If you saw an ad that said “take our super-duper online course and become a financial expert in 8 weeks!” would you believe it to be possible? But more importantly, would you feel comfortable handing over your investment portfolio to a grad of the program to manage? No? Well, me neither. I don’t believe it is possible to achieve expertise at anything in 8 weeks. OK, maybe with the exception of Angry Birds. I think it’s possible to become an expert at playing Angry Birds in 8 weeks.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, that’s because I’ve been marketed to on Facebook with ads like this one:
And I see similarities here. Much like a financial advisor helps you manage your investment portfolio, a digital marketing professional helps you manage your digital portfolio. An expert SEM professional will advise a business on media spend management and recommend how your digital footprint (consisting of SEO, PPC, Social Media and other outreach tactics) should be balanced and optimized. The goal here is to maximize the return on your marketing dollars (ROMI) and realize your online revenue potential. You hire an SEM expert is to help manage your digital portfolio because you expect than an expert will know how to manage your portfolio better than you could do it yourself. And you expect the expert to be able to navigate the uncertain and ever-changing online environment so you don’t have to figure out on your own what the heck does the introduction of Google +1, Google+ or Google Analytics 5 mean for your business. And there’s plenty to be gained or lost in real dollars when you do not manage your digital strategy well.
This post will be part rant, part manifesto and a great opportunity to explain what, in my opinion, makes someone and expert vs. skilled at using the tools (that I believe can be done in 8 weeks).
What makes an expert… expert?
On occasion – rarely – we get asked a question that goes something like this: “How are you better from my college student nephew who dabbles in SEO and has configured my Google local listing?” It’s hard not to get a bit frustrated when we are asked this question, since to us the answer is obvious.
For the record, yes, I believe it is possible to learn the best practices for tagging and on page optimization in 8 weeks (SEO). Yes, I believe it’s possible to learn how to set things up and use the tools in AdWords or ad Center, start a Facebook page or fire up a Twitter account in 8 weeks. And I believe it’s possible to configure one’s local business listing without expert help. In fact, we offer a free Executive Brief on this very subject that you can download here. But even the most talented graduate of the best 8 week SEM program in the world will not be an expert at the moment of graduation. Expertise in our space comes with time and experience and with being exposed to many different business models, goals, challenges, markets and – yes – occasional crises. And lest someone suggest I’m being ageist, I’m not knocking youth here at all. We are always interested in attracting ambitious, talented young people who want to dig in and learn and grow and ask questions that need asking. In fact, we have a history of hiring young talent. But talent, potential and ambition do not equal “expert”.
Marketers complain that agencies are weak on strategy
A great majority of managers nowadays, however, want their SEM expert to be a business strategist at heart or at least understand the right questions to ask to develop and apply the right digital solution for their business, not any business. We know that because according to a study in March by RSW/US: The “2011 New Business Report: A Client’s Look Ahead at Agencies,” 44% of marketers said they were completely satisfied with their primary agency. Of the unhappy majority, the primary reason for the discontent was that their current agency was weak on strategy.
You can download the full report in PDF here. I recommend you do. It’s illuminating. And it provides some great ideas for what to look for in a digital agency if you’re thinking of hiring one yourself.
Tooting our expert horn
Our agency was founded with the intention of offering custom digital strategy solutions to our clients. And that’s exactly what we do. We don’t practice “spaghetti digital marketing” (that’s when you toss a bunch of sexy tactics against the wall and see what sticks) and we don’t cut corners when developing a program for a client. We follow a rigorous process that has been developed through years of practice and business experience. We apply a maturity model approach when evaluating the soundness of a client’s digital strategy. We want to understand where the client is at and what goals they are hoping to accomplish through the digital channel. And – as we often are – we’re called in to fix an ailing program; we always start out by evaluating the “whole patient” rather than applying a Band Aid solution. We then develop a solution to address the client’s unique situation. Yes, there are best practices and “generic” lessons that can be shared and applied across many companies and markets, and when appropriate we do that, but the specific solution we come up with for any given client will always be unique. We do have the advantage of experience on our side. We have evaluated a large number of companies, firms and organizations over many years to build our… wait for it… expertise. So yes, we can call ourselves experts.
Let’s now ask a grad of the “8 weeks to expert” SEM course how many unique digital strategy programs they have worked on since taking the class. Somehow I don’t think it would be more than a couple. So they most likely have some skills and a ton of potential. But an expert they are not.
Contact us if you you are looking for a true digital marketing expert or to ask us about SEO, paid search, web analytics, social media or any other digital channel. We’re always happy to answer questions.