A few weeks ago, a young college student reached out to me on LinkedIn asking for my advice on how to get started in a career of digital marketing. His questions got me thinking about the qualities of a good search marketer, which led me to do an informal survey of my colleagues, friends, and coworkers to see if we could put together a list.
I started with a large catalog of ideas and whittled it down to a “top” list that captures some concepts I’ve applied to my daily routine that have helped me tremendously. So, here is the final list which I hope resonates with you and can help you reach new levels in your own career:
1. Admit you don’t have all the answers.
In any business or industry, it’s important to exude confidence in your work, your company, and yourself. The age-old saying “Fake it ’til you make it” suggests that you show confidence even when you may not have the experience to back it up. While I believe that self-confidence can go a long way, I don’t believe in pretending to know more than you do.
An internet marketer who claims to always have the answers is a liar. There’s a reason that Google keeps its ranking algorithms so strongly protected — so that people like me and you can’t game the system. The cards are stacked against us so that we can’t have all the answers.
Successful marketers will understand this, and they constantly work on developing new skills and knowledge to help their clients do better. If you aren’t doubting yourself as a marketer, asking questions, or trying to learn more about how to do your job better, then you aren’t growing professionally.
2. Regularly meet with clients.
Based on the organization and structure of your agency, you may or may not be working directly with clients on a daily basis. Account managers, department heads, managers, and CEOs are likely meeting with clients over the phone or in person to discuss their marketing campaigns. If you are with a smaller marketing company (even as a solo or partnership) you will certainly be meeting with clients.
Bad SEO companies that have historically employed the churn-and-burn technique of getting a client’s contract signed and then disappearing have tarnished the trust that new clients will put into reputable marketers like you and me. We have an uphill battle to undo the mistrust that black hat SEOs have put into small businesses across the web.
Many of the new clients I work with have been burned in the past, and have been given all around bad information about how SEO works from their “old SEO company.” The only way to gain a new client’s trust is have honest dialogue and to set reasonable expectations for both parties.
Being transparent with clients about their campaigns is important and is best achieved by being accessible to all clients all the time. Having a steady line of communication between agency and client will also benefit your campaigns, as being tuned into the intricacies and nuances of the client’s business can give you the edge necessary to do your job better than your competitors.
3. Test new tools.
I’m sure you receive emails and phone calls like this all the time: “I’m Jesse from So-and-So Software Company, and I’d like to discuss how our tool can help your company.” Even Google’s own Matt Cutts gets his share of spammy cold call emails! The salespeople sending these emails can be persistent, if not downright pushy, but there is some value in at least looking into their new products. While I certainly don’t take every call from every telemarketer, I do my best to at least give the reputable ones a chance.
In many ways as search engine marketers, we are limited by the tools we equip ourselves with. While it would certainly be nice if I could do all of my work in spreadsheets and Google Drive, it’s just not practical. There are always opportunities in our industry for software companies to make better and more practical tools for us to do our jobs, and we truly benefit from it.
I don’t want this piece to turn into a pitch for my favorite SEO tools, so I won’t mention them here, but at my company we always make an effort to befriend and get to know the software companies we work with. There is a mutual benefit in working closely with your vendors – they get real-time feedback from their users — and in return may give you discounts, web, or social exposure, or even early access to beta tools.
Every day that an internet marketer refuses to try something new, is another day that their competitor can get a leg up.
4. Ignore your bottom line.
This one took me a long time to figure out and to understand, probably because I come from an entrepreneurial background where watching the bottom line means the life or death of a company. Once I figured out that not everything can be measured in terms of immediate ROI, it opened my eyes to the fact that in business, long-term gains cannot always be measured against short-term profits.
Oftentimes in our business, we have to lose money or cut deeply into our profit margins in the early stages of a campaign to show early value to the client, in hopes that they stick around for long enough to see the fruits of their marketing spend. On the front end of a campaign we have to invest time and money into building websites, shooting photography and video, writing content, and doing market research.
These things cost a huge amount of money at once, and can break the bottom line – but that’s okay if you are trying to build trust and loyalty, and to turn a brief marketing campaign into long-term client relationship.
Written originally for All Business