No, I don't mean to take them off the shelves, or rip up your catalog. Yes, I know that if we don't sell things, we cease to make a living. I'm talking about a style of marketing that seems focused on nothing but the final sale, while missing all of the other steps of the process. You need to end this maniacal focus on the sale as being the only way you interact with your customers. Too many people have gotten the idea that search marketing is great for sales, but have forgotten everything else about search marketing, and maybe marketing in general. To succeed at marketing, even search marketing, you need to find a way to remember about the rest of the buying cycle.
This was all brought to mind when I was on a panel last week at OMMA Global asking the musical question, "Is your company spending too much on search?" The unspoken premise is that, while search is great for making the sale, we might be spending too much for that last click, when other tactics ranging from display ads to e-mail to social media (and many more) actually lead to the sales that customers finish off with a search.
It's an interesting question that the panel grappled with, discussing attribution modeling and other arcane subjects, but I think we need to consider something more fundamental: "Search is not a tool limited to the final purchase."
Think about another tool we use in marketing, the telephone. Although our call centers close business on the phone, we don't stop them from merely answering a customer's question. Nor do we stop anyone else in the company from using the phone. Search is no different.
Yes, when someone searches for our products by brand name (maybe even with the exact model number), of course we want our results to come up at the top of the list. And, sure it's gratifying when we make that sale. But how did the customer figure out your model number?
It's likely that the journey started long before that final search. And, although social media and other tactics probably played a part, search did, too. How much of your social media work is discovered not because people shared content but because search found it? So if SEO is not part of your social media campaigns, it needs to be. The folks creating social media might not be the same folks that are in charge of search optimization, but they need to be able to use search as a tool. You let them use the phone, right?
And we need to value search for more than the last click. If your Web site is nothing more than an overblown catalog, you are missing the rest of the buying cycle. You are missing all the people who are searching for a solution to their problem, folks that don't even know what your product or service is for. So, the answer to whether you are spending too much on search is found, in part, in another question, "How are you using search?" If you use search only for that last step in the process, you are probably giving it too much credit, much like crediting the cash register for all sales in a physical store. But if you use search all through the buying cycle, it's amplifying all of your other tactics.
So, stop selling your products. Start marketing them.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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