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"How important are search engines to the traffic of a Web site? According to a study by IMT Strategies that asked 400 consumer and business e-mail users how they discovered new Web sites, 45.8 percent cited search engines as their top method. Word of mouth was mentioned by 20.3 percent, followed by random surfing at 19.9 percent. Banner ads (1 percent) trailed accidents (2.1 percent), newspapers (1.4 percent) and television (1.4 percent)."
Search Engines Fail to Draw Marketing Dollars [newmedia.com]
I think it's really more that they don't know much about the search engines themselves and have a vague, unfounded trust that people will find them somehow. Part of that misguided faith is being promoted by the "old school" marketing managers in their ranks who do not understand the new, different mechanisms and methodologies and revert to promoting the site via traditional media.
However, they did report that there is hope. "A case in point is the recent report from Jupiter Media Metrix affirming that paid search placement is now a successful advertising model."
Could this be a starting place?
I hate to pick up from my own post, but it touches upon a sore spot. I'd like to restate/reorient something a little more strongly... In many organizations there is a great fear of the web as a threat to the marketing staff. They have long used the relative LACK of tracking and finite measurement to keep the owner and/or upper management from knowing just how poorly some of their traditional (particularly print) campaigns perform. They are deathly afraid that web accountability standards will infect the other media campaigns they now comfortably manage.
Most of my clients are Web design agencies. Only a few of them get in touch with me before they start. Some very few use the market study provided for each case to sell their services. They even put in writing that some part of the budget is saved for later SE placement interventions before they ink the contract.
The feed back I get from those clients is often "We had the contract because we were the only ones talking about this stuff."
Much efforts have to be put in education.
50% paper work so they can control what was done
50% to just do it.