Internet Reality Check
Your Internet Marketing Service Should Be This Smart
- and What To Do If It's Not
An interview with Ken McCarthy
Q: How the heck do I pick an Internet marketing service. For example, what would I get out of going with Amacord as opposed to any one of thousands of other companies that do what you do.
A: Well, there are thousands of web consultants, web designers,
web hosts, and web programmers, but there are not thousands
of companies that do what we do. Actually, I'm not aware
of a single company that does what we do.
Q: Which is?
A: First, we've been in this business since 1993. I coined
the term e-media and even trademarked it. We since
sold that trademark and renamed ourselves Amacord.
Anyway, there are not more than ten companies in the world
that can say they've been in the full time business of
rendering Internet marketing services as long as we have.
Second, we've invested a small fortune in creating "how to"
materials for our clients. In fact, along with Marc Andreessen
and Mark Graham and a few other pioneers of Internet
commercialization, we sponsored and organized the first
conference on commercial uses of the web ever held. That
back in 1994.
Since then, we've produced numerous seminars, developed
three manuals, and are now starting to make video tapes
available, all on subjects of immediate relevance to web
site owners with "real life" budgets and all targeted to
their particular needs. If there are any other companies - of
any size - that have made a similar ongoing investment
in education for small budget web site owners, I'd like to
know about them.
Q: But you charge a pretty hefty price for your start
up materials, don't you?
A: We sure do. But it depends on what you mean by "hefty."
We routinely have people come to us who have spent thousands
of dollars and months of their lives trying to develop a web site
and have little to show for their investment. I can tell you
that everyone who has gone through our program has succeeded
in getting a basic site up within a few weeks and for far less
than they would have spent without the preliminary education.
And keep in mind, we give our clients web production credits
equal to the amount they spend on their educational materials.
For many of our clients, other than management fees, they never
have to dip into their pockets again once they've made the initial
Q: Surely people can get this information elsewhere, cheaper.
A: Theoretically, if you value your time at zero and had
several years to devote full time to the effort you could, but
I don't know how anyone could duplicate the material
we've produced and compiled on their own for less than tens of
thousands of dollars. For example, tell me where you find
someone with twenty years of direct marketing experience
who also has six years of e-commerce experience to continually
sift through all the material that's been generated in the
last six years?
Because of my long involvement in the industry - before
anyone would have thought of calling it an industry -
virtually every publisher sends me review copies of
their books, I get every industry publication, and I
can pretty much attend any conference or seminar I want
thanks to my press credentials (I write a weekly column
for Japanese computer giant NEC.)
I go over every new book and every new article and have
been doing this since 1993. And that doesn't count all
the reading I do in direct marketing and related topics. I feel
I need to do this just to keep up and our clients get the benefit
of all this. Some take advantage of it brilliantly. Others
use us as "web designers."
Q: You've mentioned "direct marketing" several times. Isn't
that just the latest buzzword in the Internet industry?
A: My first official act as a full time Internet consultant
was to give a talk to a group of very savvy direct marketers
in Phoenix on the subject of online marketing. My message
was that the PC and modem boom had the potential to become as
important as the railroad and telegraph in the 19th century
and the automobile and the telephone in the early 20th
century. That was six years ago.
The reason I went to direct marketers first was that I clearly
saw that the Internet was going to thrive as a direct marketing
medium. If it's taken six years for the Internet industry
to catch up to this realization, all I can say is better late
than never. Also, there is nothing "fad like" about direct
marketing. In fact, I've seen very few things in the Internet
world that have not been done, decades ago, in paper and
ink, by direct marketers.
"Opt in" e-mail lists? Every cataloger prefers to mail catalogs
to people who've asked for them. They spend money on ads and
"loss leaders" just to acquire new names. And for one hundred years,
we've been able to rent lists of known buyers of every
commodity under the sun. Affiliate marketing? This is
simply a new twist on "member get a member" and what is
now called network marketing. But setting people up as
casual agents to sell your goods is as old as the hills.
Search engines - or to use the billion dollar Wall Street
word, "portals"? What are they really but directories.
The directory business is another old, old business that
thrives under the direct marketing model.
We may yet see a successful business model on the Internet
that does not derive from proven direct marketing principles,
but I'm not holding my breath. Keep in mind all that
technology can do is make something that works work
better. But you must start with something that works.
Q: Is that why you are reluctant to take on clients who
are starting brand new businesses?
A: I'm more wary than reluctant. The simple fact is I can
easily help an existing business make a return on its Internet
investment. Here's the formula: set up a low cost order taking
system and customer information archive and make sure that
everything you publish from that moment on has your web
address on it. People will use your site naturally
and you will get bigger orders (people tend to spend
a bit more freely on the Internet, assuming they know
and trust you) and your orders will cost less to process
than taking them via telephone. That's about as close to
free money as it gets in this world.
Now, if you don't have a business - which usually means no
prospects, no customers, no established suppliers, no
proven marketing systems - you are facing an expensive,
uphill battle. An exciting, interesting battle, but a battle.
Experienced business people - and I do not mean people
who have earned inflated paychecks as managers of
someone else's business - they understand this. Novices do
not. They tend to dream. I've had people tell me with a
straight face they expect to sell a few million dollars
worth of product with nothing more than a few web
pages. Part of this, I blame on the media which presents
virtually no useful or realistic business information to
the public. All people hear about are the spectacular success
stories. They never hear about the huge investments
necessary to make those stories happen and they never
hear about the business that don't make it. Those latter
stories are far, far more common in real life.
By all means dream and who am I to say that something
is impossible, but too many people come to the Internet
completely ill equipped to do business, and yes, frankly,
I am extremely reluctant to work with such people unless
they display a willingness to receive instruction from
a qualified source.
Q: But you'll take anyone on who can pay your fees?
Of course being able to pay is the minimum qualification,
but money is not the deciding issue. We turn away many,
many more clients than we accept and it has nothing to
do with how much they're willing to pay. We're not a factory.
We don't delegate the work to some eager beaver who just
graduated from school and joined the industry last week.
Working with people who won't or can't follow and take
advantage of our advice is a burnout. Working with a small
client, even one with budget most people in the industry
would laugh out the door, is infinitely preferable
to us - and we choose to do what is infinitely preferable.
I spent what seemed like a lifetime (three years on Wall Street)
dressing up, schmoozing and attending endless client meetings
dealing with the semi-motivated and the semi-informed.
I made what seemed at the time to be an insane amount of money,
but what was really insane was the manner of working.
I'm not in that kind of business any more. I'm in the business of helping
entrepreneurially-oriented people take care of the Internet side
of their businesses with a minimum of fuss and expense with a
a maximum of intelligence by offering the benefit of our experience.
If the entry fee seems too high, c'est la vie. There are, as you pointed
out at the beginning of this interview, thousands of people in the
web site business. No one will go without an Internet presence
because we turn them down.
Let me make this as clear as possible, if you're not serious about
putting your business on the Internet and taking intelligent advantage
of our services, please do not buy our package. The package is
designed to be a beginning, not an end in itself. If you attracted
to it because you think it will contain secrets that will
propel you to instant, effortless wealth, let me disabuse
you of that right now.
What you'll get is an entry to working with Amacord and a very
thorough briefing on the essential points of business on the
Internet that would otherwise take years and tens of thousands of
dollars to duplicate. In other words, a real, fighting chance.
No one on earth can honestly offer you more.
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