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Brian Basilico: Crossing the Moat… What is Internet Marketing?

The Moat


mage courtesy of Stuart Miles at

How romantic were the Knights of the Roundtable? They knew how to protect their domicile. They had a castle with big walls, and then they dug a moat (a big trench) around their castle. Why? To protect their people and to keep out intruders. Then, they built a drawbridge that could be raised or lowered based on what they wanted to let in or out. If you saw something like that today in your cul-de-sac, you would call the homeowner’s association and the department of children and family services…however, it is present, probably in your own home, yet you don’t even know it.

The Box

If you are like me, you have a recycle bin somewhere in your house. Mine is in my garage. Every day Buddy Guy (my dog) and I take a short walk to the mailbox. Next up is the slow walk back to the junk mail grave. Between the mailbox and the garage door is the recycle bin. I sort through the mail and decide right then what will make it through the door and into the house. The rest is gently deposited into the recycle bin. Most of those items added to the recycle bin are ads that I have no interest in or no immediate need for. Do I want new windows, a new car or an insurance quote? Not right now, so into the recycle bin they go! (Credit card offers make it in to the pile to be shredded).

The same thing happens daily in our other mailboxes (email). The difference here is we don’t have a recycle box, just a trash! Many different emails come in during the day. Most of these we have given the originator permission to send to us, while others are just randomly sent. Do I want to rent office space in Dubai or hire a web development company in India (oh HELL NO)? You have to be careful here, because simply unsubscribing from certain emails actually alerts spammers that they have a legit email address and the floodgates open to more junk!

Let’s turn the tables…what gives us permission to pop into mailboxes or email boxes? The answer is the user. They may not need what we offer, but we have to maintain permission to continue to make it past the moat or gate. Internet marketing assumes that people WANT to hear what you have to say (even if they don’t want or need what you are offering at that very moment).

Traditional Marketing

No matter how you try to communicate with an audience, there is an investment of time and/or money. Let’s say you are sending out a postcard. You have to design it, proof it, print it, label it and then mail it. Whether it’s in print, on TV or radio or another method, there is always a cost associated with it. Then, you have to make it past the moat. Do you have the right audience or are you strategically grasping at straws? The best audience is those who have purchased from you in the past.

I recently had my car’s oil changed with a local business. However, I will never go back there again, because it took too long and cost too much. This company sends me mailings all the time. These will never make it in the door. I will never alert them to stop, because I never gave them permission to fill my mailbox.

Internet Marketing

We want all eyes and ears to see and hear our messages, but we have to give something in return. I know this may seem like old hat, but we have to refocus on how we market and who we market to. Most of you understand this, however some of you try to insert old traditional marketing techniques into new media and internet marketing. I see it all the time: the 1400 word email, the sales only Facebook page, the Linkedin invite followed by the “We know your business better than you do” message, and the never welcomed “We just did an SEO assessment on your website…YOU SUCK and WE CAN HELP!” (sending to someone who is a web developer and SEO person)!

Return On Investment

There are certain things that internet marketing can do that traditional marketing cannot do:

  • Shelf Life – When you send a post card, you have no idea what happens to it when it leaves your hand. Did it get delivered? You only know that it didn’t when the address is wrong and it is returned to you. I cannot tell you how many pieces of mail I get that were intended for my neighbors. Most of us will walk them over to the neighbor or their mailbox. Some will just dump them in the recycle bin! When you post on the internet…it stays on the internet (hopefully forever)!
  • Social Sharing – How often do you get a piece of mail, a newsletter or a flyer, that you read and then walk it around the neighborhood? Even if you did this, you only have one piece, so whoever you share it with is now trusted to do the same? With the internet and social media, one share can equal thousands of eyes or ears seeing or hearing your message! I have had one graphic I posted shared over 1200 times and seen by over 100,000 people…try to do that with a print piece?
  • Measurement – Is there any way to tell who really read your printed message? You may know that there are 3-5 people in a household, but can you really know how many of them saw it? If it never makes it across the moat, my wife and kids will never know it existed! With email, we can measure the number of views, opens and clicks. You can also share on social media and measure that. If it is designed to drive traffic to a website, you can measure that too! All in all, internet marketing has a much higher level of interactivity and measurability.

What Do People Want?

What do you want? What are you tired of and what are you open to? I can assure you other people feel the same way. If it annoys you, then chances are it annoys others also. If you are open to receiving certain messages (especially repeating ones), then chances are others are also!

Educate, entertain and inform, but if you oversell or constantly badger people, you will never make it over the moat!

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