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Internet Strategy

Here Are 5 Signs That You’re a Simple-Minded Marketer

Steve Wolgemuth | May 15, 2014

I used to admire the hard-driving, numbers-focused leaders who held their teams’ feet to the fire for a return on Internet marketing dollars. I’ve even worked at picking up their good habits for managing YDOP’s finances and operations. These leaders love simplicity. Their success secret is to boil complex company operations down to meaningful key metrics and to watch the numbers closely each month. The simple dashboard helps them steer a big ship.

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However, I began to notice an unexpected pattern over the years. These leaders typically weren’t talented at leading digital marketing. Their “keep it simple” approach got them into trouble. Instead of moving toward a strong market position in 3 – 5 years, they’d get off track along the way by making decisions that adversely affected their long-term success. Perhaps their short term expectations were too high, or their long term vision not clear. Or maybe they didn’t understand how to look at short term results without getting confused.

Simple dashboards that capture important metrics are crucial tools for leaders. But using a simple-minded marketing analysis could actually be a leader’s nemesis. Over the years of working side-by-side with business leaders, we’ve seen a variety of these unwise approaches. Do any of these sound familiar?

1. You Apply Trajectory Theory

The trajectory theory uses short-term results to validate future investments in a marketing effort. It assumes that you can try a digital marketing tactic, then evaluate its return on investment (ROI) in 3 months, for example. It eliminates any tactics that disappoint. “Show me the numbers” is the mantra from these leaders, together with “If you prove it makes me money, we’ll invest more as we go.” As a trajectory theorist, you dismiss approaches that can’t demonstrate short-term value, but you’re keen to build on early wins.

Trajectory thinkers tend to gravitate toward paid search techniques like Google’s AdWords. They can get results right away and they can measure their cost and effectiveness. This all makes sense to trajectory thinkers and if executed well, provides provable short-term results. The trajectory thinker excludes everything but cause and (immediate) effect marketing, and lets the world of other opportunities pass them by. Do you love measurable short-term results and is your digital marketing largely built around these activities? You might be a trajectory thinker.

2. You Don’t Segment Your Marketing Budget

After 6 months of working with a client, we got the “we need to talk” email. My digital strategist at my side, I popped two antacids and walked into the room and re-lived a far too common scenario. “I’ve spent this much (and it will be calculated to the penny) on digital marketing, and what income do I have to show for it?” It’s like when your child asks you where babies come from. You feel the need to go into a lot of details, but you just can’t because they can’t handle it.

The simple-minded business leader groups all digital marketing spend into one number and asks for a justification. They refuse to entertain the complexities of ROI.  A portion of any good Internet marketing spend will increase the value of the brand, a solid investment that’s difficult to measure. Meanwhile, website hosting, bug fixes, security updates, improving load times of the website, doing website back-ups, correcting name, address, and phone information for your business across the Internet info-sphere, managing their intellectual property, and many other activities need to happen today. It’s as important as hanging and maintaining signage in front of your building.

It’s the new cost of doing business. Get over it.

Segment this portion of your digital marketing budget somewhere on your spreadsheet next to the cost of paint for your office, the cost of your phone system, and the maintenance of your road sign. Don’t mix cost of doing business expenses into your dashboard or else you’ll muddy the waters and have trouble making good decisions with your metrics.

After you’ve segmented cost-of-doing-business out of your marketing budget, next segment specific campaigns. Evaluate them with realistic expectations that are set by appropriate timelines. You might expect an immediate return for a paid search campaign. A blogging tactic that plays into a long-term strategy like “building celebrity” might be a 5-year plan. In that case, you might consider finding incremental metrics like page views, time on site, and number of blog post “shares.” Individual strategies and specific tactics have different timelines for reaching peak value, which is why it is important to have distinct expectations for your various marketing activities. Wise strategists understand this and design marketing plans that bring a mix of short- and long-term results.

Simple minded marketers look for an ROI against an entire digital marketing budget rather than a segmented one. (tweet this)

3. You Rely On a 1-Legged Marketing Stool

Gary (not his real name) sold indoor gardening accessories (not his real business) and discovered an incredible opportunity using search engine optimization. His keywords, “indoor gardening, and “growing food indoors” were valuable, and drove visitors to his site who bought things. He quickly developed a great business model that brought a great return on his marketing dollars. Life was good until some national chains decided to market a similar line of products and started investing aggressively in search ranking against Gary. Meanwhile, Google made some Algorithm changes and Gary lost his first page ranking right in the middle of his peak season. Eventually he got back to the first page, but not the same position on search results pages and his profits were being eaten up by his marketing budget. Gary was in trouble. His whole business model was built on a single marketing channel. You don’t want that to happen to you.

Digital landscapes change. They change fast. You shouldn’t rest your business on just one way of driving business no matter how successful it may seem.

Simple-minded marketers prefer to find one great idea rather than build an integrated marketing landscape (tweet this)

4. You Don’t Follow Meaningful Metrics That Track to a Strategy

I was attending a community business function with a speaker addressing social media in the workforce. One business owner in the audience used this as an opportunity to brag about his “success.” “We hired a company to help us with social media. In 2 months we got 2000 followers on Twitter.” This was back in the day when you could run programs to automate this. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. I wanted to ask him, “Do you have any valuable connection with any of them?” Why is that number important? What is your strategy?”

Are you paying attention to ranking? Does that keyword even matter? Are you measuring engagement on social platform? What’s your end game? Are you measuring cost-per-click? What about related conversions and their value?

It’s easy to come up with numbers and have a false sense of accomplishment when they grow. You don’t need more numbers in your life.

If your key performance indicators don’t track to an over-arching strategy, you might be a simple-minded marketer. (tweet this)

5. You Measure Against a Static Baseline

Bob (again, not his real name) owned a $10 million manufacturing company that sold his product directly to his clients via his website. He ranked on the first page for his most important search terms even though they were extremely competitive. Because they had good ranking, Bob decided to pause his SEO budget and invest in other marketing activities. A year later, his site had slid to the third page of Google for many of these same keywords. Why? Well it’s not because of a search penalty. They didn’t really drop in their rankings. It’s more like everyone else moved up and Bob didn’t.

In 2014, businesses need to understand that a portion of a search engine optimization budget is to maintain the same ranking. It’s not just about moving ahead anymore. That’s right. Budgeting for SEO maintenance is a new cost of doing business. Leaders typically view their ranking as though it could be measured against a static baseline and they look for ranking increases for every dollar invested. Today however you’re in a race for visibility and it is constantly changing. It’s not a static baseline from which you advance in your ranking.

A portion of a business’s 2014 SEO budget will be needed just to maintain rankings in a competitive search market. (tweet this)

Are You Analyzing With the Long-term in Mind?

Most business leaders overestimate what they’ll accomplish in one year with digital marketing efforts, and they drive hard toward it. If they’re new to digital marketing, they sometimes overspend (when did a marketing agency ever say that?), or spend improperly early on in their marketing campaigns. At the same time, these business leaders underestimate where they could be in 3 to 5 years. They never arrive at their longer term success potential because they grow weak in their resolve along the way or because they dismiss great ideas that don’t show promise in the short term. An immature approach to evaluating their digital marketing ROI steers them off course.

If you’re a decision maker and you manage a digital marketing budget, you will have to do the hard work of keeping up with digital marketing from a high level. You’ll need to remain focused on big picture outcomes and keep driving toward them. There’s no getting around it, some of your business leadership talents are not transferable to managing digital marketing. Segmenting campaigns and understanding the nuances and timelines of each will help you avoid being a simple-minded marketer.