Should we try and see? Uh, maybe not.

There might be oil under your office. For all we know, a massive deposit of oil may be waiting a couple thousand feet below your chair mat. Just think of what that could mean to your company’s bottom line. Can you arrange for a drilling rig to drop by Thursday so you can punch a hole through the floor and start to drill a well?

“Of course not,” you say, looking at me as though I’ve suddenly grown a third eyeball. “There’s no oil under here! And we can’t afford to rent a drilling rig. We don’t even know how to use one. Besides, you’ll destroy our entire office in the process. It’s a stupid and silly idea!”

Well, if your business isn’t willing to take that bold, fearless approach to developing our nation’s energy resources, why are you willing to take the same approach with your marketing?

I’ll admit that I’ve never seen a company sink a test well through the floor of Accounts Payable, but I’ve watched a lot of them behave in ways that are just as random and inexplicable. Presented with a new or unfamiliar idea for promoting the company or a product, they’re suddenly willing to jump in with both feet and invest real money. In fact, they’re even willing to cannibalize budgets for other strategies that have proven to work.

The companies have no experience with what they’re trying, and no guarantee to protect their investment. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of their plans, and its connection to any overall strategy is tenuous at best. “But what the heck,” they say. “We’ll just try it and see what happens!” Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

So what is it that keeps the oil companies from buying the mineral rights below your office floor? Well, before they even think about drilling a new well, they spend a lot of time developing an understanding of what makes one site a better opportunity than another.

Their geologists study the rocks and use sophisticated equipment to identify formations that cannot be seen. By comparing the site to others, they determine if there’s a strong likelihood that oil is present and whether it can be extracted economically. They estimate the depth they’ll need to drill, how much they’re likely to produce, and what they’ll need to do to transport it.

Then, if everything is right and they have enough available capital, they make the decision to drill. And even with all that expertise, study, technology, and preparation, sometimes the well comes up dry. There are no guarantees of success.

Compare that to a company that learns about a brand-new marketing opportunity and jumps in with both feet. These intrepid souls can’t write their checks quickly enough. “Carpe diem!” they yell.

Maybe this time, they’ll be lucky. More likely, they’ll have wasted their investment. I’m not suggesting that every opportunity is inherently flawed, just that they probably didn’t put enough thought into it or develop the knowledge about it to leverage it effectively.

Successful businesspeople rarely get that way by simply trusting their luck. They work hard, and they devote a lot of the time that they’re not working to learning more about the marketplace, their prospects — anything that could give them an edge or help them do a better job. Most take a great deal of pride in what they’ve done to earn that success.

And yet, when presented with an exciting new way to promote their company or its products, those same people take that hard-earned experience and lessons and throw them out the window.

I’ve been around long enough to see it happen time and again. At least once a year, some new technology or strategy appears on the scene and inspires all sorts of hysteria. You’ve already forgotten many of them, because they proved to be less effective than what they were purported to replace – or because consumers just didn’t like them. (I remember when outbound telemarketing was being touted as something customers and prospects would love. You get excited when a telemarketer calls, don’t you?)

Again, I’m not saying that these channels are inherently ineffective. They can be incredibly powerful – when they’re used by someone who really understands them, knows how to leverage them effectively, and builds in ways to measure how well (or how poorly) they’re actually working. That means more than just saying, “I think it did something for us.” If you don’t have the time to gain the knowledge you need, find a partner who already has it.

After all, blindly embracing any new idea and jumping in without fully understanding how it works and fits into your plans is the marketing equivalent of dropping an oil well in your backyard. Sure, you may strike oil, but it’s far more likely that the only result is that you’ll have a very visible mess to clean up – and your neighbors may not think you’re all that smart anymore.