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Don’t admit that you are old in digital marketing

With a new year dawning and 2016 in the rear view mirror, I am recalling a recent article that explained that “no one in tech will admit they are old.” Well, I constantly joke that I am old, which this article seemingly marks as idiotic behavior. I’m 58 years old, which maybe doesn’t rate as old these days, but it certainly rates as old in the technology world—and the digital marketing world. The article explains that there is rampant age discrimination because younger people don’t believe that people my age know anything about technology.

I don’t care. My last job at IBM was Distinguished Engineer—geez, even the word distinguished means old, doesn’t it? And I left that job in 2008, so I am even older now.

I often joke from the stage that I am old, to make points about things that make me feel old. (Yes, Pokemon Go, I am looking at you.) I don’t claim to understand everything that younger folks know about digital marketing technology. It’s just that I don’t think I need to know everything. I think what I do know is plenty to be useful to people young and old.

But I have been the target of three (count ’em, three!) well-meaning people who have taken me aside after a speech and told me point-blank, “Stop saying you’re old. No one wants to hire an old guy for digital marketing consulting or for technology projects—and that’s your line of work. Those ‘I’m old’ jokes are hurting you.”

I don’t care. I continuously use self-deprecating humor in my talks—mostly because my shortcomings provide a never-ending source of material—and I because actually like to play against type. I have the confidence that I can hold my own with anyone in my areas of expertise. And if youngsters can outdo me on Facebook, that’s cool. I can learn from them. But maybe they can learn from me on text analytics, machine learning, and data analytics to fuel content marketing.

And companies that have endless problems delivering technology projects might learn from me about how to bring the projects home when they stop trying to project manage them like they are erecting an office building. Maybe my agile approach to technology development is still worth something, even if I have gray hair.

To me, it is about competence, confidence, and candor. I know what I am good at and I don’t hide that. I also know what I don’t know—and I seek help when it’s needed. I don’t pretend to know everything about everything because I am old enough to know that you don’t need to. You just need to know enough about something.

For example, what I know about Pinterest fits snugly in a thimble. But I am not too old to learn enough about Pinterest if a client needs my help with it as part of a larger digital marketing project. And I would happily add a Pinterest expert to my consulting team for a project where that expertise was critically important.

So, yes, I am old. At least old for tech—and digital marketing. If that makes you not want to hire me, that’s okay, because I wouldn’t want to work with you if you make decisions based on people’s appearances rather than the value of their advice. Instead, I’ll work with your competitor to put you out of business. Because having the last laugh never gets old.

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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, 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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Discussion

  1. Avatar Matt LaClear

    Good stuff, Mike. Being an older guy myself in the SEO industry I think I’m in the same boat you are. There are boatloads of younger competitors in our market. But the only numbers that matters to our clients is their ROI. Everything else is moot. I’m sure the same goes for your own clients. Keep on being real, and thanks for sharing.

    1. Avatar Mike Moran

      Thanks for the kind words, Matt. You’re right that money is a language that never seems to get old.

  2. Avatar Monique de Maio

    Mike: I love this post! as a marketer just a few years “younger” than you, I can totally relate and certainly agree. The point is that we can all learn from one another–at any and every age. I would also submit that the term “digital marketing” is on its way out–everything is more or less digital today; it’s all about marketing–with analytics, data and intelligence. And that, never goes out of style.

    1. Avatar Mike Moran

      Thanks, Monique. Definitely data-driven decision systems can be set up and operated by anyone at any age. But surely you are MUCH younger than me!

  3. Avatar Doug Spak

    Love this article Mike. I’m 59 and have a content marketing company. I’m not even sure I know what content is, which isn’t a big problem because nobody else does either. Here’s the way I look at the age thing: what we may lack in digital marketing sophistication, we more than make up for in distinguished good looks and something other cultures value-wisdom. Well, at least I keep telling myself I have wisdom.Thanks for writing this.

  4. Avatar Mike Moran

    Thanks for the feedback, Doug. So many times people make decisions based on appearances and overlook some resources that could really help them.

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