Blinded by the (Technology) Light

Like you, I sometimes have trouble remembering why we decided to have children at all, let alone three in a row.

I know it probably had something to do with creating a family; wanting something bigger than just my wife and me; experiencing the joys of parenting; etc.

And yet as I sit here today, almost exactly 20 years since the die was cast, there’s only one thing I recall as having gone into my decision to go ahead and procreate: Tech support.

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Hang on, let me explain…

Back in the early nineties, computers were just beginning to become part of our everyday lives. Sure, they’d been behind the scenes in the bank and the phone company for years, but few business people – and even fewer people at home – had a computer sitting on their desk.

In fact, back then, you needed to be reasonably tech-savvy just to drive one:

You needed at least a working knowledge of DOS. You needed to know how to type a URL correctly (beginning usually, but not always, with http://). You needed a briefcase containing extra wires and floppy disks and a notebook filled with arcane instructions for what to do in different situations.

In my case, and since I was an early adopter of all this online stuff, the job of tech support at home fell to me. Unfortunately, and while I knew enough to make things work (usually), it was not without a lot of pain and suffering along the way.

And so when my wife Linda began talking about “starting a family,” it occurred to me that this next generation would naturally and easily be much more technically capable than I. I figured that by the time the oldest hit ten, I’d be happily out of the tech support business for good.

And so procreate we did.

Sadly, and as you’ve probably already guessed, nearly 20 years later I’m still the guy responsible for all things technical at home. Because while it’s true that my three teenagers are each immensely fluent and at ease in the world of computers and the Internet, not one of them has even the slightest idea how it all works.

I assumed the kids would be tech savvy.

They, however, jumped right over the tech part and simply became savvy – people who ignore the technology and instead think about whatever it is they want to accomplish.

In this regard, it seems to me that today’s mid-life professionals (yes, I’m talking about you and me) could learn a little something from “Generation Whatever-Letter-We’re-Up-To.”

What I mean is that as a group, we’re too focused on the technology itself – the never-ending stream of services, apps and platforms – and not enough on whatever it is we’re trying to accomplish in the marketing of our respective businesses.

(Go ahead, read that last sentence again. It’s a good one and it took me a while to write.)

With that in mind, I offer three suggestions:

  1. Don’t do things you don’t understand.

    I’m not for or against social media – any more than I’m for or against heavy machinery.

    But just as you wouldn’t rent a backhoe without a clear purpose in mind (regardless of whether or not your neighbors were doing so), if you can’t string together a coherent sentence or two explaining what you hope to accomplish by investing time and energy in the latest technology, you’re in danger of confusing activity with results.

    Either figure out what the goal is and how this shiny new thing is going to help, or leave it alone until you do.

  1. Don’t do things you hate doing.

    I love writing, drinking coffee and e-mail. That’s why my marketing plan consists of writing (newsletters), drinking coffee (regular, face-to-face meetings with colleagues) and e-mail (keeping in touch with my network electronically).

    It’s not work – it’s fun. I do it regularly because I like to do it (I’d do it whether it helped my business or not).

    If you hate your marketing, on the other hand, it’s going to sap your energy and you’re not going to do it – at least not well. So either find things you like or hire other people to do the marketing for you.

  1. Don’t do too many things.

    The problem with marketing in the 21st century is that there are too many options. As a result, many professionals dabble in a little bit of everything out of concern for somehow missing an opportunity.

    I’ve got a better idea. Pick three things and do them well (and all the time).

    You don’t use every piece of equipment in the gym to stay in shape and you don’t need every marketing tool on the planet to stay visible as a likeable expert.

    You need a simple, repeatable, effective approach that won’t take over your life. And whether the things you choose are high tech, low tech or no tech, it doesn’t really matter – so long as you do them well and you do them religiously.

Here’s the bottom line. When it comes to the marketing of your business, you don’t get points for participation – you get points for results.

So while it’s fine to try your hand at all kinds of new and cutting edge approaches, the technology itself isn’t the point.

Find three things you understand and enjoy and just keep doing them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the printer isn’t working again and my family has begun circling my desk.


10 thoughts on “Blinded by the (Technology) Light

  1. Roger Magalhaes

    Amen Michael to the newsletter!!

    My three most effective marketing tactics are : networking groups – I am part of FOUR , monthly email newsletter and old fashion post cards – 2 times a year for my former clients. I guess I cover “most” angles!

    Best Regards,

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Roger! What I like most about your “three” is that you cover different types of interactions – email, snail mail and face to face. I find that works well too, since not everyone fits with just one approach!

  2. Kim Specht

    Hi Michael;
    Love your newsletters! Not only are they very eduational… they quite often make me laugh out loud! Your newsletter is usually the last thing I read before I shut down for work. I loved this one… having kids for tech support… great idea… but I figured it was cheaper to actually hire tech support, hired tech support never asks to borrow the car, stays out late and leaves you worrying about where is hired tech support, nor do you have to pay for hired tech supports education or weddings! Nor does hired tech support actually say out loud that they hate you… they may think it… but if they want to get paid… they don’t say it out loud. Seriously though, a lot of great information and I am going to forward it on to those Ensemble Members who I know are feeling over whelmed by marketing technology. Thanks again for great information and making me laugh in the process!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thanks Kim, I’m so glad you enjoy it! And yes, good points about paid support!
      Best regards to my Ensemble buddies – you are a terrific group!

  3. Joan

    Michael, I love your website. I’m entertained by your sense of humor, educated by your information, and encouraged to move forward in marketing and participaing in my many passions. I use the same tools as Roger – networking (I, too, have four and my family) ,
    e-mail, and post cards. For tech support and the lack of needed skills in getting beneficial results for me and others, I invite others to share their talents, barter my skills for others’ skills, or use homemade baked goods for payment. I’ve been able to get bereavement support groups started, peace and justice neighborhood involvment, finish my dissertation, and recruit consultants in a home business. I use your suggestions to get moving on a project. Keep up the good work…

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Joan! Wow, you are busy. And I confess, among my favorites is your use of “homemade baked goods for payment.” I use a card sending service (send out cards) that makes sending things like that easy. Not homemade, of course, but people do love brownies!!

  4. Joel Kriteman

    I agreed with this so much I felt obliged to tweet it 😉

    But seriously, as a web design agency we get so many clients hung up on what they should be doing re: social networking when clearly they have no idea or desire.

    They just want to press the magic “social media” button and have lots of new clients with zero effort.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I agree, if only it were that easy, Joel! I think maybe the hardest part of all the social marketing is that you can’t just pay your way out of the effort (the way you could with straight up advertising). It’s definitely a hands-on sport!

  5. Brian Bennington

    Googled you after reading your “Hands down, the most effective marketing strategy on the planet” quote on’s “Introduction to Relationship Marketing.” It is inspirational to me, as I’ve operated a relationship-centered marketing business for over 18 years, and because all of our business has been referrals from existing clients, I’ve never solicited business from my market. We’ve never even had a website, but I’m designing one now.

    We did just finished a 4-page brochure I’m extremely proud of as it covers what I intended it to. As for our interpretation of “relationship marketing,” I upscaled what I’d done for myself selling for many years. That’s highly personalized letters blending personal and product info in manner to reinforce that I like my customers as much as I want them to like me. Everything we do is designed exclusively for our clients, including correspondence and numerous greeting cards.

    Over our history, I’ve written 1000s of (probably best described as complex merge) letters covering about everything you can imagine. Then, we’ve produced them (in the 100s of 1000s),
    hand-signed every one duplicating the senders’ signatures, and mailed them. For one client who’d rather “suck on the barrel of a magnum” than compose a letter on a keyboard, I composed a two paragraph note, had him write it in his handwriting, then we hand-wrote over 500 of them on a specially-designed greeting card for him. As to a really tough letter, the 9/11
    tragedy was to big to be ignored, and I wrote different letters for over 30 of our client, handling it in the most impactful, but least-offensive-to-anyone way I could. (No complaints, so I think it was successful.)

    I could go on and on, but in respect to this space you’ve given me, no more war stories!
    Thanks for this opportunity and looking forward to your newsletter.


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