Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 29, 200912:43 PM

Afraid To Fail

Most companies do know what to do. They attend the same seminars and conferences as we do. They read the same content. They're clued in that their industry is going through a huge shift, and they know that technology and the ability to market and communicate what they do to their target market has also shifted to places like the online space.

So, what gives?

Many people travel to different parts of the world only to report back how different things are. Whether it's the cultural differences, the type of work being done or how companies "over there" connect with consumers. They're quick to judge if a foreign country is lagging behind or jetting forward compared to where they are based. The curiosity of understanding "why" this is, is understandable. This week was a complete and total whirlwind in terms of business travel for me. From Monday to Friday, I was in Quebec City, Frankfurt, Stockholm and Copenhagen. During these jaunts I met with professional grocers, direct marketers and spoke at an Internet marketing conference that featured a slew of participating industries (including banks and major publishers). Upon reflection, they are all expressing the same concerns about their industries. There is no difference. The feedback is always the same when it comes to Digital Marketing: "we know we need to do this, we need to be doing more of this, and we should be putting more budget against this."

Here is one of the universal truths I uncovered on this trip: companies are afraid to fail.

Most of the reasons can be dumped into two buckets:

  1. Individuals: these people have been doing things for so long and are so set in their ways that anything new seems risky. Even if it's as obvious as buying pay-per-click search engine advertising for the main keywords potential customers are probably typing into the search engines as you read this. They're afraid that if they shift, experiment and try something new, it might be used against them when it comes to review time.
  2. Corporate culture: this is where you have the individuals who understand that a change is happening and they are willing to take the chance and experiment beyond what the company has done to date, but the corporate culture does not allow them to really go for it. Yes, these are the people who are loving all of the new and amazing digital marketing opportunities in front of them, but the IT department blocks them from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the the like.

Fear is a very real thing.

A way's back I used to do personal defense training with a very well-know individual in the close-quarter combatives space (Tony Blauer). A lot of what Tony does is about explaining to people fear and how to manage it in very high stress scenarios (like when your life is in physical danger). Through the years and through his training, I came to understand that the physical aspect of the fight (being able to "handle yourself") is only about 10% of it. 90% of a fight is psychological. Tony had a great acronym for "fear":

F.E.A.R. - False Expectations Appearing Real.

Bottom line, individuals and companies can talk themselves into (and out of) any belief system. In most cases, the fear is not real. It's something we've made up, and the only way to push forward is to know that more often than not, there's nothing really there to be that fearful about.

It's time for marketers to stop having these false expectations and start getting on with the business of embracing, doing and experimenting with all of these channels.

What are you afraid of?

By Mitch Joel