“As a Director of Marketing, what’s the #1 thing you need to figure out about the web?”

This is a question that was recently posted at the Marketing Executives Group at LinkedIn, and the participants’ responses to that question were very revealing.

Most of the answers were of tactical nature, such as “use web analytics”, “get your site in Google”, “have a great UI and excellent SEO & SEM”, “leverage the unique capabilities of the channel” (i.e. “the-web-as-a-channel”), and so on.

But was it the right question to ask in the first place?

Framing a question correctly is 80% of the solution and sometimes even more

When we frame the question about “hot to figure out the web”, we are implying that “the web” is another thing that marketers need to “figure out” as if this “web” is a one-dimensional “thing” that lends itself to be “figured out”.

But the reality is that “the web” has changed the game in such profound manner that only these companies that embrace the disruption and the massive societal change it represents, will succeed. In fact, “the web” demands that an entire organization re-invents itself, not only its marketing.

Maybe what is needed is a finer distinction, and much, much better questions:

What is “the web”, in your opinion? Your website? A channel for communication about our company’s products or services? A channel for talking to your customers or a channel for talking with your customers? A platform for engaging with your customers in rich conversations? A platform for engaging your customers in the definition and fine-tunning of your products or services? A place to do market research or the place where a market is being defined?

Who controls the message in “the web”. You or your customers?

What is scarce in “the web” and what is abundant?

This may be obvious, but often disregarded: It is only by asking the right questions that we will get useful answers.

Consider also this: when we ask questions, how conscious are we of the possibility that we are applying confirmation bias?

From Wikipedia:

In studies of hypothesis-testing, people reject tests that are guaranteed to give a positive answer, in favor of more informative tests. However, many experiments have found that people tend to test in a one-sided way, by searching for evidence consistent with their currently held hypothesis. Rather than searching through all the relevant evidence, they frame questions in such a way that a “yes” answer supports their hypothesis and stop as soon as they find supporting information.[…] Even a small change in the wording of a question can affect how someone searches through the available information, and hence, the conclusion they come to.