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Fear Of Embarrassment Or Mistakes, Are Not Business Reasons To Postpone An Online Marketing Strategy

It is quite amazing in 2012 that any company would ignore the online market. Billions of people are online interacting every day. It is well established that business is widely carried out online, harnessing the social platforms. Billions of  Dollars, Euros, Yen changing hands daily online.

Popular Reasons for not Engaging

Why would a large section of business ignore this?

  1. Fear.
  2. Embarrassment.
  3. Mistakes.
  4. Negative comment.
  5. Lack of understanding of the channel.
  6. Not having completed research into their own customers online behaviour.

All of the above, are BAD reasons not to investigate a Social Business model for your business/organisation. Is this incompetence?

I agree that is a very strong word, but to answer my own question, I am unsure.

Related: Transform Your Online Presence – From Woeful To Wonderful

What will standing still achieve?

How many among us still drive home to turn on our VCR tonight, use a non-digital camera, make a call on a Brick mobile phone. Listen to music from a vinyl record on a turntable. What office has an old cartridge type writer or receives telegrams. What office environment communicates by paper memo . How many golfers will pull timber shafted clubs out of their golf bags this weekend. My point is, innovation is all around us in every day life. Items like the old VCR were revolutionary thirty years ago, now it is obsolete.

Related: The Holy Grail of Online Engagement (In 15 Steps)

It is impossible to stand still

Some of the examples I use above were iconic inventions and thought to be the cutting edge of their technology. Try and give your new sales rep a Motorola Brick and watch the reaction, not going to happen. Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory is played out in life and business every day, particularly in the technology sector.Items such as the old film camera were in every house. Now they are obsolete, twenty years ago, who’d of thought.

Fear of Embarrassment or Mistakes

These are not best practice solutions for any business development strategy. Fear is something we have to over come every day. In a survey of the Top 500 CEO’s in the US last year, two interesting stats emerged.

  • The first was that CEO’s were worried they would be found out i.e. not capable of doing the job they were employed for!
  • The second was the overwhelming feeling of helplessness in the face of the digital technology tsunami.

This does not excuse them from postponing their decision to engage online and on Social Platforms. Most of these companies have the resources to engage consultants to educate and help them strategise their entry into the Social space. These CEO’s defense can not be, I did not realise or understand…..well if you don’t, FIND OUT.

Related: The High Street Needs To Go Online

For the Play it Safe Management, time is running out.

Last week I asked, will business lose interest in Social if it doesn’t start delivering to the bottom line?. This week I am asking, when are the C-Suite executives and management going to start losing their jobs for their failure to innovate? Those playing it safe due to fear of change, will run out of time and the new smart bright kid will come and take their jobs. As shareholders and company owners ask, why are we not following the lead of all these other companies and developing and online social business strategy.

As part of that development, companies management are expected by the online community to engage personally online. Social Business does ask for new skills from management but equally the basic business model still applies. Most companies need to take their offline business model, refine it and bring it online. The online engagement is an extension of the offline conversations, companies are already having with their customers. Add is a sharing mentality and the only difference is that the world can see those conversations. All business’s should learn how to make new mistakes.

So is it incompetence?

Well kinda yes and kinda no. It is more about human behavioral problems. Bury the head in the sand or ignore it, it will go away, which can be viewed as incompetence. Time is running out for business and organisations that continue to ignore Social as a business opportunity.

Fear of change will kill companies, Kodak springs to mind, they didn’t embrace digital cameras despite one of their employees inventing them. Innovation will side line companies, like RIM, the Blackberry just got shafted by the iPhone and apps. That’s what innovation does but fear atrophies and kills companies.

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Image: “Businessman doing his up most to avoid the business day by burying his head in the sand/Shutterstock

Co-Founder at the Ahain Group. The first blogger to name the MDEC Model. A social business enthusiast and looking to learn something new every day. Which is not difficult to find online. Keen golfer and Munster Rugby supporter.

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  • Christina Giliberti

    Hi John, another thought-provoking and hard-hitting post! Fear is an awful word which conjures up an image of lots of head shaking. But we do all fear something (or many things) at a particular level.

    Fear is restrictive, limits our growth and stalls us from logical thought. Fear of change stalls many businesses from innovating. I may even tag on here that the fear can be broken down into:

    – lack of understanding of online platforms
    – little knowledge of marketing online
    – less faith in results
    – less time to explore / reap potential rewards

    Obviously, these are all excuses and barriers to the real reason ‘I’m scared and I just don’t want to’.

    Lessen the fear, take the first step and ease yourself into a new way of conducting business (and thinking). Everyone learns to ride a bike or swim, but first they have to get over the fears of falling and drowning. Faith and practice, improvement and results!

  • Thank you Christina, I agree fear is a difficult word for people, but not using it does not detract from the reality. People fear change, some use the word dislike or avoid change. This is an attempt to hide from reality. Honesty is also a key missing ingredient on occasion, as we are trying not to up-set people. This actually inhibits peoples growth because if they are not aware of the fault how can they fix it?

  • Thanks for the article. In my experience at large companies I think that the fear is driven at “the top” more by lack of understanding of the space. They have grown up with certain tools, which worked for them and helped them get to where they are – but they have not embraced new tools like social media. I think the best way for them to overcome the fear is to personally use the tools. In organisations i worked at we had the top leadership talking and pushing for brands to do more digital and in social media – but they did not really understand what it meant as they were not users – and people knew they ware not using the tools themselves. It is that old “walk the talk”. Companies were the leaders embrace and sue the tools have less fear – and will use them

  • In some cases Gary I would agree, it is lack of knowledge. In Ireland a lot of conversations I am having would confirm fear of mistakes and embarrassment, which is not close to good enough. The expertise is here to help companies strategise to avoid this. In a post some months ago I wrote that most age 50+ management in Ireland believe Social is for their children or grand children, to have some fun with. Certainly not for business.

    This has got to change, they are not informing themselves. It would be akin to a doctor proscribing antibiotics from 10 years ago because he/she did not stay current, it would not be tolerated. Online is a huge market, which if harnessed in the correct way would save/create jobs in Ireland.

  • Nicely put, John. Most big companies that engage initially do so as a preventative rather than opportunistic measure. I think the biggest hurdle for them is in accepting that their potential for controlling the message is now so much less! This is a new reality, but many senior managers feels more comfortable by continuing to imagine a world that they once knew.      

  • Thanks Niall, I agree the control issue is something the online advocates must work to help senior management to understand. We can not stand back and shrug our collective shoulders. This is a barrier to entry for companies and has to be addressed to facilitate them.

  • Davidfitzgerald

    strongly held views well articulated. However as a small business  owner I don’t subscribe to the view that “fear of change” and several other reasons cited for not engaging are the primary drivers.

    For many small business owners still working in their business rather that on it – I think is comes down to resources, available time /opportunity cost, expected ROI , market, and customer profile. This is not necessarily a reflection of a head in the sand but a simple commercial reality.

    Whether these realities prove to be terminal remains to be seen. I suspect corporate failure is the result of many critical strategic management errors rather than just lethargy about social media?


  • Hi David, and thanks for the comment.

    For the Sme’s I can kinda agreed with what you are saying. The resources are an issue. Online business advocates are available to you and all Sme’s. I recommend a small business starts with a toe dipping exercise into social.

    The Owner/Manager starts with some research into where their customers spend there online time. 3 million are now online in Ireland, with over 2 million connected to one social platform or another. We are still waiting for last years online sales figures for Ireland, but it was nearly 2 billion euro in 2010.

    That’s a major market, my question would be, how do I get a piece of that:)


    PS Einstein said, the measure of insanity, is to do the same thing over and over but expect different results. I say, innovate and make new mistakes not old ones:)

  • davidquaid

    Hi John

    The problem at the SME and Large Corporation isn’t fear of online, it’s just complete confusion. 

    We’re going to have to stand back and take some responsibility here. The problem for companies is the huge amount of misinformation, confusion and complete rubbish spouted by would-be have-a-go Internet Marketing heroes that have littered the landscape in recent years. 

    My insider joke : “What’s the difference between a guy with a taxi licence and a €200 Toyota and somebody who owns an Internet Marketing company? The guy with the Toyota is licensed and has actually invested in his company”

    Gone are the days when just because you can string together some HTML and it runs in a browser without crashing it = certification to be a web designer. If it’s still theory, then you’re still a student. Just because you built a website and sold something, doesn’t make someone an accomplished internet marketeer, regardless of how “passionate” you are.

    There are so many people who yesterday were driving a truck, being a life coach, selling vacuum cleaners but are now the most passionate online guru’s in the world and if you’ve got money to burn, boy will they help you.

    There are no standards, certifications or metrics by which one provider can be measured against another. I don’t know how many business owners I’ve spoken to and looked them straight in the eye to say “I really don’t know how you pick a good digital provider, there are so many cowboys out there.” If you’ve never been online, then where do you start?

    The second problem is that of control. Mirroring the challenges in the consultant/vendor side – the marketing managers in these companies believe its their job to fix these things. The biggest problem I’ve encountered is where somebody who doesn’t even like the internet suddenly becomes my “manager” and wants to use the company’s digital strategy to “fix” the internet from their perspective. Its crazy!

    How many of us have been in a early day discussions with companies and have realised the following:

    1. The client is spending too long humming and fretting over designs: Design comes from flyer and billboard advertising days where we showed “noise” to 100k people in the hope that just 50 would remember us. Now we can connect directly. Nobody cares if your “above-the-fold” advertising is in a lovely rich and vibrant red – they want to know if you can solve their problem, add value, make them more money or save them some.

    This does a better job:

    2. Somebody within the client organisation is actually trying to kill the project. For whatever reason

    3. Somebody on the inside recently read the ramblings of some idiot that somehow favours their cynical view of the internet and therefore justifies their irrational decision making (the irony isn’t lost on me 😛 )

    4. Despite all of your past wins and successes, suddenly you are being “managed” by a graduate/intern/lowest possible level because ultimately we all know that the internet is free so why should we pay for you to tell us how it doesn’t work.

    Internet Marketing isn’t about execution. Its about developing a strategy based on a set of activities that have, in the past, proven to work no matter what the company. If your strategy can’t find the money, then you can blame the client all you want for being afraid. If your strategy relies on blind faith, then no wonder people are afraid [confused]. 

    Lets be honest – I know I’m not afraid to be – we have to do better.

  • Morning David,

    I couldn’t agree more with you about the level of service provided by some “experts” and the lack of regulation, welcome to Ireland. At some stage the Government will attempt to regulate and give over the job to some equally brilliant organisation such as Fas, to mess it up even more:)

    As a community we do have to take responsibility for the present situation. We have to do so much better to gain companies trust. This will take time and the quick buck merchants will still exist, they always will.

    As for the fear I spoke of in the post. I personally and some involved in our group have reported conversations which took place with senior management. Which were basically, how can we get on line with-out embarrassing the company or ourselves. It’s the old saying, nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM, fear of putting their necks on the block, fear of looking foolish, fear of making a decision.

    It’s human nature.


  • Rory Noonan

    Timely reminder to us all that the digital age is the way forward, regardless of the type of business you are involved in. Without an online strategy, and lots of companies still don’t seem to have one, you are like John says, burying your head in the sand. But many companies seem to have a fear of embracing this strategy and  shy away. Time to change or you may run out of time to change.

  • Thanks for the comment, we are half way thru the digital age. Now people have access to instant publication via social platform. In history human beings have never had such access. The printing press started one revolution, maybe digital will start another. 

  • John – believe you hit, in the States, a home run (what would the term be in golf or Rugby?)  Organizational change as well as consumer driven change are constant and we are all well advised to listen up and take positive steps as you suggest.

  • Thanks for those kind words Warren. Was the home run hit out of the Park? The golf term would be a “Hole in One”.It is not rocket science but behaviours have to change. Enjoy the weekend.

  • Smallbiztrends

     In golf terms that would be a hole in one (or at least an eagle).  LOL

  • Smallbiztrends

    Good article, John.  I think the bigger the company, the harder it is to embrace change.  that’s because so much revenue typically depends on legacy business that it’s hard to justify trying new things.  Companies have a tendency to do what worked in the past because, well, it worked. 

    I will never forget the advice of a mentor of mine in business.  He always said “Look outside the 4 walls.”  And what he meant, of course, is that in the corporate environment you get tunnel vision looking at financials and what has worked in the past — you don’t always look outside.  But you must, because you may find that the world is changing quickly.

    – Anita

  • Smallbiztrends

     Oops — didn’t mean to repeat your comment about the hole in one, John — I missed it the first time!  I agree with it.

  • John Twohig

    Or Anita, maybe the most rare bird of all the Albatross or as you call it in the US a double eagle. 

  • John Twohig

    I agree with what you are saying Anita, particularly about the large companies. Which makes the work of Coca-Cola and Ford, in the Social space, all the more note worthy. Muthar Kent the CEO of Coca-Cola encourages his staff and management, to be “constructively discontent” every day in their work.

    Not a lot of the Fortune 100 companies will take that level of risk.

    Thanks for the comments.


  • Mark


    Great article, some food for thought there personally. What’s really got me thinking is the notion of new mistakes – we’re not going to get it right all the time, but let’s at least learn from something new as opposed to falling into the same old traps each time! 

  • John Twohig

    Yes Mark, if you are going to make mistakes, let them be now mistakes. It shows you are taking chances, trying to grow personally or in business.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Hi Juned & welcome to Tweak Your Biz. Thank you for highlighting these 8 responsive design tools, most of which I was not already aware of.

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    Last time I checked there were no hyperlinks in Instagram, so it’s not good at driving traffic (like Pinterest is). Has something changed?

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