Welcome WVFF Guest Blogger
David Meerman Scott, author, speaker, guru

Every day, I run across FEAR of marketing on the Web. We’ve got to work together to help people overcome this fear in 2010.

  • Fear comes from bosses who insist on calculating the ROI of the marketing based on sales leads and press clippings.
  • Fear comes from offline advertising and PR practitioners cautiously making the transition to Web platforms to generate attention.
  • Fear comes from those who insist on copying the competition.
  • Fear comes from people who think “online video is just for kids.”

What’s behind the fear? Let’s take a closer look and then debunk a few myths:

Many company executives and public relations people trace their worries about “new marketing” to their belief that “people will say bad things about our company” via social media.

This fear leads them to ignore blogs and online forums and to prohibit employees from participating in social media. In every discussion that I’ve had with employees who freely participate in social media, I’ve confirmed that this fear is significantly overblown. Let me repeat – everyone who has experience tells me this fear is overblown.

Sure, an occasional person might vent frustrations online, and now and then a dissatisfied customer might complain (unless you’re in the airline industry and then it might be more than a few).

But the benefit of this kind of communication is that you can monitor in real-time what’s being said and then respond appropriately. Employees, customers and other stakeholders are talking about your organization offline anyway, so unless you are participating online, you’ll never know what’s being said at all.

The beauty of the Web is that you benefit from instant access to conversations you could never participate in before. And frequently you can turn around impressions by commenting on a “negative” post.

When you wrote a first blog post, started shooting videos for YouTube, or begin to tweet it felt like you’re just a big dork, right? I certainly did. But like anything, experience brings mastery. Tell those who are fearful to just get going!

My daughter is learning how to drive. Yes, she gets honked at and may even get “the finger” as she gingerly tries to park in a crowded lot. But she’ll figure it out. Learning to drive takes time, but it is worth it because it beats the hell out of biking or walking in a Massachusetts winter.

One of the most frequent manifestations of fear is that web marketing does not work “in our industry.” The proof people provide is that nobody else is doing it. I’ve heard “The new rules do not work for mutual fund managers or lawyers or dentists or politicians or Singapore based software companies or Canadian blood donation centers or Florida based real estate agents or churches or rock bands….” I’ve heard them all. I see the excuses of “this doesn’t apply to my market” and “people in my market do not use social media” literally every day.

Duh. Someone has to be a pioneer.

So my style and strategy in my books and speeches is to show examples from many different organizations. I also show examples from non-profits, the military, government agencies, doctors, rock bands, plus big companies, small companies, B2C, B2B and much more.

I am firmly convinced (and my audiences agree) that you can learn more from what a broad range of people are doing than from what other people just like you are doing. Let’s help people get over their fear by insisting that they not insist on copying the competitors. Instead, tell them to learn from a rock band or hospital.

Better yet, tell people who are fearful to learn from Nalts. He’s the master.

The long-anticipated second edition of David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Marketing and PR releases in late December 2009. The first edition, a Business Week bestseller, is published in 24 languages.
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24 Replies to “FEAR!”

  1. Great post again this morning… David, I follow your stuff pretty regularly as it is, so imagine my surprise when I find you… here. *looks around questioningly at the surroundings* (How did Nalts manage to lure you in here? The old box-propped-up-with-a-stick-and-a-rope trick?)

    Your post actually goes along nicely with Peter Coffin’s article here yesterday, about how local and/or small businesses may benefit from online video… One of my biggest challenges as a producer of audio/video advertising and other content is trying to help clients deal with the fears you describe above… Yes, I’m more than happy to produce a 30-second commercial for them that’ll run on local TV or cable, but I’d positively love to show them how else they can market — I’d love to take them over the next hilltop to show them the view that awaits… But it’s uncanny how the walls go up and the eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the words “Twitter” or “YouTube.” SO many think that it’s beyond the scope of their knowledge, or that it’s “not right for them” for whatever reason…

    I find the smaller local businesses to be a bit more apprehensive than the larger ones about online marketing, and many of the objections and fears they mention are the ones you talk about here… I’ll be sharing this piece around quite a bit with clients and colleagues… Thanks for posting!

  2. Thanks again Nalts for letting me talk here.

    Brett – I try to learn from the best. I figure if I cozy up to Nalts a little, then a little of his magic will rub off. That, and we have a project brewing together for 2010.


  3. Very good post. The main thing I’d say is that since I’m one of those who’s been susceptible to fear, I resonate with what you said. For me, the main fear is that of being more interesting, engaging or inspiring from “a distance” (people not really knowing me, how I think and see life, etc.) than “up close.”

    I’ve just turned 50 and I find that fear and I can’t be such close friends anymore.

    Thanks again for this post.

    p.s. It seems there was a link missing for the line ‘here’s an example from Delaware North.’

  4. Almost always agree with you, David, but there is something out there that is more potent than fear – and that’s knowledge. People testing out social media sites now are figuring out that it’s becoming seriously infected with spam, weirdos and criminals. It’s not fear that keeps them away – it’s good sense. Twitter has been battling an onslaught of Direct Messages that appear to be sent by your most trusted followers. FB still sends out daily “I have tears in my eyes as I’m stuck in Heathrow Airport – send me money” scams. And, LI spammers now join tons of LI Groups just to be able to send out direct “click-here” messages.

    And, that’s not to mention the shear inanity of most social media messages. The only thing I really fear is the loss of my precious time as I try to figure out how to dodge the growing army of goofballs, self-serving multi-level marketers and gangsters. Companies are just exercising good sense when they say, “Wait a minute.”

  5. All good points Michael. But these concerns should only make people say “wait a minute”, not “no”.

    When the telephone first became available, it probably took a few days before the first sales call was made. When email first burst onto the scene, it probably took a few days before the first spam message was sent. Perhaps there are people who will never use the telephone and never use email out of fear. But for most, the hassles outweigh the positive aspects.

  6. Well, we don’t use the Reis telephone today (heck, we don’t even use our home phones anymore). Twitter, for instance, is just an example of a type of phone – and whether the design was a liquid transmitter or a string strung between two cans (boy, do I miss those), most of the designs no longer serve. Twitter has rocketed to irrelevance recently – and I’ll be willing to bet it takes its place in the scrap heap of “phones” this coming year or next. I’ll even give you odds.

    The Internet should be your analogy – and that, agreed, will endure. But only because of people like you who write thought provoking articles like this one. Great discussion.

  7. This is so true, my startup is helping small businesses join the conversation. There is so much trepidation. They are almost like a deer in the headlights. “Business is slow, no money to advertise, but this on-line stuff is .. . . . ”

    Keep up the great work on your end.

  8. In addition to fear, I’m guessing there is a good deal of ignorance involved too. How many marketers are as web savvy as Mr. Nalty and the gurus he has writing guest blog posts?

    Even if the marketers are up to date with the latest in social media, they still have to convince the fearful and ignorant executives who are often prone to resist changes to the status quo.

  9. David- I e-mailed you this, but I thought I’d share it with others… Now that I’ve read your piece, I’m listening to objections in a new way. Instead of hearing “no” I’m hearing “I’m afraid.”

    Then I slip into my parent role and it works quite well…. “everything’s going to be okay… other people do this (even if I have to like).

    I tried it on a concerned client, and it worked rather well. I could see her posture change as I sang lullaby and gave her a binky.

  10. Nice to meet you David… my name is NutCheese. I’m not a marketer… my specialty seems to be more along the lines of potty humor. And yes… I had a excellent BM this morning. *I know you were wondering*

    I was cracking up as I was reading this post because you sound like a priest with the way you write. (BTW… that’s not an insult… just an observation.) I don’t mean one of those crazy bible thumper whack jobs that are all hell fire and damnation and shit… I’m talking about the ones that are like Stuart Smalley… you know “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you.” type of preacher.

    Maybe you missed your calling?

    Hey Kevin… do you only allow white guys to guest blog for you? How racist!

  11. David… you have a degree in economics. I have a question for you.

    If a US defense contractor sells it’s consulting services to a company in Iraq… how would it affect the U.S. balance of payments? (100 words or less)

  12. @12 David, I can’t believe I just watched the entire video of your keynote at BMA 2009. I don’t even really care a whole lot about marketing in general, but your presentation was very engaging. I have a question though. It’s easy to suggest that marketers create amazing content that will EARN attention, but how do you actually go about doing it? Like you say, people really don’t care about products. So how do you create enthralling content especially for inherently “boring” products which are unlikely to generate interest from bloggers and the like?

    Kevin, why don’t you ever record and post your presentations from the numerous conferences you speak at?

  13. It’s all in the delivery.

    I’m all for pioneering, but it’s often grueling, hard and unappreciated work, makes me think of the Mormons.

    Fear is a pretty natural reaction, it’s a base instinct.

    Most people, let me pull a few statistic from my hind quarters and say at least 70%, probably more, maybe a little less, want to sit on top of the heap they already built, resist change and starting anything new, fresh or untested by traditional means. They require a guaranteed trust. Most of these folks still have a savings account or are struggle to make ends meet and hang on desperately to what they have. Risk is not in their vocabulary, their favorite color is true blue and favorite TV show is COPS.

    The next groups, say 28%, are those willing to try something new and different without too much risk, they’ve made their mark and are feeling financially secure. They’re a little bored now and want to get in on some of the action. Half are tickled about ground floor endeavors as long as it doesn’t cost them their reputations or suffering huge financial losses. These folks like to go to Vegas once a year and stop gambling when they’ve reached their set limit. Their favorite color is corvette red, they have cable TV and subscribe to at least one premium channel. These people are also the most financially vulnerable and yet, the most supportive. This is THE target group or audience, the foundation stone and supporters of real innovation. Appreciate them, because they aren’t far enough away from the above 70% and in this current political-economy their numbers have shrunk.

    Finally, the last 2%, divided by two, the nuts and the eccentrics, and as the saying goes the only difference between a nut and an eccentric is money. Their favorite colors are black, white, and sometimes yellow, they are willing to jump out of a plane or off a bridge, they don’t watch TV unless they are extremely depressed. Regardless, these are the trail blazers and they are often hard to deal with on a personal level and almost impossible to live with, which is the accepted price we must pay for progress.

    Course, none of these numbers are hard and fast, remember where I got them, and as always there are cross overs, we all have a tittle of each in us.

    To bring some poetry to the topic of economics… Economics is like the ocean, it moves in waves, sometimes the seas are calm, sometimes they are stormy, sometimes the wind is at your back and the sea goddess Lady Luck carries you smoothly and directly to your planned destination.

    As captains of industry, like the captain of a ship, what’s most important is to make the passengers feel safe and secure. Know your product, know how to calm people’s fears through your experience, project trust, wear a uniform that says you have high standards and your methods are above board, always ethical and most of all honest especially, in these current stormy economic seas.

    From the top and in closing, I would like to leave you all with one good and solid piece of advice from our very own WVFF regular Nutcheese, who never ever fails to remind us to eat plenty of roughage.

  14. Hey all you economics loving freaks! Who is going to answer my question? I have 4 more questions on my macroeconomics final exam so you guys had better get to work.

    In case you missed my question above… If a US defense contractor sells it’s consulting services to a company in Iraq… how would it affect the U.S. balance of payments? (100 words or less)

  15. Alexis

    Thanks for spending an hour with my ideas. I agree — Kevin, where is your video?

    Short answer is that you need to understand your buyer personas really well. You need to create content for your buyers, not your ego.

    Long answer is I’ve written 600 blog posts, 5 free ebooks, and 4 print books on this subject.


  16. @16 that depends on the contractor, what the state department set up, and the laws in both countries.

    “balance of payments”

    the big question is who is actually paying for the war and reconstruction? There’s a bunch of legal stuff that hasn’t even been worked out yet. Not to mention war crimes.

    I’ll take a simplistic stab at the question and say we are paying the contractors and in exchange we get cheaper oil out of Iraq.

    Since we got rid of Saddam and between the US and EU rebuilding the infrastructure with our private sector know how we should be getting free oil or at least no mopre than 3% above costs

    Least a smart country would do that for it’s people – but we aren’t very smart are we?

  17. @17 I just knew you were going to say something about buyer personas. Unfortunately I don’t have the time or the patience to read hundreds of blog posts, books and whatever.

  18. @20 Considering I’m a graduate student in mathematics in the midst of studying for final exams (and not a marketer in any way, shape, or form), I think I should use my time wisely to do what is required for me to succeed in my own area. I don’t think that includes spending days sifting through your writings searching for an answer to my questions. In fact, I have probably already used more time than is prudent.

    I certainly understand the importance of buyer personas, but that doesn’t really answer my original question. Don’t feel obligated to respond to my ignorance though if you have better things to do.

  19. @21 Alexis:

    1. Understand your buyer personas by interviewing them on their own turf (school, home, company).

    2. Determine their problems that an organization like yours or person like you can solve.

    3. Find out what media your buyer personas frequent (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever).

    4. Find out what search terms your personas are likely to use to find a product or service that you offer.

    5. Brainstorm to come up with several interesting content ideas (a YouTube video or ebook or whatever). Product and publish them.

    6. Let your network know about the content.

    7. Measure and improve.

    Now, I’ve always wondered. What exactly is trigonometry and how do you do it?


  20. @22 Your step 5 is really what I’m trying to understand better. I’m probably just not creative enough to imagine interesting content for some products. Have you ever seen interesting, non-egocentric advertising for products like, say, toothpaste?

    The rest of the steps can be implemented in a fairly algorithmic manner, but coming up with original, engaging content defies a procedural approach. Actually, I’m guessing it may not be possible to answer my question satisfactorily for this reason, since each product is different and there is no general formula that will work for all cases.

    Now for trigonometry (which is basically just a study of triangles) on the other hand, you can always use the Pythagorean theorem on right angle triangles or the law of cosines for more general cases. This is part of the beauty of mathematics; while it is often abstract, it is in a way more concrete than fuzzy, mutable concepts often encountered in other disciplines. Did you have any particular questions about trigonometry?

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