Why Clueless Marketers Are Terrified Of The Web

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner… and you’ve been earning a few bucks online using any of the tactics you’ve learned from me (or any of the other veteran marketers online)… then pat yourself on the back.

You’re doing something that many “mainstream” businesses haven’t yet figured out how to pull off.

And… if they continue to ignore the basics of direct selling (which you’re taking for granted as necessary for profits)… they won’t be “mainstream” much longer.

They’ll be extinct.

Bye bye.

Here’s what I’m talking about: The Web has “officially” become the Number One source for advertising for many of the culture’s biggest advertisers — a year earlier than predicted. Gazillions of bucks that used to be channeled through “traditional” media (newspapers, magazines, direct mail, television, radio, etc) have now been measurably diverted online.

For the people who keep track of this sort of info, this news is astonishing and troubling (if not unexpected).

The entire foundation of our capitalistic economy is shifting, and most of the former movers and shakers simply are not prepared for the change.

The obvious signs of upheaval are the disappearance of entire market segments. Like most of the music-selling stores (Tower, Wherehouse, your favorite former local hipster CD haunt).

Less obvious is the way the Web has changed profit margins in markets like new cars — buyers are walking onto lots armed with reams of research on price… and they’re totally hip to ALL the old fall-back upsell tactics. (The last time we bought a new car, we had the salesman literally in tears as every one of his price-raising schemes was shot down… and none of the “invisible” tack-ons made it through the sale. Because of their stubborn reliance on scamster-style price boosts, we figuratively stole that car from them.)

Currently in the news — ironically — is the plight of the daily newspaper.

And there’s a lesson here for all of us. A basic lesson in fundamentals.

Harken: Nearly every newspaper in America now has an online presence. They’re working out the kinks of suddenly having the ability to cover stories in real time (which changes the very nature of reporting and writing stories)… with varying degrees of success.

The local paper here in Reno actually has a great site. Many of the national papers — like the New York Times — could pick up a few good tips from www.rgj.com, in fact.

Yet, nearly all newspapers (both locally owned and chain-owned) have the same complaint: They still aren’t able to turn a profit providing an online product.

And, if you have any entrepreneurial chops at all, you gotta be shaking your head in wonder.

The NY Times, for example, gets millions of hits each week. Millions. And then more millions. They are connected to thousands of other sites who link to them — blogs, other news channels, e-zines… it’s a network of feeds to die for.

And they COMPLAIN about not being able to make a profit?

Anyone with a drop of salesman’s blood in their veins has got ot ask: “What’s the friggin’ PROBLEM?”

I work with entrepreneurs and small business who earn fortunes with a flow of traffic that wouldn’t even be a ripple in the NY Times readership. Not even a tiny little splash.

What would YOU do, if you suddenly had access to millions of hits… all spending oodles of time on your site, reading and paying attention?

You’d… um… sell something.

No brainer, right?

Not to the brain-clogged morons running the show at those big sites.

Go take a look at the ads running on any of the big newspaper sites. Pathetic.

I chose one banner ad, at random. Lots of real estate taken up, nestled next to a riveting front page crammed with content… and the advertiser has a nice photo of a shoe, with some tiny, tiny, tiny printing saying “Introducing the Spring 2007 Collection”.

That’s it, my friend. Shoe, five words. No obvious link.

I ran my cursor over the space until I discovered a link… the designer did a great job hiding it… and I was whisked to a site with a bigger photo of some nice wingtips… the words “distinction being noticed without standing out” (sic), a link “View the spring collection”, and the logo: Allen Edmonds.

Pretty much it. Oh, wait. Six-point type links (all delicately lower-case) that look like border designs: “about allen-edmonds”… “”store locator”… “contact us”… and a Search box.

I spent ten minutes navigating this site, seeking out the secret entrances to something even remotely like a page SELLING something.

And hey — if you’re stubborn about it, you can actually find a way to buy a pair of shoes.

But you better have some time on your hands. And really, really, really want those shoes… cuz buying them isn’t easy.

The insanity of all this is clear: The advertisers shelling out for banner space at the newspapers don’t know how to sell online… and the newspapers aren’t clued-in enough to help them.

The blind leading the blind.

Were I running the advertising department of the Times (I shudder at the thought), I would first get hip to what entrepreneurs are doing to actually SELL stuff online… and then I would help educate my advertisers to the same tactics.

Because, if they learn to sell stuff… and keep track, and see the results of putting their ads in front of millions of eyes riveted to the content of the newspaper… they will see the very great advantages of buying up banner ad space there. And become repeat clients, willing to pay lots of money for that banner.

Clueless, they get to continue to ignore the Web. “We tried advertising online. It does’t work.”

Well, yeah. Because your online ads SUCK.

This is horrible news for big-name advertisers. To really succeed, they’ll have to killl everyone in their marketing department, and somehow replace them with new people who are hip to selling online… and good luck to ’em on that quest.

Because they’ll continue to rely on Madison Avenue ad agencies for their ads… not realizing that few folks at Mad Ave have a clue what to do.

This is great news for entrepreneurs and small business owners online, of course. Because you are on equal footing with everyone else online, more or less. You may not have the big fancy store in downtown Manhattan, and you may not have any staff at all (let alone a marketing department)… but online, your ad can outsell the Big Guys by vast margins.

Because you know how to sell.

The Web is getting crowded. But classic salesmanship still rules the roost (as it forever will).

While traditional businesses — used to being bullies and dominating their market by sheer size and access to advertising media — stumble and flail impotently online… you can enjoy all the low-hanging fruit still out there.

The way people buy things is changing, fast.

But people still buy things.

It’s just a great time to be selling online. I do hope the NY Times gets its act together, and doesn’t fold for lack of understanding the nature of commerce on the Web.

But I’m not holding my breath, either.

Keep paying attention to the basics of classic salesmanship. All the noise about “new” ways to sell online is coming (mostly) from marketers engaging in fantasy play. The large ad agencies still can’t sell their way out of a wet paper bag. Don’t listen to ’em.

“Introducing the Spring Collection”, indeed. Those kinds of all-attitude/sales-phobic tactics — beloved by clueless marketers with zero salesmanship chops — will murder a whole bunch of businesses trying to make it online before the traditionalists give it up and start paying more attention to the way entrepreneurs do it right.

But the food chain is pretty thick with cluelessness right now.

We live in interesting times.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

P.S. I got on this kick today because I was just interviewed by Garrett Sutton (one of the Rich Dad/ Poor Dad authors) for his e-radio show on www.wsradio.com… and we were talking about classic salesmanship tactics.

I can go off for hours on every part of a good sales pitch — the hook, the close, the take-away, urgency, credentials, whatever. It’s just second-nature to me, after all these years of crafting killer pitches.

And yet, it’s still amazing news to “sales rookies”. Even the fundamental drop-dead basics are a revelation.

Something to remember, as you keep testing and improving your sites. Don’t be afraid of going after large market niches seemingly dominated by traditional bullies. Check out their sales tactics… and if they suck, maybe you’re the guy to teach them a lesson.

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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • When copywriters ask how to improve their skills the first thing I ask is “Have you done any one on one sales?”

    It always amazes me when someone says “How will that help my copywriting?” or “Do I really have to do sales to become a good copywriter?”

    The simple answer is yes you do!

    Advertising is salesmanship in print.

    If you can’t sell live one on one with all that immediate feedback to learn from how will you ever be able to maximize your ability to sell in print where you might get feedback once a month or once a fortnight if you’re lucky.

    This is a great post but I fear the only people who’ll really understand it are not the readers who need it the most.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  • […] Why Clueless Marketers Are Terrified Of The Web […]

  • Rob Sellen says:

    Thanks for sharing that insight.

    Interesting to see, even seeing it in the smaller, ie, medium to big newspaper’s online presence, the sites are..um not good!

    I wonder what would happen if one of the workers in the ad dept of the NY times you mentioned came accross this post!? 😀

    Oh, I also tagged you on my blog… 😉



  • […] St Wendeler wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptHarken: Nearly every newspaper in America now has an online presence. They’re working out the kinks of suddenly having the ability to cover stories in real time (which changes the very nature of reporting and writing stories)… with … […]

  • Dylan was right . . .the times they are always a changing. Great information and insight. The basics of selling will alwasy be the same! It’s such an exciting time to be a marketing person.



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  • Mary Schmidt says:

    Ah, there ya go, explaining the obvious to the oblivious.

    I just shake my head every time I visit the NYT site (which I do freqeuently). The ads are terrible…and the best idea they could come up with is hiding some of their most popular columnists behind the premimum wall. No thanks, somebody somewhere would have posted that Dowd column in its entirety (bad, bad bloggers!) And, in any case, I can’t bring myself to reward such cluelessness.

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