I spoke before an interesting group last night at the Westchester Advertising Club, a 40-year-old organization of marketers from that suburban county north of New York City. My slides for my talk, “The New Internet Marketing,” are here, but regular readers have seen most of this stuff before. What I found fascinating was some of the conversations I had last night, especially one in particular.
A veteran marketer approached me after the session, after everyone else had spoken to me. He looked as though he had seen it all over his years in the marketing game, but he started out by sheepsihly admitting, “I know nothing about the Internet.” Still, he had decided to come to the meeting, knowing what I would be talking about, so that shows me that he still has that desire to learn.
He went on to compliment me on my talk, but then his concerns came pouring out. “You said that Internet marketing is still marketing, but it seems very different to me—like there are more steps. You said that we have to address the problems that our customers have so that they find our message, but that could be lots of problems. I am accustomed to skipping that step and just talking about ‘brighter, cleaner, cheaper’.”
It’s a great question.
And he’s right. All marketers have been doing “brighter, cleaner, cheaper” marketing for decades. Forget what the customer needs, because we don’t really know what each customer needs. Instead talk about what our message is and hope that the customer whose need it fulfills will figure it out.
He’s right. Internet marketing has an extra step of appealing to people based on their problems. And yes, there could be multiple problems that each need separate pages—separate pitches. He really is right.
But the Internet also helps you skip steps.
Because you can target based on problem (need), you can skip a lot of the “qualify the lead” steps. And you can target based on where the customer is in the sales cycle—seach marketing keywords can reveal the early stage from the comparison stage from the buy stage. And you can answer John Wannamaker’s lament, “Half of my advertising spending is wasted, but I don’t know which half.” On the Internet, you do. And you can stop spending it next week.
So, Internet marketing is different from the “brighter, cleaner, cheaper” marketing of other media, but not dramatically so. You still segment your markets, understand them, and send your message. You do those things differently than in traditional marketing, but you still do them. On top of that, you can target more granularly (by need and by moment in the buying cycle) and you can measure the results of what you do (the way direct marketers do).
So, ask yourself if you’re ready to try to apply what you know to something know. That man, with all that experience, was ready to try. As he left me, he said, “Now I have to go wrestle with this.” Internet marketing isn’t always comfortable, but it’s sure more comfortable than blowing your business by avoiding it.