Yesterday, I enjoyed a return engagement at the Online Marketing Update at the University of Virginia’s Darden School for Business in Charlottesville. (You can download my slides that describe how Web marketing is still marketing.) Just as with my first appearance in October, I was struck by the great mix of attendees, ranging from well-known speakers to marketing professors to real business practitioners and MBA students. They promised the students that they’d learn as much from their colleagues as from the speakers, and I did, too.
I had lunch with a marketer from another large company like me, and we commiserated about how difficult it is to stay focused on what’s going on outside our companies when so much is happening inside. If you work for a large company, you might have noticed the same thing.
It’s easy to talk yourself into spending the bulk of your time leading fellow employees and influencing colleagues to get your company to do something, instead of getting out in the world and finding out what’s going on (and what your customers want). This is a classic “big company” disease, but I’ve seen it in many medium-sized companies, too.
This kind of insularity has never been good for a company, but it is even more dangerous now, in such a time of change. If you’ve found yourself caught unawares of big changes in your customers’ tastes or new techniques, maybe you’re not putting yourself out there enough.
It was a good conversation, and one that I probably would not have had if I was in any other place yesterday. It’s also one that probably no one else at Darden had yesterday, because they found people to connect with on their problems.
Not everyone can come to a program like this at Darden (but do it if you can). If you can’t, you need something else. You need to find a place where people have similar problems to yours. You need to get out and talk to your customers. You need to be reading what is going on in your profession.
If you don’t—if you just spend your time talking to others within your company—then you’re just hearing reflections of what you said yesterday. Remember that you need to keep your mind open if anything new is going to get in.