We Owe It to Each Other

Now – more than ever – it’s time that interactive marketing firms band together to promote the entire industry. Our biggest challenge is not each other, but growing competition from the ignorant seeking to take indecent advantage of companies seeking real solutions in the online space.

Albert Einstein once remarked, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Individuals and companies alike could achieve much more by striving to embody this idea.

What keeps me up at night?

  • A Digital Agency offering “E-Solutions” to prospects. This same agency – selling advice to others – has not revised its own site in nearly two years, and worse, it is not optimized for organic or paid Search. When this was mentioned to the owner, he responded, “I don’t care.”
  • The CEO of a PR Agency writing about Social Media, including a laundry list of popular sites, and touting MySpace as the place to be even as Facebook is poised to surpass it in use and relevance.
  • A group of web developers pushing Second (I call it After) Life on anyone who will listen, despite the fact that only one percent of marketers list such a tactic as desirable.
  • A video production company insisting that the mere presence of videos on a website enhance visitor engagement, regardless of their content, because “they’re entertaining.”
  • An article by another PR Pro touting blogs as a must do, but failing to explain the critical role they can play in driving website traffic.

The problem is that these people are selling stuff, they are not selling solutions.

The approach of such companies, to paraphrase Billy Crystal’s Fernando, seems to be, “It is much better to look good than be good, and darling, your site looks marvelous.”

This attitude makes it exponentially harder for all of us to help companies in real need.

Last week, one of my partners attended a half-day seminar on online strategies. In attendance, a couple hundred local business people eager for insight. The idea of the event sounded pretty good until the speakers started preaching about topics they had never practiced. Afterwards, my partner felt like searching for Ipecac to purge the poison he had just ingested. (Two hundred + people getting bad advice all at once should sicken us all!).

Making stuff to put on the web, especially if they’re neither aligned with corporate objectives nor tied to measurable goals, is not enough. Contrary to Woody Allen’s famous assertion, 80% of success is (not) just showing up (online). No company (client) benefits in the interactive world (wide web) without the full integration of strategy, content, and analytics.

My company recently passed on a significant opportunity. Could we have handled the project? Sure. But providing the solution would have required a significant investment in development time for us and at great expense for the other company. We knew of another firm that had a solution already in place, and at a much lower price point. We referred the prospect to that company … one of our competitors. Why? We would rather gain a prospect’s trust than lose a potential advocate for the industry as a whole.

Whenever someone manages to sell a half-baked scheme everyone bears the full brunt of its inevitable failure. When someone sells a service for the sake of their own — and not their client’s — success, they devalue our entire industry.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, seek help before you seek someone else’s business. If you do know your business, speak out. Be forceful. Be relentless. Help the uninitiated understand the power of interactive marketing. There’s enough business out there for all of us if we just work in concert. If we strive to elevate the industry as one, we shall all soar together.

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