My CMO doesn’t think search marketing is “sexy”

Amanda Bullock / November 21,2022

I’m Irish, so I am not often at a loss when someone asks a question, but I was a bit startled at a query I received while doing a recent Webinar: “How do I overcome search marketing’s lack of sexiness to convince my CMO to do it?” Now, I’ve been doing this marketing thing for many years now, and I well remember the days when marketing indeed was about the sizzle instead of the steak. Branding is sexy and sales are not. CLIO awards are exciting–ringing the cash register, not so much. But I really thought those days were LONG gone.

So, I did my best to answer the questioner. I explained how we need to move past marketing as an attention-getter and move into marketing as the first step in the sales process. That instead of thinking of brand awareness as an end in itself, that we need to think of it as just the place where the conversation begins. And we need to stop seeing marketing as some island separated from the rest of the business where we have our own metrics and our own little religion that is divorced from the company’s bottom line.

I honestly thought that all the old-school CMOs had already been fired, but I guess there are still a few more out there. If you know one of them, let me know. I will be happy to help. I know how I convinced them 10 years ago when search marketing went mainstream and I would do the same thing today. I’d sit them down and ask them, “Can you describe for me the sexiest, most exciting, top attention-getting campaign you’ve ever been associated with?”

People love to talk about themselves, so you’ll get a rich, colorful answer to this question. It might have been a great TV ad, or a publicity stunt, or some kind of contest, or a billboard that people couldn’t stop talking about. Whatever it is, drink in the story. Let it wash over you. Ask questions. Get all the juicy details.

Then ask this question: “If you were able to pull off that kind of thing today at our company, what do you think the people exposed to that campaign would do first?”

Let your CMO ponder that one. If there are any neurons firing, you’ll witness a realization that they’d search for whatever it was in that campaign that caught their fancy. They might look for the TV ad in YouTube to show their friends. They might search for local news about the publicity stunt. They might search for the name of the contest so they could enter or see who won. They might Google a few words from the billboard to see what was behind the story.

Whatever it is that they do next, the overwhelming odds are that they will do it online. If your company has not followed up that sexy campaign with an equally important online presence, including search marketing, you’ve just wasted most of its value. And you’ve severed the chain of brand awareness that leads to a sale, for all but the most accessible and well-known products.

If Coke sponsors a live event, they can probably survive without having that event plugged on their Web site, because everyone knows what a Coke is and where to get one. But for the vast majority of companies, you can’t count on your ubiquitous reputation and distribution to make grabbing mere attention enough for you. You need to lead the customer from attention to purchase—the Web is the best way for most businesses to do that.

So, if your CMO thinks search marketing isn’t sexy, ask if money is sexy. Find out if having people talking online about our campaign is sexy. And ask one last thing, “Is keeping our jobs sexy?” Because if marketing doesn’t sell anything, companies don’t really need it.

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 Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.

I always say, it comes down to a lack of knowledge on their parts, knowledge and the fact that they want to see results in order to be proven that search marketing is worth ever effort. It’s a difficult mindset to break, that’s for sure.

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