Strategy First, Technology Second

Years ago one of my early marketing mentors, Keith Jespersen, taught me that strategy needs to come before technology.  So often, we get caught up in a new technology and jump at the opportunity to use the technology only to find out that it didn’t produce the results we were after.  I’m guilty of this too.

For example, in 1992, I learned about the Internet from Ted Okada, a colleague of mine when I was at Food for the Hungry.   Ted was (and still is) one of those guys that is always on the cutting edge of innovation.  Ted lived and worked in the D.C. area and on one of my visits he introduced me to this thing called the Internet.  I was blown away at what I saw to be a revolutionary new technology.  I said to Ted, “I want Food for the Hungry on the Internet right away.”  So Ted, being a technology guru at heart, made it happen . . . fast. I was so excited that Food for the Hungry was one of the first nonprofits on the Internet. 

I’m pretty sure we were the first relief and development organization on the Internet.  But, guess how much traffic our website got?  If you answered “none,” you’d be wrong.  Ted and I went to the website all the time!  That was it, however.  No other visitors.  That’s when Keith Jespersen’s admonition crept into my mind . . . “don’t let technology drive strategy.” Since then we’ve all learned that just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come! 

You have to drive people to your website which means you have to have a strategy. Today lots of people are excited about Digital Marketing, or Web 2.0,  which includes the Internet, social networks like Facebook, viral video, email appeals, widgets and the like.  I’m as excited as the next person, to be honest about it.  However, as marketers, we need to remind ourselves that strategy needs to come before technology.  Let’s take advantage of the Web 2.0 possibilities but only in the context of a broader strategy.