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SEMs Get 'No Respect' No More

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As an SEO (define) or search marketer, recruiters call you the hottest commodity in marketing. At Search Engine Strategies, you can't walk down the hall or sit at the bar without getting spammed by job offers. Good times.

Will it last forever? No. Then how do you make sure you don't become commoditized or marginalized. In other words, how can you continue to make the big bucks?

That's one of the questions answered by Don Shultz, PhD, SES Chicago keynote speaker. Sure he's a PhD, but not a pinhead. He's a marketing prof at Northwestern, but unlike one you've ever met.

If you don't get involved in talent development, you won't get ahead.

Traditional marketers don't like you because you're accountable. All I know as traditional marketer is I sent out a whole bunch of messages and don't even know where they went.

So much clutter has been created; consumers now block many marketing efforts. Don's not talking about deleting cookies. He means shutting out the advertising clutter and noise that surrounds us. He means all advertising spam.

Plus, not enough DIY "Desperate Housewives" fans are interested in ball peen hammers to justify broadcast advertising. Or ads featuring dancing contractors.

Biggest problem any organization struggles with: push-pull marketplace. Drives traditional outbound marketers crazy. Very, very few solutions.

Traditional marketers say it doesn't compute. They're set up to talk, not to listen. To send messages out, not to respond. The marketplace now operates in minutes not in hours. Magazines take nine weeks to start a subscription.

In a booming Texas twang, Don declared, "If you're going to succeed in marketplace, you'd better get up at 30,000 feet and think how you're going to fit in. It's not how good you are at SEO or paid search campaign management.

It's how good you become at working in existing marketing systems of the organization. Why? Because that's where the money is.

I've stated 2008 will be the year CMOs "get" search. Don says CMOs are telling him, "Nuh, unh." We're not going to move big bucks to search. Marketers aren't used to providing knowledge and information.

Where the SE Fits In Marketing

To get respect, talk with CMOs about marketing and marketing systems. Understand the big picture changes occurring in marketing:

  • From static to dynamic marketing.
  • Communicating in customer-controlled media systems.
  • Networks, not linear models.
  • Building brand equity.
  • Media consumption, not media distribution.
  • Holistic measure of marketing results.

Traditional marketing is linear, not networked. They can't relate to search. Consumers have their own system for solving problems. The solution isn't sitting in front of the TV set or waiting for the mail to arrive.

Big Bucks in Brand Equity

How do you build a brand online? How can you build a brand in search? Can you build a brand with search? Can I support a brand with search?

How and in what way does search fit into the marketing system? Big bucks are in branding. I can replicate your product in 20 minutes. Brand is the only way to differentiate.

When P&G invented brand management with TV advertising it was for consumer products. The concept was invented in the '30s and '40s when people were sitting around listening to radio.

Search marketers know most brand experiences and equity develop "behind the lines." with experiences consumers have on the Web site, with tech support, retailers, and customer service.

In our conversation last week, Don shared more insights from his experience working with Fortune 500 companies and C-level executives.

C-Level Wisdom for the Boardroom:

Leadership Style: "Key trend: withdrawal of personal leadership. Students don't say, "I'll take the lead on this." They wait to see what other students say to build consensus."

University students: "…possess knowledge that's 100 miles wide and 1/8th of inch deep. It's more of a renaissance than I've ever seen before. It's easy to dip you toe into archaeology, anthropology, nuclear physics."

Helicopter parents: "…come and hover over children, who are tethered very closely. Some university students in the grad program never really leave home."

SEM Staffing crisis: "Organizations can't build a stable work force. Corporations have short-term goals. Employees show very little loyalty. It's tough from a traditional standpoint for HR."

Human intelligence: "Traditional intelligence and the ways of learning are changing dramatically. Students are multitasking. They give continuous partial attention. They have the ability to do parallel processing."

Critical thinking: "There's no critical thinking anymore. Anybody with a Web site or a Podcast or an article on wikipedia is an expert. The assumption is: the article's right. But there's no way of critically analyzing the data. If one paragraph says one thing, two paragraphs later it says just opposite. It's the new Truth, Knowledge and the American Way."

Myth of Darwinian Competition: "Business isn't Darwinian. It's not the fittest who survive. Only the clever survive."

Clever boy, that Don. Clever boy.


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