Log Off: There Is No Silver Bullet (Or Is There?)

Online marketing and advertising professionals have far more work than can fit into a 60-hour workweek. Even with wireless laptops, cell phones, and BlackBerry devices, they are increasingly looking for optimization of effort. Our training and consulting clients in every city and at every level ask, more than anything else, "What one thing should I focus on to be successful in my job?"

More than in most professions, being successful in any online marketing or related role requires being more of a juggler than a fortuneteller -- more a Jack or Jill of all trades than a master of one. At the risk of bringing back memories of college calculus, I describe the challenge of online marketing and advertising as a multivariate differential equation, with everything being a function of everything else.

That said, none of us has the time, resources, or money to do the optimal thing for every task we have before us, so tradeoffs and compromises must be made. Yet it's more important in our world than in most others that nothing is left unattended. Everything matters, and every element affects every other element. Your job is to make sure you know what all of those elements are. Beyond that, it's a triage process to choose the areas in which you can have the most positive impact, given available resources and business demands and goals.

If all this seems obvious, then why do so many people --many of whom have substantial business experience and pedigrees -- continue to ask the same question: What is the one thing I should focus on? As if there were just one question, and one silver-bullet answer. The problem is that this industry changes so frequently and radically that we are all hard-pressed to know how to handle all, or even most, of the challenges put before us.

Fortunately, there is a growing arsenal from which we can draw many silver bullets (note the plural!) to fire at our tasks. That you are reading this in an industry publication, means that, in your case, I am preaching to the converted. But if you work with others whose cooperation is necessary to help you accomplish your tasks and goals, do you wonder if they are as informed as you?

Just for fun, ask some of your coworkers what publications they read and what courses they've taken. The typical responses I get reference two to three resources that people use regularly, containing about 20 percent of what is usually necessary to effectively do the work of most online marketing and advertising jobs.

Why? Remember, everything affects everything else. Just because you only do search marketing today, for example, doesn't mean that you can ignore what is going on in many other areas. The visual or creative appeal of an ad is of no value without a productive landing page, for example.

And which versions of the ad to run when and where are significant choices that need to be determined and refined by constant analysis and review. Deeper and broader knowledge will make the work you do more effective, especially since integration of all media and marketing channels is an increasingly important element in optimizing return on investment.

If you're a manager, do you allow your people the time and budget to get the knowledge that can help them help you? While the tide is moving in a positive direction, there is still a long way to go before training, subscription, research, and -- dare I say it? -- trade show attendance budgets are at the levels they need to be to help the industry deliver on the growing online demands of marketers and advertisers.

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