Offline A pause in navigation

Is hasty really fast?

January, 2000

disponibile anche in italiano

  Giancarlo Livraghi
For other comments on internet marketing
see the Netmarketing online newsletter




Everyone is in a hurry. But it's hard to understand who is running where – and why. Its been written and said over and over that the network economy is about relationships, trust, service, customer care. That the days of short-term plans and objectives are over, the time has come to build for the future. This isn't just a theory; it's strongly based on facts and confirmed by experience. But what's happening is the opposite. A lot of shallow hype, little commitment to learning, listening and understanding. The slightest speculative wave in the stock exchange is seen as triumph or catastrophe. Front-page headlines tell us today that this or that is falling apart. Tomorrow we shall read that it's the wave of the future. Or vice versa.

Is this the "new economy"? Not really. Things are being managed and discussed in the perspectives of old management styles and marketing criteria – with increasing haste, and with a staggering lack of depth. Of course some people are making money by playing the market; but a lot of it is just gambling. At the end of the day if someone is gaining someone else must be losing.

"New economy" has become a catchword, that can mean just about anything. A few months ago the cry was "electronic commerce" and companies rushed to set up a website without bothering to understand what it was supposed to do for them – or for their customers. Now they are doing more or less the same thing, except that they are calling their sites "portals" – as if every grocer or hardware store could (or should) suddenly become a publisher or an internet provider. Trying to be good for "everybody" and do "everything" is quite silly in traditional marketing and communication; it's insane in the internet.

Of course there is turbulence in a fast changing, fast developing environment. But hipshooting is not the answer. Sailing in rough and unpredictable weather can be quite unpleasant, and dangerous, for haphazardly assembled craft or nervous skippers. It takes a deep keel, a strong sense of direction, dedication, a well balanced crew and clearly shared objectives.

The ideal, of course, is to have the best of both worlds. Speed to seize the opportunities, clear strategies to build for the future. Of course it's possible. And it isn't as difficult as it sounds. There is nothing mysterious or alien about the "new economy". It's about relationships, people, human interchange. It's about concentrating on what each company knows best and doing it better. If we set our priorities clearly we can have very firm strategies and all the flexibility we need in quick and imaginative tactics.

The worst possible way to approach the new opportunities is to be copycats. To follow the fashion, to do what everyone else is doing. To apply the latest technology, to rush into the most popular trend, to run with the lemmings – and get lost in the crowd in some unfamiliar place.

There's lots of money around. There are fortunes made by getting on the stock exchange at the right time or finding venture capital for some apparently fashionable venture. Of course it can be very comfortable for whoever makes a quick gain. As Madame de Pompadour said to Luis 15th, après nous le déluge. The next Luis was caught in the storm and lost his head.

People with limited experience are being promoted far above their level of incompetence – or providing service to companies that are as confused as they are. In a fast-growing environment even poorly planned initiatives can have a success – for a while. And yes, growth will continue; there will be more fortunes made by rushing around aimlessly.

But not everybody can be lucky all of the time. It's perfectly possible to obtain good short-term results while building gradually for the future. Some "brick and mortar" resources are necessary in most ventures, but adjustment to the needs and opportunities of the new economy can be gradual and "scaleable". There has never been any environment that is so favorable for deliberate trial-and-error, for learning along the process, for testing and adjusting.

The basic ingredient for fast and solid growth isn't aimless haste. This is, indeed, a new frontier. There are, really, great opportunities. But I think investors should be wary of gamblers, saloon managers, fast-shooting cowboys or bounty hunters. They should try to support the best farmers. Those with a vision – but also with a genuine ability to cultivate and an endless dedication to making things grow.

Home Page Gandalf