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Enter the age of wisdom
School's out and yesterday I submitted my students' final grades to the registrar's office. What a relief! Grading is probably the most lengthy and arduous part of my duties as a college professor -- I'm quite sure it's the same for most teachers. This semester, with over 100 essays (each averaging 30-50 pages) and 200 final exams, it took me well over two full weeks to finally emerge from the avalanche. It's no wonder though.
Students had a lot about which to write this semester, especially when compared to previous ones. (For example, we've experienced Y2K's whimper, legal battles in the supposedly unbreakable high-tech industry, stock market roller coaster rides, protests in Seattle and Washington, and so on.)
But the exciting part -- yes, there is a fun part in all of this -- was to discover that some of my students recognized what they believe to be the catalyst behind much of these events. It's people. Human beings. According to one, we are successfully managing the heap of information that is being thrown at us. We are making more conscious decisions. We are filtering the important from the redundant. And we are taking everything we encounter with a grain of salt.
Undeniably, some tools help us to do such. But in essence, we are becoming more sophisticated and educated than ever before -- surely the result of this "Age of Information" (an expression that's all too common these days).
For instance, new information management applications (such as online shopping comparison tools, like MySimon at http://www.mysimon.com/, as well as new Internet legislation (such as Canada's Privacy Bill C-6), among many others, all give the individual -- not high-tech corporations -- the ability to shape the Internet.
Whether such things are really geared for the individual, and whether they are legal or ethical (such as with the case of contested MP3 file swapper Napster), are different debates of which I'm not prepared to be a part. But in my mind however, these are some of the many examples that we are experiencing Naisbitt's "high-tech, high-touch" mega-trend (discussed in his book of the same name) -- for more, see High Tech, High Touch.
The bottom-line is that it all comes down to the individual.
On my way to college while listening to the radio in my car, I heard an interesting remark that not only made sense to me but also expressed what my students were debating. Stephen Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (see http://www.franklincovey.com/), arrived in Ottawa yesterday for a seminar he'll be delivering here.
His firm, which is a leadership management consulting company, is one of the most respected of its kind. And since Ottawa is also known as "Silicon Valley North" (home of the likes of Nortel Networks, BCE, Cognos, JDS Uniphase, Corel and many others), Stephen Covey's audience will no doubt comprise high-tech management types. So Covey, poised to speak to this type of audience, pointed out while being interviewed from his limo on his way from the airport that the world is right now in a state of transition.
I found his comment interesting. However, what followed really clicked. Covey said: "The world is slowly shifting from the 'Age of Information' to the 'Age of Wisdom'." We are slowly recognizing that the Internet is truly for the people, by the people. And no matter where the Internet and ecommerce go, like it or not it really all comes down to the individual -- the driving force behind the web.
Does Internet marketing fall in the same boat? Do we need to recognize the individual in our promotional and sales efforts? Absolutely. In the very least, we need to do so more than ever before. For over a decade we've been habituated to speak to a computer screen or to communicate with others within that narrow frame of mind, all the while forgetting, to some extent, that there's a real, live person on the other end.
Flamers in discussion groups keep telling others to never take their abrasive comments personally. Spammers keep invoking their rights over those of others when in the process of pushing their wares. And Internet marketers keep focusing on their clients' purses (such as with sales puffery on their website copy or obfuscated diatribe from their customer service departments, among many others), and not on their clients' hearts and minds.
Sadly, we see this trend growing everyday.
But if it is growing, or just the fact that such activities do occur, then there is a reality behind it all. It is that there are human beings behind these electronic veils -- real people with wants, goals and desires. And in this age of wisdom, we are slowly recognizing that Internet marketing success is solidly grounded on people and how we treat them. If this wasn't the case, the need to justify our actions, as in the above examples, wouldn't be as prominent as it is.
My friend Bob McElwain, of http://www.SiteTipsAndTricks.com/,
sums it best as he stresses this undeniable truth in his latest article,
"Does Your Site Tell the Truth?" To quote his final paragraph,
Bob states: "If you lack great copywriting skills, give some thought
to sticking to the facts and the truth; it's a giant step toward a relationship
of trust." And there's the magical word, the foundation of truly
successful Internet marketing in this age of wisdom: "Trust."