WIN MINDS, NOT RANKINGS
Over the last few years, the digital marketing industry (and SEO in particular) has continued to struggle with a dramatically, and often quickly shifting landscape. This constant upheaval that all digital marketers must deal with comes from a number of sources causing quakes and sending out after shocks in what feels like a never-ending onslaught on our profession. I've personally been feeling growth pains lately and thought others may benefit from some of the thinking I've done over the past few months and years.
If you're a business owner, I encourage you to read this and think about the consequences of what's happening for your business and how the suggested strategy (or approach) may benefit you. If you're a digital marketer or a traditional marketer working to wrap your head around the digital world, I'd love to hear what you're struggling with and whether or not you think my approach is reasonable.
First things first, let's talk situational analysis.
Pay Attention, or you Might Fall Through the Cracks - Our Shifting Technological Society
The march of technology has been on the minds of scientists, sociologists, and others for quite awhile now. The concept of accelerating change has been around since the 1930's if not earlier, and while this idea has been present throughout our history and has certainly impacted marketing in the past, the current break-neck pace has left many marketers scrambling to understand the latest (mentioned or noticed) Google algo update or change in consumer behavior. Those who have adapted quickly have experienced repeated success as can often happen for astute early adopters, while those who have come late to the game or attempted to cut corners have suffered.
We must be agile, we must be willing to take risks, and frankly, we must win more often and bigger than when we lose. Sounds stupid, but it's a basic principal of technical analysis we often don't consider. This is getting harder and harder to do at scale even for talented marketers and capable, agile, organizations.
Along with a continually shifting consumer behavior driven by technology, we're also fighting with platform overload. With 100's of social networks (and more coming all the time), a backlog of blogs, niche communities and forms of communication, understanding where, when, and how to be most effective in joining your customers' conversations is no easy task. Yes, there are some major networks that clearly have the most users and most active users, but truly understanding where your audience is engaging along their purchase path can be daunting with new shiny things popping up all around.
This causes knee-jerk marketers to continually be running to the next hot thing in order to understand how their customers may be interacting.
The Power of Personalization and the Morphing SERP
Along with a barrage of new platforms, changes in searcher behavior as a result of new technology and shifting societal norms, SEO's face the unique challenge of understanding how this all fits in with some of the largest, most well-funded businesses in the world (Google, Microsoft, etc.) that run search engines. One of the most profound changes affecting search right now is a two-fold move by Google that is simultaneously bringing in more personalized content as well as a new way of understanding the data they're being fed.
Make no mistake; this is a VERY big deal. We are starting to see the evidence of fundamental shifts Google began making years ago through the unification of data and their ideas on how to use it.
While I haven't been able to find the quote, I believe there is a line floating around from Google's Sergey Brin that reflects Google's desire to provide answers before the question even arises. Now, under the current methodologies for helping someone rank in search, how the $%%$ do you optimize for that?!!?
So, Forget Rankings, Forget Platform Hopping, Forget Bottom-Up Approaches - It's Time to Win Minds
Digital marketers are often guilty of living in their digital, tactical bubbles. It's hard to blame us really, what with the rate of change in our specific tactical areas of expertise as well as the industry as a whole. None the less, it's a problem.
I believe that in order to win in search, social, PPC, email marketing, whatever tactic you want, our marketing MUST be strategically driven by a desire to win minds, and tactically focused to do just that.
Winning minds isn't easy. It requires a legitimate business, run by real people, who bring their best to what they do and desire to build good things. As Seth Godin points out so well in his book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, it's not enough to simply market something any more. What you build has to carry true value, and how you present it must be attractive enough to win minds. It's not efficient to win a customer for one purchase, and marketers must understand that and how to operate with that mindset when they go to tactically execute a marketing strategy for the business. Further more, every aspect of the business (including marketing) should be adding value to the original product or service.
If we can win minds, we no longer have to chase people, or machines. We start to see the impact of our marketing drive Google and what it wants to return because it's what users are demanding. Bonus - this is a cool way to get an idea of the success of other marketing campaigns.
When minds are won, customers will continue to come to us. Yes, we needed to know where to put the message, and yes the message has to be right, but for so many marketers, our mindset is not keyed in on winning the mind, it's tied to winning a single purchase. As long as we do that, we chase. When the mind is one, the metrics will start to tell Google that our brands need to be represented, because users are after what we have.
I'm looking forward to diving deeper into this and exploring what it takes to win a mind, both tactically from a marketing perspective as well as from an organizational perspective.
Tell me, how do you win minds?