think it is more than that.

Digital marketing is like swimming. No matter how many books you read or courses you take, eventually you have to jump into the deep end of the pool. You can read books to learn about swimming, but you won’t develop the skill of swimming. To learn to swim, you have to actually try to swim. You have to be willing to sink a few times before you get it right.

Too many folks are afraid of the water.

To learn digital marketing, you need to be willing to actually try digital marketing. You need to be willing to make mistakes. You need to be willing to sink a few times.

With swimming, it makes sense that it was a little scary. If you don’t have anyone helping you, you could drown. The risks are considerably lower in digital marketing, but you take the same approach. Just as you wouldn’t take a huge risk by learning to swim alone in the ocean, you shouldn’t start digital marketing by spending a huge amount of money on an untested idea.

But you have to try something, even if it is small. If not, you might learn about digital marketing, but you won’t learn the skill of digital marketing.

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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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