15 year-olds driving Ferraris

A couple years ago, some friends and I bought some tickets to one of those supercar test drive events. Each of us got to drive a stock Lamborghini and a race-ready Ferrari a couple times around a twisty track. It was a blast, but I had no idea what I was doing. My daily driver is an SUV. I sit up high, slowly go through turns, and don’t have to worry about shifting. Driving that Ferrari made me feel like a new driver again, nervously accelerating and shifting.

I was humbled trying to master the art of high speed cornering and shifting in just two laps. It probably would have made sense to take a few laps around the course in an automatic sports car first, learning the turns slowly and not having to worry about shifting. I should have practiced a bit in a manual car as well. But, my pride got the better of me.

I relive this moment often in the office. Scores of digital marketers are attempting to drive Ferraris before they even get their driver’s license. They’re operating the core part of many businesses these days (the digital part), without experience and knowledge.

They’re using software that costs six figures per year below it’s potential and often incorrectly. They never bother to read the owner’s manual or take the driver’s test either. So while they may think they know what they’re doing, they don’t know what they don’t know.

The tech has far surpassed the industry’s ability and experience. We have the ability to give consumers incredibly personalized and optimized digital experiences. But we struggle with the basics.

Most companies have unreliable web analytics, incorrectly used tag management software, and poorly implemented testing platforms. They buy the Ferrari and curb it pulling out of the dealer’s lot.

There are certainly outliers – the few and far between who understand the importance of a well run digital group. These are the companies who will be around a decade from now, the others won’t.

It’s just a matter of time before the marketers and companies who don’t respect the basics are gone. Before it’s too late, it’s time to slow down, strap the training wheels on, and trade-in the Ferrari. Even if it’s just for a little while. Cover the basics first: solid web analytics, agile teams, sound processes, and training programs. Do those well, before moving on to personalization, machine learning, and A/B testing everything.