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 was 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 training investment.

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 thi, 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.

Internet Masterminds Tell All

More Internet reality

Questions or topics you'd like to see covered

Amacord, 1993-2001 - All rights reserved