Commentary

In Search Of New Beginnings

Well, here we are: 2012. It’s hard to believe we’re 13 days into the new year. My team and I were so intent on wrapping up last year on a positive note that we gave little thought to the year ahead. As 2011 inched toward its close, I fixated on a single goal: survive.

But as we know, in the search industry simply surviving is a short-term strategy. Our industry moves so fast that you risk becoming obsolete if you procrastinate for too long. So I’m placing “stop procrastinating” at the top of this year’s list of resolutions. For me, 2012 is about new beginnings.

The new year presents a blank slate, and there are plenty of opportunities for search and social marketers to start fresh and pursue new paths. These may not all be “new” paths, per se; some are likely best practices that have been around for a while but have been placed on the backburner for any number of reasons.

Let’s do a bit of reprioritization this year. Let’s reset our approaches to program management. Let’s take advantage of the promise of new beginnings.

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Consider search your most cost effective means of conducting primary research.

Avinash Kaushik famously stated that his role, as a digital marketer and Web analyst, was to “fail faster” than the competition. Learning from mistakes is imperative in all forms of digital marketing (and in everything we do in life). What Kaushik was saying wasn’t that he wanted to fail forever; only that he wanted to identify what worked and what did not quickly, so he could channel his energies towards what did work faster than his competition. Search allows for that discovery.

Search is the only destination where consumers seek solutions to their needs/wants/desires, expressed in great specificity and with clear intent. Matching that intent with messaging, content and offers is an iterative process that yields, even in failure, insight into the dynamics of the marketplace.

Let’s better embrace that reality this year. It’s far cheaper than running focus groups.

 

Don’t invest in search without clear key performance indicators (KPIs).

Last year I heard from clients on more than one occasion that, “my boss is asking about our lead count from search.” This, despite the fact that the programs in question had been built with brand awareness objectives in mind (at the clients’ direction). Clear(er) KPIs will help mitigate those types of conversations.

Before you invest in any search activity, identify and get stakeholder consensus on program KPIs. With those in your hip pocket, there will never be a misguided “Where are our leads?” conversation in your future.

 

It’s about YOUR baseline, not their benchmarks.

On the heels of the above line of questioning, we typically hear next, “How does our performance compare to industry benchmarks?” That’s a valid question. Search performance data is devoid of any context without some frame of reference (or clear KPIs). Delivering a 20% conversion rate is good for some advertisers, bad for others.

But I’ve found off-the-shelf benchmark data to be incredibly unsatisfying. Few marketers will be running programs in identical industry verticals, speaking to identical audiences with identical program goals. What is far more applicable to me is my own historical data, used as a baseline to score program successes and failures.

 

Recognize that social fans are the new opt-in.

Email is passé. While email marketing remains an incredibly viable communications channel, the reality is that opting in to a brand’s e-newsletter has taken a back seat to myriad new ways one can engage with that brand and its content. Social fans (Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube Channel subscribers, etc.) represent opt-in 2.0. Those fans have granted us explicit permission to have an ongoing dialogue with them; don’t screw it up.

Appreciate this shift in opt-in behavior, and treat social fans with the same respect that’s been traditionally shown to email subscribers. No spam, only relevant content and materials.

I could go on with many more “new beginnings,” but the point is that 2011 is in the bag. This new year represents an opportunity for us to start fresh, and reset on our approaches to search and social marketing.

And let’s fight the temptation to procrastinate.

2 comments about "In Search Of New Beginnings".
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  1. Kevin Lee from Didit, January 13, 2012 at 4:44 p.m.

    Some interesting and valid points.
    However, for most of my clients email is NOT passe. A "like" isn't a CRM touchpoint where we have a predictable permission relationship with the customer. Facebook and LinkedIn rules change often. So while fans are nice as a supplemental KPI, I'm not sure my clients are ready to give up the email channel of communication.

  2. Ryan DeShazer from GSW Worldwide, January 24, 2012 at 1:35 p.m.

    Kevin - I think you're missing my point. I never said that email has been replaced by "likes" in its importance to marketers; rather, "likes" and "follows" have become the preferred method of communications opt-in from the consumer's perspective. I know our client data concludes as much -- social engagement on the rise, while email opt-ins are in decline.

    Agree that someone who has opted in to an email communication is incredibly valuable...more so than the lay social fan.

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