A Sheet Isn’t A Parachute: Lessons in Internet Marketing
Ian Lurie Nov 20 2008
Note: The following story is what we call character development. Feel free to skip to ‘Lessons in Internet Marketing’ if you don’t like hearing about people who did even dumber things than you did as a kid.
When I was 14 or so, I jumped off the roof of my house. Holding a sheet over my head. As a parachute. This proves conclusively that teenagers should be locked up in small cages until their raging hormones allow more oxygen to their brains.
I’d assumed, of course, that the sheet would go FUMP and let me drop gently to the ground, victorious before my friends.
Instead, the sheet went PHHHBBTTTTTT and I crashed into the juniper bushes. I was miraculously uninjured. This proves conclusively that teenagers should have their luck bottled up for use later on in life.
My parents apparently had no idea what’d happened until 2 years ago, when my son tattled on me at Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m going somewhere with this.
Lessons in Internet Marketing
I made two mistakes and learned two important lessons that day:
The Crowd Is Rarely Right. First, just because your equally hormone-addled friends say “Ian, you should jump off the roof! It’ll be so kewl!” doesn’t mean you should. And, just because 400,000 other people think it’s worthwhile to:
- Spend $10 a click on the word ‘shoes’ so that they can Be Number One On Google;
- Invest heavily in banner advertising;
- Buy tons of links;
- Create web sites that are “eye-catching” instead of “useful” or “helpful”;
- Spend $4,000,000 on direct mail every year, even though the return is dropping 30% per year;
…doesn’t mean you should do it. Even in marketing, following a lot of smart people doing stupid things doesn’t make you smart. It makes you a smart person doing something stupid.
Things That Look Easy Rarely Are. I was SHOCKED that my Sears Twin Fitted Bedsheet didn’t work as a parachute. What the hell?! The principle looked so easy. Building a website, making it work, building traffic to it and making it perform as a real, profitable business center may look easy. I mean, who can’t buy a copy of Dreamweaver and slap something together? Trust me: You’re using a bedsheet as a parachute. Hire a professional, or at least talk to one, or go to something like the Elite Retreat and learn from the best.
Learn From My Humiliation
As I plummeted earthward, I distinctly heard my friends laughing hysterically. Even as I crunched into the dry and extremely scratchy juniper bushes, I heard the ‘thump’ as they fell over in helpless gales of laughter. Apparently, they’d guessed that gravity would defeat cheap cotton any day of the week, and that the 10-foot drop wasn’t enough time to make the best parachute on earth save you. They were just looking for a laugh. Jerks.
Amateur internet marketers (and pros) do really stupid things all the time.
We They always feel better when another marketer does something even more stupid. So yeah, they’ll nudge you towards that $10/click mark, and tell you not to ‘waste money’ on professional internet marketing help.
Go buy a cheap bedsheet. Put it under your desk. Whenever you’re about to spend $10,000 on a banner ad, or invest $10/click to advertise a $5 product, or build a site that ‘attracts eyeballs’, look at that sheet.
Do you want to be as stupid as I was? Didn’t think so.
Did you know I just published an e-book? Well, I did: The Unscary, Real World Guide to SEO Copywriting. Have a look.
Other stuff to do and read
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint.He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More