Specialists, Experts, Gurus, and Other Marketing Problems

At a party, I heard a man say he was having trouble with his digestion. A friend suggested he see a specialist. The man replied, “Oh no! I don’t like specialists. They cure their specialty instead of your actual trouble.” That got me thinking. Like medicine, marketing is full of specialists, each seeing her own specialty as the critical element.

The Web is still baffling. It’s a relatively new medium, yet the sheer number of “experts” is overwhelming. Many of them are missing the forest for the trees. So focused are they on a narrow expertise that few think strategically. Many couldn’t define, much less achieve, their objectives.

Internet marketing should be an arena of synthesis, integrating all the related disciplines that make it work. Thing is, when all you’ve got is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. What’s required is versatility in using the variety of tools these interdependent disciplines require.


Over 70 percent of software projects fail, and 80 percent of the cost associated with development comes after the project has been delivered. When technology becomes the message that defines marketing, rather than the medium through which we market, everyone loses. I’ve argued for an open methodology that benefits clients and development houses and allows both to work on the same page (as it were).

When you have a lot of balls in the air, scrupulous upfront planning and standardized methodologies make all the difference. Development is the time to address the other issues I’ll comment on in this article. Developing your project doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Design and Layout

I’m flabbergasted by all the mystery-meat navigation and fundamental disregard for legibility, placement, prioritization, and usability principles I continue to find on leading sites. This is not the first time I’ve written about how to keep it simple, stupid, and it won’t be the last.

Although download speeds have improved, many Web pages are still larger than the recommended 40-60k file size. Flash and other bandwidth hogs are rampant. Some of this is the designers’ fault. Much is uneducated, make-it-cool capriciousness on the part of clients.

Design and layout aren’t novelties or aesthetic window dressings. They’re critical conversion elements. Marketers need to understand how they help or hinder your (and your customers’) efforts to realize objectives.


Usability experts can find and correct obstacles your visitors may encounter, but many aren’t qualified to identify marketing issues. Usability alone doesn’t provide a road map to guide and persuade customers on the path of conversion. If the most usability-friendly site in the world doesn’t address the process of conversion, you’ll have users, not customers. Go beyond usability!

Search Engine Optimization

Everyone wants a high search engine ranking.

Search engine optimization is a specialized field, but even this discipline does not exist in a vacuum. Optimizers understand how different search engines compute their algorithms. Design and site architecture are important: A well-designed site takes into account how search engine spiders crawl. If your site is designed in Flash, fuggedaboutit (yeah, I’m from Brooklyn). Search-engine-wise, Flash is trash. Spiders ignore it.

Search engine optimizers who don’t understand copywriting, design, and sales can’t do a good job for their clients. Good copywriting — effective calls to action, identifying the right keyword phrases, and writing persuasively — is critical to search engine success.


Words are your greatest communication tool, from your unique selling proposition (USP) and value proposition to descriptive copy, search engine optimization, email, system-generated responses, usability clues, assurances, and calls to action. You can’t accomplish much without the right words used in the right way at the right time.

Speak to your visitors and develop relevant, persuasive copy. To persuade people to buy, you must speak their language and address their needs. Spend time learning techniques to rev up your writing or, at the very least, identify the sort of online writing that will work for you.

Tracking and Metrics

In brick-and-mortar businesses, executives enjoy a full range of fundamental metrics that help them understand trends and opportunities and find hidden hazards, allowing them to manage by the numbers. These tools help determine strategy and build businesses in normal and unfamiliar conditions. E-business executives, facing more unfamiliar, highly volatile business conditions and employing new techniques (e.g., personalization, viral marketing, and dynamic pricing) have relatively blunt tools on which to base decisions.

Web logs can extract a great deal of data about user activity, much of it not helpful. Yet within those logs is a wealth of actionable knowledge if you know how to turn the raw data into metrics with which you can make effective marketing decisions.


Accidental marketing is still in vogue. Those who persist in practicing it won’t be around long. Those who don’t won’t miss the ones who do. If you want to make the pieces fall into place, keep your marketing intentional.

Sound like a complicated business? It is. Excitingly so. We haven’t even touched on the roles information architecture, consumer psychology, market research, sales, advertising, fulfillment, customer relations, email marketing, and so many other factors play.

Don’t just pound nails. Reconsider that hammer for a full toolbox.

Related reading