One of the reasons that I chose to leave the fast-paced agency life in favor of an in-house gig was the promise of getting a much deeper perspective on the business of marketing.
What I mean by that is while agency folk swear that they’re super strategic and 100% aligned with your broader business initiatives, the reality is that they must necessarily be focused on a broad number of clients and verticals. That can be a beautiful thing because it gives you tremendous perspective on how different types of business work and how that, in turn, impacts marketing strategy.
However, I remember from my last in-house stint – at CBS back in 2004-2005 – that working for a single brand requires a much deeper, integral understanding of the business and the myriad of key stakeholders that make that business go. Without that business acumen and counterpart buy-in your strategic approach to marketing for said brand is destined to fail regardless of which channel(s) you’re focused on (though in my experience, this is most evident when working with cross-functional channels like search and social).
So far, my experience at HSN has proven to be very much in line with that expectation. I’ve had to learn about all manner of brand and product assortments, from Dysons to dress shops. I’ve also had to build relationships with fellow marketing team members (digital and traditional) public relations staff, merchants, brand reps, senior execs, celebrity spokespeople, finance, legal, accounting, accounts payable, and, well, you get the picture.
And this has taught me a very valuable lesson about one of the fundamental elements of marketing strategy. Sometimes, being strategic simply means knowing what to keep in and what to leave out.
To help illustrate what I mean, I’ll pick one of the channels that I manage:
Every day (no seriously, every day) my SEO analyst identifies some interesting technical manifestation that prevents us from maximizing ROI for one of the thousands of revenue-generating keywords we manage (and that doesn’t even count that hundreds of thousands of potential revenue generating keywords that are on the back burner to a certain extent).
And every day, I must make a decision as to whether the day’s particular manifestation is worth fully exploring or should be put on that ever-growing back burner of opportunities. Mind you, it’s not that we don’t want to address every single one of these issues. It’s just that even with the help of a powerful SEO automation platform, several solid agency partners, and one of the most nimble dev staffs I’ve ever worked with we still don’t have enough bandwidth to tackle everything.
So instead, we started by writing down (and this is important, it can’t just be in your head) a fundamental strategic plan for 2012, and now it’s my job to make sure that my analysts, partners, colleagues (and myself) focus on the tactics and execution elements that will help fulfill that plan. Moreover, even though I created the plan in the first place, I often reach out to my boss for guidance and a fresh perspective, so that I can make sure that I’m on track and not veering of the path that was set several months ago.
For some of you reading this, the preceding advice will seem like a given. For others, it will seem way too rigid, bureaucratic, and for lack of a better word, corporate.
If you fall into the latter category, I implore you to take this strategic approach for a spin. You may just find that while ideas and opportunities are always abundant, the ability to properly decide which to keep and which to set aside can be a source of tremendous, measurable ROI.