How to decide if you should fire your chief marketing officer!

Trond Lyngbø
Sep 4, 2017 · 8 min read
CMO getting fired for ignoring Google’s impact on business and sales

“Should you fire your Chief Marketing Officer… for incompetence?”

It’s a provocative question — but one that many large corporations will soon be forced to ask themselves as the competition speeds away at warp speed, thanks to a well-defined and superbly executed SEO strategy.

In a Google-search world where literally every consumer prepares for a buying decision by running a query on the company, brand or product, no business is free from the need for a winning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plan.

I’ll go further and declare that if your SEO isn’t top-notch, then within the next 5 years, you’ll lose your business (or at least your dominant position in a niche or industry) to a more nimble, far-sighted and SEO-savvy player.

Here’s my take on what’s going on.

We’ll address some questions that are certain to be asked in many industries soon — once leaders start looking beneath the surface to uncover what created the outcomes they’re experiencing.

1. Do you stay up to date?

While many of business leaders today just hire their SEO and marketing teams to “order up more results”, such decision-making is often

  • based on half-truths,
  • drawn from a jumbled up mix of data sources,
  • uses information that isn’t presenting the right picture, and
  • is unreliable or out of date.

They then waste a lot of money on things that aren’t done right, or designed for the best results. Instead of laying a foundation upon which they can build for years, these clueless leaders remain stuck in the past, and limit their planning horizons to one budget year at a time.

Such thinking leads to a roll out of one campaign after another, each one unconnected to the other, without any synergy to the overall plan or strategy. And the company misses a golden opportunity to uplift all areas together, by getting each one to work in concert with the rest.

It’s never ideal to carry on SEO work (or indeed any other form of marketing) for a large organization within isolated silos, on a “project basis”. There will always be many loose ends, which results in imperfectly targeting the business ecosystem, or optimizing sub-optimally for the customer journey.

Looking in the rearview mirror is a poor guide to driving fast!

And in the same way, if your SEO strategy is based on how things used to be a year or two (or longer) ago, then you cannot take advantage of current opportunities that abound in the updated ecosystem.

Obviously, winning strategies should be based on how things work today.

But somehow, even senior managers and department heads try to find “safety” in hiding behind arguments that are designed only to sound smart and soothe people above them in the hierarchy — who often know even less about the details and real-world connections or dynamics of modern day Google-influenced business (which, given how pervasive online search has become, includes EVERY kind of business, online or off!).

2. Can you identify your blind spots?

The illusion that things are going just fine, and that the company is set to do awesome and successful things, is suddenly shattered a few months or years down the line when periodic reviews reveal just how bad things are.

Truth be told, most people are aware they aren’t really doing well. Still, they manage to convince themselves that it’s okay to carry on with the “same old, same old”… and jump on a hamster wheel, to start running faster than before — but getting nowhere!

The bigger the organization, the worse it gets.

I’ve been called in to consult with large corporations where the situation looked more like a nightmare than an effective business.

Interestingly, some of them have even won awards for marketing excellence! Maybe they presented how they thought these marketing strategies were working — and ignored the actual results they got.

3. Are you running situational analyses to uncover new potential?

In some of these “delusional companies”, within a few minutes and using their own analytics tools, I can prove that the numbers are wrong. The marketing strategies are NOT working as they claim.

In fact, these companies have had huge drops in financial outcomes — that they’ve ignored or camouflaged among other data.

In natural growing markets, my situational analysis often shows that these businesses don’t have a market share anywhere close to the 40% or 50% that they enjoy offline. If you filter out branded search terms and look at search traffic for their general queries, their share of the online traffic pie is barely 5–10%, if not less.

For instance, people looking for ideas about kitchens and kitchen planning might go to Google and ask if they should lay the floor before or after installing the kitchen.

Or they might search from mobile devices while they’re near a local business outlet using phrases like “kitchen + city name”.

Or they’ll use synonyms and related search terms with the same intent, showing that they are eventually interested in buying a kitchen.

This data will show up on any analysis of search data from a Web shop or ecommerce website, and offer an indication that online marketing is what drove a particular shopper into a store to buy.

Not identifying this path in the ‘customer journey’ leaves dangerous black holes in your understanding of shopper dynamics.

4. Is your local SEO strategy winning?

An SEO strategy with a solid plan for local searches across the country, combined with a flawlessly implemented SEO action plan that targets and penetrates local markets will drive in boat loads of qualified customers and revenue.

The keys to SEO success here are:

  • Having a local SEO strategy where both online and offline factors are taken into consideration
  • Using a state of art SEO strategy and implementation that is optimized for how Google works in 2017 and beyond

Only when you are aware that it was organic search on an unbranded generic search term that was responsible for eventually closing the sale can you plan your SEO strategy around local searches — specifically in areas around the country where your stores are situated.

5. Have you got the latest super-powerful tools?

Most organizations have ABSOLUTELY no clue about

  • what is actually going on
  • where their results are coming from
  • why something happens in each of the areas
  • where the investments are going and
  • what they get back in return

Only a few are able to attribute this correctly — and that’s really scary.

Some managers claim that the tools available in the market today aren’t good enough to provide 100% accuracy. Often, it’s because someone told them so!

Others believe that to get data that’s realistic, they would have to integrate an analysis platform into all areas of their business — from e-mail marketing to CRM, print advertising to tracking within the analytics platform, across their entire offline and offline marketing and business activities.

They worry about having to

  • get external companies that provide content, create online campaigns, and follow users across different micro-sites
  • upgrade all domains and technologies they use, like the e-commerce platform, blog platforms (e.g. WordPress), etc.
  • build subdomains or micro-sites focusing on specific products and niche markets
  • create apps that run on all platforms like Apple and Android

… before they will be able to track and report useful data.

But reality is quite simple.

Today, if someone should

  • find something through a generic search term on Google’s mobile organic search,
  • think about it for a day, then
  • click on an online ad, and
  • later that day click a paid Google Adwords ad, and only then
  • decide to drive to a specific local shop to buy the product there, but
  • afterwards decide they didn’t want it, and
  • return the product

… then, there are simple tools to track the entire ‘customer journey’ and provide precious data that can guide your strategy.

And yet, some business leaders think this is too complex and detail-oriented — and they ignore all of this rich potential, just repeating whatever they’ve been told by others, or that the organization has been doing in the past.

As a result, later on, they will be forced to pay three times what they do today — and even then, they wouldn’t have 100% accurate data.

The management would have to hire people with the skills — like an external consultant or agency who will be able to work within their diminishing budget.

But ultimately, there’s a risk of end-user problems, and not everyone will be capable of following up on what’s necessary, because they won’t have the knowledge to deal with technology.

6. Do you correctly implement analytics & tracking?

You should implement analytics and tracking correctly to make sure you get the data you need from any marketing activity.

  • Maybe you’ll run promotional campaigns with small budgets.
  • Or short-lived campaigns that will be pulled off the Internet once the product launch is over.
  • Or even hybrid online-offline campaigns where you’ll track print ads to tell which of 3 nearly identical print ads was responsible for driving 99% of the business.

Even with custom-created or tailored analytics tools, you can’t always get 100% accuracy, because the data analysis platforms available today do, in fact, have some limitations.

The most expensive consultants and expertise that money can buy are still hampered by the reality of ad-blockers and other data-obstacles that block you from tracking every visitor, leaving you with little or no data about where they came from, or what they did on your site.

In some cases, millions of visits reported in your analytics tools and systems are practically worthless because they won’t give you any usable information.

And there are legal restrictions on tracking that you must be aware of.

Many countries have local rules and restrictions in terms of privacy and tracking that you must comply with. The risk of law suits is very real in some markets, even if just a tiny little detail goes wrong.

Countries like Germany aren’t fans of Google Analytics at all, leaving you with platforms such as Adobe, which is a very different solution and requires a different kind of expertise and integration.

7. Have you got web design and coding help?

Another overlooked aspect is to make sure someone on the team knows web design or development and can include the right tracking codes and scripts that you need changed.

Without this, even small changes that may seem irrelevant, like

  • changing the color of a button,
  • introducing new functionality,
  • redesigning a page template for a specific category or product line, or
  • a new copywriter rewriting the high-converting text

…might create havoc if, for instance, it accidentally deletes the links to internal parts of your site, or to an order page, or other important destinations in your marketing and business universe, including tracking codes and schema markup.

Left uncorrected, these will later drag down your site’s listing on Google’s search result pages.

8. Will you constantly upgrade your skills?

Staying at the top costs money. To stay at the peak of your business, you must make constant investments and take the time to acquire new knowledge. This includes

  • paying for expensive courses (often in the millions, annually) and
  • doing it every year since things in the digital landscape change so frequently

Some integration projects are expensive, too. You may have to pay heavily for:

  • complex financial reporting functions on the inside of the organization,
  • ERP
  • SAP
  • logistics
  • new technology and systems
  • non-standard things you need that your vendors aren’t providing ‘out of the box’

But these upgrades go a long way in consolidating your position ahead of the competition.

So there you have it.

8 questions to ask your Chief Marketing Officer — before you decide whether or not to fire the person who controls the future direction of your company!

I hope that, in your organization, the answers are favorable to the CMO… and that these points help you improve and enhance your SEO and search marketing.


This Post Was Originally Published on Search Planet´s blog on August 27th, 2017 by Trond Lyngbø, in Norwegian Language, titled “Slik finner dere ut om dere bør sparke markedsdirektøren deres!

Trond Lyngbø

Written by

Trond Lyngbø is founder and SEO Consultant at Search Planet AS. Columnist at Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. @TrondLyngbo and https://searchplanet.no/

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