This year's program of the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Francisco (SESSF on Twitter), as well as its track layout, pointed to the reality of today‘s marketing realm:
Search engines and the accompanying marketing opportunities can deliver their most outstanding performances only in a streamlined combination of all marketing efforts available. Thus, this year’s motto of the SES SF: "Bring Together Paid, Owned and Earned Media in Your Marketing Campaigns."
Actually, everybody knows how marketing works in an ideal world: You have a set of relevant events and goals for each channel that measure your success. You include new technologies and devices in a smart and user-friendly fashion. You analyze and coordinate the performances and signals that you gather from your search, social, and content efforts. You feed all of the ensuing data and information back to your sales and product development team who then react accordingly.
So, why is this still only happening sporadically? As the SES SF sessions indicate, the reasons for this are to be found mainly in three different but interrelated areas:
- Organization: silos exist where there should be coordination and process ownership is often unclear too.
- People: new, rare skills are needed, new job functions have to be created.
- Knowledge: only few people within organizations actually know how things should be done – and, far too often, they fail to convince their superiors of the importance of the right path.
Enter: the agents of change
Breaking up silos was one of the "fils conducteurs" that was brought up in different senses and contexts throughout many SES SF sessions. Those silos exist, if distinction between online and offline dominates mindsets or walls still stand between different online marketing disciplines. Great ideas and outstanding performances however only occur when these walls have been torn down. It is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) who plays a crucial role when it comes to challenging this status quo within the company. It is he who has to trigger these changes to then coordinate all the different (online) channels.
All too often, even in today's day and age, the SEO department is unfortunately attached to the IT department, the Social Media crowd reports to the customer support team, while paid search guys are under pressure from the sales department, and overall budget responsibility is yet somewhere else. Coordinating marketing efforts is almost impossible under such circumstances. If you want to unleash your CMO you must understand that his efforts are relevant to almost every department of your company.
Agencies to the rescue
So, being at the center of all of that, with his tentacles reaching from Search to Content, from IT to Social Media, from Client Feedback channels to product development, today’s marketer is in a very powerful position. Nevertheless he seldomly can realize that power, since other (probably less enthusiastic) decision-makers are also involved.
It is their job and responsibility to reorganize those organically grown structures that do not apply anymore. Thus every marketer has to position themselves as a (read: the) change agent within their organization, with all the hassle that comes along with it. In consequence, they have to rely on external partners to help them chang their organization's ways as well in terms of operational excellence as in terms of education and organizational consulting. To be successful in those terms, agencies need:
- to find a way to talk to decision makers in layman’s terms instead of their own lingo, which is mostly based on meaningless buzzwords and fancy TLAs;
- to enforce a work environment where the performance (and thus the performance of the marketing efforts themselves) can be tracked and measured properly;
- to provide guidance to their clients in this ever-changing and fast-paced environment, especially with regard to tools and new technologies.
Not everybody is your client
On the level of different marketing channels and campaigns, there is no way around focusing on the individual user anymore. It is your mission to address each user in the most relevant way. This is true for:
- content: find the right context and purpose of each visitor, and provide him with the relevant content;
- display: remarketing and RTB are to become even more important in the near future;
- mobile: you lose money if you torture your users with poor mobile experiences;
- search: behind each search query there is purpose;
- social: users actually tell you their wishes and suggestions.
If you do this properly, then you might – aside from increasing your performance – also generate a set of data, which allows you to find even more users that look and behave like your existing clients, and you will thus be able to target them even more accurately.
All the ingredients and measures for meaningful and successful marketing are basically known. However, organizational structures and rapid technological change make it difficult to grasp them. If you want to empower your organization by implementing state of the art marketing, take the following three questions as a measure for your work:
- Are my marketers and agencies driving change and adaptation within my company? Are they really on top of technological evolutions and novelties?
- Is the data being gathered through marketing efforts flowing back to every relevant department within my organization?
- Are users and potential clients addressed as individuals? Do my marketers come up with creative concepts so that we reach clients in surprising and relevant ways?
If you can't answer all of these questions with "Yes!" there is a good chance that your marketing efforts are neither particularly efficient nor effective – which of course is a good thing, because it means that there's plenty of opportunities for you and your company to become better at it!