What do carrots have to do with it?

I used to have a personal blog on all things web design; I stopped maintaining it for whatever reason (the typical life of most personal blogs I am afraid) though decided to slowly move the blogs across to the Wiliam blog.

I wrote this particular blog on 21 November 2007 following a conference I spoke at. It is a pretty passe blog today though in fairness, it was written during the depths of the Web 2.0 era when Web 2.0 was all the buzz.

Most things have changes and moved on though from time to time, I still meet businesses failing to grasp the importance of the web as a channel. A problem that obviously existing seven long years back, if my blog is to be believed.


What do carrots have to do with Web 2.0?


I was asked a very good question at an event I spoke at yesterday, A World of Web 2.0.

In my presentation, I made the point that few Australian businesses had embraced Web 2.0 (in its many guises), or at least very successfully.

The key to a business successfully implementing Web 2.0 ultimately hinges on the business genuinely understanding Web 2.0 and knowing why it should change.

My slide, titled You won’t get Web 2.0 if you don’t get Web 2.0 argued that Web 2.0 doesn’t mean a flashier website or purchasing Google Adwords. The web is now so important in delivering and communicating with customers; what’s required is an evolution within the business, not just building a new website.


Do we blame marketing?

The question asked was whether the marketing department – typically the area responsible for developing a business website – was the impasse, or reason Web 2.0 had failed to permeate through businesses. Was it marketing that was holding the business back, failing to recognise, or preferring not to recognise the need for change?

I initially answered no, though in hindsight, I was both right and wrong.

There is simply no question that Web 2.0 requires a considerable shift in thinking within a business; the way customers, clients and information are treated and prioritised. This is applicable to any business, of any size, in any industry.

The web has not only made us more cynical – or is it empowered – about how we see and respond to businesses online. It has completely changed our expectation of businesses. At the end of the day, we are all customers, whether buying an iPod or selecting a recruitment staff to find our staff. Consumer hat or business hat, we're buying. We want relavance and an experience, not marketing guff.

Yet even today, some businesses believe they are immune to the web (and especially Web 2.0) due to the nature of their customers or products – I gave the example of a business making boxes and packing carrots into boxes – though this simply isn’t the case for two reasons.

Firstly, we all have customers - and all customers use the web. These customers are increasingly cynical, and bring with them the expectations they have developed online. They’re well researched and they demand gratification.

Secondly is that it is completely inevitable that eventually – in 5 to 10 years time – we will conduct many of the aspects of the supplier/customer relationship online.


So many businesses build new products and services and consider the web last, as maybe a way to market the product or service, and nothing more; certainly, they don't consider the web as a central part of the strategy.

But is it marketing that is failing to drive the necessary business change towards Web 2.0? Is marketing unable to make the change or is marketing responsible for the change?

I’d say all three.

Typically, I work with the marketing departments of businesses and commonly (and impressively), they are either proponents or at least open to Web 2.0 and the benefits it offers - blogging, social media optimisation and developing relevant content for customers.

Marketing departments more often than sales are aware of their market, customer movements, and what competitors are doing.

What breaks me time and time again therefore is the defeatist attitude of marketing; despite the excitement and genuine belief of the benefits of Web 2.0, it is rare to see marketing fight the fight for even moderate development in business strategy towards Web 2.0. Just too hard for marketing to deal with.

We love the idea though we need to focus on the website and maybe later look Web 2.0.

The business would never go for a blog.

Our industry isn’t like that.

Our customers aren’t like that.

Adding an RSS feed to the website just doesn’t cut it; you develop a Web 2.0 strategy, not just a Web 2.0 website.


Who to blame then?

So is marketing shying from the fight with the business to force the necessary business change?

Probably, and dare I say it, it may be due to the inherent place marketing has within a business; an important part of the business, though an adjunct and no part of business decision and product development.

Market what we have to market, don’t develop what we market.

Businesses love their marketing departments though they’re the first to go when things go south. Poor marketing!; constantly justifying its role within the business at the whim of the business.

What an impasse!

Marketing know the business needs to change, though they’re in no position to do so! They know Web 2.0 is the way forward even if they don’t know how or why.

The realistic outcome for most businesses is that the decision to evolve business to Web 2.0 will happen well away from marketing.

It will happen when the business – not marketing – is ready. It starts and ends with management.

This is the reality if only because businesses rarely move faster than they have to and few will let marketing drive that move, especially given the business evolution required. 

Business as usual.


Time will tell...

Only time will drive business to adapt to the web and Web 2.0; nobody will take the plunge any earlier. Unfortunately, when the broader change occurs, the benefit will have been erased by those that moved much earlier. McKinseys found that those businesses that were first movers in Web 2.0 were far happier with their investment than those that followed. It was business as usual for those that followed.

As I conclude and think more about the question asked of me yesterday, it was probably asking not if, but what department of the business really should be driving the change.

And the answer at this point is marketing, though I know it’s the wrong answer.