A supposedly Chinese ancient curse goes: “May you live in interesting times!”
Well, these certainly are “interesting times” in the business and search marketing world. A lot is in flux, changing at dizzying speeds that leave many entrepreneurs, marketers, and even SEO experts confused and frustrated. And the dangers are particularly stark, as mistakes compound rapidly and can lead a company far astray pretty quickly.
The Challenge Is Multi-Pronged — And Growing Worse
If only one (or few) things were evolving rapidly, it wouldn’t be so bad. But today, many things are changing simultaneously.
As consumers continue to embrace new technologies, the way they interact with businesses has evolved. The lines between the “online” and “offline” worlds have blurred as mobile devices have made 24/7 internet access possible. And the path to purchase is no longer linear, as consumers increasingly utilize multiple devices to research (and purchase) products or services.
What does all of this mean?
People who first hear about your business via one medium — TV ad, billboard, newspaper/magazine article, etc. — could be influenced to follow through and buy from you (or steer clear of you completely), based on what they find out about you via search.
A bad review on a business directory, an unfavorable mention of your business on social media, or a negative story about your business on a blog or forum could mean that potential customers are being turned away from you before they even give you a chance.
In a connected digital world where every consumer has a virtual megaphone, the service you provide, the way you communicate with your customers, and the experiences they have with your product or service will all have an impact on your online presence.
Knowing this, you cannot afford to ignore it. Yet that’s exactly what many business owners are doing.
Get Used To The New Reality
These changes are here to stay. New technology, systems and media, as well as the manner in which customers have embraced them, place the burden squarely on your shoulders.
Nowadays, job disciplines overlap. This demands teamwork. It is vital that information is communicated and shared effectively, both within your organization and with your external resources (consultants, agencies and more). Even those who didn’t need to do this just a few years ago are now forced to rely upon others for their own success.
Traditionally, programmers didn’t talk with the PR department, or vice versa. But today, living in silos like this can be dangerous for any business’ future.
Furthermore, new roles and disciplines are needed in order to effectively tackle today’s digital challenges. Here are a few examples:
Online marketing demands technical insight and understanding. Unfortunately, your existing marketers may not have a tech background or understand the digital space. Superb marketing skills can’t compensate for this weakness.
In areas like SEO and paid search, there was once a time when you could manage without systems, or with a passing knowledge of the underlying technology. All that has changed now. If you’re a large Web store, then to maximize your results and stop leaving money on the table, you’ll have to hire technical marketers.
Some veteran marketers of the old school stick with their tried-and-tested approach, accepting that they can’t learn everything or stay current in all areas. However, as a business owner, you can’t afford to trust their claims — you’ll be losing sales and revenue, risking your brand and jeopardizing your future.
Technical installation of scripts and code on a website or app is not “plug-and-play” simple. Neither is tracking buyers along their journey from research to purchase. These activities require sophisticated tools, as well as deep knowledge and intimate familiarity with the process.
An old-school analyst, who is accustomed to calling and interviewing people for market research and who relies on general statistics, will fall behind if he doesn’t use modern technologies to track and measure client behavior, then put the pieces together based on new data gathered from online and offline sources across multiple devices.
In addition to being a great analyst, he must also be familiar with the complexities of attribution in the digital environment.
Where did the buyer travel on the way to your site? Was exposure to a display ad the first contact, or did she click on a link from a news website? Or did she find your business listed on a search engine? Or was your business the subject of a social media conversation? Furthermore, what device is she using? And did she move over to another device before ordering?
All these things matter.
Businesses are losing customers and sales because of the widening gap between them and their customers. This is the result of poor understanding and insight about their market — their prospects and their individual needs. Digital analysts can help close this gap by collecting and analyzing audience data and piecing it together to get a sense of the larger picture.
By using data to assess trends, businesses can measure, monitor and act in a way that allows them to scale rapidly. They will be more efficient because the well-oiled machinery of their business is lubricated with reliable data.
Making The Switch From Tactical To Strategic
To stand out and be noticed, you must understand the individual needs of the people you’re speaking to. Just hearing a buzzword — like “content marketing” or “SEO” — and rushing to include it in your marketing arsenal is suboptimal.
What businesses need is a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Without one, all the time and effort invested into SEO, content marketing, etc., will be ineffective.
It’s easy and inexpensive to create a new website today. WordPress and other systems make that possible. You don’t need a degree in literature or PR to communicate with the masses on social media. You can get more done with less resources and knowledge.
But here’s the paradox…
When things get easier, it’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you’re in control. You throw yourself energetically upon waves of new opportunity (and threats), unprepared and unarmed to take advantage of them. And so you miss out.
You pick a few easy things to change and implement them. Your actions are fragmented, unconnected, not integrated into a comprehensive strategy. And that’s a problem. You must shift from “ad hoc” to “strategic” in the way you think and work.
It’s not unusual to see business owners rushing to implement tactical decisions without research, analysis, goal setting and strategizing. This is usually driven by the urgency of seeing competitors making progress. All of a sudden, money is diverted from other activities to spend on, say, content marketing — without understanding the impact it will have, or what can be expected from the investment.
Final Thoughts: Transform Your Thinking
The people who decide on a broad business strategy should know how things work and be competent to make the right choices. Picking up an idea here and a tactic there, mixing them together and hoping it will work for your business, is not going to work.
Stop doing things sporadically and in a haphazard fashion. Take your approach to change management seriously. Make the extra effort to plan and coordinate your strategy. Maybe it’s not fun or easy… but if you don’t do it, your business will die.
So… go, get ’em.