Guerrillas are well aware that free marketing exists in its most free state as e-mail, which is far more than merely letters with free postage. Mark Twain said he never let his schooling interfere with his education. Regardless of your schooling, there's little chance it covered what technology makes possible today. If you took a course on how computers can aid your marketing, the first insight you would have gained would be into the profitability for you if you become savvy about e-mail.
When you think of e-mail, don't compare it with snail mail because it's considerably different. In fact, it is such an improvement on old-fashioned mail delivery that the US postal service now uses it, and today there is a lot more e-mail being sent daily than snail mail. Soon, half of all bills and payments will be sent electronically. Two-thirds of social security checks, tax refunds and other federal payments sent in l999 went electronically.
In fact, the US postal service is now in serious trouble because of the vast amount of information transmitted via the internet. For much of this, guerrillas owe a tip of their propeller beanie to Ray Tomlinson who invented e-mail in l971. You can use e-mail in your marketing in ways that will make your customers delighted to be doing business with you.
Guerrillas love e-mail but hate junk e-mail, known as spamming. Their affinity to e-mail is because they can deliver their messages instantly and to anywhere in the world if the recipients are online, as more and more of them are with each word I type. That means e-mail saves you time in communicating and money that you used to spend on postage. It can also help save trees on the planet because it is so delightfully paperless.
Many experts feel that for all the great things about being online, e-mail is the most valuable of all computer applications. Although e-mail isn't free, because you need a computer and internet connection, it's far less expensive than telephoning, mailing or faxing. When using it, keep your message as brief as possible because people read computer screens differently than letters.
You're aware, as all guerrillas are, of how technology such as e-mail can strengthen your marketing. You've also got to be aware of its limitations and of the new advancements that are taking place at breakneck speed. Don't let those advancements overwhelm you. Very little becomes obsolete, but nearly everything becomes improved.
Technology, however, can also be a major distraction and a drain on your time if you focus on the technology itself rather than on the benefits it can bring to your business.
As Net Benefits author Kim Elton reminds us, "Business is life and life is messy. Like a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes, you know that when you've finally cleaned them up, someone will burn a tuna casserole and you'll be back in sudsy water up to your elbows with a Brillo pad in no time. But if the kids are growing up healthy and strong – and helping out with the dishes now and then – it's all worth the effort. Soon you'll get a dishwasher and you can shift the mess from the sink to the dishwasher. The dishes still have to be cleaned. The technology eases the labour and takes away some of the pain, but it doesn't relieve the duty."
That's the insight that I want you to take from this column. Technology helps with the job but doesn't do the job. That's your task. In order for you to understand how technology can help you, it's not necessary for you to learn the technical jargon.
You must comprehend the impact of technology and the ways it can transform a squirt gun into a cannon. To cash in on the transformation, you must be in close touch with your needs. Technology will help you meet them. You must know how best to utilise the technology. You've got to recognise hype for just what it is and solid science for just what it is.
Using technology will be as easy as making a phone call. It's already well in its way. Investment research company Robertson Stephens stated it this way: "Communicating is becoming the primary role of computers after four decades of number crunching. We stand at a technology crossroads and are witnessing a technological metamorphosis.... In our opinion, computers, originally designed for number crunching and applied to computing tasks for nearly 50 years, will be used in the future primarily for communicating."
The future is now the present.
- The author is the father of guerrilla marketing and author of Guerrilla Marketing series of books. (www.gmarketing.com)