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Alan Charlesworth: profile

I have been described by others as both an expert and guru in my subject. However, I still think of myself as a student of Digital Marketing. Why? Because I learn new things about it every day, and if you are still learning you are a student. If I am an expert, I am only an expert in what I already know. And we are all experts in what we know ... aren't we? If I have risen up the digital hill, it is to see ... not to be seen.

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So why am I sometimes considered an expert in Digital Marketing? Well, I've been involved in Internet-related marketing in either practical, training, research or academic roles since 1996, and I have written ten books on the subject. So ... expert or just more experienced than most?

I work in higher education, but I'm not really an academic - I do not, for example, have a string of academic papers to my name [OK, there is one on domain names, but it was in a now-defunct journal], nor do I attend academic conferences or present papers at them.

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It was in the period '96 to '99 that I got involved with this Internet malarkey, working with what was then a very small company - but one that grew to be much bigger. This was practical e-commerce at the sharp end, learning about the new communications medium and its impact on business - and society - as we went along. For example, I know a lot about domain names simply because I advised [and still do] so many organizations on what name to register and I know the basics of search engine optimization because I spent hours trying to get a domain name registration website to the top of the likes of Hotbot, Excite, Alta Vista and the other pre-Google search engines.

Also during that period I spent a lot of time [oh yes, a lot of time] in front of Business Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, industry bodies, management forums, in-house company seminars and the like 'preaching' about Internet technology and how organizations must be ready for its coming - and then later, how to best match the potential of that technology with the needs of the organization and its customers.

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Indeed, at that time although I was being paid for practicing marketing on the Internet, I spent more time passing on my learning on the impact of the Internet on business in general. As a result of this I was well placed to write a book on the Key Concepts in e-Commerce [in 2007 we used the term e-commerce in the same way that we use digital now] - only around half of which addressed marketing issues. In turn, this publication meant that I was in the position to write a book on the Digital Revolution - that is; the impact of digital technology on organizations and how they might take advantage of the so-called digital revolution. As the the Digital Revolution evolved/morphed into the Digital Transformation around 2012 it was a natural progression for me become involved in telling business folk about the looming implications of the likes of the Internet of Things [IoT], Artificial Intelligence [AI], Virtual Reality [VR] and Augmented Reality [AR].

At this point, it is worth mentioning - no, emphasizing - that I am not a computer scientist. I am actually bordering on being computer illiterate. Back in the day I used to deliver a talk called 'is that the on switch?' to stress that although I was introduced on to the stage as 'an Internet expert', I knew nothing about how computers work. Since 1996 to whenever my last class/presentation/talk was I have made the point that I know how to use the Internet/digital technology for business and marketing purposes - not how write the coding to make the software work. My analogy has always been that logistics managers do not need to know the internal workings of a diesel engine, they need to know how that engine performs and how that performance impacts on moving goods from one place to another.

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For more on my issues with computer scientists [I use the term techies], take a glance at my musing what is it with me and IT? and another issue closely related to it ... we have a problem with non-marketers in digital marketing.

Since 1996 I have done more 'consultancy' than I care to remember. Recently, in answer to a question raised by an event organizer for some publicity material, I did calculate [guess :-) ] a number of more than 5,000 but less than 10,000 'consultancies' - that is anything from advice to a one-person start-up to 'weak-link' strategic analysis for global brands and corporations. I am now in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose what I do ... but if you're interested, give me a shout. Similarly, I have done more work-based learning with organizations than I care to remember - some of it with managers and employees of brands that would be familiar to most folk.

By way of self-promotion [isn't that what this page is all about?] I am one of only a very few people to have published more than one book in this field of study - and the only one to have written those books as sole-author. Perhaps that makes me an expert? Some people seem to think so, including Aaron Goldman, author of the best-selling 'Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google' - I was one of the 'experts' he reached out to when writing the book. He went so far as to refer to me as a 'guru'. I think he is over-stating things.

A final point is that my profession is teaching; digital marketing is more of a hobby - my books being researched and written in my spare time. My students will tell you I'm a passionate teacher - and people tend to be passionate about things they do in their spare time. So when you can combine your profession with your hobby ... signature - Alan Charlesworth

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