Diagnosis: Yer gonna die!!


“This is your future”

I don’t usually lead with the punchline first but in this case it’s necessary. Turn away now if you don’t like ribald humor. I’ll give you the joke, then the analogy and why it’s 2003 all over again.

Here’s the joke:

Two life long bosom buddies go on a camping trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. They lug enough supplies for an overnight, plus a case of beer. That night, they’re sitting around the camp fire swilling down the beer and one of them has to relieve himself. He wanders into the brush and while exposed, is bitten in the private parts by a poisonous snake.

He yells for his friend, who quickly sees the problem and tells his friend to lay still while he gets a doctor. He climbs all the way out of the canyon in the dark for his life long companion and finds a small emergency room near the rim and runs in screaming for help.

There’s only one doctor on duty and the guy hysterically explains his friend’s misfortune. The doctor says he can’t leave, because he’s going to deliver a baby any minute. He tells him the only alternative is to suck the venom out of the bitten area or else his friend will die. The friend hurriedly returns to the bottom of the canyon and finds his bitten buddy barely hanging on. The fading friend asks if he had found a doctor and the other guy says yes. When the victim asks his friend what the doctor said, his best friend says, “Yer gonna die”.

The Analogy:

Now, you’re probably thinking, how is this relevant? In my business, the only thing missing is the snake. I am usually called in to help organizations that are in “trouble mode” and they need a strategy to reach and keep an on-line audience, or else they will die.

Like any good doctor I ask a lot of questions before I give a diagnosis. I listen and I listen. I ask open ended questions and look at what they have in place already and for the most part, we may as well be sitting around the camp fire. These are who I have labelled “sleepwalkers”. They are just going through the motions when it comes to reaching out on-line. The only action that will take place is the meeting itself.

They blast away, carpet bomb and rub each other’s bellies, then puke up outrageous numbers at marketing meetings but they have no idea what the real results are. They host market research meetings in big cities with the usual suspects and get the usual answers but the numbers aren’t changing. This, they find mystifying. How can this be?, they ask “We sent out 9,000 e-mails and got 9 responses.”

When I tell them what they need to do in terms of strategy and resources, I may as well be saying “Yer gonna die”, because they’re not going to do it.

Back to looking for your car keys under a street light when you lost them in the garage, just because there’s more light out there.

Like waking a sleep walker suddenly, which isn’t advised, the truth doesn’t ever set anyone free. At least, not in my experience. Maybe if you fly a bunch of clowns up from Madison Avenue, they pull your pants down and steal your wallet, your mileage may vary, but most folks will just go back to doing what they’ve always done and getting what they always got. More market research, more navel gazing and pitch meetings but the real work will always be right there under their nose.

Why it’s 2003 all over again:

I’ll never forget that day in 2003, when I called a meeting to roll out “Outbreak”, the e-mail marketing campaign that would go “viral” and the responses I got from my sleepwalking, dinosaur friends. The body language and silence told it all. Folded arms, confused looks and then the inevitable questions designed to confuse the issue so they could crawl back inside their protective wombs and relieve their discomfort.

Comments like “creepy” and “control” or the lack thereof. But the real deal breaker was, it wasn’t their idea. I handed out copies of Seth Godin’s “The Ideavirus” which were left on the table after the meeting. The CEO and the lump they had running the sales force, folded their arms so hard you could hear their elbows cracking. Not much has changed, sad to say. I never in my life experienced thicker foreheads from supposedly educated people. Oh, and their branding was “Innovators at Heart”. Right. Go on with your bad self.

Used to be, I would dance with you if you paid the fiddler, but I’m far too cautious now to come in and warm up one of your conference room chairs, go round and round and pretend we don’t see the problem. If you’re too squeamish to deal with the venom, well, you know the consequences.

If you have any questions or need advice, please feel free to reach out to me here.

Bob O’Hearn

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Please note: I welcome comments that are offensive, illogical or off-topic from readers in all states of consciousness.

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