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.

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.