Editorial: Say What?

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Evidence that things will get worse before they get better comes in the form of a press release excerpted below that was put out by a well-known customer relationship management software provider.


Beware: Too much time spent trying to decipher the following paragraph may cause the crevices in your brain to seep blood. The bracketed content has been added to protect the company's identity.


"[Really well-known CRM provider] today announced support for the customer-driven demand chain with new applications and partnerships designed to provide colloborative [sic] customer relationship management solutions for businesses that sell through indirect channels. [New products from the San Mateo, CA-based firm] enable manufacturers, channel distribution partners and retailers to obtain a shared, single view of customer information across the demand chain in order to drive more intelligent interactions with customers and among partners. As a result, vendors and channel partners are able to leverage customer intelligence as the centerpiece of colloborative [sic] marketing, sales and service initiatives."


Wow.


Is it any wonder that Internet marketing is imploding when its vendors still can't pitch without sounding as though they're offering Mars-probe technology? How about simply telling merchants how the product will help sell a few widgets?


And believe it or not, the Internet industry is still populated with people who talk like the blurb above. I know. I've interviewed hundreds of them.


So why pick on this particular press release?


Because the firm responsible for it [whose name rhymes with Tiffany] is supposed to help marketers form so-called one-to-one relationships with customers more efficiently.


But if a CRM vendor can't communicate, what makes anyone think its product will help marketers communicate with customers?


The Internet is not going the way of the citizens band radio. It has revolutionized the way we communicate, and far too many people love its convenience and never-ending supply of serendipity.


But its marketing and advertising industry has been so technology-oriented that it began trying to build rockets before its practitioners knew how to ride bicycles. Think of all the consumer profiling schemes this publication has reported, only one of which involved the fundamental technique of using past purchasing behavior to deliver relevant offers to people who might actually make a remote purchase (think DoubleClick, Abacus).


As a result, many Internet marketing folks have grown to talk like rocket builders and still can't ride bikes.


Things are looking up, though. Weekly announcements that big-name Web sites are beginning to serve larger, more intrusive ads are good news. Granted, they still think they're branding when they're direct marketing, but the laws of direct response have always been in play on the Net, so it doesn't really matter whether anyone wants to admit it.


Bigger, more intrusive ads are one of many politically incorrect, real-world steps that many online advertisers used Monopoly-money budgets to avoid but that they now must take in order to become profitable.


Take Salon.com's announcement last week that it will offer two versions of its service beginning next month: an advertising-free subscription service and a free service with larger ads. It's a pretty safe bet that consumers will choose the free service that serves in-your-face ads.


But don't be surprised if big ads still aren't enough, and that to survive, Salon is forced to serve big ads and charge.


This is a time when a lot of people - mainly traditional marketers - who kept their mouths shut during the dot-com boom are saying, "So I wasn't insane after all. The rules do apply."


These people see things evolving the way they knew they should all along.


A little more plain talk and common sense from what's left of the Net crowd would help things move along a lot more painlessly.


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