The Houston Astros used to be my favorite baseball team. I don’t mean today’s Astros, who are fine, btw, or even the solid clubs of the Jeff Bagwell/Craig Biggio era. I’m talking the Alan Ashby-Cesar Cedeño-Luis (not Albert) Pujols Astros. (Still have my vintage Astros jersey with full-body wraparound stripes and giant star.) Year after year those Astros had arguably the best pitching staff in baseball, anchored by fireballer and strikeout king Nolan Ryan. Game after game they would either shut out the other team or give up a run or two—and lost a lot more games than they should because too often the Astros’ batting order couldn’t hit its way out of a paper bag (OK, the infield).
Employers and clients, we can hit home runs for you, but only if you put us in the game. (Gag me before I cliché again, but segues are not always pretty.)
Quick reality check for we, the providers. We are in a results-oriented business, and no one who works here should expect to get paid if we don’t deliver the goods. I also have zero patience for the pricey prima donna model formerly favored by some: T&E by the ton to wine and dine clients or discuss internal strategy, then farm out the heavy lifting to juniors/interns. Plus in today’s crushing global economy, many companies are forced to cut costs to the bone just to try to survive. They see us as an expense, and the last thing they can afford right now is another expense.
Yet there comes a point when I survey the war-torn landscape and say to you, valued internal or external clients: Either you’re in business or not. If you are, the best thing you can do is create a new revenue stream and harvest more revenue from your existing customer base. Maybe you’re not sure where your market is going or how its needs are changing. Your existing competitors are expanding their offerings and you’re not sure how to keep up. A huge new competitor is hungrily eying your competitive space—and you.
Like the Astros of yesteryear, you can’t merely defend your way out of this one. To win the game you have to score, too.
Here’s the good news: We have plenty of good hitters in our dugout. So stop shrinking back in fear of today’s grim business climate and instead go on the offensive to attack the marketplace. Stake your claim. I know many markets are fading; practice revenue replacement by growing your business into new areas. We’ll start by tricking out your website as the commerce combustion engine it needs to be, rapidly upping your page rankings and putting in place a plan for ongoing organic growth. We’ll drop in an e-commerce shopping cart if that’s appropriate to your business, rich Internet apps and connectivity to all the web places you need to be. We’ll protect your brand in the digital age by locking up all relevant domains so those who set off to find you don’t find competitors instead. We’ll have a universe of web venues happily backlinking to you for maximum site rank and most importantly business value. We’ll use Google and other hosted or installed apps to optimize and monitor your site and traffic, break out formerly-stagnant content into reader-ready, FeedBurnered feeds—including some I’ll guarantee you haven’t thought of no matter how well you know your company—and launch choice new chunks of online real estate that will clarify what I mean when I say your core website is only the beginning. We’ll launch your own blogs and online newsrooms and do SEO-optimized blog entries on others. We’ll create social media news releases, use Salesforce.com to build out and execute sophisticated drip marketing campaigns, turn to others like Constant Contact when we need to blast your message to more than 1,000 prospects a day, and get you cinema-savvy with your own viral videos. We’ll advertise with Google AdWords and other opportunities that make good (ad) sense.
Client forums, virtual tradeshow presence and a myriad of other business-building online best practices await.
One of my earlier entries spoke of a company that chose to ignore social media and leave its website painfully non-optimized. Another talked about re-engineering ourselves as better practitioners of the interactive arts to change the game. A third shared strategies that have helped the interactive-averse see the light. Before I close this entry, let’s close that loop with a quick note about what we as interactive marketers need from you.
First, it would help if you don’t demand $1,000 of guaranteed instant results for every dollar you spend with us. When I hear those who write the checks talk about dabbling in interactive and pulling the plug if they don’t witness a miracle in a month or two, I want to remind them it’s more like planting a field and reaping a bountiful harvest—but not tomorrow! I also want to ask: When you bought that new phone system, did you threaten to rip it out if inbound sales call volume didn’t quadruple? Do you fire the sales force every six months if sales don’t improve? (OK, some of you do.) Do you demand X dollars in revenue for every radio spot or never advertise again? You just spent a couple of thousand dollars to outsource a telemarketing campaign and you didn’t even get a guaranteed minimum number of “completes” or leads. How’d that work out for you?
Second, appreciate that interactive is the gift that keeps on giving 24/7. The new models deployed by the denizens of the digital age mean that a lot of the infrastructure we can use to build this out for you is either low-cost or free. The main cost to you is for our expertise helping you navigate it all, cost-effectively and to maximum effect. Many of us—not all, but many—are worth it.
Finally, stop thinking of interactive as a fancy, fluttering banner at the stadium that you can’t quite read from where you’re sitting. Interactive is fast becoming the field of play. Or, to nudge it back over to our leadoff analogy: The diamond.