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Ready, shoot, aim?

DATE PUBLISHED: March 11, 2010

Remember the good old days of “ready, shoot, aim?” You don”t? Well, gather round kids as we regale you with a story from the legendary days of “dot-com,” where money actually did grow on trees. Start-up companies sprang from the ground like weeds and it seemed you just needed a pulse and a drawing on a cocktail napkin to get twenty million dollars. It was almost as fun as actually working.

And then the best part happened. Sage advice was handed down from “dot com gurus” who said wonderful things such as the secret to success was to fail fast! That the strategy for going to market was to grab market share first and then figure out a business model later. And finally there was my personal favorite: “Ready, Shoot, Aim.”

Say what? To this day I am not entirely sure this was supposed to convey. Cover your eyes before you shoot? Blast away until you hit something? Of course, what was being inferred here was the concept of “Internet Time,” that momentum was more important than the existence of an actual destination. Grab market share, drive revenue, release products, and then figure out all that boring business stuff later like profits and margins. And Internet Time was a lot fun…right up to the point where the clock ran out and everyone turned back into pumpkins.

Thankfully, those days are over, right? It”s the revenge of the grinders over the dreamers. Run your business like a business, don”t jump before you look, and treat every dollar like it is your last one. The problem is sometimes you get a client and an agency together in a room, and suddenly we start to look like a bunch of dot-coms again. The flood of new advertising platforms can sometimes spin your head like the flood of start-ups did, and we start to lose our collective bearings.

Don”t get me wrong either. I am not some sort of advertising Luddite who refuses to embrace the digital world, looks askance at social media and thinks conversational marketing is for people with short attention spans. We have used all of these and more here at Palmer, but we do have a tendency to ask a lot of questions first. And some of these questions sound very similar to things we didn”t ask during that wonderful crazy time down in the Valley.

Question One: If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you? Yes, we have been hearing this gem since our parents yelled at us every time we did something silly with our friends. But it”s true in marketing also, and it really is the meta question for everything that follows. Don”t believe me? OK, how many companies have you heard utter the following phrase: “We have to be on Facebook.” That”s what I thought. And that leads to the next question.

Question Two: Are you a solution in search of a problem? Many of the aforementioned startups suffered the same fundamental problem: although the technology may have been very cool, it didn”t actually solve a problem people needed solving. Which made it very hard to convince people to buy it. Which then made all those companies disappear off a cliff. So what you have to ask yourself is the same question. OK, this new marketing vehicle is cool, but does it solve an actual problem? Is my message not getting through via the current channel? Is it reaching the wrong audience? And will this asset solve that problem.

Question Three: Are you trying to be Amazon? What was the fastest way to get funded in the good old days? Stick the phrase “The Amazon.com of…” in front of any industry. The mistake here was to apply someone else”s business model to your company before you understood your own model. And just because someone else is benefiting from using some new marketing asset doesn”t mean it will work for you. Do they sell the same product as you? Do they have the same audience? Is their relationship to their consumer the same as yours? Unless you understand your model first, how can you apply any marketing efforts against it?

Question Four: Does your marketing have anything to do with your sales? If there was anything the dot-coms were known for, it was those ads. Sock puppets. Flying animals. It had everything to do with marketing and nothing to do with sales. And the real damage was done internally. Not only were sales and marketing not working well together, they had almost become opposing camps. In a perfect world the customer is a baton that is handed off from marketing to sales. So when you look at some snazzy new marketing tool, don”t just think like marketing…think like sales too. Is this how we sell our product? Is this our relationship? Invite a salesperson into your next marketing meeting…you will be surprised.  Or you can just pick up that baton next time you drop it.

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