Dumbass of the Week: Gene Marks

DuhI had this week’s dumbass post all lined up and then I received a suggestion from Sphinnster Incrediblehelp about a more deserving candidate. So without further ado, I give you this week’s dumbass: Gene Marks.

Frighteningly, Gene writes for Business Week on MSNBC and his column is read by a large percentage of small businesses. The link above leads to his very unenlightened post titled Tech “Solutions” Your Small Biz Can’t Use. In the post, he basically states that having an online presence is a bad idea for small business.

This article contains possibly THE WORST advice for small business that I have ever read. Certainly the worst I’ve read this year.

Here are five 13 reasons why this article makes Gene Marks a dumbass:

1. He uses “highfalutin” as an adjective:

“A lot of highfalutin software and gadgets aim to help you run your company, but too little of it is suited for a small business environment.”

2. He claims to speak for ALL business owners:

“We business owners are subjected to an endless array of tools that never fail to disappoint. We’re promised. We pay. And we’re let down.”

3. He claims that the following technology doesn’t work when evidence to the contrary is staring him in the face:

“1. RSS Feeds 2. Spam Filters 3.Antivirus Software 4. Blogs 5. Search Engine Optimization 6. Mobile Applications 7. CRM Software 8. AdWords 9. Online Video 10. Web 2.0”

4. He recommends against using anti-virus software:

“Betsy was looking for just the right technology to slow down her employees’ computers and significantly degrade the performance of her business applications. Well, she found it, and it’s called anti-virus software.”

5. He tars all SEOs with the same brush because he was scammed by one:

“I forked over a bunch of dough to a firm in California that promised to get my company’s name on “all the major search engines” when someone was looking for products that we sell. How did they plan to do this? I’m still not really sure, but it had something to do with spiders, black hats, and link farms. That should’ve been enough of a hint that witchcraft was involved.

6. He recommends against using anti-spam software:

“I get this question at just about every presentation I give to business owners: ‘What spam filters do you recommend?’ My answer: ‘None.’ They all suck.”

7. He recommends AGAINST using anti-spam software! (Thought this one was worth repeating)

“In the end, it’s cheaper for your employees to just sort and delete spam as it comes in.”

8. He considers mobile apps (and renewable energy) science fiction:

“Mobile applications will be a great thing someday. Just like hovercrafts, telepods, and renewable energy. But for a small business on a limited budget, it’s still science fiction.”

9. He sold $20K worth of software to a customer who didn’t need it and blamed the customer:

“I’ve always been a big proponent of customer relationship management [CRM] software. One big reason is that my company sells this stuff… Unfortunately, we have a lot of other customers who haven’t been as successful. Fred, a manufacturer of roofing materials, is one of them. Fred and I both learned that a CRM system doesn’t work for a small business without an internal “champion” who takes ownership of it. His $20,000 system just sat there. No one used it.”

10. He encourages readers NOT to buy his company’s software:

See 9.

11. He writes off pay per click advertising for all small business just because HE can’t figure it out:

“Are you interested in a mind-numbing exercise? Give AdSense a shot. Or Yahoo SM or MSN AdCenter… Here’s a word of wisdom: Leave the mass-market advertising to Coke (KO) and Pepsi (PEP). Small business owners should stick to less mystifying forms of promotion.”

12. His comments about online video are pure fiction and display his total ignorance of the medium:

“Quality videos require production companies. Otherwise you’ll have grainy, useless footage. And videos that run beyond a certain length aren’t even YouTube-able.”

The final clue that shows Gene as a deserving candidate for Dumbass of the Week is this one:

13. He complains that RSS Feeds are meaningless, but his own articles appear in them:

“Bob, an electrical contractor, knows what RSS stands for, and I feel sorry for him. He had the misfortune of signing up for an RSS feed.”

In fact, there is an RSS feed directly under his article. Priceless!

Wow, I started this post assuming I’d only find 5 reasons why Mr Marks is a dumbass, but I ended up with 13. Well 12 really. Judging by the commentary his article has triggered, it seems I’m not alone in my assessment. But it’s scary to think of how many small business owners will read this article and take it as gospel. Let’s hope they read the comments!

Have you got an opinion on the article? Why not contact the editors of BusinessWeek directly, or simply comment on this post. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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About Kalena Jordan

In my day job, I’m Director of Studies and tutor at the online training institution Search Engine College. In my spare time, I’m a search engine agony aunt and SEO to global clients. I’ve been marketing websites online since 1996 and blogging about search since 2002. To learn more, visit