Are all these SEM Metrics Making Us LESS Strategic?

Anyone who knows me, knows I try to optimize EVERYTHING.  Period. Whether it’s which lane of traffic I’m in on I-90, what ingredients I put in my compost bin, or my bidding strategy on a content network campaign, I try to maximize efficiency and monetize efforts.

A little more than a month ago, I attended a Seattle Direct Marketing Association (SDMA) event and the discussion topic presented by Romi Mahajan has stuck with me, as intended. Is our profession (marketing) still 3 parts Art and 1 part Science? OR has it totally flip flopped and very few of us think about the ART /creative part of marketing any more and has the science part become our mantra?  Are we measuring too much and just tweaking? Are we spending all of our time digging through data and not enough time brainstorming big ideas? Are we consistent singles hitters, not risking a strikeout to hit a grand slam?

Confession #1: I love the TV series Mad Men.  I love the creativity in advertising in the 1960s and 70s, when they had to come up a creative gem to pitch a client based on gut and intuition. and very little data besides maybe some focus group comments.  It’s slick; it’s powerful persuasion.

Confession #2: I started my career as a Media Buyer for traditional advertising agency (tv, radio, print) concerned with rating points and circulation.  I became highly frustrated with the black box and not knowing the true results of our campaigns but rather how many eyeballs we reached.  I was also highly frustrated as to the one way path of the communication.  In contrast with search, there is user intent, an identifiable need and a direct response to that need, a magical two way street.

Confession #3: I have a very balanced brain, which isn’t always a good thing. My right side of my brain works nearly as well as the left side of my brain and vice versa. I have an inherent conflict of using both creativity and analysis to make every decision. I sometimes drive my hubby crazy.

I’m not saying to stop looking at the data you need to look at to do your job well and make increases in performance. Thorough bid optimization, regular keyword /ad distribution expansion and deletion, methodical landing page and ad copy testing are all very important things to do. BUT take a 30,000 foot look once in awhile at your account, your landing pages, your offer, your company’s core key benefits and allow new ideas bubble to the surface.

Your homework assignment:

  • Take off the data hat for a few minutes and get away from your computer.
  • Think like a user. Put yourself in your best prospect’s head. Be empathetic.
  • Talk to your customers or prospects about what they are looking for, what your company could do better, and how they search.
  • Ask What-Ifs, Create Wish Lists, and Fill in the Blank “How cool would it be, if we could____”
  • Pull out your old Kotler textbook. Ask yourself if you are thinking strategically or simply implementing tactics.
  • Better tools and analytics are making SEM activities easier and more efficient. Use that time you save to take a step back and think, think, think.

I’m curious how you take time in your day/week/quarter to think strategically. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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Comments:
  • I have definitely found myself caught up is the data. It is so easy to do! After all, we get so much of it that it has become both a blessing and a curse.

    On a side note, getting away on vacation is helpful too. I always come back having forgotten my passwords and with a fresh look on my accounts.

    March 25, 2010 at 9:12 am
  • I often fall into the trap of “test everything” – it’s easy to forget the gut-check on whether or not things will work, but thinking through your target audience and the NEED behind the search can cut down on your total number of test variables.

    March 25, 2010 at 9:46 am
  • Frank
    Reply

    Great point Lisa.

    I’ve often found myself having sorted, filtered, sliced and diced the data then asking myself “now why am I doing this again?”

    Coming up for air is a necessary part of good analysis.

    March 25, 2010 at 11:02 am
  • nick
    Reply

    Sure, test everything, absolutely – why not? You can always improve a CTR, conversions, and overall performance and then identify what contributed to lift. Just make sure your vehicle for testing and organizing your data is valuable and efficient to implement.

    I agree, remove the data hat and take a step back from the quantitative methods to improve performance. Don’t get me wrong, the data IS DEFINITELY the backbone and an important piece because the numbers don’t and never will lie. The data allows us to build sexy graphs and trends – I think we can all agree that it is a great feeling in an account history when week over week you can show increases in conversion volume and decreased CPA, visually.

    However, there is another piece to the madness, the qualitative story. What is happening in your advertisers market that makes it tougher to be proven by the numbers? What are they…? The usability, the message, the offer, or other creativity? Yes, these things can all be tested and tracked, of course!

    Lets take another step back and think about this from the executive perspective (indeed, the 30,000 foot level) – What questions do those decision makers ask? They ask, “what is going to bring me more volume at a lower cost”(period!)? How are we going to get to the next level? What risks can we take to make this happen? You can always look at what the “other” guys are doing as leverage.

    It becomes tougher for new companies that are not established and don’t have common or recognized brands, you must think about this differently. You must figure out what the differentiators are. How are you different, and how far can you go to get that message into the marketplace.

    We all know there are conservative advertisers and there are advertisers that really put it out on the edge. I think there should be more focus put on creativity, and a ton can be learned by taking some of those risks. Do creative brainstorming and whiteboard sessions still exist? Do marketing professionals really still pitch clients on absurd ideas? Do they? Should they?
    That was my rant…

    March 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm
  • Lisa
    Reply

    Thanks for all your comments. Nice to know I’m not alone. This seems a common feeling among SEMers.

    Rants (opinions stated with conviction) always welcome.

    March 26, 2010 at 11:29 am

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