timone NetMarketing
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Marketing in the internet – as seen from Italy

No. 52 – November 10, 2000



loghino.gif (1071 byte) 1. Editorial: In praise of slowness

Time saving and time management are important issues for anyone, and especially for managers. But haste isn’t a solution. Everyone seems to be running around aimlessly and that isn’t saving time (or money). It’s leading to waste of time, confusion and poor decisions. Many people seem to think that it’s a result of the “new economy”. It isn’t. The problem was there before the internet had any impact on business – and it’s getting worse for reasons that have nothing to do with new communication systems.

Decisions, plans or suggestions are suddenly seen as “urgent”. Then they disappear in a corporate maze, to re-surface months later when it’s too late to manage the issue properly – or it needs to be handled in a desperate hurry, which of course leads to errors, which then need to be fixed in a state of haste, which generates more mistakes...

The myth is that because we operate in a “fast” environment we must be in a hurry all the time. Computers work faster, but data management hasn’t become easier. E-mail gets everywhere in a relatively short time – but so did the telephone and the telefax many years ago. Cars are slower (because of traffic jams) and so is air traffic (because of the long time getting to and from the airport and the inefficiencies of cluttered systems). We are not in a faster environment than we were twenty or thirty years ago. New communication systems (including mobile phones) if used properly would be time savers and decision simplifiers; but the way most people use them has the opposite effect.

The obsession with haste is a self-feeding vicious circle that leads to an enormous waste of time. Rushing ahead without a proper sense of direction is the slowest (and least efficient) way of getting anywhere. A lot of time, discomfort and distress can be avoided by plotting a course before the journey begins.

The most important rule of the game, at this stage, is “stop and think”. That isn’t necessarily time-consuming. But it does mean turning our back on the rat-race and paying attention to where we are going and why. Most of the best students of the new communication environment believe that it’s biological, and we need to think as gardeners or farmers. That, of course, doesn’t mean that we can go back to the slow life on the land of two or three hundred years ago. A biological system can be quite fast, but it grows at its own speed; not in line with our perception of haste – or the time factors of any mechanical (or “digital”) device. We need to listen and to understand before we rush ahead. To test, check and learn before we expand something that we haven’t understood properly (hasty decisions and an urge to “rush to market” before anything is properly tested are the main reason for bankruptcies and failures in many ventures – “new” or “old”). That takes concentration – and the investment of some time in the early stages of a project. But it saves an enormous amount of time, as well a lot of unnecessary mistakes, one or two steps ahead. There was an old song, by I can’t remember which rock group, ten or more years ago. The music was irrelevant, but there was some wisdom in the lyric: the world turns, and the candle burns, and the blind lead the blind. I can’t help remembering that song when I look at how things are done – regardless of whether it’s “old” economy or “new”. Rushing around blindly (and getting nervous in the process) makes our life miserable and our business shaky. And it is not the fastest way to success.

Other stuff on this subject:

Festina Lente

Is hasty really fast?

Cinderella needs to grow up

The net is a biological system

The cultivation of the internet

The “old” roots of the network economy

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loghino.gif (1071 byte) 2. They’ve sold my soul (but they don’t own it)

When I wrote about “trading in souls” nine months ago, I didn’t quite realize how extensively people around the world were selling and buying my “soul”. The ghost of someone who is no longer there, just as the “dead souls” in Gogol’s novel. A recent change in my way of sorting incoming mail revealed that over half of the spamming I get is directed to a mailbox that I haven’t been using for over four years. And even more recent lists don’t work. Whoever is doing “profiles” is aiming very poorly (one of many possible examples... it makes no sense to send to a “dot it” address an offer that is of no interest to people living outside the United States. And that could be avoided with a very simple “cleaning” process).

Of course I throw away spam messages with out reading them (with a bit of experience it’s quite easy to tell what is spam and what may be an interesting message from someone I don’t know). But I glance often enough to know that 99 percent of the spam is of no interest to me. I hardly ever react even to the rare offers that mention something I may want; and on those rare occasions I was always disappointed when I looked into what they were trying to sell. I never bought anything, or subscribed to anything, that was presented by spamming. And, of many people I know who are online, I’ve never heard of anyone having a better experience with “junk mail”.

Even the best e-marketers in the world, including a few that have my permission to send me mail about new things they are selling, don’t seem to be able to tailor their messages properly. They have my “profile”, they know what I have been buying, I am not bothered by their occasional (and polite) messages... but they don’t fit my needs. They are trying, but they don’t know how to “personalize”. It’s not easy, even for people with four or five years of experience in electronic trading.

People who buy lists or “profiles” are doing much worse than that. Lack of updating, and basic poor quality, in “lists” have plagued traditional direct marketing for many years. Online, it’s even worse.

Of course junk e-mail is cheaper than paper mail, fax or phone. But it is junk. The lists that are being sold (and, unfortunately, bought) are junk. The “profiles” and “segmentation” systems are junk. These combined factors produce the junjkiest possible junk. Some people are trying to give it some dignity by calling it “e-mail marketing” – but it’s still the same old junk. It’s interesting to notice that very few established brands or reliable companies use spam. There may be many inexperienced people on the net, falling into traps before they know better... but they learn quickly. The more spam people get, the less they trust it. Spam is self-destructive. That’s one of many reasons why it should be avoided.


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loghino.gif (1071 byte) 3. Online nonsense

People online, generally, learn quickly. But some don’t – and it isn’t easy to understand why. Newspapers are often plagued with false news, such as viruses that don’t exist or are very different from what is being reported. But online it’s even worse. Sometimes I receive alerts about real viruses. But they are rarely outside mailing lists to which I subscribe and that concentrate on that subject. What I get quite often (don’t we all?) are hoaxes. Most hoaxes are deliberately written in such a way that if anyone reads them carefully it’s clear that they are jokes. But many people who are not stupid, and have been online for years, forward them widely as “real”. And there are chain letters... and cries for help for a sick child that (luckily) recovered years ago and would be living happily except for the clutter if “help” mail he and his family don’t need... Etcetera.

I don’t understand why these things continue to happen. One possible explanation is haste. People are deluded with the idea that everything online has to be fast. So they get disappointed if they don’t receive an answer in a day, or even a few hours. And they forward all sorts of silly stuff because they think it must be done in a hurry.

And... there are people who write for help. There is nothing wrong with that, except when they are simply too lazy. Such as students who expect someone else to do research for them. We could, maybe, add another acronym to the classic RTFM. The proper answer to some requests is DJOH – do your own homework.

Once again... “stop and think” is the solution. Just as business decisions would be much more effective if they were thought out well, e-mail would work much better if people spent a minute or two thinking before they write – and reading what they have written (or what they are forwarding) before they mail it. That would save us all a lot of unnecessary trouble – and time.



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