If you own a small business, you know at least one thing about local digital marketing: return is king. You probably don’t have loose piles of money laying around just waiting to be thrown at every opportunity that gets pedaled through your door in anticipation that something will stick. You likely don’t have the luxury of a full-time, in-house marketing team devoted to bringing you more business. And you definitely don’t have the time to hold the hands of each marketing vendor partner or self-teach every aspect of the ever-evolving digital marketing industry.
For many in your position, marketing is an afterthought, something that gets dealt with only once the concrete parts of your business are well attended to. It’s natural, then, that the walled garden of marketing professionals is full of folks upset about your lack of attention to, or understanding of, your marketing campaigns. We love what we do and we want you to love it too.
While I’d advocate that you absolutely should prioritize the workings of your business, please don’t take that to mean marketing your business is not your responsibility. It’s a critical part of your company’s health and I’ll tell you that, after years of working with local business owners, the ones that maintain success and achieve their growth goals are the ones that strike the right balance when it comes to marketing. They internalize that return is king and that they get out what they put in.
To better describe what that balance entails, let’s review what I call the seven sins of local digital marketing. By the end, you should have a good picture of what a wholesome marketing partnership looks like, what role you play in the big picture of things and, in the spirit of Ben Franklin’s thirteen virtues, something to reflect on each month, each quarter, each year to identify where you’re doing well and where you need to improve.
No. 1: Micromanaging
I’ll be honest, I’m mostly putting this one in here for my fellow marketers. Throughout our careers, we’ve all been subjected to the client that wants complete and utter control over every aspect of their digital campaigns. They either ignore or actively shun the opinions of anyone else, and then when they go against professional marketing advice and the campaign fails, they have no one to blame but themselves (although, that rarely stops them from blaming their vendor partners anyway.)
In short, trust the people you pay to be smarter than you when it comes to digital marketing. Listen to their input, be open to being persuaded by intelligent ideas, then stand firm in your choice knowing that at the end of the day it’s your marketing budget and you’ve made an educated decision on how to best use it.
No. 2: Apathy
Now, take everything I just said and put it aside for a moment. Another common pitfall on the road to return is assuming that you, the client, have no part in the marketing process once you hire an agency. The truth is, you’re a critical component in our ability to do our jobs as marketers.
While your marketing partner likely knows your industry well, nobody knows your specific business more than you do. Often times we work with franchisees who are still actively providing the product or service they’re in the business of doing. They roll up their sleeves and press the flesh with their customers. Don’t underestimate how helpful it is for us as marketers to get your customers’ feedback, it allows us to create and optimize campaigns as a true extension of your business. It helps us promote the brand in ways that connect the best and drive the leads that convert the best. It’s what separates authentic advertising from cheap gimmicks.
No. 3: Parsimoniousness
Don’t pinch pennies and don’t have a death grip on how your overall marketing budget is allocated. The key here is to understand, not to entirely control, where you’re spending marketing dollars.
In the digital space, it’s important to remain flexible and listen to what the data is telling you, particularly in a pull-medium like paid search. You may want to promote one service over another, but if people aren’t searching for your priority service nearly as much as your secondary one, you need to be open to the idea of devoting more budget to the one that’s working, the one that’s driving leads, even if it’s not the most important service for you.
Similarly, don’t take budget away from higher-funnel channels like programmatic display or paid social just because they’re driving a higher cost-per-lead or hitting lower conversion rates. They play an important role in the larger marketing ecosystem for your business and ignoring one medium will likely negatively impact another. Find the balance in your budget and understand it well enough to know why it’s the right choice.
No. 4: Fixation
Testing the unknown is critical, so try to be comfortable with straying outside of where you are now. Take off the blinders every once in a while. It’s how digital marketers feel out the blind spots and find hidden gems. It’s also why you should be aware of where you’re not spending marketing dollars.
That doesn’t mean throw money at everything and see what works, but it does mean taking well-calculated risks in a controlled environment. And, it means purposefully passing up on some marketing ideas so that others can flourish. Make budgeting decisions with intent, then follow up on your tests to evaluate your next steps.
No. 5: Abstraction
If it’s been a month or more since you last talked to your digital marketing partner about the details of your campaign, it’s time to pick up the phone. See what trends are developing in the campaign, ask about where you could improve your budgeting, check in on what your competitors are doing, make sure your digital advertising lines up with the brand you want to communicate.
Again, don’t micromanage, but have a dialogue, even if only a brief one, to make sure you understand the effort that’s going into your digital program and the return you’re getting as a result. Find ways to better track your successes and pitfalls so you can paint a better picture, or better yet, so your marketing partner can paint a better picture for you.
No. 6: Monotony
If it’s been a year or more since you had a real conversation about your broader digital marketing strategy, it’s definitely time to pick up the phone. Take a step back. Ask larger questions about what’s working and why, discuss emerging trends or new marketing services, brainstorm ways to better tailor your marketing to your ideal customers. It’s also a great way to take stock on the value of your digital marketing. Be candid with yourself about what it provides your business, even if that means having a frank understanding that your digital marketing isn’t doing much.
At the end of the day, digital marketing is built on service, and that service is founded on the success of our clients. A good marketing provider will understand that a well thought out, short-term loss in marketing budget in the larger interest of bottom-line client success often leads to robust, long-term partnerships that provide sustained revenue for both sides. Take the time to develop that symbiotic relationship; it’s the underpinning of the marketing balance.
No. 7: Mysticism
The truth is, digital marketing is a lot less magical and a lot more modest than people outside of our industry typically imagine. It’s evolving, it’s exciting and it can be extremely rewarding in many ways. But, at the end of the day, our job is to communicate to people. That’s it. To do that as best we can, great marketers listen to their instincts and their clients. They observe the results of various client relationships and the performance of campaigns. They understand a brand’s value and customer experiences. They empathize with people and they learn something new every day.
Even though you may not be a marketing expert, you are a person. You are somebody’s customer as much as you are the one serving your own customers. Work each day to take something from your career, something from your life, and build on it. You’ll be surprised how far you can grow.