Why You Will Fail At Digital Marketing
I want to start with this notion of failure. I look out on the audience and I see failures. And part of that is because, a little slower? That’s CJ’s influence, by the way. Because my assumption about the people here is that we are all business owners. We are all either working for ourselves or decision makers or executives or stakeholders.
We are constantly making decisions and trying to go in new directions and because of that we fail. I like failing. It’s a great opportunity to learn. I think a wise man once said, “Failure”, what is it, “I’ve not failed anything, I’ve learned hundreds of things that don’t work.” The trick is about using that failure to develop information that allows you to not repeat that mistake, and of course to make the space for new mistakes in the future. It’s inevitable, and it can contribute to our knowledge more than success.
The problem with failure is that it can be very expensive in terms of time, money, and most importantly, faith. When you fail at an initiative, there’s, maybe not for you, but for me, there’s this sense of well, maybe it’s the wrong thing, maybe I’m the wrong person. That can really hold you back, when as a matter of fact, it’s just you need to do this ten times and the first nine you’re not going to hit it.
When it comes to digital marketing, there are so many things that can influence the outcome of the success that it’s really much more difficult to say, here’s how to succeed at digital marketing, because to do so would assume that I know everything about you, and your competition, and your customers, and Google, and all of those different elements.
What we can do is focus on this handful of factors that over the last few years we’ve seen are pretty consistent about causing these failures that will derail an initiative in your organization.
The first of three of these areas is Culture. Anybody ever heard of organizational culture? Anybody? OK, good. It’s not a new word. Here’s the problem with culture, is that culture is everything. Culture is everything, and changing everything is almost impossible.
Organizational culture, at least in the terms that I’m familiar with it, it’s defined as the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. It is the sum total of an organization’s past and current workings, assumptions, experience, philosophies, and values that hold it together.
It is expressed in self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, express or implied contracts, and written and unwritten rules that the organization develops over time.
When somebody comes in and says, what you have to do here is change the culture, that’s going to be challenging. That’s not something that’s going to be done in three weeks, and it’s probably not going to be a few pages of an executive summary.
What we can do is we can look at the people who participate in this culture and find ways to influence the beliefs and the values of those individuals, as well as the artifacts that the organization can produce. I’ll say a little bit more about those.
The beliefs. Beliefs influence our thoughts, feelings, and behavior, but the funny thing is, beliefs don’t have to be true for you to believe them. As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, it’s more accurate to say that we are rationalizing beings. We justify our behaviors to fit our beliefs about ourselves and the world.
Organizations don’t have beliefs, but people do. When stakeholders, key influencers, and participants maintain certain beliefs, it can influence the behavior and performance of others, even if they don’t share that.
What we have to make clear when we’re talking about digital marketing, is that your organization be committed to have the belief that number one, participation is not optional. Failure is an option.
Digital marketing is currently a bucket that you put everything that goes in with your online advertising marketing, PR, SEO, social media. It’s essentially the use of the media to do what businesses have been doing forever, which is get the attention of their audience.
We use that digital label, you also might have heard of inbound marketing, internet marketing. We use that digital label to really define it from the, everything that you can do to get attention. We focus primarily on what can you do online to get people’s attention.
Sitting this internet thing out – not an option. Five years ago, it was understandable to hear. It’s a fad, it’ll pass, it’s not for me. This is the way business is done now. The most recent research that I was able to come across, 97% of American consumers use the Internet to find and evaluate products and services.
Ninety-seven percent of people use the Internet when it comes to them doing their business online. Is that stat true? I’m not sure. I didn’t follow up on the research. It comes from a reputable source, but what’s important is I think we can all agree that the majority of people use the Internet. You’ve probably all used it today.
Interesting, 44% of small businesses don’t have a website. Again, from the same survey. But my question would be, of that 97%, what do you think that 44% gets in terms of that market share? Certainly not a good piece of it. I have heard in the past, statements around, “My business doesn’t really need digital marketing. This isn’t for us. We don’t do business this way. We do it”, I consider it the old-fashioned way, but “we do it through handshakes and relationships”, and yes, you do. Relationships, referrals, people is always going to be your best source of business. But your greatest opportunity for that attention, so that you can have that conversation, that handshake, is about reaching to people online.
I would argue, because you can’t prove me wrong, that the vast majority of people who are doing their business online, beginning their business, and I don’t mean starting a business, but starting a transaction, a service call, whatever it may be, the majority of Americans are using the web to make these decisions, which means, if the majority of your customers aren’t being touched by your digital marketing, you are not touching the majority of your customers. Prove it wrong.
Cultural belief number two: This is not going to be quick, cheap, or easy. By the way, as I was looking for these graphics last night, it occurred to me I still don’t know what Oriental flavor is, but I bet it tastes racist. Sorry. I was working on this really late. Building your business, the business that you have, that you’re part of, that you’re a stakeholder, it wasn’t quick. It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t easy. So why would you think that building it online would be so much different?
There is greater reach, there’s greater opportunity, there’s greater access to resources with your online business, but the salad days of the Internet have passed. I started doing this work, I think, seven years ago? I look at my wife because I have no sense of time. Yes? About seven years ago, that’s a good enough number.
It was kind of easy. There were opportunities to exploit certain channels and behaviors. Not in any malicious way, but this was the Wild West. It still is in some ways, and you can pretty much do whatever you want. Well, the good news is that sophistication, competition, and regulation have evolved in such a way that that’s just not the case anymore.
You can’t cheat, there are no shortcuts, and nobody is as dumb as some people think everybody is. Now, that’s not to say that you won’t be able to discover a quick, cheap, and easy solution or source. It’s not that they’re not out there, but don’t walk into this thinking, “Aw, it’s going to take a few days and a few dollars, and I won’t have to do sales anymore.” That’s not the way it works. This is not magic. And actually I see it less and less.
It used to be in our industry, we started focusing on search engine optimization. Very technical, very dork-centric. There used to be this veil of secrecy. Well, I can’t really tell you about that, and I think that was a disservice to both those of us in the industry and the potential clients that we were trying to talk to. This isn’t magic. We, personally, Deep Ripples, we’re very big on education and transparency because if clients aren’t making informed decisions, we will never meet expectations.
What we want people to understand is that everything you do matters. Everything you do either helps or hurts with your marketing, with your reputation, with your customer service, with your public relations, whatever it may be. We really want to encourage that approach, and by taking the time to learn and understand the depth and complication of this, because it is complicated, but it’s not magic. You don’t have to be a scientist. You don’t have to be an engineer.
We still run across people who have the firm belief that this is magic. It’s not really up to me to change what people believe. I will try. But it’s a shame, because being unwilling to learn something and being unable to learn something amounts to about the same thing.
We got through beliefs. I want to talk about values. By the way, I could not find a good, succinct definition of values online, so here’s what I’ve come up with.
Values are beliefs that are important to people and organizations. They’re one of those things, you know it when you see it. Common values we’d like the organizations we’re part of to have, things like honesty, respect, dignity, equity, we want to be treated fairly. There may be implicit values, but they usually are explicit ones. Anytime you work with CJ, he’s very clear about what he’s trying to do and what he’s trying to convey.
I think that values are the beliefs that you live. If you spend a little time with a person, you’ll quickly begin to see what their values are, regardless of what they say. What we know in organizations, while many values matter, and many values have an impact. There are a few when they’re not there, really set you up for that train wreck.
The first value is this notion of resilience. There’s an author by the name of Andrew Zoli, who talks about resilience. He actually wrote a book about it, where he takes this field of study from various disciplines, like economics, molecular biology, psychology, sociology, and what they discovered, they came up with this fundamental definition of resilience.
‘Resilience is defined as the capacity of a system, enterprise, or person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.’ The reason I picked this picture is because, one, it was very inspiring when I saw it, but these guys are not going to not play soccer. This was shortly after the Haiti earthquake, and apparently there was a fundraiser that took amputees and basically helped them continue competing, continue playing the game that they love.
The thing about resilience is that it’s essential when you’re talking about this online world. I think it’s probably true for business. I’ve been doing this seven years, Deep Ripples has been around for just over four, I am rookie all the way. Some of you have probably, in here had a business longer than I’ve been alive, perhaps. I don’t know. Prove me wrong.
Resilience, there’s a lot of things resilience is not. It is not robustness, it is not resistance. Resilience is not about I want to make sure nothing changes, or if things do change, I want to get back to where I was. Resilience is about adapting to whatever the world happens to bring today.
In our world, in this digital marketing, it changes daily. I was running a little late due to traffic, so I didn’t get a chance to find a specific example to show you how it’s changed since I went to bed. It’s great to have goals, it’s great to have plans, you certainly want to have expectations and accountability, but nothing is going to work out the way you planned. This is a long-term race, and you cannot see clearly what’s further down the track.
Here’s something interesting. I don’t think anything has changed about what we’re trying to do. I don’t think anything has fundamentally changed. If I were doing this 500 years ago, you know, we would, rather than going to the Internet, we would go to the well, because we know everybody needs water, and everybody’s going to show up there sooner or later.
We’d pay attention to find out, who are the influencers? Who do people stop to talk to? Who gives people advice? How can we inform and educate them so that they can refer people to us who need bronze arrow heads and clay pots? What’s changed is the medium in which it’s happening.
I really do believe, and this is more of a guess than any kind of proof, I believe that consumers’ expectations and behaviors are what have been changing so rapidly. I don’t need you to know about your business. As a matter of fact, I can find out everything I think I need to know, again, that’s my belief, that I can find out everything I think I need to know, without involving you.
If at any one of those points along the way, I find something that turns me off, you’ll never hear from me. You’ll never know what you lost. You only know the business you get. That’s what makes it challenging, but at the same time, because of this medium and because of these expectations, we really have the opportunity to get more information in front of people in the way that they want it.
The second value that has to be in place is innovation. I went back and forth between innovation and invention. Here was the distinction that made me decide on this end. Invention is about coming up with something new. Not being an artist, I think artists are inventors. You’ll talk about an idea, you’ll talk about the way you want people to feel and how you want them to think about you, and they will go and create something that now exists that represents that. I think that’s magic.
Innovation is really about finding better ways to do things now, to solve old problems, or better yet, to solve new problems that customers may not realize they have. It leads to new and interesting ways to solve problems and provide services. It’s not about building a better mouse trap, it’s about using the mouse traps you have to find a more efficient solution to your customer’s vermin problem.
Innovation, like resilience, is crucial because everything is always changing. I am a big fan of the disk profiling. It taught me why I like to jump in to find out the temperature of the water. It also made me realize why I shouldn’t keep our books or be a project manager. What’s interesting is that with innovation, you really want to get the right people in a position of, at least accountability, if not authority, because you want people who are comfortable in chaos, who actually seek it and move towards it.
It’s a very interesting personality, and it’s sometimes hard to deal with if you are a more organized and thoughtful person. But it’s crucial, because the game changes every day, and you’re never going to have to do less. What you have to learn how to do is be better at what you’re doing now to make room for the next things you have to do. Now, eventually, things will fall away.
I got an e-mail two weeks ago, an unsolicited e-mail, which I’m vehemently opposed to, where a company contacted us through our website and wanted to let us know that they could help us with our SEO and online marketing, which I thought was very thoughtful of them. One of the examples in the services that they were experts in was that they could help us optimize for Google Buzz. But Google Buzz came and went. Part of me wanted to tell them, but the other part wanted to let that run a little bit. Now, I’m guessing that e-mail, that attempt, was written sometime in the past, and they’re just cranking it out because maybe they get a response from it.
You’ve got to make room. You’ve got to be prepared to find new ways. And all these things come back to that you have to be OK with failing, which kind of brings up the issue of integrity. Again, a lot of different definitions of integrity.
The one that I head the most, kind of growing up, was it’s about doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. Which, I like that definition, but I don’t think it’s accurate for integrity.
Integrity is about things being, presenting themselves as what they are. If I were a dishonest, mean, inconsiderate person, so long as I was clear about that, I’m in integrity, even though I’m kind of an asshole.
With integrity, it’s about honesty, accuracy, and consistency. And this is within an organization. Acting according to the beliefs and values and principles that you hold. The opposition, or the opposite of integrity is hypocrisy. That has a much more clear and comfortable definition for most of us. And it’s pretty much intolerable.
Hypocrisy is very much, it’s deception, and it’s dishonest. One of the things that I’ve learned growing up, short tangent, I promise. When I was very young, probably six or seven, I went through a phase of seeing how well lying would work. When I would go and have a cookie, even though I was told not to, and then I was questioned about having a cookie. I would lie.
Here was the problem: there was no incentive for honesty at that point in my life, because if I told the truth, I was punished at this amount. If I lied and got caught, I was punished at this amount. If I lied and got away with it; scot-free. There was no incentive for honesty in that, and I think I actually had a conversation with my mom, at least in my head I did, a few years after that, and we had a good laugh about it.
The problem with dishonesty when, whether it’s integrity or hypocrisy or whatever it may be, the problem with dishonesty is that once you cannot believe what a person is telling you, so much energy goes into evaluating, “Well, is this true? And if it’s not true, what do I have to do to prepare for it not being true?” And all that energy that could be focused into building a better relationship is divided and derailed. And integrity in an organization is that way.
If you claim to value initiative in your people, but you’re unwilling to give them free rein, or some rein, or resources, or liberty to pursue these ideas and maybe fail a time or two to get them straightened out, it’s going to degrade the trust in authority. It’s going to kill off the actual team members and leave you with employees. Dave Ramsey, who I’ve become a big fan of over the last year or so, his definition of employees is my favorite. They only have team members in his organization, because ‘employees show up late, leave early, and steal while they’re there.’
The last of the three issues with culture are artifacts. Artifacts symbolize or represent, here’s the definition and then I’ll shorten that. Organizational artifacts symbolize or represent salient aspects of the organizational culture to convey meaning, identity, legitimacy, brand ideals, either internally or externally. These are the visible elements, the tangible elements of a culture that can be recognized even by people not part of the culture.
Artifacts can be physical, such as awards and uniforms; informational, such as case studies and employee handbooks, which are also physical; or conceptual, such as language, interaction patterns, and norms. One of the values of the most common types of organizational artifacts like websites or brochures is that they provide this piece of social proof that you are what you say you are.
Artifacts are crucial because they are the things that people experience. You don’t really experience ideas, you experience the language and the communication that’s conveying them.
The three pieces of organizational artifacts that you have to have in place, the first of which is an identity. I was hoping Josh Miles would be here, because I’m about to pitch his stuff. I’m a big fan of Miles Design, I think they’re a fantastic firm for branding and identity. I’m also a big fan of Phil Daniels at Tactic Marketing. These are two people, two organizations that really understand the importance of you have to be something.
You can’t just show up to a rainmaker’s event or a BNI meeting and say, “Hi, I’m HVAC repair”. Nobody’s going to connect with that, and it’s not going to matter to anybody. This is about who are you, how would I know, and why would I care? It’s almost a Zombie’s song. This is the look, the meaning, the position, the voice of your organization. If I make an introduction, what am I or who am I introducing them to. It’s what you wish people would know about you and tell others.
It’s often underdeveloped; we’re as guilty as anybody, which makes it difficult, because when you do get that touch somewhere, somehow, because of a re-tweet, or a check-in, or a blog comment, or a Facebook share, or whatever it may be, when there’s not an identity on the end of it, it just sort of fades away. Again, you never know the business you didn’t get.
Identity is crucial. You also have to have presence. That 97% of consumers that I referred to earlier, that might be made up, it came along with another interesting stat. It said these consumers use an average of eight different sources in the course of their research and evaluation. It’s safe to assume that your website is probably one of those sources.
Here’s an example of a path that seems fairly reasonable for a business. So a Google search for a particular product or service brings them to your website. So we’ve got Google search, we’ve got your website. They then now go back and search on your brand name to see if they can find any more information, which leads them to your Google Local page.
This is where they get to read reviews about you from your customers, which hopefully are positive and not false and manufactured, including one on Yelp, that takes them there to read and see if there’s any other feedback. They happen to notice that someone they went to church with had just reviewed you, and so they hop on Facebook to see if they’d still recommend you. But after getting a lukewarm response about it, they decide to go over to Angie’s list and decide what kind of reviews and sort of authoritative feedback that they can get on you. That’s six. What are the other two touches in this process?
I mean, we can obviously make it up, but having a website? Good for you. Good start. It’s like a doctor graduating high school. Having a social presence, I mean, you know, because you have to, you assume they would. Having a social presence, even better. We’re getting there. But there are a lot of other opportunities, and your presence not only needs to be widespread but consistent, and this notion of diversifying is, I think, especially crucial because something’s going to get bought up.
Something’s going to get absorbed, it’s going to shut down. If you don’t have this sort of foundational presence, some jackass with a Posterous account can write something nasty about you that doesn’t even have to be true and that can be what shows up when people look for your name.
Lastly is the collateral. Again, from a typical branding perspective, collateral is your business cards, your brochures, your flyers, your mailers, all those physical things, still valuable. We also want to start thinking about digital collateral. That ties in very much as content.
Content, by my definition, is anything you experience on the Internet. It is text, it is videos, it is pictures, it is podcasts. It is anything you go and experience and hopefully leaves an impression on you. It’s not just about what can I have, but what can I have that I can share with somebody else? The people who seem to do the most and the best with their digital marketing, really get their customers. And they’re not trying to sell their customers anything, they’re trying to provide some sort of value.
They’re doing infographics, articles, newsletters, instructional videos, pictures of ducks getting married. Whatever it is, it’s for your audience to appreciate and share. It’s not just about the what can I have, but the what can I have and share? You’ve got to have something.
All right. Rather than talk about all the reasons you’ll fail, what can you do to be less likely to fail? Very straightforward. Start with commitment without conviction. You have to be fully committed into your initiative, but don’t have any conviction that this is the right way to do it, or that this is the only way to do it. Measure. Get feedback. Adapt. Try to prove it wrong as quickly and as objectively as possible, because then you can set that aside as, we’ve learned that this doesn’t work, let’s try something else.
The cadre with aligned values. I really just wanted to work the word ‘cadre’ into this. It is actually the accurate term because it is the core group of people all with the same values who are not only able to produce internally but they’re able to teach, educate, and inform others.
I’d recommend that you own as much as you can when it comes to your digital marketing, but you’re going to need people to help. It is not just the people in your organization, because what this is going to come down to when you sit down and go, “All right, we’re committed, we’re doing this”, you’re going to evaluate where you’re at, where you want to go, what everyone else is doing, and what you’re going to need to close that gap, and you’re probably not going to have everything sitting within your office space.
You are going to have to enroll vendors, partners, collaborators, and I’ll actually talk about that a little bit more I think in the next section. The aligned values are crucial because it’s OK if you can’t get everybody in the organization on board, but everybody involved has to share the beliefs and the values in order for this to work.
The “Bold Brand”. That’s a plug for Josh Miles. He recently published a book called “The Bold Brand”. It’s fantastic. I think it’s great for everybody because it will help provide some language and cognitive structure around how to think about your identity and your voice and your position and why that matters across these different venues.
I also recommend getting CJ’s book, “Thrive”, and in case you didn’t know, if you take “Bold Brand” and “Thrive” and overlap them, it’ll be a treasure map that will lead you to the treasure of One-Eyed Willie. I do strongly recommend “Bold Brand” if the whole notion of identity and voice and presence is not entirely comfortable, and having a conversation with Josh Miles is never a bad idea.
All right. Competency. When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there’s no end to what you can’t do. Educationally, my background in undergrad was social psychology, I moved out here for graduate school in organizational psychology, and then ended up finishing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. As much as that’s a jump, it’s really always been about these relational systems, and essentially what makes people do what they do, particularly when other people are around.
In 1999, David Dunning and Justin Kreuger designed a simple experiment. Now, what’s fun about this is they won the ignoble award for this, which is meant to go to the dumbest idea in science, but there’s a little undercurrent of “Yes, it seems like a dumb idea, but what came out of it actually contributed to the field”.
What they did is they had a group of students that participate in a class. Everybody turned in assignments, took the exams, did all the work. But what they didn’t get was any feedback from the instructor. None at all. For the entire semester, they got no information on how they were doing. At the end of the semester, students were asked to estimate where they stood in the class relative to the other students; Bottom quartile, second, third, top.
Then the students’ estimated grades were compared to their actual grades. The results of this were, I think, fascinating. What they found is that the students in the bottom quartile thought they were in the top. The students in the bottom half consistently thought they were in the top half.
The students in the second to top tier accurately assessed their ability. So the “Bs” and “Cs” knew they were “Bs” and “Cs”. “Ds.” and “Fs” thought they were “A’s” and “Bs”. Oddly, “A’s” thought they were “Bs”. What was interesting in the studies that came out of that later was that at a certain level of competency you begin to overestimate the ability of others because you figure that if I know it, it’s not that hard, and everyone else should probably know it too.
If you ever find yourself having more faith in people than it turns out they deserve, it’s because you’re competent. Or, wildly incompetent. Incompetent people will overestimate their own level of skill. As I explained, when you’re at the bottom, think of it as a race around a track…
There is a firm bottom. I’m in the fifth quartile. If you imagine a race around a track, a marathon, it’s not uncommon that some people fall so far behind, get lapped so many times, that at some point they look back and think they’re winning.
Incompetent people will fail to realize genuine skill in others. They are unable to assess the skill. So when you have an incompetent person, a great example was, I think it was at Paramount, there was a period where every, maybe it was Paramount, maybe it was NBC, but everything that came out of that studio for like 18 months was just garbage, and it just tanked. It’s because they had these few people in key decision positions that were calling the shots, and they were passing, people that passed on Seth McFarlane’s “Ted”, for example.
They weren’t able to recognize what a good idea was, and that’s why, I’m trying to think of a horrible show, that’s why Animal Practice is on the air. Incompetent people fail to recognize their own inadequacy. What’s interesting is that I don’t think it’s dishonesty so much as just ignorance.
What we do know is that, you know, with the exception of people who actually have physical and cognitive limitations, incompetent people can recognize and acknowledge their previous lack of skill if they are exposed to education and training. The more you know.
When we take that and we parallel it to organizations, there’s some overlap. We know that organizations can have incompetent processes. The biggest one that we see is when they fail to have a decider on their digital marketing initiatives. Anything by committee is awful. To quote another Dave Ramsey thing, “anything with two or more heads is called a monster”. Got to have a decider, and that person actually has to have authority and not be the messenger, because then you get to play that really awful telephone game, that takes longer and never gets anything communicated clearly.
These processes will also fail to have meaningful objectives. I want more business on the Internet. I want it to be great. I want everybody to know my name. These things aren’t meaningful. I want more hits to my website. You’re kind of going the right direction, but not really. It’s when we start talking about things like revenue, and engagement, lead generation, retention, I love call tracking, because at that point, it’s now tying it into the client’s CRM, to say, “Well, here’s what came in, here’s the money it resulted in, now we know what it’s worth.” Plus all the residual stuff of being present, being visible, having a sense of authority.
These processes will fail to communicate clearly. Unspoken expectations ruin it for everybody. There is no reason why every decision shouldn’t be in the form of some written agreement. I used to not like contracts and now I love them, because the contract is the physical representation of the agreement.
It shouldn’t be signed in haste while we’re walking out the door, it should be talked about, but this is what we’re both saying we’re going to do, and so when one of us fails to maintain accountability, then we can go back to this, and rather than blame, and point fingers, and make excuses, we can talk about, “Well, how does our resilient model adapt to this disruption?”
You’re less likely to fail if your stakeholders are engaged. The people who pull the trigger on the money and the funding and all the top-level decisions, if they’re not involved, they’re going to make judgments based on how they feel that particular day, and if they’re having a bad day, and you’re showing up to pitch another year of service, that’s just unfortunate for you.
The stakeholders have to be engaged, the participants have to be educated. Nobody can do this job. Definitely the people who own the company. Definitely the people who are responsible for the outcomes of these initiative, and the people who are, “Oh, by the way, Jim, you’re now our social media expert, and you’ve got to find an additional 20 hours a week to do this Twitter thing.” That person is a stakeholder as well.
People who aren’t stakeholders aren’t involved in the project. While you can’t have everybody involved all the time, you’ve got to keep the people engaged. It can’t just be a, ‘give me a report, we’re going to make a decision on how we’re going to spend what can be hundreds of thousands of dollars’. Doesn’t have to be, but it can be.
The participants being educated is crucial. Stakeholders tend not to want to be educated. There’s that whole I don’t want to learn this because I’ve got bigger problems to deal with and nobody has extra time, but there has to be some effort made to make sure they at least understand the big picture and why all these moving pieces matter to one another.
They don’t need to know why Twitter hashtags are so crucial in social search. They just need to know that Twitter matters, and we’ve got to put our time into it, and Sarah over here is going to take care of that.
The vendors being accountable, that’s part of why I really like agreements. Let’s make it clear on what we’re supposed to do, let’s make it clear on what you’re supposed to do, and let’s make it clear on what happens when somebody doesn’t live up to that.
In psychology and family therapy, there’s this notion of order failures in relationships. A first order failure is when, for example, an agreement is violated. I promise that I’m going to pay an employee on the fifth, and then I don’t pay them on the fifth. That’s a violation, that’s a first- order failure. The problem is not really with those first orders; it’s the second order, when I fail to acknowledge the first-order failure. That’s when things really start to fray and fall apart.
If I don’t keep my word, I don’t remain accountable, I don’t bring that up and now we’re not supposed to talk about it, it becomes like one of those awkward family dinners that nobody likes to go to.
The last bucket is about coordination. All right? So we have culture, big source of potential failures, obviously big source of success. We have competency, which should go without saying, but the problem is it usually doesn’t. Then, real quick, has anybody ever hired the wrong person and found out after thousands of dollars and hours and months? Just Duncan and I, really?
So coordination, here’s the thing. This isn’t magic, but it’s certainly complicated. And there’s more and more of it every day. CJ was the one who actually helped us realize one of the values we weren’t even aware of, and that is the, here’s the 99% of things we don’t want you to be paying attention to, because of everything that could be done, there’s a subset of everything you should be doing, and then there’s a very small little dot on that chart about, and here’s what you’re actually capable of accomplishing.
We want to make sure that dot is in the right place at any given moment. So then, coordinating all of these different areas, all of these different people, all of these different initiatives is crucial because the coordination is about allowing for growth. We want to be a multiplier. When you have multiple strategies, multiple vendors, multiple initiatives, whatever it is, when you have lots of pieces, and you’re not coordinating them well, at best you’re getting an additive result. You get this linear function, the red line.
If everything is succeeding, but it’s succeeding separately, you’ll see some growth, and that, that’s great. We want that. If you have a handful of teams who are coordinating different efforts, like your social and your content and your PR is being handled by an agency like ‘Firebelly’, or your SEO and your web design and your tool setup is being handled by someone like ‘Deep Ripples’, and whatever it may be, you’ve got it grouped, you now have the opportunity to gain some efficiencies from the coordination, and then you get that cubic growth, which is that blue line, which honestly it was the first time I’d ever heard of that, but I thought it was a great example.
But what you really want is you want to coordinate all these efforts. You want this exponential growth that is possible. You’ve read about it in books. I’m sure you’ve gone to presentations where people have talked about what they’ve been able to do with their business because they just know of a more innovative and organized way to do it.
Here’s what you need to coordinate. Now, I know nobody here has ever heard of smart goals. But it’s amazing how if you apply this to anything, it helps. When you’re coordinating a goal, I think one of the things that we don’t see a lot of is the measurable and relevant. I think people are relatively attainable, sometimes specific. But let me give you an example. Has anybody here ever told somebody, I’d like you to send more traffic to my website. Right? Does anybody want more traffic to their website? Of course we do.
All right, that’s not really specific. It’s is measurable. It’s attainable, there’s more traffic out there. It’s not really necessarily relevant because, I mean, for $100 I can get you 10,000 visitors tomorrow, but it’s not going to help. As a matter of fact, there might be some sort of residual impact that is detrimental. When we start talking about your goals for digital marketing, let’s start at the end. Let’s talk about, and now we have a new customer, and let’s work backwards.
We have a new customer, and that’s because we got a sales call. And that’s because they contacted us to request more information. That’s because they read an article that we authored in the Indianapolis Business Journal. That’s because they were searching for marketing consultants in Indianapolis. That’s because… and keep moving back until you find the things that you actually can influence, but make sure when you’re back here trying to rank your website for marketing Indianapolis, you remember you’re doing it for the purpose of having that new relationship.
You’ve got to coordinate your channels. I actually don’t like the word channels, but it’s the one I hear the most. I think of these as aspects, and it’s a term used in astronomy. When you’re talking about the properties of a planet, it’s in relation to the other planets that it’s interacting with. I watch too much NOVA.
We, and these are, personally, for Deep Ripples and myself, these are our aspects, our buckets, that, when we’re looking at any particular initiative, we start asking the questions. So, what are we doing about search? How is this impacting search? And that’s obviously SEO, but also social search, yellow pages is search, Angie’s List. How is this going to impact social? How are people going to share? How are people going to interact with it?
Content is everything you experience, what are we going to produce, what kind of collateral is going to come out of this initiative. PR, the public relations, I also added a CR for customer relations, which I think is especially relevant with the smaller service businesses, what can we do with this initiative to get a better relationship with our customers? How can we serve their interests?
I remember talking… Tom Jackson, oh, yes, didn’t see you. One idea that Tom and I had talked about in the past was sending their installers and technicians a newsletter that they can then send to their clients about, sort of, it’s October, and it’s time to clean your gutters and aerate your lawn, and any number of these things that really don’t have anything to do with repairing or addressing your HVAC or zone control.
But what it does, CJ taught me, is it says, number one, “I’m thinking about you”, but it also means, now, “you’re thinking about me.” I get a card twice a year, one for my birthday and one for my anniversary. I don’t even know if CJ’s the one who signs it, but I think about him.
As a matter of fact, he has once reminded me of my anniversary two days ahead of time, so I appreciate that. But the reason that we talk about these channels, these aspects, these buckets, whatever you want to call them, is that these are not separate things. These are not different from each other, they’re not to be treated individually. This is, ‘we want to develop this new product, this new video, this new piece of content, and here’s what we want to consider when we’re looking at promoting it.’
Lastly, you want to coordinate your efforts. This kind of ties in with the vendor conversation. It ties in with that first piece about the growth scale. There’s another, prove me wrong. These are not separate things. These are different applications of what can be one, unified effort. Sales and marketing and design and advertising e-mail and public relations, sometimes you’re a big enough deal that you’ll have to have a lot of talent performing at the same time.
You know, I think of companies like, when I think of big deals I think of Exact Target. And CJ. Yes. What was your public offering? But when I think of these big organizations, they don’t have a woman in charge of marketing. They have teams of people in charge of this area and that area, but I’d be willing to bet that they have people whose job it is purely to coordinate and essentially conduct the orchestra of performers.
You can keep it separate. Hopefully they’ll be successful. You’ll see some benefit from it. But if you don’t have a conductor for this orchestra of talent, what you’re going to get is this clamorous output.
From a coordination standpoint, you’re going to be less likely to fail if your goals are obvious. If I can walk in and say, “How’s your digital marketing doing?” And you respond in a sentence, and I can say, “Great, you either hit your goals or you didn’t.” Somebody should be able to look at the list of your goals and the list of your metrics and say you’ve succeeded or you’ve failed on this initiative, just at a glance. You’re less likely to fail if your aspects are in alignment.
The more you start thinking about your efforts as having different applications but being the same initiative, the more opportunity you’re going to find, the less waste you’re going to produce.
First law of thermodynamics: Whatever isn’t transferred in energy is transferred in heat and noise. Most marketing efforts are a lot of heat and noise, a lot of people running around, lot of things being produced and documented and conversations happening and not a lot coming out of it. Coordinating your aspects is going to allow you to be more efficient, more effective, and potentially develop these elegant solutions to solving the problems that you probably don’t even know you’re going to have yet.
Lastly, your players are in concert. As I said, when you have a lot of talent, that needs to be well-organized.
Hopefully, I didn’t fail you. But if you walk away with three things, let it be these: Get good, get comfortable with failing. If you’re failing it means you’re trying. Anybody who’s never failed has never really tried anything.
Every story of successful people that I read about, including CJ and his book, talks about failures, mistakes. Learn from them, move on. Get good at failing fast. That’s where that ‘commitment without conviction’ is so crucial. We’re going to do this, we’re going to see it through, and let’s make sure we know as soon as it is working or isn’t.
Then focus on learning new mistakes. That’s that innovative piece. I really want to encourage you to have at least somebody in your organization whose job it is to come up with ten dumb but new ideas every day. Something good’s going to come out of that. And it’s going to make people more comfortable with accepting new ideas.
Hopefully, I didn’t fail you. I really appreciate all the time and attention, and if there’s any way that I can be helpful to you and your organization, I don’t mean that in a sales sense, but just a “Hey, can you help us provide information so that we can have a conversation about this particular topic”, you know how to reach me.