Internet Marketing: Marketing Lessons From a Thief

by Paul Wilson


My good friend Jenny emailed me the below excerpt last Friday morning:

I was woken up about 6:30 with a banging on my door (my neighbour) telling me that my car had been broken into and so was hers and the cops were on their way. I panicked at first thinking of my golf clubs in the trunk.. However when I got down there aside from a car full of glass from the broken window, and a massive rock (I mean like a boulder) in my front seat nothing was stolen.. Not even my ipod sitting on the front seat. Stupid junkies looking for cash it had to be.. They did not take anything at all.. even my neighbours camera was sitting on the front seat and they did not take that.. It was more than super annoying..

Marketing Theif

This real life story is quite applicable to marketing. As marketers we get huge boulders to crash through users realities but then we leave behind the most valuable objects. We are so focused on our own agenda that we miss the obvious. Believe it or not, in the end we only annoy our users because we are not taking what they want us to take.

It’s really the small things that make the biggest difference. Here are some of the top things that I think web marketers overlook.

Consistent contact – We work so hard to drive traffic to our sites and to even get the users email address. However, I find it is rare, even for the big companies, to consistently keep in touch with their user base. I once heard that if you do email marketing right, each email address should be valued at $1. So, if you have 5,000 email list you should be making that much or more every time you send it out. The religious website,, understands and monetizes on this principle flawlessly. Last time I advertised with them they had 60,000 email list. They send out a daily and bi-weekly email to their readers. If you ever get a chance take a look at how they do their advertising. I personally believe they make more then $1 an email, but I don’t have hard proof for this belief.

True Permission Marketing – We’ve worked hard to get our communities trust, they let us market to them, but do we ask them to be a part of our marketing? The idea is simple, create a marketing campaign that incorporates parts of your community. For example, if you are an herbal company doing a sale on your arthritis salve, call up a user who orders the salve and interview him or her. Then name your sale after the user and post the interview. It gives a human face to your sale, and often times it also creates an unpaid sales rep—the user you interviewed.

Monetizing – This one seems so obvious, but I don’t think people truly optimize their campaigns for the most money. One of the best examples I can give is I am not sure why they built this site, except for a good laugh (which they got a hearty one from me). It is such a great lead generator, but in no way have they monetized it. It saddens me to see such a great idea wasted. I would buy this site from the creator in a heart beat, just to see if I could create a strong lead generator!

Strategic partnerships – A few years ago an old friend convinced me to start a speed dating company. This was at the beginning of this craze and we put our hearts into the company. After two months of trying all my marketing tactics we decided to give up on the idea believing that there was a lack of interest. Three days later I received a phone call from one of Utah’s largest online dating website. They wanted to partner up with us and help promote our little speed dating company. With their endorsement we doubled our price of admissions and were hugely successful for a season. Lesson learned: two companies working together are more successful then one.

Originality – It’s amazing how unoriginal things are on the web. Someone comes up with a great idea and thousands of people copy the idea—usually unsuccessful. A little originality goes a long way. Do you remember the website Really cool site that actually worked. However, you saw similar sites popping up all over the web copying the idea. I never saw any of these sites be able to pull off what these guys did.

Friendship – Not too long ago I wanted to name my first born child Google Dot Com Wilson—true story! Thankfully common sense reined me in (not to mention, no woman in her right mind would let me name our child that). Yet, why would I even be willing to name my child after a super mega company? Reason: Google has branded themselves as my friend. I have always felt that Google has had my best interest in mind, even though I know they are also trying to make a mighty big buck. Understanding this, I have really tried in my marketing campaigns to be a friend. Would I sell this to my friends or my own mother? If not, then I shouldn’t market it. If your customers can feel this friendship you will always make more, even if you also give up more.

Giving Back – If Google is my friend, I would say Yahoo is my nemesis. Why? Simple, my perception of Yahoo is straight corporate greed. If they can’t make a buck off of you then you don’t matter! Yahoo really knows how to put the incorporated back into to Yahoo! Inc. Now understanding this mindset of mine realize that Yahoo does something really well to hide their grubby money fingers—service. Google does this also, but Yahoo markets their humanitarian deeds better (which, in my opinion negates the goodness behind the deed, but it’s still well thought out marketing). We all know that Yahoo is lagging far behind Google. How do you win people over and quick? Do something really nice for them! In the last few months you’ve seen Yahoo really push their imagine into the altruistic painting of life. Anything from America’s Greenest City to Awarding Do-Gooders. You want to be an expert marketing thief, let everyone think you are their friend while you steal their wallet. This Yahoo has done superbly well.

I know that there are many other things that we as marketers forget. However, I hope this eclectic list can be useful in your marketing endeavors. At least remember that if you are going to make the effort of smashing into a car with a boulder be sure to take the iPod that is sitting in plain view.

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