Exclusive DFWSEM Interview
Is it possible that marketers are spending too much time and energy trying to quantify their results? In some cases, yes, according to Rand Fishkin, who is considered one of the brightest minds in inbound marketing.
Fishkin, the featured speaker for the Dallas Digital Summit—a two-day digital strategies conference presented by TechMedia—will be one of the more 40 digital marketers on hand to talk about effective tips, strategies and best practices in digital marketing.
The conference will be held Dec. 9-10 at the Irving Convention Center.
Fishkin, who is known for being as generous as he is knowledgeable, was kind enough to share some of his thoughts with DFWSEM. Aside from making some insightful suggestions, at least one of his points is likely to surprise marketers, many of whom have become addicted to data.
When we look at search today, things seem very disjointed (e.g., focus on user experience; write for people, not machines; make content the priority, etc.), as if there are so many areas that deserve attention but not nearly enough time to focus on them all at once. What do you say to today’s marketers, many of whom feel like they’re being pulled in too many directions and wonder where the really value lies?
First off, I tell them that they’re right to feel pulled in many directions. Marketing has become massively more complex and more challenging. Sometimes, just knowing that it’s not you, it really is the field’s immense growth in complexity causing this pain, can be therapeutic.
Next up is to build a plan, execute against it, identify weaknesses and mistakes, and tune up the plan for the next round. That plan should take into account answers to questions like:
- Which channels are most likely to reach our target audience with the best ROI for time + money spent?
- Which channels are we as a team (or you as an individual marketer, if you’re running solo) best at?
- How should we balance paid vs. organic investment in these channels?
- If we have success with these channels, do we have the underlying infrastructure to succeed? (i.e., Is our product of high enough quality? Are we, as an organization, remarkable and unique enough to attract amplification? Do we reach a crowd of people who will want to help us succeed?)
- How will this plan eventually let us build a marketing flywheel, aka, a series of investments that require less effort/dollars over time to return the same results.
The plan you build and the channels you choose will be imperfect, but as you execute, you’ll learn and improve. Keep in mind two things:
- Don’t let the expectations you create with your team/manager/client get ahead of what you can accomplish. Marketers [are] often guilty of overpromising (probably because marketing is our business!), and this can lead to terrible consequences, even when a plan is working.
- Don’t try to invest in too much at once. Yes, there’s probably some unexplored opportunity on Pinterest and in building a series of podcasts, and in mobile app advertising, but a dabbler in many channels is a master of none. Specializing in the few channels that work best for you almost always exceeds the ROI of multi-channel dabbling.
That’s what I like to tell folks who worry about scattered attention 🙂
What’s your message to C-Suite execs who’ve committed to inbound marketing but who are growing more skeptical by the day that the ROI won’t be there in the end?
I actually love when C-Suite folks don’t believe in or lose faith in inbound channels, because it always creates opportunity for startups and small businesses that can be more nimble and more creative to outshine or overtake the big guys. Inbound has such incredible ROI when done correctly that, if you’re large enough to have a C-Suite of executives evaluating marketing channels, your opportunity to perform is immense. Most of the time, when it fails in larger organizations, it’s because marketing was chained to outdated practices, and/or to a lack of ability to experiment and innovate.
What’s an area of marketing that’s become the proverbial rabbit hole for a segment of the industry, sapping resources that are much better expended elsewhere? Where would you rather see these marketers spend their time?
One that immediately comes to mind is analytics. I love measuring, and I love being able to show cause and effect. But in many cases with marketing, it’s simply too complex a puzzle to perfectly align every transaction to every channel that touched it and prove how much contribution that channel deserves separately from every other channel.
Instead, I like taking a broader view, recognizing that even the most rigorous measurements are imperfect (because we cannot really know WHY someone converted), and investing in channels that show positive leading indicator metrics like traffic, engagement and a presence in the conversion funnel.
For decades the biggest and smartest brands invested in almost entirely un-measurable channels like TV, outdoor, radio, promotional events, etc. and then watched overall lift in brand recognition, sentiment, and sales by geography. When the web came along, the pendulum swung to measurability, which is awesome, but I think it may have swung too far. Marketers are spending more time proving the value of investing in content/SEO/being on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ and less time engaging in meaningful activities that create the value.
I think we could live with a little bit less data-crunching and a little more actual marketing. There’s a healthy balance to be found.
After this article was published Matt Wallert, Microsoft Behavior Scientist and Dallas Digital Summit presenter, tweeted his agreement.
— matt wallaert (@mattwallaert) December 8, 2014
To which Rand replied:
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) December 8, 2014
Rand can be found on Twitter.
Rand Fishkin uses the ludicrous title Wizard of Moz. He co-authored/co-founded the Art of SEO, Inbound.org, and Moz (he clearly likes doing stuff with other people). Rand’s an addict of all things content, search & social on the web, from his multiple blogs to Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and FourSquare. In his minuscule spare time, Rand enjoys the company of his amazing wife, Geraldine, whose serendipitous travel blog chronicles their journeys.
Rand Fishkin #MOZCON 2013 by Thos Ballantyne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.