Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What a tangled world wide web

I was thinking the other day... it was back in the fall of 1995, when I first saw the Internet, in the form of the world wide web. Mount Allison, where I did my undergrad, was the first school wired in every room. I remember getting my computer hooked up a month or so into school.

I had email and everything, including a direct to server slow dial up... back then, Yahoo was THE site where everyone went to find things. A band I was into, Phish, had phans that really grabbed a hold of the medium in order to keep in touch about shows. If you go to and poke around, you can read all about it, it's pretty interesting how early they were on that train...

Even back then, the web fascinated me. I remember trying to learn HTML and make a simple html page for myself that was basically just a few links - but never hosted anywhere. Oddly enough, I took a marketing class that had a few sessions in the cpu lab where we made pages and spoke about internet marketing. When it came time for a project, my group created web portal for baby boomers called This was about 1997, I think and our biggest hurdle was convincing our class people would buy stuff on the 'net....

I moved off campus in the third year and my web access diminished severely. I had to unsubscribe from a few of the e-newsletter I was on...and never did much but send a few emails... I got side tracked into other things, like finance... and didn't come back to the net really until about 2000 when I quit TD Watherhouse to work at Flonetwork, a email marketing company and ASP with a product called Flo.

I always wonder what would have happened if I hadn't moved off campus, or if I hadn't gotten side tracked by finance... or if we had actually moved on that business plan for a web portal years before the tech boom.... and subsequent bust.

This past week, as I entered back into the web marketing world I was struck once more by just how far the web has come... and how diverse it is... In 2000, email marketing was just getting started and we had to convince people that it worked. These days, it is a given in any e-marketing mix - even to the point of being "old" and tired.

Even search marketing and pay per click... where you bid or pay for keywords/ads that are placed on pages where people find them... is getting tired... Now, the big new thing is viral stuff... where you hand the content over to the customer and they run with it... so you see pages being tagged with delicious, digg, stumble.. heck, go to any site and you'll see tonnes of little icons for these types of sites... I counted twenty on a site just today.

Each day that I sit down at my desk I have about 10 different channels to check on... it's insane... but at the same time, super fun and dynamic... but the times, they are a changin'..

So what does this all mean?

For marketers, or as some say, marketeers... it means that we have to be:

Smart: You have to know your customer, how they behave and what they think about. You need to know what sites they go to and how they use the web. Then you have to figure out how to get there efficiently because if you don't do the second part, you will choke on opportunity. Evaluate everything that comes down.. does this fit with my value proposition?... my target market?

Vigilant: You need to be constantly monitoring how you're doing. It is not 1960, when you filmed an ad and put it on TV.... you tweak search copy see how it works, tweak it some more... you need to keep your head on swivel at all times. What are your customers saying about you? Where are you in the search engines... how are your affiliates doing?

Gutsy: If you're going to get into the viral stuff, then you have to be ready to turn your content over to the public. That takes massive guts because you can't control it anymore and you might not be able to stop it or turn it back.... you need to do your best upfront and hope that you don't hurt your brand. Not many people in upper management have the balls to do this and go all the way....

But this is what makes marketing so fun... how many people get to say that they are required to be smart, vigilant and gutsy on a daily basis... heck, I am usually required to be all three over 1o times in one single day... what more could you ask for?

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