Caution: Not suitable for the technology faint-of-heart…
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"We put up a website to help us with our marketing," says the man coyly … as he looks at his wife across the table. I sense insecurity in his voice.
We are sitting in a Mexican restaurant enjoying a quiet, friendly lunch. The unavoidable topic of occupation has steered our social conversation in the direction of work-related matters. They are interested in my views on their marketing. I listen politely as he explains his strategy.
"Yeah, a friend of ours is into marketing. We have a video on our site that uses this technology that allows us to track who’s viewed it." To what end, I think to myself. As he turns to look at me, his eyes tell me he’s thinking the same thing.
The couple owns a small business. Their story is a common one. Faced with an increasingly competitive industry, they want to create a marketing edge by using Internet technology — with little or no understanding of what they are choosing and why. This often stems from a desire to try something “new” without first establishing knowledge of what is and isn’t working with their current marketing. Lacking the strategic or technical expertise to properly evaluate a technology, they decide to experiment. While experimentation can be a useful learning tool, there’s a thin line between a carefully targeted experiment and firing blindly. It seems to me this couple is participating in the latter. I wonder … what are their expectations?
They’re not completely to blame. Current technological trends have continued to introduce an ever-broadening array of component-based solutions to the non-technical masses. Thus leading to significant confusion. More tools with more capabilities and all the gee-whiz-bang-for-your-buck you could ever imagine. Tools that are easier to use — and don’t require a degree in computer science to integrate — are fast becoming the norm. Technology providers are getting wise to the concept of community development platforms, creating developer toolkits and allowing third-parties to help create the next generation of products. In essence, products built for their customers, by their customers.
However, out of that model, a new challenge arises. Increased access drives the demand for increased education. The need for technical understanding hasn’t really changed; it’s just changed positions. Now the question becomes “what do we integrate” instead of how. They ask this as they rub their hands together, eagerly eyeing the smorgasbord of plug-and-play features … often without the insight about what to implement or why. The focus is on the tool and not the relevance of the tool. A new challenge and a new set of responsibilities.
With the void increasing between those who use … and those who build and understand … a new technocracy is developing. And in the middle somewhere is the truth about ROI. Also worth considering is the number of unsubstantiated myths about the value of popular measurement methods — click-throughs and page views — because these metrics do not actually correlate to revenue generated. Things like relevance analysis and conversion mapping — tracing the roadmap of website viewing to actual prospects gained or purchases made — often are omitted until after the tools are implemented. As the void between myth and reality increases, small business owners are putting a lot more faith in the technical consultants they engage.
As for my dining companions and their website experiment, it appears they made that leap of faith when teaming up with the video-toting consultant. I hope he’s done his research. If not, they’ll likely find the results too hit-or-miss for their taste or their marketing goals.