Final Two Of Six For Christmas, Not

This is a going to be a little different.

I’m not going to talk about ‘two ideas’ this week, as there’s something else going on out there that merits a little attention.

It seems to me that thousands of dot-com companies are going insane this Christmas season with their offline spending.

The big online players are spending hundreds of millions on advertising – much of it offline – in order to capture all my holiday dollars.

Even the smaller players are going nuts. I can’t recall who it was, but I remember the figures: $18 million raised, with $13 million being spent on marketing in the two months before Christmas.

Of course, there is some logic to all this. These guys know that this is the time of year to capture new online buyers and try to tie them in as long-term customers.

But how do you expect to attract these customers with your $13 million when all that cash just amounts to a single drop in a downpour?

And it is a downpour.

Over the next thirty days, I’ll likely be exposed to dozens or hundreds of web site names I’ve never heard of before.

They’ll all be shouting at me to go to their sites to buy some stuff for the holidays.

I’ll remember maybe one or two of those names.

Why only one or two? Because these are online players who are stepping up to play with the big boys offline. When it comes to competing for my attention, they’re out of their league.

When I’m driving down the highway and see a billboard for Coke, it will likely have an impact.

These guys have invested billions over decades in order to be able to capture my attention and earn my dollars.

But when I see the billboard for NicksGifts.com you can be sure that I’ll forget it in an instant. Especially as over the next thirty days I’ll also be seeing dozens and dozens of other dot-com names, almost none of which will mean anything to me.

“But Nick,” you cry, “You must admit that dot-com companies have had a huge success in advertising offline.”

Sure they have. But that was when doing so was the exception. People talked about it. It was a novelty.

But when you get hundreds of unknown names all competing for my attention at the same time, forget it. I’ve had enough. Leave me alone. You’re no longer interesting. You’re just another reason why my favorite TV show is going to be interrupted again and again.

Maybe I’m wrong about all this. But I don’t think so. I think the new year will see dozen of online companies and their VC partners trying to make sense of their mistakes.

So… what is a small company online to do?

Well, you certainly can’t compete when it comes to noise.

But you can do all the stuff that the big guys are forgetting so quickly.

The foundation of marketing online isn’t about ‘interruption.’ It isn’t about competing head-to-head with your advertising dollars.

Remember – the Internet is a network that connects over 150 million people. Marketing online, at its simplest, is about tapping into those connections.

Reach one person and give him or her a reason to reach out and tell ten others with whom they have connections.

Communicate with something interesting to say. Communicate with respect and with permission. Invite and reward interaction. Use your web site. Use email.

Do this and you’ll likely start the new year in much better shape than most of the ‘big’ players with their ‘big’ offline budgets.

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