Featured Internet Marketing

On fingernail painting and keeping your day job

I had never painted fingernails before last week. It’s not a skill I’ve ever needed. Nor, given the result, will I ever need it again.

But the whole experience did teach me how folks who, say, have never tried internet marketing suddenly decide to jump in.

The whole story

About 4 months ago, my daughter (Morgan) slammed her finger in a car door. She did a very thorough job of it. Even now, the fingernail on that finger looks a bit like a Hulk fingernail: Faintly green and sort of… mutated. Morgan is very sensitive about it. So she’s been wearing a band-aid on that finger.

For four months.

I’m starting to worry that her fingertip will just fall off from the lack of oxygen or something. Plus, the band-aid is putting a crimp in her burgeoning recorder-playing career. So I’ve been trying to persuade her to go without the band-aid. Alas, she is very, very, very stubborn. Can’t imagine where she gets it…

ANYWAY, I had a brilliant idea: If we painted her fingernails, it’d be a lot less noticeable. Morgan’s eyes lit up – she’s pretty much a girly-girl (I despair) and loves all these bizarre rituals like makeup and earrings (clip on only) and bows in her hair in stuff.

She picked out her favorite shade of orange, and I figured, “Hey, how hard can it be?” I got to work.

Oh. My God. When I was done her fingers looked like they’d been attacked by an octopus with orange ink. Her cuticles had vanished beneath a flood of sloppy polish; her fingertips had little brush strokes of orange on them; and her nails alternated between the smooth-but-hilly and recently-hit-by-shrapnel look.
At this point I felt pretty stupid. I said “So, what do you think…?” and Morgan gave me a look I’ve seen from both her AND her mother on many occasions:

Morgan does not approve

Luckily, I’m better at using nail polish remover.

Lesson learned

Now I understand, after 15 years, why people dive into internet marketing when their total previous experience consists of handing out fliers for their cat sitting business at age 9. At first glance, it looks pretty simple.

I’m not suggesting folks avoid new things. Learning new things is great. As long as you learn first. I should’ve practiced painting my cats’ fingernails first, or something. And you should do some serious studying before you try to market a real business on the internet. My only penalty was the Morgan Look Of Death. Yours could be from Google.

Any time you find yourself thinking “Gosh, how hard can it be?” right before leaping into something you’ve never tried before, pause for a moment. Trying new things is great, as long as you’re not going to screw up someone else’s fingernails, or their internet marketing campaign.

End of story.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. I definitely agree — do your research and learn about things before you jump in, whether it be PPC, Facebook, e-mail marketing, Twitter, etc. Do your due diligence and then make a move, but always make a move. I think you can do a lot of learning by just trying things out after getting an understanding of what it is beforehand.
    If you spend too much time researching, learning, and documenting — you forget that you need to actually do it to make it a reality. Then learn from it and iterate.

  2. Ah, Ian, the joy of parenthood with a pre-teen (I am guessing) daughter … been there, done that. Mine is now 28 – we survived.
    The miraculous band-aid has hidden many a fingernail for me. When an acrylic nail breaks and takes the ‘real’ nail with it, it is quite painful and ugly. In my case, it is vanity and to prevent it from being caught on something (and causing more pain) that makes me hide, or rather ‘protect’ my boo-boo.
    I was a victim of information overload, but now am recovering with guidance, which is allowing me to earn while I learn.
    I will still make my own mistakes — and will learn from them — while they heal under the protection of a band-aid.

  3. I got this excellent advice yesterday from Bob Bly’s newsletter: spend 25% of your time learning; 25% observing; and the remaining 50% doing.
    However, I don’t think any amount of studying and preparation would lead to successfully applying nail polish to a cat. Certainly not mine.

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