The Case Of The Unmanageable Web Client

Just last week, I was sitting in my office trying to decide whether another slug of bourbon would cure the e-business-induced ache in my brain. I was really wondering where my next case would come from. I like being an interactive media planner. The hours can get weird but the thrill of the bleeding edge keeps me going.

I was in the midst of this reverie when in walked the leggiest blonde I had seen since the Viper display at the auto show. She was crisp, tailored and had a Palm III/cell phone combo strapped to a set of curves that would turn a Jesuit into one of those drooling characters from a Porky’s movie.

“What can I do for you, sweetheart?” I purred. I needed a client the way the Titanic needed lifeboats.

“I need a media plan!” she shot back. I could tell that this dame was going to be hard to please.

“If it’s an interactive plan you’re talking about, you’ve come to the right place.” I wasn’t going to let this tough-cookie act put me off.

“I want a plan for the internet,” she continued, “the kind that generates sales and saves overhead. See, I’m a marketing director and I’ve got this web site. It’s got products, shopping carts, database management, the whole bit.”

I was starting to see the angle. “You spent a lot of money, didn’t you? Maybe you’re getting some heat from management.”

“Yes,” she continued, “You could call it heat. They want sales. That’s all they care about. They don’t understand how hard it is to run a web site.”

“Uh, huh. I’m still listening,” I said. I wanted her to keep talking.

“Fact is,” she said, “I’m running out of time. Management has fronted all the cash and now they’re looking for the pay-off. I’m worried about my position.”

She was beginning to crack, and I could see it coming a mile away. “Lay it on the line, honey. You need marketing. I hope you know what you’re getting into here. Traffic building, brand awareness, response, a real ROI equation — these things don’t come cheap. I can do it but it’ll cost you.”

“I’m willing to pay,” she responded. “Your fee is well within my operating budget.”

“Sugar, finding my fee is the least of your problems,” I said. “If you want my help I need information.”

“Information?” she said. “What kind of information?”

“I’ll be straight with you, sugar. If you want a pro, you need to give up everything — P&L, business model, market cap, the whole gig. I’m not just some target-audience flunky. I’m going to teach you how to tune your business for the web.”

I had her now, and she was going to listen. “If I read you right, you went into this web thing with a little stake and some big dreams. You talked a good game at your operations meetings with your promises about e-commerce. You got your sugar daddies at the top to give you more and more, but now you’re out of time. You need new metrics, new formulas for figuring value. You need to take what you’ve got, blow it up and build it again.”

A series of expressions crossed her face: Eager hope, shock, then outrage. “How dare you?! You’re calling me incompetent! You have some nerve telling me to scrap everything I’ve built just because you think it’s not perfect!”

“Sugar, I’m not talking about perfect.” This was more than she bargained for, and I knew she was gone before I even opened my mouth. “I’m taking about functional and appropriate. I’m selling the tools for a new age of computer-mediated communication and commerce. You want anything less and you’ve got the wrong boy.”

“Mister, you can take your management guru pitch and shove it!”

She was getting hotter all the time. “I want a media plan and a negotiated schedule, not some goat dance about re-engineering. I’m taking my business down the street, where I can get some simple answers and some goddamn obedience!”

and with that, she was gone. This dame, she had it all great looks, personal tech, a big title. But she didn’t have the guts to make e-commerce work.

We could have had something beautiful together, me and her. Problem is, she wouldn’t change. It’s a shame really, because if there’s one thing this business demands, it’s the will to change.

She had taken 20 minutes of my time and most of my faith in marketing people. What the hell at least I had the bottle to keep me company.

Related reading