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Mike Fleming

What Makes a Digital Marketing Genius?

Mike Fleming
What Makes a Digital Marketing Genius?

Professional digital marketers run into it all the time. The web development company that “does SEO.” The in-house marketing manager or small business owner who “sets up some PPC campaigns.”

Now, they’ve come to us to find out what’s gone wrong.

Of course, this is frequently followed by shock and awe that we would suggest their web presence requires (and deserves!) a healthy monthly investment in the range of thousands of dollars. We never hear from many of them again.

The Nature of Digital Marketing

There’s something about the digital marketing industry that clouds people’s judgment of the complexity, importance and value of it. Maybe it’s because of the relative infancy of it all. Perhaps it’s due to the ease with which digital tools allow anybody to play around with the gears and knobs of websites and digital marketing tools. Just add a line here, create a page there or hit the +Campaign button and get more “qualified” traffic to your site! It’s probably a combination of these and many other factors.

Today, I’d like to deal with the “easy” button that many think lies within the digital marketing realm. The truth is that technology and the companies behind them (not naming any names, but one rhymes with frugal :)) have made the actual implementation of digital marketing quite easy. We and our wallets thank them for that. But what we’re not so thankful for is when they promote it as such, leading many to believe there’s really not much to it.

The Gap Between Implementation and Knowledge

This leaves many non-professionals failing to realize the Grand Canyon-like distinction that exists between implementation (hitting the +Campaign button) and the knowledge that directs the strategy/details of implementation (the hours and hours put in before and after hitting the button). What needs to be known is the gap between these two makes all the difference in the world to their results. For us professional digital marketers, this is what makes us worth it. This is what more than justifies the lofty investment we’re asking to be made in us.

It’s like my investment in my haircut every two weeks. There came a day in the not-so-distant past that the thickness (or should I say lack thereof) of my hair required a change in strategy. Instead of getting the nice GQ-type studly haircut I’d always been accustomed to, it was time to move on to a straight buzz cut with the clippers.

In my mind, I couldn’t yet justify paying the price of a haircut for a hairdresser to use clippers on my head. I decided to ask my wife to do it, even though she’d never cut hair before in her life. I thought to myself, “How hard could it be?” After all, clippers are made to be easy to use, right? Just pop the right guard length on there and move your hand back and forth!

Boy, was I wrong. I knew it as soon as I saw the results. I realized why the investment in the hairdresser was worth it. Not only was my hair a mess, it took five times longer and I had to clean up the mess on the floor afterward. The money I pay for my haircuts is totally worth it because the person cutting my hair has the skill and put in the hard work to know exactly what to do.

It Takes More Than Skill

Most of us have heard the famous Thomas Edison quote, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” Because of the nature of the digital marketing space, I think this is one instance where this quote applies perfectly.

Yes, it takes skill to be a good digital marketer. You’ve got to be creative to capture attention in a medium where there’s so much noise and set your ads apart from the competition. You’ve got to have analytical skills to be able to extract insights from data that will guide you into what adjustments need to be made. You’ve got to be organized to be able to segment all of your tasks, campaigns and data to be timely, accurate and efficient. I could go on and on.

But what I will submit to you is that more than anything, it takes good, old-fashioned hard work. The reason I feel this way is because we live in a time period where we have access to more data than ever before in the history of the world. If we want to find the answer to a question, or how to use a new feature of a tool, or what our competitors are up to, or what to do about a problem we’re experiencing, or whatever, it’s out there for the finding.

We can follow experts like the ones on this blog, or the ones that congregate in spaces like PPC Chat (#ppcchat) as they dispense the latest and greatest information and strategies for improving one’s web presence. All the knowledge in the world that one needs to be great at digital marketing is out there for the taking, literally. What ends up setting apart digital marketing geniuses from people left with a mess on their hands is the hard work of finding and learning the knowledge it takes to be successful. If you can find someone like that, they are worthy of a lofty investment from businesses everywhere.

Mike Fleming specializes in PPC for Point It Digital Marketing a leading digital marketing agency helping businesses grow since 2002. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem.

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