A vet or doctor? A builder or architect?

There are lots of SME business owners and marketing heads out there who know their limitations when it comes to the development of an online marketing strategy. I think it’s good to know your limitations… although you should be careful it doesn’t lead to inertia and paralysis through fear of the unknown.

There is also a larger number who brazen it out, especially marketing heads from an offline or PR background who believe that:

1. Simply applying old world tried and tested principles to new world methods is enough.
2. They should continue in an offline bubble, hoping the nasty online stuff remains a fad. “When PR became mainstream everybody got really excited, but it soon settled into the mix”. The same will happen with digital.
3. The burden of responsibility (most often self-inflicted) to know everything in my field (every aspect of my business or every aspect of my marketing discipline) is such that I’ll make it up as I go along, or transform my image into a converted digital guru.

I was reading an article recently about the struggle in parts of Africa against HIV Aids and how the situation is exacerbated by ignorance, a lack or willingness to understand and a lack of organised and effective education. I don’t mean to flippantly relate my point to a world killer, but the article went on to discuss how some sufferers seek the “help” of witch doctors, others from vets, and the better informed/luckier from qualified doctors and nurses. Obviously witch doctors are at worse charlatans, and at best misguided in their own belief system. They peddle ignorance. Vets, although in a directly related industry, are just not qualified for the job. I think most of us, given the choice, would opt for the qualified doctor or nurse.

Let me develop another analogy to further tunnel down and dissect the difference between a doctor and a nurse (although I’m sure we all know what we’d prefer). The point I would like to make though is that they are qualified in the same area but in different disciplines. They have different functions and do different jobs.

I’ve never been lucky (or unlucky) enough to build my own house, but I know there are a number of options open to me.

1. Build one yourself. Just think of the challenge of a whole new expertise and trade. The experience and expertise of professionals crammed into 6 months. 2 years. 5 years. Hmm…
2. Get your neighbour’s nephew to build you one. “He’s good at that sort of thing” (if it wasn’t so pathetic it would be laughable). Even if his only qualification is that he knows more than you it is surely a good start. Hmm…
3. Get a builder. The builder will do the job for you and he’ll make a decent job. He wont have developed a strategy (thats not his job – he builds). It won’t have been properly planned, the lay out won’t be to your complete satisfaction and it might not get approval, buy you can make do. Right? Hmm…
4. Hire an architect and do the job properly. There will be a strategy and plan in place. He can advise on best practice, cost effectiveness and who is needed to do the job properly. He will also ensure legal compliance. Jobs a good ‘un!

When approaching the whole online thing (and we’re not just talking websites), what kind of business professional do you wish to be? Who should you be approaching?

If I needed medical attention I would go to a qualified doctor. If I wanted a house building I would go to an architect. If i wanted to know how I should approach digital, and what I should do to ensure an ROI on my investment, I would go to genuine online specialists who deal with digital strategies.