The more time I spend doing marketing things on the Internet, the more I come to appreciate the tactile nature of traditional things like direct and email marketing, business networking, and inviting people for coffee.
Sometimes, in slightly darker moments, I feel as if we are being hoodwinked by people who aren’t necessarily smarter than us, but are quite adept at blinding folks with Internet science. and driving there Ferraris just a little bit faster than us. And because we don’t really know, in depth, the nuts and bolts of how this all works, we tend to believe them when they profess to be showing us the light. So we follow all the steps that are purported to lead us to the end of the rainbow, where there is a big pot of business success. And we keep on doing it, because at a certain point there’s no looking back. We’re too heavily invested.
The Cul-De-Sac Syndrome
Sometimes, I think that maybe the paradigm shift that Internet marketing is supposed to represent could really be a sharp turn into one of those suburban cul-de sacs where you get in there and just go round and round the little circular parkette in the middle. Eventually some people come to their windows, but they don’t stay there very long. And so it goes, and goes and goes.
Oh sure, we gather acquaintances and gain knowledge, from other drivers and, occasionally, the things that people shout from the windows as we are rolling by, and all this is probably good stuff. But that’s not why you shifted your paradigm. You did this because at some point somebody told you that this was the new version of fishing where the fish are. They told you that building your brand and attracting customers was going to be not just a smart move to make but an absolute necessity in the brave new world. They told you that social media has changed the way people connect with each other. They told you that social media is changing how brands connect with their consumers. They told you about the importance of engagement, and conversion and all kinds of other good new paradigm stuff. They had good answers for all your good questions. But at a certain point you start to feel like these people are trying to create some sort of new religion, which is based on the same principle of blind faith as conventional religions.
And so here you are, going round and round with your poor little Ferrari stuck in first gear. Spewing content out your exhaust pipes, trying to convince the world that you have arrived full of knowledge and wisdom and the desire to help people grow their businesses while you grow yours. It’s all so beautiful in theory.
But then the farther you go down this road, the more you realize that the actual business you are getting is not deriving from all this diligent effort. But instead it’s coming from the traditional things that you had the presence of mind to keep on doing….the aforementioned things like direct and email marketing, business networking, and inviting people for coffee to name but a few.
A rational business owner always struggles with the challenge of trying to reconcile the notion of developing relationships with people who, by all indications, have no propensity towards brand loyalty, and no real attention span to speak of, thanks to the same Internet environment in which you are trying to reach them.
A lot of slick marketers out there are encouraging a lot of web-unsavvy business owners to invest substantial amounts of human and financial capital in an effort to be seen and heard on the Internet through elaborate and gas guzzling, multi-faceted content management programs. Yet very few of these people can offer proof that there really is some sort of end benefit to be had for all this effort.
Certainly, if you have a very good product or destination or experience to sell, the Internet is probably as good a tool as any to proffer your merchandise. But when it comes to small service businesses, there are a great many intangibles to deal with, not the least of which is the staggering number of people who have drunk the same Koolaid and are pouring their hearts and souls into content management programs, giving up little bits and pieces of their knowledge like worms on a hook, hoping some big Muskie will bite. But, so far, very little in the way of results have come forward. There are very few service business success stories directly attributable to time spent in this new paradigm. And even fewer that are able to stand out from the larger mass, that is clogging up the information superhighway like a Ferrari filled rush hour in LA.
The question you have to ask yourself is this…is the new paradigm really all it’s cracked up to be, or it is just another series of internet marketing tools that have not yet, and possibly could never, mature into something genuinely viable across the board?
Branding is marketing. Marketing is branding. It’s a tricky business, and it’s one of those things that’s very easy to do wrong. If you feel you could use some insight into how this all comes together, I have written a little ebook called ‘Small Business Communications For The Real World’, which is really a guidebook for businesses who want to brand and market themselves well.
You can download it here: http://tinyurl.com/nqlgtu3
I create and implement strategically focused
branding, advertising & promotion for companies
who appreciate solid creative thinking and value reasonable rates.