Marketing hubris will get you killed
Ian Lurie Mar 7 2012
Marketing hubris will get you killed. Especially in search.
I hate it when someone asks me “Have you worked with other companies like ours?” If I have, I consider it a vulnerability, not a strength, because I’ve got the a-word: Assumptions.
Anyone starting a marketing campaign with assumptions is one step from failure. Why? Because those assumptions prevent adaptation.
It’s not the assumptions themselves. If you’ve worked with 10 travel agencies, then yes, you probably have a decent idea how to start an SEO campaign for the 11th. It’s the refusal to abandon those assumptions that gets folks in trouble. It’s a kind of marketing hubris. I see it happen again and again.
A great example
An insurance company hires a search marketing firm. This firm has years of experience with other insurance companies. They’re insurance marketing sages. They nod thoughtfully in initial meetings. Then they say “Create PPC ads based on cost and great service.” And “Do SEO around ‘cheap car insurance’.”
Well, slap my forehead, I NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF THAT. No chance every OTHER insurance company on the planet is doing the exact same thing. This is PURE GENIUS.
Six months later, insurance company is bleeding money, stuck in the same race to the bottom they’re always in. The marketing firm can’t see that their client has the biggest, best network of agents and support on the planet. So they never talk about breadth of coverage. They just keep bleating “Low cost! Great service!”
I’m not saying, “Don’t hire experienced firms.” Just make sure they have the wisdom to put aside assumptions. Check ’em for that hubris thing.
It’s not the rankings, it’s how you get there
In search marketing—and yes, I mean both SEO and PPC—marketing hubris can be fatal. Search may seem like the pursuit of a finite set of keywords, with everyone scratching and clawing their way to the top using identical strategies. But it’s nothing like that.
Yes, you may need to rank for ‘car insurance’ or ‘jeans’, just like all your competitors. It is a zero-sum game. But the way you get there must be unique to you. You must use your unique strengths, or you’re going to be crushed in a riot of me-too’s.
Try an experiment: Build your search campaigns around the things that make you better than competitors. Don’t focus on getting the same links they have, or having the same word count, or trying to match bid amounts and ad copy. Instead, find 2-3 things that clearly, totally separate you from the pack. Then:
- Build your content strategy around them.
- Play up those attributes in social media.
- Create PPC ads and landing pages that emphasize them.
For example: If you sell furniture, and you have more orange couches than anyone else, run PPC ads that say “YES! We Have Orange Couches!” I bet you’ll sell a few.
Try it for a month. See how it goes.
And, if you’re a potential client, feel free to ask me if I’ve worked for other companies like yours. Just realize I’m always going to say ‘no’.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More