Having recently been tapped to become a member of the Forbes Agency Council and named a top 100 marketing and advertising influencer in 2021 by MARsum, our own fearless leader and GeniusVets Chief Strategist David Hall sat down with Gotoclient’s CEO Jodi Marca to discuss the challenges marketers currently face. Not only that, but the two take a deep dive into some creative and comprehensive solutions to manage these challenges and still come out on top. In this blog post, we progress through each topic and its pivotal role in marketing success.
Values and Culture
So many execs sit down and form their mission statement when creating their business plan but then move on and never revisit this foundational mantra. In doing so, they’re not weighing whether their processes, marketing, web content, and everything else they’re putting into the business world align with this mission statement. It’s vital to revisit your mission statement early and often and create company values and cultures that uphold these beliefs.
David talks a lot about siloing, which is a dangerous yet all-too-common practice in many agencies. For example, this means that you’ve got a Content Writer who only knows how to write content and an SEO specialist who only knows how to optimize, with very little if any communication between departments. Not only does this negatively impact your success, but it can crush employee morale.
To combat this, David talks about the way he and GeniusVets co-founders Harley Orion and Dr. Michele Drake went about creating the company:
“We dove into building a company that puts culture first, that really upholds our values in everything we do, which meant developing a whole series of strategies about how to even identify and communicate those values and incorporate them into projects and meetings. We require cross-departmental collaboration, to ensure no team member's left on an island. And we truly put the client first. We align our company goals with the goals of the client. And the result has been, we're dominating the industry.”
And lest you think this is simply boasting, it’s important to note that GeniusVets’ top 10 clients are getting more traffic to their websites than the top 10 clients of our top 10 direct competitors combined. We're outperforming our 10 versus their 100, and doing so by more than 30%.
David goes on to note that this alignment on mission and values has been shown to be even more important to employees than pay and benefits. And this has also been a shift that extends to consumers and the brands that they support.
A simple exercise that David recommends in establishing this foundation is to pick five values, terms that describe the values you aspire toward, and hold yourself and your employees accountable to these. That means that, as you’re in the middle of projects, you’re asking yourself, “How does this align with our culture and our values? Is there anywhere where it's misaligned? Because we need to fix that.” And as David so eloquently puts it, “Then all of a sudden, everything goes from this dissonance, where things are vibrating on different frequencies, to everyone getting in sync, and then you can pump up the volume, and it sounds beautiful.”
When considering B2B strategies versus B2C strategies, David talks a lot about the psychology behind marketing approaches. And to do so, we have to consider where we are today. As he notes, while the algorithms and platforms in marketing and advertising are constantly and quickly evolving, the people making the decisions haven’t fundamentally changed in the last 10 years. As he puts it, “So while you're picking a new channel, a new tool, or a new way to tweak your targeting or whatever it might be in those platforms, you're largely going after people that haven't changed much."
With B2C, you want to approach things from an emotional standpoint, as that’s most likely to get the conversion. In B2B, however, you have to appeal to the logic, as you’re often approaching bosses or boards of entire companies or practices. They need to be empowered to decide whether this makes sense for their company. A lot of it is about education, which is why you should have employee personas done, and know everything there is to know about the company you’re approaching. And you can’t go in haphazardly. You need to be prepared and come with everything you think that the company is going to want to see and know.
The example that David gives is our content library here at GeniusVets. We’ve gathered all the FAQs that people ask about pet care, and we had our veterinary clients answer these questions on video. We’ve taken that content and created a library that is ready to go at a moment’s notice, so we’ve anticipated that this is knowledge that will be extremely valuable to our clients.
SEO - How It Started Vs. How It’s Going
If you ask David about SEO, you’d better be sure you have some time on your hands, as this is his passion and also where it all began. In 2012, he left a company called SEO Inc., the first company in the world to specialize in search engine optimization. Through the 2000s, SEO Inc. was one of the top companies in the world for doing that. After leaving there in 2013, he went on to write eight books on SEO and digital marketing, along with creating online courses and certifications. In the entrepreneurial spirit that David is so passionate about, he wanted everyone to access this information, even small business owners. But what he found was that busy CEOs and CMOs were anything but partial to reading 1,200 pages of in-depth SEO technical advice. And thus began a period in which David became the SEO consultant to many companies, teaching these SEO strategies to their employees. The problem with that goes back to siloing:
One of the biggest problems that I noticed was the drop-off in the skill level. When you look at some of the top people in the agency, the top creatives, the founders, and others who are very client-facing, there was a huge drop off between them and a lot of the implementation teams in terms of understanding the work, the deliverables, and the key value drivers. So, you also see a lot of really problematic cultural tendencies in a lot of agencies.”
It was critical then and is still vital now for all client-facing employees to have an in-depth knowledge of how SEO strategies will work to better that company.
When Jodi asked David why SEO is still so essential, David pointed out that it's estimated the average consumer gets hit with 2,000 marketing messages a day. And as he notes, “That's a lot of information processing, like the only way that we can even live our lives and accomplish anything is because we've gotten so good at putting on the blinders and just focusing and letting anything that doesn't just hit us right in the chest—letting it just whizz by in the periphery in a blur that we don't even pay attention to.”
Because of that constant barrage of messaging, search engines are all the more critical, as you’ve now got a person who’s focused on the task at hand—finding the answer to that question or the business that will help them do so.
David puts it perfectly by saying:
“Search engines are where people turn when they're focused on a topic already. So if you're getting in front of them, then you've already won so much of the battle. Your marketing isn't trying to cut through all that noise and clutter. They're already on the topic, and they're looking for a solution. So this is all about being in the right place at the right time, and it gives you the best chance of converting them from a visitor to a customer.”
David aptly refers to SEO as “The North Star.” It helps the end-user cross many disciplines to get to the top search rankings, ultimately driving engaged traffic.
Winning Over the Google Machine
Have you raged against this machine? How’d that go for you? Not well, we’d imagine. The first rule in marketing is there’s no point in fighting the Google machine. And why would you want to? They are experts in determining what makes a website the most engaging it can be.
David explains this by saying:
“Nobody in the world knows more about user experience online than Google. From nearly every website using Google Analytics to the Android operating system and Chrome browser, Google has all the data on what types of websites people have the interactions with that seem to be the most engaged and have the best experience. They’re able to analyze that and say something like, ‘Hey, we've noticed people really like pages with video on them.’ So then they say, ‘Okay, well, let's go start testing changes to the algorithm that prefer this sort of thing that we think,’ and they start testing that.”
All of this means that you have to have your SEO strategy nailed down before you even begin to approach your marketing. You don't build your website, design it, write the content, do the planning and put it up, and then reach out to an SEO person and tell that person to optimize. As David says, SEO “is foundational; there's a set of questions, some processes you would go through, some considerations that you build into literally everything that you're doing.”
Sidestep These SEO Mistakes
SEO isn’t rocket science, but it’s not easy either, which is likely why Jodi asked David about common SEO mistakes he’s seen throughout his career. The first one that David mentioned is “walled gardens.”
“Walled gardens are where their front-end marketing sides of the site are interesting but fairly minimal, and then all of a sudden, you get paid access. And I say, ‘Oh, my gosh, there's so much behind here that I can’t see.’ And the unfortunate thing with that business model is that if you're cutting off all that content to somebody who has to be a user, then Google will not give you credit and help you rank for it anyway. So I caution people against building walled gardens around amazing content resources because I'm a big proponent of creating a lot of value and content and information resources, and making them freely available to drive traffic to other ways that can be monetized, whether it's a product or a service, or whatever it might be. There is some subscription for something special at another level.”
Understanding Your Digital Marketing Maturity
Another common mistake David has seen is that people forget where they are in terms of their digital marketing maturity. As David explains, “I'll see CEOs that are so focused on their five-year life direction, or where we're going with things, that they start to want to do things that they shouldn't be doing for another few years.”
Dealing With the Demise of Cookies
“Give us our cookies or give us death!” is pretty much the universal rallying cry of marketers as we learn that our favorite way to target is soon to be a thing of the past. But first and foremost, David says not to worry, as QR codes will be your savior. If you give the consumer something worthy to entice them, they will have no problem scanning a QR code. The same applies to opting into cookies, really.
However, the unfortunate reality is that many people will still opt out of cookies if given a choice, which is why David says that Geofencing is looking particularly interesting. A geofence is a perimeter or boundary around the location of a smartphone or other device that’s based on RFID or GPS signals. It allows advertisers to send targeted messages to users within their specific area or boundary.
In sum, David says not to worry - we may not be able to “cookie people” much longer, but the next big tracking mechanism is always just around the corner.
Whew, we know this was a lot to take in, but we’ll take this full circle by saying that, while the marketing strategies, platforms, algorithms, and more are ever-evolving, the people you’re marketing to generally stay the same. Want to know how to market to your target audience? We can help. Contact one of our Geniuses today.