Internet Marketing and GTD: A bit more

Ian Lurie

A few folks have e-mailed me saying my comments about David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, were completely confusing cryptic. Sorry about that. Here’s a better explanation, I hope:

Getting Things Done focuses on productivity and time management. Activity management, actually. Allen coaches you to break gridlock by always thinking of, and managing, your time and projects in terms of the next action you can and should take. By focusing on the action, rather than on the project, you automatically break things down into digestible chunks, and do a far better job of managing tasks.

Getting Things Done explains the success or failure of almost every company I’ve seen try to launch an internet marketing campaign. Let’s use two fictional examples. No names or companies here have any connection to anyone I’ve worked with, I promise:

Widgets R Us wants to increase sales using the internet. The marketing manager, Betty, creates The Internet Marketing Project with a budget of $250,000. She wants it all: Keyword ads, e-mail marketing, banner campaigns and online video. She talks to five internet marketing firms. After a month or so, she hires IMA, Inc.. IMA immediately recommends that she launch a starter campaign using Google Adwords and a few other venues. Betty, though, isn’t sure. She floats the idea to her staff, and to her superiors. After several meetings, they decide they need to commission another consultant to review whether this will work. Three months later, Widgets R Us has spent close to $15,000, but has yet to see any sales. Frustrated, Betty fires IMA and the consultant, and resolves not to use the internet as a sales channel.

Widgets, Inc. wants the same thing. The marketing manager, Beth, decides the first thing to do is a small test. She creates a small project with three steps: Pick their test market; create a few small landing pages; write three test ads; run them on Google Adwords; measure the results; decide what to do as a follow up. They go it alone, and immediately launch a small, $1000/month Google Adwords campaign. It works pretty well, generating $3000 in the first month. Beth decides that this could work, but she needs help. She hires IMA and gives them a fixed budget, but otherwise free reign. Three months later, they’re earning a modest 2:1 return on their investment, but they’re learning more and more, and their ROI is improving.

The difference between the two companies? Action. The first company created a massive project, dove in, but failed because they didn’t define the actions necessary and then stick with the plan. Instead, they developed ‘analysis paralysis’. I’ve seen it happen on design projects where clients practice design by committee, marketing campaigns where folks want perfection before testing, and even development projects where the team decides to write a 400-page specification before programming anything.

The second company defined five simple actions. In Conversation Marketing terms, they were:

Pick a test market. aka Know the Room.

Create landing pages. (Dress Appropriately)

Write three test ads. (Sound Smart)

Run them on Google Adwords. (Brag Modestly)

Measure the results (Observe & Adjust).

Most important, they acted. They controlled their risk, and then willingly took that risk.

It’s not how big you start. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether you hire an agency, either. What matters is that you set small, manageable steps at the start of your campaign, and stick to the plan. The important thing is that you start.

That’s David Allen’s point, too. By writing down your next action, and the action after that, etc., you get yourself going.

Turns out it’s just as true in internet marketing. So take a few risks, measure the results, and learn from it. It works!

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PS: You can order Getting Things Done on, here.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, 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. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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