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Surely just one minute after I hit the publish button and graduate this manuscript to a book, some new technology will emerge that promises to change the future of marketing.
That’s what I wrote in the afterword to The Professional Marketer. And while it may not have been one minute, it’s amazing what’s happened in marketing since 2014. Over half a billion people have Instagram accounts. Starting in 2016, more people accessed the web via smartphones than desktop or laptop computers. Just to name a two.
While I caution marketers not to fall in love with the latest marketing shiny object, to do the hard work, and to resist the temptation of technical shortcuts to good marketing, there are a few things I wish I would have covered in more detail in my book.
Here are my top five techniques I find myself using more frequently these days than when I was scratching out the manuscript.
SEO – I spent several pages covering search engine optimization in The Professional Marketer. My write-up is not wrong, but it is too basic. I do not discuss the whole world of off-site SEO, which are the actions you take outside of your website to improve your ranking on search engine results pages. In my opinion, on-site SEO is merely table stakes – everyone is doing it. To rank among the top three SERP results – which account for over 50% of clicks – requires links from reputable third party sites like niche blogs and trusted publications. To manage all of this work, and to ensure your site itself remains optimized, requires a lot of work – at least half a headcount and probably an agency, in my experience. If you are not using off-site SEO, you are missing a trick, and may already be at a competitive disadvantage. With the rise of mobile phone internet access, appearing in the top search results is more important than ever.
Content Marketing – I did cover the concept of content marketing pretty succinctly, and discussed various types of content, like studies and surveys, in my chapter on PR. But I’ve truly become a content marketing convert. It plays into every facet of marketing – PR, SEO, demand generation, sales enablement. I included content marketing as an emerging function in Chapter 23, “The Marketing Department.” But it’s no longer emerging – it has emerged. I think every marketing team should have a content marketing manager. This person sets the editorial calendar for the blog, works with internal and external writers, and coordinates with the demand and web teams to make sure the right content is being produced. I’ve also shifted my thinking on how to staff and fund this function. I’m now an advocate of hiring mostly external writers. They are cheap to hire, you can find specialists, and your content marketing manager – acting like an editor would – can source and manage great writers for less than you would pay to have employees who can write.
Conversion Rate Optimization – According to Chris Neuman, CEO of CROmetrics, conversion rate optimization (CRO) became a thing in 2010 with the founding of Optimizely. Their software introduced an optimization tool to the marketing world that was affordable and broadly applicable. It just wasn’t really on my radar when I was writing the book in 2012 and 2013. I started getting into it in 2016. The idea of CRO is quite simple: Once you get someone to your site or to your app, you need to make sure they convert. It’s a very important practice that can maximize your efficiency and have substantial results. One test I ran on our pricing page improved conversions by over 200%. A/B testing of email (and direct mail) has been around forever. Now that concept has been brought to the CTAs on your website. If you rely on your website to deliver leads, I would suggest you devote at least part of your web team’s energy to CRO, and invest in a software package like Optimizely to help get the job done.
Alternative PR – I still believe in press releases. They are the workhorse of PR, as I mentioned in the book. But there are so many other ways to get your news out. You can just as easily pitch a blog post to a reporter as a press release, for example. But you need to go further. At my current employer Imperva, we got a great story written by an AP reporter because he was following one of our researchers on Twitter. So make sure you make that happen; make a list of target of influential bloggers and reporters and have your spokespeople and experts – not just your PR people – follow and engage with them. There are a whole range of strategies for using social media to get your story out there. I strongly recommend David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR to get you started on a more modern approach to getting your news out there.
Advocacy – The only better salesperson than the top seller in your company is one of your happy customers. Leave a satisfied customer alone with a prospect at a cocktail party and magic will happen. Which is why I’m always surprised companies don’t spend more time cultivating customer advocates. Reference calls are one thing, but you need to really groom and reward your top customers and turn them into advocates. Giving them opportunities to share experiences and learnings at users groups is one way. I am always amazed at how much time customers will spend answering questions on forums. And of course, now we have the power of social media to connect them all. I mentioned WoM in the book, but not enough time on advocacy programs. Make sure you have a program somewhere in marketing to encourage online dialogue, reward your top advocates with swag or praise, and insider access to your CEO or head of product.
These five important practices notwithstanding, I think my book is holding up pretty well. For all the advances, the fundamentals still matter, and one could argue that these developments are really just refinements or applications of older practices. Great marketing ideas – ideas that are as relevant as ever – can be found throughout history So be inquisitive, keep learning, and beware of shortcuts.
What do you think? If you own a copy of The Professional Marketer, anything you wish I had covered?
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N.B.: This article was originally published in LinkedIn.