The 5 Most Commonly Annoying Digital Marketing Questions Every Manager Should Know Before Talking To An Agency Or Their Team

You may imagine this to be a ranting piece, but I’ll skip the overdone dramatization in explaining why the 5 questions that follow are some of the most annoying questions a digital marketer can be asked. Simply put, asking any of these questions shows complete ignorance of digital marketing, furthermore posing these specific questions doesn’t bode well as a display of business acumen or understanding . In fact when these questions are heard, for me at least, red flags are raised. Much of digital marketing, like business, is multifaceted as well as interconnected. An inability to see these connections shows a lack of understanding of the commerce environment as a whole. So without further ado, let’s go over these specific 5 questions to ensure you’re marketing knowledge is up to snuff at least in regards to these basics.

If I can only focus on one aspect of our Digital Marketing, what should it be?

Asking this question is like asking a car mechanic… “If I had to make sure only one part of the engine was working correctly, what part would be best?” Furthermore it doesn’t take into consideration the most important component, that being; What are we trying to achieve through our marketing strategy? There are hundreds of potential ranking factors Google uses for their SERP’s and not only do these change from time to time, but they may become more complex as time proceeds. If your focus was to increase rankings, than going through those ranking factors and improving them would be important. If you want to increase your Social Media presence/ engagement metrics… than you will likely want to look at your content strategy and potential branding concepts. I could throw out countless examples about what the focus of marketing may mean at any juncture, but the important point to remember is that no single point of digital marketing is greater than others if a focus has not been set. If, however, you have a marketing strategy laid out, there will be certain actions that can be taken which help in those specific and targeted areas.

As a whole however, the quickest answers would be: Technical Site Health, User Experience, Content Creation, Social Media, and Paid Marketing. Oddly those 5 areas comprise all of digital marketing anyways so that answer gives little value. Again, marketing focus should be based on expectations which revolve around a formulated strategy. No single marketing action can be said to be better than the rest without context for reasoning. Sure good site health allows bots to scan your site better for indexing, but without proper content what are you having them index? You can create the best content in the world but if it’s not promoted well through Social Media or a Paid Marketing avenue or your site isn’t indexed properly, what good is great content when no one is able to see it? So next time, before you ask; “If I had to focus on only one thing…” rephrase that question into; “Based on our strategy, what are the best actions we can take to meet said goals?” This will help the marketers eyes from rolling and glazing over I assure you.

What results should I expect to see from my Digital Marketing efforts?

Marketers can often expect this question as managers usually want to know what to expect from their employees or hired firms. That of course is understandable. The problem occurs when this question is posed without having properly discussed or formulated a marketing strategy overall. You’ll find that is a common theme here. When a plan has not been mapped out how can you expect to head in the right direction? We don’t throw darts in the dark expecting to hit the bulls eye do we? For some reason however, digital marketing is believed to be this Step 1, Step 2, and so on process where at the end all your hopes and dreams come true.  But sadly this is not the case, it used to be somewhat like that I might add and may contribute to this misunderstanding. But as time goes on, and more components and aspects of Digital Marketing Grow you essentially have to keep up and grow as well.

We simply can’t say that Link Building, Keyword Placement, and Meta Information is all you need to concern yourself with nowadays. Sure years past you may have been able to get away with it. But if you want specific results, you have to approach marketing with a specific plan. Having expectations rarely equates to a dollar amount or number of hours worked in achieving them. The number of hurdles and unexpected problems are often out of your control in order to say for certain that you will increase sales by X amount, decrease bounce rate by X amount, or anything else. There are no guarantees in Marketing… and that single idea is the hardest concept for managers to appreciate and accept. One month a strategy may work out swimmingly, however the next month it may not work at all. This isn’t to say there will always be the same unknowns… but there are certainly many to begin with. You have to work through those, test your marketing hypothesis, study the results and eventually over time you can begin to see what you can expect from certain marketing actions. Don’t trap yourself with the Nostradamus Effect, no one can accurately predict or prophesize the future of marketing actions. Data alone must be your guiding light. So before you ask what you can expect from marketing efforts, first begin with what has happened in the past. If you have no history or data to refer to, you have to create it.

What can be done to help with our marketing when we have little time or funds to invest into it?

This question stings a bit. The pain felt both by the marketer as well as the business owner/manager. It’s hard enough when a company doesn’t fund their marketing as best they can, especially when they can afford to. It’s entirely different when they can’t afford it altogether. In the end, there should ALWAYS be a budget or time set aside for marketing. No matter how little or slim, something is always better than nothing. It’s hard for some to remember that the purpose of marketing, in part, is to increase sales and revenue. But the question remains, How am I supposed to increase sales through marketing when we don’t have the money to invest in marketing? This is your typical Catch-22 and one most businesses struggle with. To the point that many just give up on marketing altogether.

For starters it should be said that marketing is both an investment and a gamble. Nothing for certain should be expected, however you can expect something in return. This is especially true over time. Since a marketing efforts ROI is uncertain, we have to believe wholeheartedly the maxim that scared money doesn’t make money. If you invest nothing you can be sure to receive that in return. However in order for opportunity to come knocking at your door, you have to have a door for it to knock at. This means giving it a shot, setting aside time for marketing, creating a budget from whatever you can to invest in it. If with what limited time and budget you have available you do the most you can, especially if it is planned out well, you will likely be pleasantly surprised. You may even attribute your success to luck what with so little effort and money going towards it. But remember luck in marketing is the residue of design. Design it well and you’ll create all the luck you need to succeed.

One final note, often times a lot of marketing can be done for relatively cheap or for no extra cost. Many times you won’t even need a full time marketing person or team. This can be achieved by creating a well formulated marketing plan utilizing what existing resources you have and fervently sticking to it. Any employee can quickly take a picture or video, they are also often quite capable of writing up content as they are knowledgeable of your business. Social Media can be managed by nearly anyone who is trusted to speak with customers/users and has the knowledge to answer questions. The biggest hurdle in this regard typically falls on accountability and consistency. Making sure that those you’ve assigned to tasks are completing them and the work they do is of the same quality as time goes on. The only areas where SEO/Marketing expertise is truly needed is in the Paid Marketing Realm (and even that can be learned) and technical SEO problems. Beyond that, most digital marketing should be done in house. Your employees can speak of your business better than anyone outside you hire. This point should not be under appreciated, and rather, should be capitalized on.

We engage in Social Media but it doesn’t seem to be driving many sales. What’s up?

For starters if you are using your Social Media accounts solely for the purpose of sharing promotional content, you should expect failure to some degree. There are only two words here, Social and Media. Social refers to conversing, engaging, and socializing with people online. Media refers to the various means you can converse, typically revolving around the written word, videos, and pictures. Now you have to look at the purpose of Social Media, and lets begin with that it’s not a means to solely advertise on. Rather, it is a platform for discussion. Those discussions can revolve around 4 types of content: Entertainment, Information, Education, and Promotion. Notice that there are 3 other forms of content beyond advertisements or promotional pieces. This is critically important so I’ll say it more clearly. Social Media is NOT to be solely used as an advertising space… at least not directly.

You probably know yourself the bane of constantly being hit with advertisements nowadays. You can barely do anything online without someone trying to sell you something, and as such we’ve all become rather jaded to advertisements in that fashion. Now try to consider the things you yourself would likely click on and be interested in viewing. Are they ads? Probably not always, not unless it’s a special sale for a specific product you’ve been wanting. For Social Media, people like to view the things they are interested in and outside of products they want, they are searching for entertainment, education, and information. I imagine that if a Social Media strategy is failing it is likely due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • You are not engaging with your users well. If someone writes to you, you should always respond.
  • You are not sharing content they care to read. Bad content, shallow content, anything that wouldn’t be appreciated.
  • You are not consistently sharing good content. Exposure is important, keep your brand in mind without flooding them with your posts.
  • You are not  inviting customers to engage or seek out new followers on your  Social Media. Invite and seek out interested users.
  • You are using Social Media solely for promotional uses. It’s just often a big fail, but at least… #ThereWasAnAttempt .

In the end no two Social Media Strategies will be the same, but the general rules to follow apply to everyone. Provide useful content to your users, engage in conversations with them, seek out relevant users, and most importantly… be Social and not a sales person. Social Media is the single greatest tool for engaging with current and potential customers. You can define your brand imagery and mold users perception of you in a way that was unknown to most businesses 5+ years ago. The main purpose of Social Media should not be to help drive sales directly. Rather, with proper usage, it will certainly help to indirectly drive sales through word of mouth, greater exposure, and most importantly through greater trust and appreciation of your business. Reciprocity is a great marketing power often left unharnessed and even unknown. Share on Social Media what your users want, and they’ll feel just a little indebted to you.

We’ve heard that  Content matters… but what exactly does that mean?

The idea of Content confuses managers more than anything else related to digital marketing, and I personally have no idea why that is. Content, on the internet, is everything… literally. Without content you would have blank pages. No words, no pictures, no video, and no audio. So when we say that you need to provide quality content to users, the only confusing part of that statement should be what qualifies quality as the content portion should be inherently understood. Quality content, as mentioned above, is content that either educates, informs, or entertains. Promotional content is on that list, but of course managers understand why a quality ad matters. In it’s other forms, quality content is that which users have a need for or is something they’ll enjoy viewing.

The next question that managers immediately ask is “Why do we need to share content? We’re not a news publication nor are we in the business of entertaining… we sell X.” Well this is likely the most loaded question in all of marketing. The reasons for content publication are both varied and extremely important. That said, here is a brief list of some of the more important reasons to be aware of:

  • Content helps determines rankings. How else would you be ranked for keywords and phrases if not for what is written on your site?
  • Shareable content generates links. Your link profile also in part determines your overall rankings.
  • Shared content provides Social Proof. If a user shares your content and their friends, family, and colleagues see it… that is Social Proof.
  • Content provides authority. How do I know you’re an industry leader without proof confirming as much? Sharing knowledge alludes to a greater understanding.
  • Content shapes brand imagery. You are able to put forth exactly how you want your business to be perceived. You can share your businesses ethos, any charitable deeds or organizations you’re interested in, how considerate you are of your customers, and many other things. Remember, with poor content… this can work against you in a terrible way.
  • Content can move users to action. The content you craft can have multiple purposes, one being motivating users to action. Taking part in sales, promotional events, even social movements… whatever your focus is on, content can help to promote it.
  • Sharing content reminds users. Content helps to keep your business in the forefront of your customers minds. Do you think Coca-Cola still does advertisements because people haven’t heard of them at this point? Do their advertisements say buy Coca-Cola or are they promoting an image/feeling associated with their product? Either way, you remember Coca-Cola more than had you not seen their content.
  • Content can be indirect advertising. As much as I’ve harped on not creating a lot of promotional/sales content… all of your content has that component in it inherently. The second a user sees who has produced said content, you’re advertising to them already even if the content piece isn’t promotional. Again.. Reciprocity. If you educate, inform, or entertain your users they’ll remember and appreciate you for it. That of course helps when a user finally decides to make a purchase later on and they’ll likely have you in mind.
  • Content helps to show you’re not siloed. Depending on your industry, it is important to not come off as though you’ve siloed yourself from the rest of your competitors. Nowadays people appreciate collaboration, and more so for transparency. If you are able to prove that you are still active in industry conversations and helping to shape the future of that conversation… you immediately gain more trust from users.
  • Content proves you’re still relevant. If you were to look at a company website or their social media and find that nothing has been updated or added recently… that gives the idea that they are no longer active. There is no worse indicator for a business in the eyes of a user than stagnation. As the saying goes, A rolling stone gathers no moss. So… keep your content machines turning, churning, and cranking out quality material. Stagnation in business equals death and people typically don’t associate with the decaying, dying, or dead.