One concept that is vitally important to understand from the marketing white belt series is the idea that whoever has the map, wins.

Treasure Island Map

We as human beings have a deep aversion to the unfamiliar. We have a deep aversion to going places where we are not familiar. We are creatures of habit, and this plays itself out in every aspect of our lives from childhood fears of the dark (and monsters in the closet) to adults rarely dining out any place new near our homes.

Thus, it should be no surprise that in a new landscape, we tend to grasp for the first map we see, for the first guide we can find, even if it’s seemingly wrong. If you’ve ever wondered why there is so much snake oil in any new landscape (remember web masters making $250,000 a year in the very early days?) it’s because of this factor alone. We grasp for any roadmap we can find, and will follow even a questionable map until the bitter end.

How do you give yourself the antidote against questionable people promoting questionable products? How do you inoculate yourself against vast, nearly unlimited amounts of snake oil and find the quality of people and knowledge you really want? Here’s a few tips:

1. Just as with medical vaccines, lots of research goes into the inoculation. The same is true for digital snake oil. Do your research, do your homework. Look for information that appears in many places, ask questions of people, and rely on your instincts to tell you when someone is being evasive.

2. Always have a goal in mind. It’s much easier to make a judgement about a map’s quality if you know where it is you want to go. If you don’t know where you are going or want to go, any map will do, and every “expert” will sound the same to you. Avoid confusion with a clear destination, even if the road there isn’t clear.

3. Be prepared and willing to change course often. Changing course often means admitting mistakes. Set expectations that you’re in uncharted territory for your company or organization and that as a result, you’ll be behaving like any explorer: stopping frequently to get your bearings, checking where you’ve been frequently, and changing maps & strategies as needed to better get where you want to go.

If you want to get somewhere with your marketing efforts in this still-new landscape, take the time to subdue your discomforts and anxieties, build your own map from research and experience, and get where you really want to go. You’ll pass the snake oil vendors on the side of the road, but you won’t be tempted off the road.


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