Featured Internet Marketing

The Marketing Stack, aka: Why Do You Keep Getting Fired?

Update: I wrote a much longer, more complete article about this, called One-Trick Ponies Get Shot And other stories: Digital marketing strategy done right. You might want to read that, instead.

TL;DR version: Strategic thinking + tactical recommendations grows digital agency/client relationships. ‘Strategy’ means thinking across all digital disciplines — not just the ones in your contract. We created the Marketing Stack to explain it. Click here to see it.

Tactics should drive strategy, which should drive tactics.

Now that you’ve sprained your frontal lobe, let me explain:

A Story Older Than Money

Recognize this graph?


That’s the inevitable relationship cycle for 85% of all SEO, PPC, etc. marketing contracts: Honeymoon. Ho hum. Oblivion.

Oblivion arrives when the client says something like:

“We love you guys, really, but it’s time to try a different option. You’re fired.”

If you run an agency, that’s a stab-yourself-with-a-spoon, slam-your-head-in-a-drawer moment.

The Nagging Question

I’ve always told my team we did a great job (we did) but that it was time to move on (I guess).

But I’ve known all along: Something’s not right. If we deliver clear value, and the client knows it, why should we ever get fired?

I know I’m ignoring some of those unavoidable gotchas around internal politics, mergers and such. But for us, at least, those are the exception, not the rule.

To many clients, the value *isn’t* clear. Why?

It’s the Silos

I’ve talked about over-dependence on data. But that’s the tip of the iceberg.

It’s the silos. Traditional digital wisdom has been: Don’t cross the invisible line! Stay within your scope of work!!! Otherwise, you’re doomed!

We need to turn that completely inside-out.

Tactics < Strategy < Tactics

If you want to deliver years of value to your clients:

  1. Start tactical: Do the job for which we were hired.
  2. Then think strategically, outside that job. Find other strategic opportunities.
  3. Make tactical recommendations around those opportunities.

The numbers reinforce the model: I looked at 10 years of our client history. Where we followed this formula, we kept the client 3x longer. We also got hired for more and more work.

It’s the classic T-shaped knowledge set scenario.

I’ve tried to help clients and marketers visualize this for years. I started with Conversation Marketing, way back in 2000. But I’ve been testing another idea for a year and it resonates:

The Marketing Stack

the marketing stack

The marketing stack shows the strategic ‘containers’ of an internet marketing campaign. There are only two rules:

  • Every component of the stack impacts all components above it
  • Every component is essential to ‘healthy’ marketing


Putting it All Together: The Marketing Stack Explorer

The Portent team built an interactive explainer that lets you visualize the marketing stack:

The stack explorer

But that’s just a picture. Take it for a test drive.

The wrap-up

I’ll be publishing more about stack containers over the next few months. If you want to know when those posts go live, or when we upgrade the Marketing Stack Explorer, follow me on Twitter or Google Plus.

Think I left something out? Send me a note on Twitter, Google Plus, or leave them below in the comments.

PS: I’ll be talking more about the Marketing Stack at my May SEMPDX presentation.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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