Ethical Questions for Marketers – Series Recap

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For the last twelve weeks, we’ve been running a weekly series on ethical questions that marketers and small business owners must be prepared to answer/handle/deal with in a variety of areas. Alas, that series has come to an end. We are really proud of the content it generated. So if you missed out on any of them, you can view them below:

  1. Customer Privacy Concerns
  2. Price Collusion
  3. Price Wars
  4. Spying on Competitors
  5. Pricing Consistency
  6. Targeting your Advertising
  7. Deceptive Ad Practices
  8. Selling with Sex
  9. Paying Influencers
  10. Spam
  11. Chatbots
  12. Native Advertising

Stay tuned next week, when we’ll introduce a brand new series.

Zach Heller Marketing Week in Review

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When you have a team of people that you’re responsible for, you have to learn what motivates each one. Too many managers think they have a “cure all”, a single technique that will work to motivate everyone. Not only is that wrong, it’s dangerous. Some people respond to clear goals and constant feedback, others are better left alone. Some respond to financial incentives while others are more intrinsically motivated. When you treat everyone the same way, you hurt your team’s productivity and morale.

Here are last week’s posts, in case you missed them:

  1. Ethical Questions for Marketing – Part 12
  2. Email Marketing is About Quality, not Quantity
  3. In House vs. Agency SEO: Pros and Cons (Guest Post)

Happy Saturday!

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In House vs. Agency SEO: Pros and Cons (Guest Post)

The following post is written by Sam Butterworth. Sam is a digital marketer and content manager based in the north of England. When he’s not working for Fusewave and JTC Consultants he writes fiction, plays in a rock ‘n’ roll band of varying quality and hangs out with his family.

Thanks to the ever-snowballing power of Google et al to catapult business growth forward in leaps and bounds, SEO is rightly today recognised as a real cornerstone of any effective online marketing strategy.

In short, it’s an area of specialisation that nobody in the business of establishing and growing a brand can afford to ignore – that much, at least, has been abundantly clear for some time.

What’s often rather less clear is the best way to approach SEO for your business.

Given that most CEO’s aren’t also digital marketing specialists with the necessary time and expertise (they’d need a lot of both) to pilot their firm’s entire SEO approach single-handedly, who should they turn to get it done? In many cases, the initial question quickly boils down to one basic but important choice: in-house vs. agency.

For pretty much any company, regardless of industry or business model, deciding if it’s best to outsource those core digital marketing strategies to an external specialist – or alternatively, to bring them entirely in-house – involves making a few key judgement calls. Chief among these will be the budget available for online brand development, and a clear view of precisely what you hope to achieve as a result.

Depending on your answers to those questions, both in-house and agency options will offer various potential advantages and drawbacks in terms of matching your goals to your resources:

In-House

The obvious big advantage of bringing your SEO strategies fully in-house is that you now have your own full-time unit, dedicated entirely to the needs of your specific brand. Assuming you’ve recruited well, this gives you unfettered daily access to an individual or team with expert SEO knowledge – and one that’s also fully attuned the subtle and complex needs of your company. Kudos! It’s certainly a promising start.

In addition, your SEO recruit(s) will presumably be based on-site for the most part, making it easier and more efficient for them to liaise across multiple departments: a fast track to building strong working relationships with key figures in IT, marketing and all those other important teams.

Because they’re embedded with the firm, they’ll be especially valuable during periods when the business is just starting to define and build its branding strategy from the ground up. And to top it all off, it’s costing you significantly less per hour than most of those expensive agencies seem to charge.

The immediate downside, of course, is that this isn’t a per-hour deal: it’s a more permanent commitment that, over any sort of reasonable contract length, will likely add up to a bigger investment than sporadic use of a contractor. You’ve also got to buy in and license the full suite of tools they’ll need to keep up to speed, which is seldom cheap in a field that’s evolving almost daily.

Incidentally, how many of these busy bees are you hoping it’ll take to get the job done well? Hint: it’s not going to be just one. There are so many diverse elements to developing a coherent in-house strategy – social media, content marketing, AdWords, PPC, conversion, penalty recovery etc – and most skilled marketers specialise in a couple of them if you’re lucky.

Moreover, unless you’re a huge company with an ever-shifting set of targets, priorities and challenges, you’re likely to be re-hiring every couple of years. These are inherently creative roles for people who relish a regular switch of focus; few strong candidates will be happy to plug away at the same set of keywords for the next decade, no matter how great your coffee is.

Agency

Ok, so you’ve bitten the bullet and decided to go with an agency. The first thing you’re probably noticing is that they can seem kind of expensive. And that’s fair comment. They can. Thank goodness this isn’t a full-time arrangement, right?

You’re also probably concerned that there’s a lot of stuff you want them to do for you, but that they’ve obviously got other clients on their books. Will they be able to fully imbibe the culture of your specific corporate approach, and have time to prioritise your needs? On the first count, arguably not as well as an in-house team. On the second count, absolutely – provided, of course, that they’re a good agency who take on client workloads responsibly.

Furthermore, they’re able to bring a whole host of specialist skills to bear across the full range of issues you need addressing, because they’ve built their own successful enterprise around one of the key tenets of good digital marketing: diversification of talent. Their continued success depends on keeping abreast of every little Google algorithm tweak, so they seem to know what’s going on across the full SEO landscape almost before it happens. Having dealt with a range of different clients before, even relatively small agencies or individual consultants will already have case studies lined up demonstrating proven solutions to many of the issues you’re dealing with.

You may have noticed that the folks at the agency with the really glittering resumes seldom get assigned to work with you directly as a client – they always seem to be too busy batting for the agency itself. Again, fair comment. The upside, of course, is that those are the very people responsible for the strong relationships the agency has developed with the advertising platforms themselves. Handling multiple client accounts that are collectively worth considerable amounts of money to the platforms appears to earn the agencies much closer attention from the likes of Google and Facebook – more responsive account supervision, speedier customer service, and so on. Heck, it’s almost as if the platforms want these agencies to do well for their clients!

Conclusion

To be fair, ‘conclusion’ might be pushing it here, because – as stated earlier in this piece – the best solution for you is going to depend entirely on your specific budget and goals. That’s really the only honest conclusion that can be offered to any business wrestling with this predicament; to suggest otherwise would be misguided, if not downright misleading.

Ultimately though, whichever approach you decide on, that’s only step one on the road to mastering your SEO strategy. Step two is just as important to get right: whether building an in-house team or choosing an agency to team up with, you’ll need to be diligent and highly discerning in seeking out the right matches for success.

Email Marketing is About Quality, not Quantity

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The traditional metrics when it comes to email marketing have changed over the years, from “quantity” metrics like number of subscribers, raw sends, opens and clicks early on to conversion and ROI metrics today.

From Quantity

In the early days of email marketing, brands wanted to amass the biggest possible list of email addresses to send to. These were the days of batch and blast email marketing, where the more people you could reach, the better off you’d be.

It worked for a time because there were fewer brands using email on a regular basis. People were still receiving more emails from friends and family than marketers. So the marketing emails they did get managed to attract more of their attention.

The Transition

After a little while, a few different things happened that made email marketing more difficult to get right. First, brands started to abuse the channel. Inboxes were flooded with promotional emails. When that happened, people began to either complain, or tune out.

And when more of them started to complain, the Google’s and the other email service providers of the world caught on, developing more sophisticated tools that allowed people to ignore promotional emails brands were sending.

Batch and blast stopped working. Brands’ reputations were hurt. Deliverability dropped.

To Quality

Smart email marketers saw the opportunity that these changes created, an opportunity for “quality” focused email programs that added value and broke through the clutter. The brands that adopted these new practices were more interested in measuring deliverability rates, open rates, click thru rates, and conversions. The size of the list matters less, and the return on investment matters more.

By focusing on the user experience, brands have been able to create more engagement emails, personalized and segmented, delivered at times when people are most likely to take action.

Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 12

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Welcome to the newest installment of our weekly blog series, Ethical Questions for Marketers. Each week we plan to introduce a new topic and explore it in detail, preparing marketers for the day when they face such a problem at their organization.

Last week’s topic was Chatbots.

This week’s topic: Native Advertising

Native advertising comes in a variety of different forms – sponsored posts, paid articles, advertorials – but they all mean essentially the same thing. They are content that brands pay to place in places that readers are likely to engage with them.

For example, a company like Blue Apron might sponsor articles on websites dedicated to cooking or healthy eating. In exchange for payment, they might get to include details about the company or its offers, links back to their signup page, and more. Sometimes, they might even get full editorial control over the entire article.

Depending on where these kinds of articles are published, they might take a number of different forms. On some sites, they might look just like any other article. On others, they might get a different look and feel to signal to readers that this content was paid for.

Ethically, the issue is more on the publisher’s side than the advertiser’s. But at the end of the day, they both have some responsibility when it comes to user experience.

The question is this – as a reader, how important is it that I know this content was paid for, and by who? In the Blue Apron example, it might not seem to matter much. But what if it was an article on why people should use a specific credit card, and the bank that offers that card were the ones paying to have it published. You would think the reader is entitled to know that fact, otherwise they might think it an impartial piece of advice.

Native advertising certainly has a place in the larger marketing environment. But the key is that, as brands and publishers, we must be more transparent with our audience. If they don’t know that what they’re reading is content that only exists because someone paid for it, something is wrong.

Stay tuned next week for another installment of our Ethical Questions for Marketers series. If you have an ethical topic you’d like to see addressed, write us.