Internet Marketing – A Maze In A Haze?


Internet marketing, website marketing, call it what you will, can be a bit like a maze. You charge off down one route……dead end. Someone sends you off down another route with a big smile on their face…….another dead end. Another route looks promising…….until it fizzles out and you reach another dead end. You can’t cheat by looking over the hedge, it’s about 20 feet high! A big ladder so you can get a good view? No, they’ve all been hidden. None left on the planet! Except those in the vaults of the internet gurus, you suspect.

So, you keep going around this maze, and at every turn there’s advertising, all about the maze itself, telling you about which way to go. Plans of the maze which, if you follow, may get you half way round, only to find you need to buy another plan to get the rest of the way. So what do you do? Carry on around this maze unaided? Or buy another plan? You buy another plan of this maze, and lo and behold, you end up at a place somewhere near the exit into real open daylight (you think), but how do you get the correct final few turns? Anyway, maybe you’re not near the exit after all? You could be on the far side of the maze from the exit. Sound familiar?

If you’ve been researching the internet from a business point of view for any length of time, you have probably found that much of the advertising, the marketing, is about …………….. internet marketing. This is partly why it can seem like a maze. If you are not sure what is going to work to market your website, or the products in it, how do you know which advice to listen too, which “offers” to take up?

Why is Internet Marketing Such a Maze?

Marketing is a subject I’ve been interested in for many years, long before I was partner in an advertising related business in the early 90’s. Then, marketing was a quite stable world. The most recent “change” of any significance had been TV, and TV advertising had evolved steadily over several decades. It was glossy, glamorous, and………..very expensive. That was good for the big advertising agencies, and they chased the big advertisers with massive budgets for TV advertising. They had their creative departments to come up with memorable TV ads, often designed to be memorable rather than to sell, and their media buyers to buy time on the commercial TV stations.

The glamour was in TV, but every company and every agency would work on a marketing mix: radio advertising, sales promotions, glossy magazine advertising, newspaper advertising, trade ads, direct mail…..all played their part. These all had one thing in common, though: they had been around for a very long time. Marketing was a stable industry, not in economic terms, but in the “tricks of the trade”. There were a few minor variations here and there, but basically, the marketing industry had its accepted, well documented, ways of doing things. Skill levels varied of course, and that’s where competition came in between the agencies and between companies in the same industries. The point is, though, it was all basically stable. Good or bad, it was stable.

Then along came the internet. Being involved in advertising in the mid 90’s, it was obvious to me that the potential was absolutely enormous. Mind boggling. It was difficult to demonstrate, though, as speeds were painfully slow. You’d try to show someone over a cup of coffee or tea, and you’d finish the drink while the second page was loading. Try coming back in 5 years. Well, they did. With a vengeance.

The internet itself came on in leaps and bounds after that. Technically it developed rapidly. Companies started to realise they “had” to have an internet presence. Why? Well, often because their competitor did, or because they thought they should before their competitor did. They were diving in, pretty much blind; they did not understand what they were getting into. The stock markets cottoned on that something big was in the offing, so .com shares were being touted to ever higher levels. Shares of companies with no substance in most cases.

I used to trade shares on a daily basis in those days, and I never touched one internet related company. I cringed every time I saw the financial figures of a listed .com. Prices of shares were often in the stratosphere while turnover was meagre and profits non existent, then and into the future. The traders in the London Stock Exchange and Wall Street did not understand. The internet was new, there was no history to go on. They simply did not understand. They were excited, and were exciting others too. The buying was frantic. The crash inevitable.

Companies all over the world were realising, though, that they must have a web presence. Companies had marketing departments and/or advertising agencies. So they too had to go along with the the tidal wave of internet anticipation. What did they do? They followed the accepted patterns for marketing in those days. TV advertising. Radio advertising. Big newspaper ads. The massive costs of those methods bore no relationship then to the potential for additional income, for sales. They were throwing money down the drain in most cases. Why? They simply did not understand!

The internet was, and is, a revolution in communications. But the marketing industry had not had a revolution, it was too bogged down in the rest of the marketing mix to realise what was really going on here. The printing press was a revolution in communications, but it took many years to spread its influence. Radio was a revolution in communications; likewise. TV? Likewise.

The internet has been more like an explosion, and after an explosion it takes time for the dust to settle. That’s one of the reasons for the maze of internet marketing. The dust is still settling. You can’t see through the dust yet. More of a haze than a maze I suppose! No, a maze in a haze!