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What Is Your Receptionist’s Search Strategy?

The Internet has changed the marketing world. Now, that’s hardly a revelation of any sort; in fact it is, at this point, probably common knowledge. And while it may seem, in retrospect, as though the Internet came along and immediately revolutionized traditional marketing, the truth is that the marketing industry has changed as the Internet has grown. The revolutionary nature of the Internet, then, has resulted in the evolutionary age of marketing. While some will eagerly point out that it took traditional marketers too long to crawl up out of the primordial muck, as it were, it can also be argued that marketers simply reacted only with the urgency necessary; as the urgency increased, marketing executives around the world eventually met the challenge (yes, even if maybe at times it seemed a grudging rise to challenge). But as someone who spends considerable time reaching out to, and interacting with, marketing directors, it strikes me that the vast majority of marketing managers or directors are somewhat in tune with SEO; mostly, they recognize one of two things: 1) SEO is important but they know nothing about it and are eager to surround themselves with people who do know SEO so that effective search strategies can be implemented or 2) SEO is important and they know just enough to recognize their limitations, deferring to the experts to implement an effective search strategy. Now, none of this is to say that my job in Business Development here at AudetteMedia is simply dialing the phone and signing the resulting contracts, but the combination of receptive marketing executives and marketing executives contacting us directly makes my rejection among the most palatable in sales. Perhaps because of this, I typically roll my eyes at the assertion that ignorance is bliss in the marketing world. While we spend a fair bit of account management time educating “traditional” marketers, they are generally receptive to learning and their bosses privy to the efficacy (and ROI) of well-executed search strategy. Not that the marketers need one necessarily, but I have been their defender. To me, rumors of their demise, as they old saying goes, are greatly exaggerated. Or so I thought. Recently, I contacted the VP of marketing at a highly recognizable Fortune 500 company (sorry, not naming names here). That he picked up his phone was rare enough (I am conditioned to leave messages), but what he said into it proved stunning. He had no in-house SEO team (I don't want to create nightmares; I always ask).  Actually, he had no idea what SEO was and he had no idea who might oversee SEO efforts in his company. And he had absolutely no idea what Internet marketing initiatives were underway within his division. Now, as I mentioned above, to be in sales is to accept rejection as a norm. But this guy was not rejecting anything; he was quite friendly and willing to talk, he was just, dare I say, clueless about SEO. And since I take great care to research the companies that I’m calling on, I took the opportunity to try to explain to him why I felt AudetteMedia a good match for his company and how we could grow his Internet traffic and sales. He seemed open to discussing what I could only picture him envisioning as some type of mystical black art (and who among us could blame him for having that notion?), but he had in his mind the concept that he was incapable of understanding anything that he deemed “technical.” And, to him, everything was “technical.” He asked, plainly, “…so, you’re doing Twitter? Because we have a guy who does that for us already.” As I began to explain the differences between “doing Twitter” and our SEO services (which, as a matter of full disclosure, sometimes include “doing Twitter”), I had two images cemented in my head. The first involved the guy on the other end of the phone playing with his Newton’s Cradle and ignoring every word I said as he surveyed an office devoid of the clutter normally associated with work; the other involved his perception of my presentation as akin to the generic adult voices in the animated Peanuts series. Either way, the disconnect that I sensed was readily displayed when he asked, “how long have you worked for Google?” Apparently, he had heard “search engine” early in the conversation and drawn his conclusions quickly. After carefully explaining that I did not, in fact, work for Google, I thanked him for his time and then asked him if there was anyone in his company or division that he could think of who might be in charge of search strategy. His answer? “You might ask the switchboard operator about that.” If all of this is evolution, well, then I think I may have found the “missing link.” When the “switchboard operator” knows more about a company’s search strategy than does its VP of Marketing, it might just be a strong indicator that neither is long for their current position. But this experience serves as a reminder that even the largest and most successful companies ignore SEO sometimes, and not always on purpose. Where is your marketing department along the evolutionary chain?
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