Internet marketing and the gold rush mentality
Ian Lurie Mar 26 2010
I’m a huge fan of the now-defunct HBO series Deadwood. It offers a pretty good picture of the gold rush mentality then, and a great comparison to the internet marketing gold rush mentality we’ve got now.
During any gold rush, 6 things happen:
- Someone finds gold.
- Everyone suddenly believes that which was previously unreachable (unbelievable wealth) is now attainable.
- Everyone rushes for the shiny stuff, without learning what’s really involved.
- Except for a few people, who aspire to become either Al Swearengen or Seth Bullock (both real people, by the way).
- The Al Swearengens make a lot of money, fast, by ripping off one hapless prospector after another. Eventually they die of a massive head wound (historical fact).
- The Seth Bullocks make money slowly but steadily, by selling people the tools they need. They become friends with people like Teddy Roosevelt. They die at 70 of horrible wasting diseases. Scratch that last. No connection. Although again, historical fact.
You can pretty much apply this to any ‘gold’ rush, no matter what the ‘gold’ is. And now, 10-15 years after ‘internet’ became a common term, we still have that gold rush mentality.
The internet looks like a gold mine
To most people, the internet looks like a freaking gold mine. Set up a web site and money just starts pouring in – it’ll literally fall out of your computer. No effort required.
And we all think we know someone who struck gold: The friend of a friend who’s independently wealthy after she sold her blog about chia pets; the guy who made a million bucks because he owned “car.com”; your cousin’s wife’s sister who made $10 million selling cialis from her web site.
That which was unattainable is now within reach
Everyone starts to think: Thanks to the internet, I can finally make my millions! Businesses used to have to pay lots of money to place ads in magazines. They had to do silly stuff like have plans and do marketing and write decent copy! But now, I can just put up a web site!
We all rush towards it
So we all run out, buy a copy of FrontPage or Expression Web or whatever the latest web building ‘system’ is. Then we dive in.
A month later, reality starts to set in. Holy crap, this is hard work. What do I do now?
Enter the Al’s and Seth’s
Now everyone has a choice: They can go over to Seth Bullock’s hardware store and buy a solid shovel, a good pickaxe and some gloves. Then they can learn how to look for gold, how to mine it, and how to make money doing it. Step by step. It’s hard work, it’s risky, and it will cost money. No gold lying on the ground, sorry. In internet marketing, this is the equivalent of either learning internet marketing yourself (count on 5 years) or hiring someone who already knows how to do it.
Or, they can go over to Al Swearengen’s place. It looks like a hell of a lot more fun. There’s booze, naughty-looking ladies, music playing, and good old Al will help you out because he likes you. He knows where there’s a huge gold deposit, right over there. In internet marketing, this is the equivalent of hiring someone who guarantees a top 10 result within 30 days, or has a system they call the Google Beater, or something similar. They generally have a lot of big, red letters on their web site.
Internet marketing: The gold rush that ain’t
Most folks hed over to Al’s place, by the way. The SuperNetastic marketing program only costs $300, so why not try it? Beats reading a lot or spending $20,000 on marketing.
Here’s the thing, guys: The internet has lowered the barrier to entry for businesses.
The internet has not lowered the requirements for success.
Get it? Yeah, launching a web site is a lot cheaper than buying space in a magazine. But simply building the site won’t get customers to your door, or establish you as a leader in your industry. Nor will it get you search rankings.
You still have to do the marketing.
You have to write. Test. Research. Network.
You have to pan for gold. For a long time. There are exceptions, of course. There are always exceptions. For every Shoemoney there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, who fell flat on their faces.
I’m not saying ‘give up’
By all means, give it a shot. Just think it through, first. Understand that you’re not going to launch a web site one day and wake up rich the next. You need to understand SEO, PPC, social media, copywriting, design, analytics and basic marketing principles. If you don’t, then you need to find those who do.
The good news: If you keep at it, work with the right people and learn as you go, you’ve got far better odds of success than the average prospector did.
Related: Friday money grubbing edition
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