Silver Lining

Building Your Brand in Tough Times

In extraordinary times like these, pushing for new business might feel awkward. Work to build your brand instead. Here are a few ideas.

Show love to your current customers

Give your loyal customers something that is useful to them, right now. Can you proactively flex your payment terms and give them some time and much-needed cash? Perhaps you can provide a free service or offer counsel or time in some way. Show them how much their loyalty and business means to you. They will remember that.

Some software companies have proactively given new and existing customers a price break. Zoho has created a Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program that provides up to 20,000 of their small business customers free access to their existing applications for up to 3 months. “We are here to help” has become a common message on many websites. Banks are rushing to provide loan deferrals. Our own company has chosen to continue serving customers who need to cut their marketing expenses, as long as we can.

Be proactive with something special – but affordable.

Be ready to pivot if you learn of something your clients need and you could innovate to deliver

The best example comes from the COVID-19 crisis, when several producers of distilled beverages (liquor companies) began producing hand sanitizer. ExxonMobil followed suit. If your business provides soft services, and you plan to keep staff on board, use their idle time to provide free or low-cost consulting work in new areas. Not only does this increase your exposure into new territory, it expands your house knowledge base and can provide new skills for your staff.

Donate your expertise, products or just your time to help

This one is pretty obvious, but when we all pitch in, we all benefit. JOANN Stores is currently providing free instruction to sewers and crafters who want to make supplies to front-line healthcare workers. They are also providing and donating 100% of the supplies needed for these projects if the person comes into a local store to make it.

You don’t have to be a big corporation to make a big difference. Choose your corner of the world. Your service can be as simple as setting up and training the local Al-Anon chapter on using Zoom so they can continue to hold meetings. Or volunteering to help a locally-owned restaurant improve their marketing / web presence. Perhaps you are an IT consultant and can contribute some basic IT services to a nursing home that is struggling to keep up with the crisis.

Don’t exhibit panic. Keep a sense of humor and make gratitude visible.

We should all be thankful for customers who plan to stick with us through a downturn. Make sure they know you are grateful. If your business is suffering, don’t dwell on that. If your business is thriving make sure your clients know, so they feel confident that you will still be there for them when the crisis is over.

Be loyal to your employees, give them visibility and gratitude.

A downturn is the perfect time to show what kind of character your organization has. Make sure everyone in your organization understands the state of the business and can plan accordingly. Ask them how they are doing financially. Get a sense of the mood around the office and work to improve it as needed. If you can’t afford bonuses or raises, try giving them time off or other perks.

Be an example to your organization of healthy mental behavior. We can’t deceive people into thinking everything is “OK” if it is not, but a healthy attitude of “this too shall pass” while rolling up our sleeves can often trigger success in other areas of life. Things look better when we turn worry into action.

Downturns, crises and tragedies are all an unfortunate fact of life. How your organization responds to them shows your character and can have a huge positive impact on your brand.

Driving on Two Wheels

A Saudi Daredevil’s Quest for the Impossible Reveals New Insight on How to Optimize Your Website for Free

Driving on Two Wheels

You may have seen him on YouTube — Captain Al-Mustaheel — otherwise known as “Captain Impossible” with his “Impossible Group.”

He and his stunt team perform an extremely dangerous vehicle maneuver known as, Sidewall Skiing.

The essence of the stunt is to balance and drive a vehicle, whether it be a car or SUV, on two wheels for a considerable distance without flipping over or worse.

The “Impossible Group” has perfected this drift sport in ways that defy imagination — going so far as to change tires while “skiing” desert highways on two wheels.

It’s jaw-dropping footage to watch.

Shift Your Mindset

Now think for a minute how this albeit crazy stunt could benefit race car drivers if they never had to pit to change tires. They could simply stay out on the track, continue to do laps, and maintain position all while their team added a fresh new set of racing slicks to the vehicle.

Although highly unlikely, the point is this … what once seemed impossible — that of changing the tires on a vehicle while driving — is now reality. Captain Al-Mustaheel and his “Impossible Group” have done it.

But what if you could do the same kind of thing for your website?

By Christopher Batt – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1408267

A New Approach to Website Optimization

Consider your latest RFP (Request For Proposal).

What was the standard response you received from agencies courting you to help?

All too common their approach is based on “Waterfall” methodology. A strategy focused on the completion of project related tasks in sequence, flowing downstream like a waterfall.

There is little flexibility this way and few opportunities to know whether your website will successfully perform until the very end.

This puts extraordinary pressure on you and your team to guess what will work on your site and what won’t.

If you were piloting a race car you’d have to pull off the track into the pits to undergo this extensive kind of overhaul.

This is the routine approach that many follow. And while there are certain situations when the “Waterfall” model may serve for a time, it often has limitations related to website development and maintenance.

But think if there was a new approach to rebuilding your website.

One that didn’t require you to “exit the race” in order to make the changes necessary to throttle your digital marketing race car to the front of the line.

What if rather than pulling your site offline to improve it, you could change its “tires” — IE optimize its pages — all while keeping the site live and working for you to sell and generate new leads.

This idea is simple in nature … yet powerful when applied.

It is an approach that could enable you to completely overhaul your website while investing little out-of-pocket and maintaining positive cash flow.

Consider the following to guide you on a journey of what’s possible…

What Do You Really Want to Happen?

Before you begin any work on your website, it is important to think through the main changes that you would like made.

Consider how long your website has been in service. Has it accomplished what it was designed to do? If your answer is yes, what were the key elements that enabled it to accomplish this purpose? If not, what was missing from your site that caused it to not perform well?

Is your website designed to sell products or generate sales leads? Is it intended to be more of an online business card or blog news outlet?

What elements of your website do you think could be most easily optimized to better accomplish this purpose?

Write this information down and refer to it often as you continue working through your website improvement process.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/landrovermena/29611023698 Some rights reserved: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Begin With the End in Mind

Next, decide what the “goal” page should be on your site. This is the page to which you will drive traffic in order to convert them into email subscribers and paying customers.

Is everyone on your team in agreement that these totally unique and separate pages are how you’re going to track conversions — how your going to know whether or not the changes you’re making to your website are successful?

Keep in mind, there are very real and definable ways to make these determinations. Each of your product and service offerings are likely to be different and therefore should be approached in a unique and special way.

Thus, it is important you take the necessary time or get the appropriate help to identify these key factors at the beginning of your project. It will make a big difference down the road as you compile messaging and imagery for your website.

Go for the Easy Wins First

Just like climbing a fruit tree, go for the low hanging fruit that’s easily within grasp. Don’t try to pick the apple at the top of the tree without picking the lower apples first.

This will make a significant difference in your approach and in the amount of money you’re able to generate starting out. Make the obvious changes to your website that you know will lead to conversions before tackling the more challenging revisions that will take longer for you to see a return.

Think about it this way … you want to change your tires on the racetrack NOT your engine.

Rework One Page at a Time

Optimize only one page for success at a time. Do this before you begin moving on to the next page and the next.

The reason for this is if you begin to optimize one page, and then fail to complete it before moving on to the next, you will not learn about your audience, their messaging, and what’s working that engages them to sign up and buy your products and services.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/landrovermena/42765707894/in/photostream/Some rights reserved: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

Create Value-Based Content

When it comes to creating content, the most important thing you can do is to make sure it’s infused with value for your target audience.

Does your content address their fears, uncertainties, and doubts? Is it easy to read and to navigate? Does it pull your reader through the copy like a needle pulls thread? Does it compel them to take action? Is it entertaining to the point they will want to share it on social media?

All these things contribute to the value you are providing your audience. So work on it or hire a professional to help you.

Test for Conversion

In true conversion optimization fashion … your mantra should always be to “test.”

In this business, it is the data that tells you whether or not a message is resonating with your target audience.

You can continue to make ongoing adjustments once you have dialed in the basics and know with some level of certainty that the page will perform as desired.

If it does not perform in this way, go back and continue working to refine it as best you can.

You should begin to recognize specific ways in which your targeted personas engage with the visuals and messaging on your website.

You want to be keenly aware of these things and implement what’s applicable on subsequent pages.

This is where the power of an “Agile” approach pays off and you start to build increasing momentum over time.

Cash Flow Your Project

Remember, as you continue to move forward you are optimizing each page so that it contributes to your bottom line right away. It’s like a Prius commercial, everything begins to bloom and grow as you “drive” past it.

This success happens one page at a time — like changing tires Saudi Arabian style — and you don’t have to pit or be pushed back to the garage to achieve this level of transformation.

Hopefully, by this point, the pages you have optimized will be generating money for you — and you’ll know why. Ideally, you’ll have broken even with your initial investment achieving what could be considered a new website for “free.”

If you had taken the more traditional “Waterfall” approach you would just now be getting to the point of testing your site for the first time and hoping that you “guessed” right as to what your audience likes and dislikes.

This would have been a very scary place to be and a cause for great alarm should things go wrong. But because you’ve learned from a Saudi Daredevil how to shift your mindset and change your website’s “tires” on the racetrack, you have given yourself the advantage and the ability to move past your competition as they sit idly by waiting for service.

By Jas07c – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17128155

Reap Your Reward

Congratulations. You have now worked through all the major hurdles with your site as they surfaced in real time.

Don’t stop here and think that your work is done.

Keep being a student of your market and learning and growing in relationship with them. Speak their language time and time again and you will eventually reach that place where you realize it was all worth it in the end.

Sales and SEO: A Match Made in Heaven

Your SEO agency could be costing you sales if they aren’t talking to the right people in your company.

  • The sales team has information that is very valuable to your search engine optimization success, but quite often the SEO company does not speak to the sales team
  • The sales team should be involved in the key milestone activities of any digital marketing engagement, especially search engine optimization planning
  • SEO agency team members need to ask more people in the organization more questions about the definition of success

As a business owner, at some level you care about your search engine rank, your overall digital brand presence and your website traffic volume. These are all important things to monitor and measure, because they all are paths to the things you really care about: sales and return on your digital marketing investment.

But there is a little-used SEO tactic that can dramatically improve not only your online goals, but your overall business goals, sales and ROI.

And it can also improve your vendor relationships if you use an outside SEO firm, and make your internal marketing team more productive.

That tactic is this: make sure your SEO team is talking to your internal sales team. A lot. As often as possible.

Why?

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be an effective method to drive sales and leads into your company via your website.

But SEO and sales are even more closely tied than you might realize. Not only does SEO drive sales opportunities, but sales should influence your SEO process and strategy.

As a business owner or executive in charge of your company’s digital marketing program, you should know if sales data is being shared with the SEO team.

Do you know if your digital marketing agency is asking enough good questions of the sales team? Has your SEO company ever spoken with your sales people?

Your Digital Marketing Agency Should be Best Friends with Your Sales Team!

Your SEO agency or internal team should be talking to all of the people in sales: the director of sales, VP of sales and perhaps most importantly, the sales reps themselves.

Your sales team executives have strategic insight into the business and therefore should be a part of keyword selection and web content planning. The SEO content strategy needs to align with the stories your sales team tells your prospective clients. If not, you are telling two different stories to the market.

But too often, that fabled wall between marketing and sales is at play. Companies allow an SEO firm to build pages and pages of content without anyone on the sales leadership team providing input.

And the sales executive should not be the only players.

The sales reps are the ones who are directly in contact with decision makers every day. They are on the front line and have gobs of great information for your digital marketing programs. More on that later.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • When was the last time someone on the digital marketing team met with your vice president of sales or with one of your salespeople?
  • Did the SEO agency suggest that the sales team be part of the kickoff meeting?
  • Do they send your sales people any reports on what they are doing and the impact it is having?
  • Does your SEO account manager even KNOW a single salesperson at your company (besides yourself)?

If not, it’s time to make some introductions. Or find another SEO agency.

We’re The Sales Team. Nice to Meet You, SEO Team!

Practical Steps to Take, Top Questions to Ask

It’s time to take a meeting with your agency and your sales staff. Make sure the agency is asking these questions. And make sure your sales staff has the answers (or at least access to the answers):

  • How many total leads have come from the web in the past month? And how many leads came by each channel – search, social, direct, email etc.?
  • What was the quality of those leads?
  • Can you provide 2-3 quality lead examples? Include as much information about the lead as you are comfortable giving me. Location, exact day and time the lead came in, and the product/service in which they are interested are critical.
  • Can you provide 2-3 poor lead examples, along with the same information?
  • What are some key questions your prospects have asked? How did you answer them?
  • What are some sales hurdles you deal with, and how did you deal with them?
  • What specific words and phrases have your prospects used when speaking with you?
  • What are some specific problems your prospects have brought to you recently, and how have you answered those issues?
  • If you have lost deals, who do you normally lose them to? Why do you normally lose them?
  • What type of people do you engage with? What is their education level? Do they use the web often? Rarely? At what level do they use web content? Do they consume content while at work or at home? Do they view it on a desktop or a phone or both? Do they use video or primarily text?
  • What have your clients, contacts, prospects said about your current web presence?

Here are some questions that might get a little sticky.

  • What do you like about our company’s web presence? What do you dislike?
  • How has the website helped or hurt you in the sales process?
  • What pressure do you feel, what demands are on you? How can we help you meet that demand, or your quota, or your personal goals?
  • What else can the digital marketing team do to help make YOU more money?

You can see that this might be a somewhat lengthy conversation, and it might get a little personal at times. Try to set personal feelings aside so you have the best chance of winning.

Important: these conversations should happen regularly, and especially at the beginning of an engagement.

Two other tips that will help your digital marketing team be more successful at lead generation:

  • Have the SEO team sit in on sales calls with the sales team to hear the pitches, the questions and the answers.
  • Have them do competitive research by shopping for your competitors’ offerings.
  • Get them involved with customer service as well. Ask the same questions and have the same discussions as you did with the sales team. Customer service reps are on the front lines as well and often pick up some high quality data.

SEO and Sales Are Siblings, Not Rivals

Another often overlooked strategy is whether your sales team understands and is on board with the strategic value of your digital marketing efforts. Do they buy into the value of your web site and social media presence?

Do they really understand what your digital marketing agency is doing and why, and how it can benefit them?

I recently spoke with a team of salespeople who, when prompted for an honest answer, stated that they never send customers to their company’s website. They didn’t like the site, and they did not believe it helped them close deals and earn them commissions. And the executive team did not even know this.

Sometimes the sales staff does not believe that the SEO work being done is having a positive impact.

This might be because they perceive the web and SEO as a threat rather than an opportunity. Maybe they don’t get compensated for web leads as much as they do for leads they create. Or perhaps the quality of leads from the web doesn’t line up with their sales strategy.

Digital marketing and SEO should be driving leads into your company. And you should have a willing and excited sales team on the other end that is glad to take these calls and close these deals.

If sales cannot affirm that the web is bringing high quality leads to them, then it is time to re-examine your search and social marketing strategy because it is missing your target audience.

If the sales team doesn’t know where web-based leads are coming from, it’s time to put someone on the task of pinpointing lead origination.

Sales people should know the “first touch” channel for web leads. They need to know if customers are first finding the company via organic web search, paid search, social media, email or some other means.

And sales people should be given an opportunity to develop web content, or at least, content ideas. They will have ideas for keywords that target the best customers. They will know the pain points better than anyone else, because they talk to people first-hand.

BONUS: Tips for SEO Agencies

If you are the director or owner of an SEO agency, and you are not keeping clients as long as you would like, here is a little advice based on my decades in the business…

Get Deeper into the Organization

Oftentimes the SEO team will work with the marketing department, meet their goals and bedazzle them. That’s good!

Unfortunately they typically stop there. That’s like a man asking a woman to marry him after only knowing her favorite color! Your SEO team should be working to drill deeper into your clients’ organizations.

Tell your SEO staff that just because they are making the marketing department happy, that doesn’t mean their job is done.

An SEO professional should be constantly learning more about who else in the company cares about the project. They should ask the marketing person who else cares. Ask them what pressure they are under to perform on the web. Ask them what pressure their BOSS is under. What does their boss want? And their boss’s boss? How can the SEO/web team make everyone look like heroes to their boss?

If your agency is working with a smaller business and is making the owner happy, it is beneficial for them to go lower down the chain. Who else at the company stands to gain from your relationship? The customer service clerk is important. The sales guy that handles all of the incoming calls is important. The IT consultant is important.

That’s because each of these people can benefit from a great web strategy. And each of them could be your next cheerleader.

If you never get to know these additional people, you can never help them. They might help convince their boss, the owner, that YOU are too important to fire. Or they might leave the company and recommend you to their next boss.

When everyone starts sharing information between sales, marketing and digital strategy, everyone wins. From top leadership to the agency stakeholders.

Does Your Website Lead to Conversion or Lead to Confusion?

We help drive traffic to websites, but that isn’t why people hire a digital marketing agency. They hire us to get more revenue from the web. And they don’t want to waste money and effort to get it.

There are a lot of digital marketing and SEO firms promising that they can bring higher rankings in Google, and more site traffic, which will lead to more conversions and more money. And that is basically true. Just like the truth that eating right and working out leads to a better body.

But just like a lot of weight loss promises, many digital marketing promises end up falling short of expectations.

Perhaps you are one those that has been on the short end of that stick. Maybe you have given up on your web site as a sales machine. You have been disappointed by the hype. Maybe you have redesigned your website three times in the last ten years and each time you do that, nothing really happens.

Not that the results have been bad. Just sort of “meh.”

But here’s the thing: “better SEO” and a top Google position might not be the answer. More traffic to your website might not even be the answer.

So what is the answer?

Your website is one of the most important touch points you make with a new customer. Often it’s the first contact you make of any kind.

Lots of new website visitors are people who have never heard of your company and are only looking at your site because they typed a keyword hoping you can solve their problem or answer a question. Many times they scan your web content and then leave, never to return. Certainly they never convert to a lead or a sale.

Obviously you won’t catch every single fish that wanders past. But why does it seem like so many fish get away?

There’s no one-sentence answer that will really satisfy this complex subject. But here are some ways that K6 Digital and our partners work to really, truly drive new revenue out of the web for our clients.

Stop Looking for Quick Fixes, and Accept that Long Term is the Key

Please understand something very important: turning your website into a sales machine is going to take some thought, and time, and most of all…WORK.

Nobody gets the perfect body by working out a few times a year. And nobody gets a website that works really well simply by redesigning it.

So you have to stay with it. If you do, this solution just might have the highest ROI you have ever experienced from a business development activity.

The key factors are really trying to give your customers what they want, testing your delivery of messages and content, constantly making changes to improve, and consistently building more value into your entire digital footprint.

Start Realizing That It Doesn’t Matter What You Like

The business world spends billions of hours and dollars designing websites and landing pages, writing copy and writing ads. But much of that effort is focused on pleasing the wrong people. We try to make the Executive team happy. We try to make Marketing happy, and make Sales happy. We might ask a few of our customers what they like or want, but they don’t usually tell us the truth and anything they say normally gets drowned out by a cacophony of internal voices.

When we finally get done redesigning the website after a year or more of effort, on average we are all left feeling basically “OK” with the design we came up with.

We launch. Then we step back and wait for the new orders and leads and sales to pour in.

And most of the time, nothing earth—shattering happens.

That’s because we spend far more time trying to please internal stakeholders and ourselves, but not nearly enough time focusing on who we are trying to reach: the customer.

To really focus on the customer, we have to let go a little bit. We have to start caring less about what we want. In other words, we have to give up something to win.

The good news is that digital marketing has allowed us to deliver what our customers are looking for, without spending a ton of money. I will get to more of that in a bit. First….

Understand That You Sell a Dream

It’s an old sales concept but a true one: you don’t sell a product or service. You actually sell a solution to a need.

Or at the risk of sounding a little cheesy, you sell a dream. And if you have been in business long enough, you should have a concrete idea about what dream you sell.

For example, let’s say you provide cloud-based software that helps IT organizations process data faster. What you actually sell, though, is a dream: that the company will get more profits because they will get answers to problems more quickly, more effectively. Business analysts will look like heroes and get promoted. The IT staff can spend more time building value into the organization and thus become more valuable, and move up in the organization. And so on.

It’s just like a weight-loss plan. The plan isn’t what people buy. They buy the dream of looking better in public and feeling better inwardly. And we all want to feel good!

So, what is the dream YOU give your customers?

Perhaps you sell more profit for your downstream manufacturing client, because your streamlined process for delivering rolled steel saves 10% in cost and several days’ of delivery time.

Maybe you sell a stress-free work day to an HR manager, because of your easier method of finding and hiring top talent via big data software solutions.

Or maybe you sell higher profit margins to a managed IT services company by providing a simple method of server monitoring that requires fewer staff to manage.

Whatever that dream is, your company’s web content should be focused on showing your potential customer that you understand their dream, and you are at least one possible path to that dream.

In other words, content should focus on the VALUE of what you sell, the solution to a problem, rather than just the product itself.

How do you do this?

Translate Your Customer’s Dream into Web Content

Your company can try to convert online visitors to sales by simply posting your products and services.

But that’s really nothing more than tossing a catalog online. Something that a thousand other companies do.

Even if you sell a highly specialized product or service to a niche audience, you still have to clearly demonstrate the value – the dream – you sell. So, stop posting your catalog of services and products like everybody else. Instead, start putting together content that identifies specific pain points and your unique solution to those pain points.

I will give you an example.

A K6 client sells a product that helps aerospace manufacturers meet strict testing requirements for the parts they produce.

The dream they sell is more opportunity to make money, because the product automates that requirement.

So rather than just posting a list of features and benefits of the software (we did that too), our digital marketing team developed a method of giving the customer an immediate answer to their problem. A short-term realization of their dream, if you will. This results in a lead for the sales team to follow up, and close.

This approach is working. Big time. Here is a chart showing lead and sales growth the past 2 years:

Here is the point: we did not accomplish this by driving huge traffic. We have only brought incremental new traffic to our client’s website over the same time period.

In other words, we are greatly improving what our client really wants: leads and sales, but without a huge effort in merely driving new traffic.

But how did we ultimately get there? Through the final and most important step.

Don’t Just Blog for the Sake of Words. Do Something Different.

Blogging is tough. And just like a diet plan, it trails off and fails after a few months and you are right back to that same bloated “last year” person you swore you were going to change. I have just one piece of advice for business owners and marketing professionals that I think is most valuable: quit blogging about you and your product. Stop telling people how smart you are. Instead, blog about your audience and their stress. Give them something that helps them.

This means you have to think about your customer. A lot. Have you ever spent quality time with your customer? What about their customers? Have you ever really talked about them and their needs? Do you really know them?

The more you really know your customer, and the more you think about them, the more useful content ideas you will generate.

Test Test Test and Test Your Content

It is frankly amazing how few web designers, agencies and marketing folks actually test their content offerings.

Our digital marketing team is constantly being asked: “What should we do to make our site convert better? Or make our ads get more clicks?” My answer is usually: “I don’t have the slightest idea. Let’s try some things and find out!”

I have seen “Best Practices” fail miserably. I have seen web page layouts that look like they were developed in 1999 convert like crazy. I have seen content that has no business at all even being published, and yet it continues to draw in new customers. I have seen companies spend $250,000 on new websites, with UX specialists and focus groups, that only fail spectacularly.

And I have seen websites that succeed wildly, quite by accident.

The point is, nobody really knows what will happen until you get out there.

Just think about your customer. Get. The. Content. Up. Then monitor it and make adjustments based on what you learn.

There are a number of very effective tools on the market, some of which cost nothing, that help a web designer run multivariate tests on content. Even Google Analytics provides built-in “Experiments” for free.

Or, you can simply create pages in your favorite content management system by hand, and then watch what changes affect conversions. No need to purchase sophisticated software right away.

So let’s recap. If you faithfully follow this little routine, I guarantee you will have success – even if that success if simply learning more about your customers and their needs:

  • Gear up for the long term.
  • Change your thinking from “internal” to “external” and focus on the CUSTOMER.
  • Build content around what they dream about, and how you will help them realize that dream.
  • Test over and over until you see good results.
  • Repeat.

I guarantee you one thing: if nothing else, you will learn something new.

Check out the video we made HERE

Outsourcing vs Insourcing Your Digital Marketing

A lot of companies are trying to hire full-time digital marketing help. Is an in-house team the best way to go?

A recent search for digital marketing jobs in LinkedIn resulted in over 40,000 open positions – most of which were in-house. This reflects a definite “insourcing” trend in recent years.

But despite the growing desire to do so, according to one survey only 9% of businesses assessed their skill levels as “Strong” for all digital marketing activities.

This means that more than 90% of businesses perceive a skills gap in their digital marketing department, which is undermining their brand’s digital presence.

A shortfall in your digital presence could mean missed opportunities in generating leads, building consumer relationships, establishing brand loyalty, demonstrating expertise and growing your business.

But is the answer to continue to outsource more digital marketing work to agencies? Not necessarily. The key is to understand which digital marketing activities you should outsource and which efforts you should keep in-house.

In this article I hope to prove valuable information to help you both outsource and “insource” your digital marketing activities to bridge the digital marketing skill gaps within your business.

But first, let’s take a brief look at the digital marketing industry.

The Rise of the In-House Digital Marketing Professional

In general there is an upward hiring trend for all marketing professionals (digital, advertising, broadcast, etc.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of marketing managers in the United States will grow 9 percent between now and 2024. As of May 2016, Ohio ranked among those states with the highest employment for marketing managers. Specifically, it is estimated that Ohio employs 5,350 marketing managers.

The greatest geographical concentration of these hires is taking place in Columbus and Cleveland.

In line with these employment statistics and predictions, marketing trends from McKinley Marketing Partners revealed that in 2016, companies hired, on average, 5.6 marketing professionals. This is up from 4.7 in 2015 and represents a 19 percent increase in hiring.

At the same time, businesses used contract labor 7% less than the previous year.

Out of all the marketing professionals hired in 2016, Digital Marketing Managers were in highest demand at 54 percent.

Google Trends also supports the data. Over the last ten years, searches for “digital marketing jobs” have trended upward in popularity.

Moreover searches for “digital marketing jobs” have recently surpassed searches for traditional marketing jobs and activities, such as print, broadcast, direct mail and traditional advertising.

Why the Increase in In-House Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing has become more and more essential for growing & sustaining business in the interconnected economy.

Consider this: Owners, CEOs, Directors, Managers and other department heads spent 60% of their time managing digital marketing activities, according to a recent study.

Digital marketing skills are dominating the marketing industry because establishing an effective digital presence allows businesses to tap into enormous opportunity.

Check out this article from the Digital Marketing Institute featuring Content Marketing: 6 Examples of Successful Digital Strategies.

No doubt the growing demand for digital marketers is closely related to the continued success that many of businesses are experiencing from their digital marketing efforts. And many digital marketing activities that used to be narrow specialties are becoming standard skills that marketing professionals should possess.

The Pros of Internal Digital Marketing

Insourcing can be an attractive option for businesses for a number of reasons.

1. Business and Brand Knowledge

In-house digital marketers can be easily immersed in the culture and values of your business. They understand your history, vision and goals. Additionally, internal digital marketers will also have access to experts within your company who specialize in your products and market.

As a result, full-time internal digital marketers can quickly become fully immersed and thus ensure accurate and consistent brand messaging in their marketing strategies and campaigns.

2. On-Demand Production

Outsourced digital marketing teams have many clients to serve. Your in-house team has just one – you!

Internal hires can quickly respond to time-sensitive projects, internal challenges, and market changes.

They also have instant access to the other departments (IT, sales, etc.) within your business.

This allows the internal digital marketing team to easily get the input and knowledge they need to complete essential marketing tasks.

And they can more easily be redirected to areas that need effort or improvement.

3. Consistent Attention to Ongoing Digital Marketing Activities

There are some digital marketing activities that work best when monitored and conducted on a constant basis.

These include email marketing, drip campaigns, daily social media monitoring and more.

Outsourced digital marketing teams can manage these activities, but it is often more cost-effective to hire a full time person to do the work.

4. Acting on Business Intelligence

Internal business knowledge is essential for transforming data into actionable insights.

An in-house analyst can effectively bridge the gap between web performance data and customer relationship or sales activity data, and do this more effectively, and at lower cost, than an agency.

This is mainly due to privacy and data protection issues. There are usually barriers to an outside agency getting access to sensitive sales data that is crucial to making business decisions. At the very least, an internal data analyst should work closely with your agency who provides key metrics and tracking systems to determine ROI.

The Cons of Internal Digital Marketing

As we have seen, internal digital marketing teams possess many inherent benefits.

However, insourcing does not come without its challenges.

1. Skills Gaps

It is not uncommon for a single in-house digital marketer to be given the responsibilities of an entire digital marketing team.

A scan of recent job postings for a digital marketing manager revealed that most internal

Here are some of the most sought-after digital skills and responsibilities that are expected from the modern marketer, based on recent job postings on various recruiting sites:

  • Planning, Strategy, Execution and Reporting on key digital marketing initiatives
  • Conversion optimization for website, quote engine, landing pages, and email programs
  • Search engine optimization
  • Paid search
  • Social media advertising
  • Affiliate relationship management
  • Management of marketing automation programs
  • Leads digital marketing data, analytics, analysis, and forecasting functions

Wow! Each bullet item above could easily be a single job all on its own. This job has been posted for several months. Perhaps they are asking for too much.

While many marketing professionals have skills in most of the core digital marketing activities, in-depth understanding and experience in these activities is severely lacking.

In addition, few internal digital marketers possess skills in more specialty activities such as SEO, app development, paid advertising, mobile marketing, graphic design, and coding development.

As a result, many companies are experiencing massive skill gaps in core digital marketing activities and a complete lack of special skills within their in-house digital marketing teams.

Less talent and more demand mean hiring a quality in-house digital marketer is extremely difficult.

This leads us to our next point.

2. Recruiting is Difficult

Due to the major skill gaps and lack of special disciplines, companies are struggling to recruit staff with the right digital skills.

Finding a digital marketer who is truly experienced and talented at a broad range of skills is difficult to find and even more difficult to keep.

This increases the chance of digital marketing hiring mishaps.

Think about it:

  • First, you recognize the failures of the new hire
  • You then establish a form of intervention (e.g. management) and monitor their performance
  • If the intervention fails, you fire them and pay out any entitlements
  • Your company goes without the function for weeks or months
  • You eventually rehire and go through the whole process again

This can turn into a very expensive problem. Which leads me to my next point…

3. High Cost

> Costs in Closing the Skills Gap

In response to the digital marketing skill gaps, many organizations will seek to invest time and money into training their in-house team.

Despite many companies recognizing the need to improve their digital marketing effectiveness, few actually establish a planned approach to improve or train their internal marketing team.

Check out the massive difference between the approach companies believed in for improving their digital marketing efforts, and actual techniques they used:

In other words, companies cannot or will not allocate the necessary funds to improve their digital marketing effectiveness.

According to recent research, within the skills development arena there was a huge difference between those rating budgets as adequate (just 19%) and the vast majority (57%) who saw this as important.

The effects of these inadequate budgets can be seen in the lack of paid skill development opportunities in many businesses.

Paid qualifications (21%), paid events (16% very poor) and paid short-term courses (16% very poor) were rated as having poorer budget support.

> Costs in Retaining the Perfect Hire

But even if you were able to find the perfect digital marketer for your company and avoid the skills gaps, retaining your hire is expensive.

Mondo, the largest national staffing agency specializing in high-end, niche IT, Tech and Digital Marketing talent, released 2017 nationwide salary estimates for Digital Marketing VPs, Directors, and Managers.

The following titles and salaries vary depending upon the size of the company and the location:

  • Digital Marketing VP – between $140,000 and $200,000
  • Digital Marketing Director – between $115,000 and $145,000
  • Digital Marketing Manager – between $65,000 and $130,000
  • SEO/SEM Director – between $90,000 and $125,000
  • SEO/SEM Manager – between $75,000 and $110,000
  • SEO/SEM Specialist – between $60,000 and $80,000

These managers typically are responsible for implementing and managing marketing campaigns that promote the company brand, products and services within the digital space. They then report to Digital Marketing Directors and/or VPs who manage all the marketing efforts within each department and develop the strategies and campaigns that the managers seek to implement.

SEO/SEM is a subset of digital marketing and more specifically focused on optimizing websites to potentially increase traffic and the ROI of a given company.

Depending on the size and needs of the company, there can be SEO/SEM directors who develop high level strategies and managers who implement those strategies with the help of SEO/SEM Specialists.

In the local Cleveland/Akron, Ohio area, Linkedin approximates:

Retaining an in-house digital marketer is not always an affordable option for everyone, especially small businesses.

This high cost is only compounded by the fact that salary increases are the primary motivation for a job change within the digital marketing industry.

To sum up, building a complete in-house digital marketing team can be a very expensive endeavor whether you are attempting to close the skills gap or retain your in-house team.

Is Outsourcing the Solution?

As I showed earlier, an outsourced digital marketing team will often lack the inherent benefits of full-time internal employees:

  • Business and Brand Knowledge
  • On-Demand Focus
  • Consistent Attention to Ongoing Digital Marketing Activities
  • Business Intelligence

However, an independent digital marketing agency can provide many of the benefits of an internal team at a much lower cost, and for less exposure and risk.

The Pros of Outsourced Digital Marketing

1. Very Cost Effective and Flexible

Outsourcing can be half the cost of a full-time digital marketer.

Here is a rough analysis of the annual cost for a single full-time internal digital marketer:

Compare that with this cost scenario for working with a typical outsourced digital marketing firm:

Depending on the needs and size of your business, you could save 50% or more by outsourcing your digital marketing.

And these savings do not even account for your business being able to avoid the high cost of potential mis-hires or employee training.

Plus… billing is flexible!

The cost of outsourcing depends on the needs of your business and not the individual salary of your digital marketer.

Instead, the cost is typically determined by hourly work, retainer or the completion percentage of a given project.

Overall, the cost of outsourcing can be significantly more affordable and flexible.

2. A Team of Specialized Experts – No Skills Gap!

When working with a digital marketing agency, you get the benefit of many more technical skills and strategic manpower, for a set price:

  • Digital marketing agencies recognize that change is a constant, and thus are always looking to stay on top of the latest trends, techniques and technologies to stay competitive.
  • Digital marketing requires many brains to achieve a wide skill set and specialization. Hiring an agency allows you to access a team of digital marketers who have been given the time and resources to individually specialize in both the common and more sought after digital disciplines.
  • Typically an agency has experience across a variety of companies and industries and can bring that experience to your situation.

3. Measurable ROI

How well is your digital marketing working?

The common answer for most companies is: “I don’t know.”

Why?

Just above securing enough budget, proving ROI was the second most challenging problem that marketers faced.

Unlike most internal marketers, outsourced agencies are focused measurable results and outcomes.

They know how to analyze KPIs and benchmarks for monitoring ROI in every digital strategy.

This data lets you know if digital marketing is working or not.

And agencies use this information to test and improve current and future digital campaigns.

What Should You Do?

Depending on the needs of your business, there are benefits and drawbacks to both outsourcing and insourcing your digital marketing efforts.

Your unique business situation may call for hiring an internal digital marketer or working with an agency.

But making that choice can feel like a huge sacrifice or very uncertain.

As a result, many companies are working to find a happy medium and receive a mix of in-house and outsourced digital marketing.

You don’t need to only outsource or completely abandon internal efforts when you can receive the benefits of both.

Start Your Journey with K6 Digital

Disclaimer: This is where I tell you about what we have to offer and “sell” a little bit. Feel free to stop reading if you’re totally happy with your current arrangements.

K6 Digital Marketing can work alongside your internal digital marketer(s) to foster this mixture and get you’re the combined benefits of both in-house and outsourced digital marketing.

Our specialized team of digital experts bridges the skill gaps within your internal marketing team.

Looking to outsource a specific project or all your digital marketing efforts?

We are more than capable of providing customized solutions and taking on all your digital marketing activities.

Since 1999, K6 has served more than 1,000 clients worldwide with a proven delivery model that gets Real Results.

Let us help you figure out what digital strategy is best for your business.

There is no obligation whatsoever.

We’re just glad our paths have crossed.

Connect with us.

This Conversion Tactic Works Quickly to Grow Leads

Turning your website or social media presence into a lead-generating machine can be a reality when you know your customers and what they really want. Find an offer that makes your potential customers add themselves to your marketing process, and you are on your way to success.

Creating offers on your site is obviously not a new idea. But there are offers…and then there are GOLDEN TICKETS. We call these “golden ticket” offers…not only because they make YOU gold, but because they help your customers in a powerful way.

We have found that when you identify one of these important offers, your web site becomes a lead generation machine. Here are some tips.

  1. Find the pain points. What problems do you really solve for your customers? Try to drill down as deeply as possible to the real issues you solve.
  2. Build the golden ticket offer. Can you identify at least one offer that will help your customers so much, they are willing to give you some personal contact information in exchange for it? Some ideas include an ROI Calculator that shows savings, or help with a specific government/industry standard. Perhaps you can give a step by step process for meeting certain criteria that enables customers to do business.
  3. Don’t ask for the world. When you offer the golden ticket, ask only for the information you really need in order to get a qualified person into your marketing process. An email address is probably a must-have. If you really don’t need their name yet, don’t ask for it, unless you want more qualified submissions.
  4. Build content around the offer. Your golden ticket offer is the prize. Content is the method you use to attract attention to the prize. It’s the candy bar that contains the ticket.
  5. Use as many digital marketing tools as possible. Changes are, your customers will use multiple channels (search, social, email, etc) and need to see your content and offer several times before they will act.
  6. Invest in marketing automation software. Once you hook someone with your offer, don’t let them get away. At a minimum, use email to send follow-up offers to remind them of your value. Without some kind of follow up, it’s like hooking a fish and never even trying to reel it into the boat.

Are You Getting the Most From Your In-House Digital Marketing Efforts?

Are you getting enough ROI from your current in-house digital marketing efforts? Here are some things to consider.

  1. Are you trying to make everybody a “generalist”? We see a lot of job postings for in-house digital marketing where the ideal candidate must do it all. Paid, social, organic SEO, content writing, WordPress programming, project management. Hey…the digital world has grown up. Specialize in a channel or two and build from there.
  2. Are you actually measuring success? This starts with a really solid goal. Start with the end in mind and work backward. If you want to double e-commerce revenue, that means either doubling traffic or doubling conversions – or both. Pick strategies to address both of those areas and numbers to track success or failure.
  3. Are you missing any key channels or strategies? Folks, social media is huge, and it’s time to get off the fence. Facebook isn’t going anywhere and everybody uses it. LinkedIn can drive leads. Google has made some recent decisions that are closing the door to some smaller businesses. Get a content strategy together, and just get moving. It’s like going to the gym. That being said…
  4. Are you chasing too many shiny objects? You aren’t as late to the game as you fear. If you don’t have a Snapchat strategy yet – don’t worry, they have a lot of growing to do first. It is never too late to work on a strategy and execution with established channels, like Google and LinkedIn.
  5. Do you need just a little more help? You probably hired employees to run most of your digital marketing programs in order to have a focused team. And perhaps you are saving some money, too. But having an agency around for even a few hours a month, or on a project basis, might provide some new insights. Agencies work with a variety of clients in all kinds of fields. This often leads to some new ways of thinking. And last but perhaps this should be first…
  6. Is your team happy? Digital marketing can be exciting and fun, but sometimes it can be stressful and monotonous. Make sure your team members are well-suited to their tasks. The simplest way is to simply ask them! “What do you love about your job? What do you not love? What would you like to learn more about?” You can also present opportunities, such as “Our site needs better content. Would you like to give it a shot?”

As always, if you are looking to get some of my thoughts or a consultation, contact us. If you want to hook up on LinkedIn, I pretty much connect with anybody who asks.