15 years ago when I first started out in the digital marketing space; hustling Alta Vista and expressing wonderment at Google’s new fangled keywords tag, we used to send clients a monthly ranking report. This report was quite often all they cared about, it was the reason they engaged us to do any work – to get them to rank highly in Google for stuff. To hell with actual traffic, or sales leads, they wanted to outrank the competition and that was that.
These ranking reports were great fun. Imagine (or maybe you remember) a 30 page document with list after list of keywords and where they ranked that day. Gosh, exciting reading huh! I used to imagine directors, sat up in bed at night, bifocals on nose tip, better half getting increasingly annoyed at the rhythmic rattling of A4 sheets getting tossed on the floor one after the other, alternately smiling and cursing as they measured themselves against their perceived competitors.
Today we know better of course; company directors, marketing managers, in house digital marketing teams all know exactly what’s worth measuring and what is superfluous gibberish; what to do when things aren’t returning on the investment and what is just being busy for busy’s sake. Don’t you?
Unfortunately that dream is pretty much poppycock. The way people look for products and services, the psychology of search, changes just as quickly as the platforms that support it and the devices that are used to facilitate the journey for our potential customers get smarter and smaller by the month. Think about that. Google’s algorithms are changing and updating all the time, we’re actually not far off a narrow AI experience (I’ll plain English that over here), mobile is the new desktop and social media is the new Google. What’s happening? When will it stop? Aaaaarrgh!!
Hang on, it’s not that bad actually. It is actually pretty exciting and full of potential for us as business owners and marketing bods. But it is complicated. And it is still, after all these years, a bit of a mystery for most.
The biggest compliment I get from my customers is that I explain things to them in plain English. I think by that, they mean that I use regular words rather than clearly made up ones (perhaps not made up, but certainly dull and inaccessible) and I relate the digital marketing process in terms of the business objectives they’re trying to support. And there’s only one objective really isn’t there? Sell. More. Stuff.
Back in the sixties uber business guru, Peter Drucker said:
“…the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
The same should be true of digital marketing today and that cannot happen if the ROI is hidden under layers of mystery and behind pretty, upwards trending charts that show terrific growth of ‘key metrics’ but actually don’t always correlate with your bottom line in a positive way.
Don’t get me wrong, I know some AMAZING agencies, I’ve worked with many and the characters within them can and have done some magical things for their clients. But nevertheless, a common experience I’ve noticed amongst my clients and broader network is that they too often don’t really understand what’s going on. Money is going out every month on a retainer, people are saying things at meetings and various analytics reports are being shuffled under noses allied to happy grins, but the best that can often be reported back to the board is:
“Things seem to be going in the right direction…”
I think a better report would be
“Everything I fully understand to be correlated with us getting more sales IS going in the right direction” (or not, so it can be corrected).
I don’t sell our service anymore, I simply try to understand the genuine business objectives of a potential client and help them to understand, in plain English, how digital marketing, from SEO and PPC to social media and content strategy, can support these goals and how to really know when that is or isn’t happening.
I think plain English is the way forwards. If you’re not hearing it, ask. If you’re not using it, start. Communication is very important, never more so than when the subject matter is a crazy bunch of new fangled terms and ever changing everything.
Thanks for indulging me; I know this post doesn’t hold any valuable ‘takeaways’ but I enjoyed writing it and sometimes that’s enough.