Control-Freak Execs and Online Marketing

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This week, I saw several posts on Search Engine Journal’s weekly news recap with people talking ownership of their trade, how each facet of online marketing is truly a craft and really, the need for experts.

This got me thinking about that age-old issue of business owners and execs believing that just because they run successful companies, they have the expertise to make critical decisions as it relates to online marketing. Funny thing is, we’re still talking about it … after all these years.

To Whom It May Concern:

I see that you have a college degree and several credentials mounted on your wall. And they actually have nothing to do with marketing, copywriting, SEO or any of the like. So please stop trying to run the show.


The Expert

Eh, maybe they didn’t get the memo. But there’s a strange phenomenon happening all over the U.S.: Countless business owners are actually hiring experts in their craft to improve their company’s online presence. Crazy, right?

Except instead of trusting their expertise, everyone involved becomes part of a weird control freak show, where the experts are only allowed to contribute as much as the boss will let them.

One of my favorite comics by The Oatmeal is How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell. It really sums up the twisted relationship that can happen sometimes between company and expert. So, how do we, as experts, get past this endless push and pull?

This past week, Bruce Clay hosted a webinar on Search Marketing Now that talked about SEO in large organizations, managing expectations and tactics for successful implementation. One point he made loud and clear is that education is key when receiving buy in. This includes educating the decision makers to make sure people understand the process so they can support it.

At Bruce Clay, Inc., it’s in our contracts that clients attend our SEO training so they can understand everything that goes into what we do here, because we’re committed to knowledge transfer. It not only gives them a good grasp of the craft of online marketing, but also allows communication of the strategy to become more fluent during the span of the working relationship.

In the webinar, Bruce also talked proving the benefits of an SEO strategy. It’s been my experience that if you can show how the strategy can affect the bottom line, you’re more likely to get what you want (aka, what’s best for the company) – but it’s not always easy to define success with things like Web design and copywriting. And seems like it’s even harder to prove you actually want the company to succeed, which is why they hired you in the first place and why you’re making the suggestions you’re making. So, what gives?

Our SEM Synergy podcast earlier this month invited a couple specialists here at Bruce Clay, Robert Esparza and Alan Lamb (see Robert catch Saturday night fever here), to talk challenges of selling an SEO project that meets the client’s goals and needs.

Alan and Robert speak on behalf of the vendor versus the in-house expert, and say if you have the luxury, assess the project and the client’s expectations prior to taking the business on, so you know it’s something that’s set up for success in the long run. Ask yourself, Are the client’s expectations feasible? If not, be honest with yourself and the client, taking care not to sacrifice your recommendations at the cost of being amicable.

A recent post by Robin Fox on the HubSpot blog talks 10 steps to get CEO approval for online marketing. She makes some really great points on how to communicate to the decision makers, regardless of the recommendation:

  • Study the decision makers like customers to find out what makes them tick.
  • Focus on the benefits not features.
  • Speak their language. Literally. Then make concepts visual not just language-based.
  • Find the right person in the organization to deliver the message.

Sometimes these concepts work, and sometimes you can talk until you’re blue in the face and still, your decision maker might just go with his or her opinion. And so the story goes …

So it seems like all we can do is exchange our secret weapons on how to conquer the anal retentiveness that is the control-freak executive. I want to know, how do you assert your expertise either within your organization or as a vendor working with client companies? Chime in and tell us about it.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

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3 Replies to “Control-Freak Execs and Online Marketing”

It’s a very interesting article,this has actually made the experts to play a puppet show.

Its amazing how many times a business executive can think they know more or better than the expert. This isn’t just isolated to SEO, but it does crop up a lot. Often its a case of being diplomatic whilst not concessionary.

Thanks for your comment, Mike. Diplomacy definitely goes along way. Negotiation, I think, goes further. Give them as much of what they want as you can while still pushing the critical goals.


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