“Doctor, I wonder if you’d turn that white-hot spotlight on yourself.”


My previous entry in this space talked about a company rejecting pretty much every weapon in the interactive arsenal…then wondering why instead of growing the business, since around 2000 it’s been trading dollars, winning just enough new business every year to offset churn.

It’s not the path we would choose. It seems clear that resource-strapped companies of the 10-person variety would be the first to drink from the Internet’s potential fountain of life. Yet I accept responsibility for being unable to make the light bulb go on for them, and it got me thinking more broadly about how we as researchers and marketers need to approach the market if we want to help companies flip the switch on the extraordinary business-building energy that is interactive/digital marketing.

So taking a cue from the words of Jodie Foster as Special Agent Starling in the flick The Silence of the Lambs, we turn the spotlight on ourselves.

A new breed of companies has sprung up to serve as tour guides to the wild, wonderful web. Some are traditional agencies who went bust and are reborn as “interactive marketers.” Other agencies are hanging in there but recognize the Internet bullet train is leaving the cyberstation, so they’re wisely looking to launch or enhance their interactive practices. Others are former IT service providers whose clients are no longer willing to pay hefty outsourcing fees for point-a-finger-at-the-client service but are willing to pay someone to take them to the web. So presto: They’re now masters of the web!

The mistake I see people making, especially those in the last group, is the notion that everything that happened before 2009 is now worthless. “Traditional is dead.” That clients—many of whom are just getting comfortable with not merely talking about the web but actually using it to help drive and retain business—are losers if they don’t cancel everything else and turn their marketing budget over lock, stock and barrel to one of these firms to spend it all on interactive.

When I say “just getting comfortable,” what do I mean? According to research conducted recently by Management Executives Networking Group, Alterian, Burson-Marsteller and our own firm:

• Two-thirds of marketers characterized themselves as social media beginners
• 80% said social media is not integrated with their core marketing
• 20% define their websites as “basic” and “not central” to their marketing strategies
• Fewer than 15% of F500 companies have a blog

Can you say “greenfield,” boys and girls? Sure. I knew you could.

Yet these lush fields must be carefully cultivated to produce a bountiful harvest. We still have a long way to go to convince many of the value of interactive. The things they’re asking me for indicate they are still less intent on the oceangoing voyage many of them perceive social media to be and more focused on the content and clarity of the sparkling pool in their own backyard. Even marketing executives whose websites clearly are light-years away from what I would expect from technology companies in 2009 know to ask for on-page optimization. For A-B and multivariate testing. They know about Google Optimizer. They know “Google AdWords.” They often don’t know about the installed optimizers some of us were working with before Optimizer was a gleam in Google’s eye, like Click Tracks (now owned by Lyris|HQ) or WebTrends.

That’s OK. They know what they want: Big results from their website. So let’s optimize those sites. Make their Google page rankings and Alexa site rank soar. Get bounce rates down and traffic flowing, page-to-page and in-page.

All of this is about preparing the landing zone. Next time I’ll propose some ways to wheel them, even if haltingly, to the launch pad.

One thought on ““Doctor, I wonder if you’d turn that white-hot spotlight on yourself.”

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