The secret to internet marketing success? 'Because I said so'

Ian Lurie

I’m going to let you in a secret. It’s the One Big Thing you have to know if you’re going to run an internet marketing campaign.

Sometimes, you have to say ‘Because I said so’.

Part of leadership is willingness to go out on a limb—to make a decision that isn’t supported by consensus or reams of data.

There are times when you just know, in your gut, that you’re right. If you’re the copywriter in the fourth cubicle to the left and happy with that, you don’t have to do anything about it. If you’re heading up a marketing team, though, you have to follow your gut and take your team with you.

That’s how you take your company in a direction that no one else thought would work, and turn that into a huge, market-changing event. It’s how you give clients a competitive advantage. It’s how you fix bayonets and charge at the worst possible moment, and win the battle.

You can go with the group. Or you can say ‘Because I said so’.

Is it risky? Hell yes. When it goes wrong it’s damned embarrassing, too. You might get fired. It’s scary.


Deal with it. Internet marketing isn’t about the data—if it was, then we could have computers do it all.

Internet marketing is about creativity. Data helps only because it can guide creativity. You won’t always have reports that tell you exactly what to do. Sometimes the survey data is contradictory; the traffic report is incomplete; or the rest of your team interprets the numbers differently.

That’s really scary. That means you have to take responsibility for whatever you decide. If you flush an entire internet marketing strategy down the toilet, it’s on your head.

Hopefully, that’s why you wanted to be in charge—you want to take the risk, because you know something really cool can come of it.

Because you said so.


Couple of final notes:

I’m assuming, of course, that you’re in charge because you’ve got the expertise. You’ve put in the 10,000+ hours to really know what you’re doing. If you don’t, then saying ‘Because I said so’ may feel good right now, but you’re probably leading your whole team down a rat hole. You’re just guessing and hoping you’re right. That’s not leadership—that’s arrogant stupidity.

I’m also assuming that you heard everyone out before you made your decision. Most people can take rejection, if they had their say. If they can’t handle it, this is a good chance for them to learn. If you just punt them out the door without listening to their ideas, though, all you’re teaching them is that you’re a jerk.

And now, I’m off to bed. To lie awake for awhile, scared poopless over whatever I did today based on my own ‘Because I said so’.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is 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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  1. Could not be more wrong. Leaders are rarely the best informed person on marketing issues, because they simply don’t have time, so the secret is letting *other people* do what they know is right, not you.

  2. Hi Ian,
    Having a different opinion just to be different is not the point, right?
    But… highlighting what others don’t see – that’s what makes the REAL difference.

  3. @Pete I agree to a point. But eventually someone has to make a decision, and that’s the job of the person in charge. If that person is so ignorant they can’t make that decision, the whole system fails.
    Too many leaders now take shelter behind groupthink. It’s a bad trend.

  4. While these are some great points about leadership in a workplace context, these same skills will make you a leader in everyday life.
    leadership is all about not being afraid to take risks. It’s about being the person who isn’t afraid to take a stand, even if no one else agrees with you. It’s about confidence.
    Hiding behind your team and letting them make the calls isn’t leadership. It’s just employee management. I’m pretty sure there’s a difference.

  5. I think that being a leader in marketing means that you have to “take the lead”. Sometimes that will ruffle some feathers but that is what you are paid to do. I have worked with several marketing companies that simply won’t take the reigns and run. That is very disappointing. As an expert, you need to stand up and take charge!

  6. Its can be hard to take the lead in an organization with weak or leadership.
    I was in charge of sales and marketing at a company where to owner had little idea about marketing and reject pretty much everything put forward.
    The few campaigns I ran on the side with out her knowing always produced a reasonable ROI
    I eventually left as the job satisfaction was non existent.

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