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Some of you have probably tried to sell your C-level executives on the importance of search marketing. You started out all excited about keywords and rankings and page views and bids and copy and then…you are greeted by that fantastic blank stare that suggests what your exec is really thinking about: “When can I get back to what I care about?” You might be wondering how someone as successful as your CEO could NOT be interested in search. So I am sorry to break it to you, but that blank stare really does say it all. Your CEO couldn’t care less about search. The real question is what you are going to do about it.

 This was all brought to mind when Gord Hotchkiss asked me to present “Selling Search to the C-Suite” at the Search Insider Summit conference this month. (You can follow the link to download my slides.) Why don’t CEOs care about search and what can we do about it?

The basic problem is that search marketing brings together the two subjects that CEOs know and care the least about: marketing and technology. CEOs understand a lot of areas of their business. They know what happens when there is a problem in manufacturing or sales. But if you wonder why CMOs and CIOs have the shortest life spans of any C-level execs, it’s because CEOs don’t understand how to measure the value they bring to the company. Unless you can explain to the CEO how you affect profit, you are not speaking the right language.

And we usually don’t discuss search marketing that way. (In fact, we usually don’t discuss any technology or marketing investments that way.) We talk about all sorts of things when we discuss search marketing, but only e-Commerce companies discuss profit.

Companies that don’t sell online usually have no idea how much money any marketing program adds to the bottom line, because they can’t trace what they do online to an actual sale. Until they can, search will be a religion, rather than a business. And you might find that your CEO and your CFO have a different religion–they worship at the altar of the green.

So, how do you avoid seeing your exec’s chin dropping into her Blackberry as you speak? Start by knowing yourself what search is worth. Begin by tying search to sales, by connecting what happens online to that offline purchase. Use special phone numbers, track coupons–it doesn’t matter how you do it–find something that works for your customers and your business. I work with many companies to make these online to offline connections. You’ll find something if you try hard enough.

Once you do, you’ll suddenly be able to prove the value of search marketing. That’s what your CEO cares about. It might seem like a subtle distinction, but it is the whole ballgame. Your CEO cares about how search marketing creates value for the company. How it helps meet the company’s goals. If you can’t explain search marketing in those terms, then you are not ready to sell to the C-suite.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

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