*The Future of Internet Marketing Is in the Hands of Consumers

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NEW ORLEANS -- Web marketers must understand that their consumers, not the traditional command-and-control hierarchy, control their businesses, according to Christopher Locke, co-author of the book "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and the speaker at yesterday's general session here at the DMA's fall show.

Locke, who is also the author of the upcoming book "Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices," told a packed audience that Internet-savvy consumers -- who communicate with companies via Web sites, message boards, e-mail and chat rooms -- are changing the face of direct marketing.

"The Internet has enabled something that has not happened before," Locke said. "It has enabled people in business to speak directly to consumers."

As a result, Locke said, there is a bottom-up emergence of Web micromarkets. Instead of getting knowledge and information from managers -- and even from workers -- to help their companies grow, direct marketers should move outside of their companies into the marketplace.

"If you've got 10,000 people in a company, and 10 million people in your market, there's a lot more knowledge about your product or service out there than in here," he said.

Locke said many companies do not understand this and don't use their resources. For example, he said, "They treat customer service like a cost center," he said. "This is like taking intellectual capital and throwing it in the toilet."

He pointed to the Ford Motor Co., however, which recently gave PCs and Internet connections to all 350,000 of its workers so they could be the eyes and ears of the company. Ford believed that this would allow the workers to listen to trends and expectations for the company.

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