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How do you make Internet marketing vital?

I often write about what to do in the face of management who just don’t “get” Internet marketing—a whole chapter in Do It Wrong Quickly is devoted to helping your organization adapt—but I am noticing a more subtle problem emerging. Some of you Internet marketing experts are no longer facing outright resistance to your efforts, but rather benign neglect. While it doesn’t attack your day-to-day efforts, management neglect eats away at your success a little at a time. If your management knows what you do, but is not engaged with its value, you are missing a big opportunity. Have you made your Internet marketing efforts vital to your company?


We’re entering a new phase of Internet marketing. No longer are we constantly faced with a “Dr. No” who tries to block our efforts (although there are still significant pockets of naysayers to be found). Now, it is more likely that we are being tolerated in the organization, almost as a necessary evil. Most people don’t understand what we do but they are afraid to actively block our efforts because they are afraid to be seen as antique marketers—so they at least give lip service to its importance, even if they don’t understand and don’t believe.
I’ve spoken to several marketers in this organizational predicament recently, and to my surprise, they are quite comfortable with it. “It’s so much better than it used to be,” they tell themselves. “I don’t need them to buy in, I just need them to stay out of my way,” they say.
They are wrong.
Jim Collins’ perceptive bromide, “Good is the enemy of great,” tells us why it is so important to keep pressing for more, even when things are going smoothly. I know that Internet marketers are finding it easier to do their jobs then they did a few years ago, when every day was a battle against the traditional marketers. And it’s hard for us to keep at organizational change when the status quo causes us no daily pain. But it’s important.
If we don’t, we risk falling into the same trap that has bedeviled traditional marketers—top executives do not understand our value to their business. eMarketer’s Geoff Ramsey tells a great story about a CEO that gathers his lieutenants around the board room table to explain why he needs to cut their budgets. He turns to each one, demanding a 10% cut, but the CIO explains that critical projects would be canceled and what that will cost the business. The head of manufacturing talks about the new products that would be delayed. The CFO explains that the company would be exposed to audit risks. Then the CEO turns to the Chief Marketing Officer, asking what happens if he cuts marketing 10%. The CMO stammers, “Uh, our brand awareness will really take a hit.” The CEO then says, “Good. I’ll cut you 20%.”
That’s been life in marketing, up until now. It has been challenging to show the value of TV commercials or billboards because you usually can’t directly tie the results of these tactics to what CEOs understand—sales. Of course, many marketers have succeeded in explaining the value of traditional marketing to top management, but most have not. In most companies, marketing is vaguely considered important, but in bad times it was hard to know how much to spend on it. You need to be ready to answer those questions when bad times come.
Internet marketing is easier to tie to sales, whether you sell online or offline. E-mail marketing, search marketing, and many other early forms of Internet marketing have their roots in direct marketing, where every move you make can be measured by its results. It’s important that you communicate with senior management to ensure that they understand the value of what you do. It’s even more important that you engage with your company’s leaders as Internet marketing becomes more like public relations—blogs and social media marketing are much harder to tie directly to sales.
But it goes both ways. Not only must you communicate your value to your CEO, but you must also realize that you are a cog in a larger machine. What is your company’s strategy? How does your firm stand up to competitors? What marketing messages can bolster your company’s larger (and longer-term) goals?
The only way you get answers to these questions is to engage with people at your company’s highest levels. It can be a bit intimidating. It can be uncomfortable. But it is important. Sure, you could have a less stressful day today if you accepted the benign neglect and avoided these difficult meetings, but you lose in the long run. You are just waiting for the day when you are questioned and it will be harder to defend yourself then.
When you reach out to engage with your company’s leaders, expect to be challenged about why what you are doing is important. Expect your company president to question your decisions and the value of your results. But you should also expect to learn a lot. You should expect to have your eyes opened about what is important to your company.
It will permanently change the way you do your job for the better.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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