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Customer responsibility in Internet marketing

Well, somebody in this industry has to say it and say it loud. Having been in this industry for over four years now, I have seen mom-and-pop shops campaigns. I’ve seen Fortune 500 campaigns, and everything in between. I have seen a lot of good stuff happen, and also a lot of bad stuff happen. I have been a sales director, an agency owner, and a consultant, so I can comfortably say that at least half (and probably more than half) of the problems in the industry fall firmly on the shoulders of one person, And who is that person? Drum roll please: It’s the Customer.

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What?! Heretic! How dare someone even consider that the customer isn’t always right. What’s wrong with me you ask? Experience is the only thing wrong with me on this one. I write from experience. Now depending on which side of this ledger you are on, or have been on in the past, your perspective on this will vary greatly. That’s fine, but in Internet marketing, which is fast moving and constantly morphing, clients can get in the way of their own success.
How, you ask? Here’s a few of the major ways:

  • Poor communication. This can take the form of just not getting back in a timely fashion or not responding at all. I’ve seen both. Now, if the service provider has not exhausted all avenues for communication (in other words, do more than just e-mail someone which is turning into the lazy man’s CYA of the Internet era) then some of the blame falls on the provider. A customer not being responsive in a timely manner can be the difference in success or failure of a relationship / campaign
  • Ego. I am about to get underway with a new client who has a refreshing approach. The marketing director I am working with readily admits his deficiency in knowledge and experience in Internet marketing. So rather than acting like he knows what’s going, on he is willing to listen, learn and grow. This is refreshing, because most people aren’t smart enough to check their ego at the door and they inevitably screw something up. My new client, however, is poised for success through being humble.
  • The use of the “this guy knows something about search marketing” staff member. Clients who don’t like to seem as if they are not on top of the latest Internet/search techniques will defer to a staff member who has some knowledge of the disciplines. They have just enough knowledge to be either dangerous or disruptive to the process. These people screw things up with great regularity. Providers beware of the IT guy who “has experience with Internet marketing.”
  • Unrealistic expectations. Despite best efforts to inform clients of what is a reasonable expectation of success, many don’t want to hear it. These are the folks who are never happy because you have never done enough to help them get results. Be sure the definition of results is completely agreed upon at the start of the campaign, or there will be trouble.
  • Lose interest. How can this happen? It happens because organic search marketing, and Internet marketing in general, often take a considerable amount of time to garner results. Over a few months time the client might get distracted and concentrate on something else. If you do not keep them focused, success will be limited at best.

Those are a few of the big issues. Now am I claiming that agencies and providers are always right? NO WAY! In fact, I think it is incumbent upon the provider to make sure these conditions above are identified and marginalized quickly. If the agency just goes about business and then complains about how the customer treats the campaign, but does nothing to remedy it, then shame on the provider.
In the end, you will be hard-pressed to find a business discipline that requires more teamwork and cooperation than Internet marketing of all types. If you can keep that in mind from start to finish, then everything should be just fine.

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