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How be a "Leading SEM"

Sara Holoubek has an interesting piece in today's DM News SearchBuzz. For the desired audience, a headline like "How to Be a Leading, Premier or Top SEM" cuts through the newsletter clutter. Sara writes "Accept that technology is a commodity." Yep, great tech is necessary but not sufficient. Still, reviewing results from clients who came to us from name-brand SEMs, while we often see good stuff we also find some eyebrow-raising gaps. Maybe some technologies are more equal than others? Or, to, echo Sara's follow-up point, is this a case of (some) human analysis failing to keep pace? At times, our team has made the mistake of underselling our tool set. It is really hard for the sales /marketing process to describe why a specific technology is superior, but it doesn't look like the space has hit a level of commoditization that makes the point moot. The technology riff is in the same bucket as Sara's admonition to agencies to "Forget the Secret Sauce" and recognize that "how well they execute, however… is a differentiator." Amen to that, and her piece's emphasis on investing in service and the people who provide it. And why no case studies, indeed? I think most of the theories Sara suggests are plausible. Except for the one there are no good case studies. I suspect that our firm is not alone in preferring to substitute a strong client reference for a published case study. Better for the client, who as Sara points out, is reluctant to go public with a "stealth" advantage, and better for the agency who'd just as soon not declare open season for competitors looking to poach that marquee brand. And, as someone heading up marketing at an SEM—there's no time to write up all that stuff, and no one trusts in marketing, anyway. I'd rather it pass from my client's lips to my prospect's ears. What's missing? I wonder if Sara considered including a bullet on fair pricing in her checklist for becoming a Premier SEM. We'd be glad to participate in the discussion. Heck, we might even start it.
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