Search marketers have for a long time focused their efforts on operational excellence. However, automation and feed-based ad formats are gradually minimizing the marginal value of platform focused work. This does not mean, however, that the expertise or skills which are core to Search marketing roles have become redundant, rather that the focus and scope of the job will need to shift.
The role of a search specialist can bring with it a deep understanding of purchase cycles and market trends, but also expertise within experimentation and data-driven decision making. These skills have been critical for marketers to excel in their roles but are also valuable in other parts of the business. Marketers should actively try to export their skills and knowledge beyond the PPC department and into other branches of the company. But to bridge those insights and skills with the rest of the organization, marketers need to increase the scope of their role by focusing even more on the business’ core objective (and problems). This post will cover both what role scopes marketers will need to take in the future, as well as the skills needed to succeed.
Vertical or Horizontal Scope Increases
One way marketers can increase their scope of responsibility is by focusing more on the company’s most critical business objectives (and problems) and leveraging their access to market and customer insights to help decision-making on a more strategic level. In marketing theory, we usually discuss planning in 3 different tiers:
- Strategy: Setting the overall agenda for all activity over a long-time period.
Examples: Define company-wide USP, invest in new, integratable ERP system, initiate new markets.
- Tactics: Resource planning and allocation focused on enabling/guiding operational tasks in the medium-run.
Examples: Reallocating budgets, plan ad copy testing, test new bid strategies, adjusting targets.
- Operations: Day-to-day operations using real-time data and focused on execution in the short-run.
Examples: Adding keywords, fixing disapproved ads, analyze ad copy performance.
Moving focus from operational tasks to tactical and strategic planning is what we refer to as a vertical scope increase. To enable this move, marketers should focus on establishing a better feedback loop with the rest of the organization and seek out opportunities for Search marketing to aid other parts of the business.
This, however, depends heavily on Search marketers’ ability to acquire sufficient organizational awareness to understand how they can aid other business units and what the strategic priorities of the company should be. For example, marketers can help the Supply Chain improve their forecasting using search trends and align their marketing spend towards product categories likely to be overstocked. Through the delivery of insights and use of the channels to maximise impact, marketers greatly enhance their contribution to the overall business goals.
Search marketers can also expand their scope horizontally by acquiring competencies within neighbouring business areas. This could be within other marketing channels, such as how to create a full funnel strategy with audiences from YouTube ads, or by using creative insights from Search and Facebook to articulate USPs across the two platforms. However, Search marketers should not only seek to expand their competencies within other marketing channels. There will also be a greater need for Search marketers who are able to lead on-page optimization projects such as CRO and SEO.
With Google acquiring more and more control of platform optimization, operations such as targeting and ad copy are less in the control of marketers. However, there is still one component, which marketers can fully control: The Website. Of course, Google’s optimization algorithm is able to pick the best landing page, but the algorithm can only choose from what is currently available.
There are opportunities for marketers to gain a competitive advantage by having a joint-strategy with web development teams to both identify opportunities for new content, as well as experiment and deploy better conversion funnels on-site. So whereas skills within Search marketing can enable marketers to promote new web-content, skills within CRO and SEO will guide the content that should exist. It is, of course, challenging for marketers to specialize in multiple fields. Search marketers need to be “T-shaped”: specialists in their field, yet able to collaborate across many disciplines (for more about T-shaped personalities, read here).
For both vertical and horizontal scope increases, the main focus is to achieve organizational synergies through skill-sharing and improved information-loops. But in order to truly be able to move beyond operational and single-channel optimization responsibilities, marketers also need to diversify their teams and obtain the skills necessary to take on these new scopes.
Promote Skill & Mindset Diversification
If you took any finance course in school, chances are that when you hear the term diversification you immediately think about portfolio strategies. However, whereas diversification in finance purely seeks to reduce capital risk, mindset and skill diversification within teams is an enabler of synergy-driven innovations. As stated by Pat Wadors, Head of HR at Linkedin:
When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different we become a wiser, more inclusive, and better organization.
In this next section, we will discuss two types of skill sets and mindsets that are critical to occupy for any Search marketing team seeking to go beyond their current responsibilities.
In our last post in the Search 2020 series, we discussed the necessity of merging business strategy-savviness with technical skills to design a better bidding strategy. However, these skills can rarely sit entirely within a single individual, nor should they. Teams should consist of specialists within both areas and managers should focus on enabling the translation of the ideas, concerns, and expertise between the strategist and technical experts. In the next section, we will introduce the type of skill archetypes that will be in high demand in Search marketing.
A Data Wizard is characterized by their ability to conjure insights and transmute those insights into actions. They require a deep understanding of ETLs, APIs, integration of marketing data and other databases, as well as automation to free up valuable resources within teams. Data Wizards should, however, avoid over-specialization within only Search. Their skills are broadly applicable and since marketing strategies need to be more integrated, Search marketers focusing on data magic should focus on deep technical expertise rather than deep platform-centric knowledge.
Strategy Warriors take on a different role as people who win the organizational battles and set the strategic mission. Their strength lies in their organizational awareness which enables them to define the ideal objective and their ability to allocate resources for that purpose. For example, Strategy Warriors enable Data Wizards to deploy their solutions, but also give them the information needed to focus their resources on the projects which yields the most impact. They gather troops from across the business and plan how to approach new ventures such as market expansions, setting targets, USPsand allocating budgets accordingly. In short, a Strategy Warrior facilitates the organizational synergies needed for Search marketers to keep innovating in the right direction and have the right resources to do so.
“Two minds are better than one”, but only if they think differently. Within Search marketing, there has been a strong focus on iterative and incremental improvement. Unsurprisingly, this has trickled down to what skills are valued. But with the shift from operational management of Search campaigns to strategic, cross-organizational collaborations, marketing teams might find themselves in a “mindset diversity deficit”. According to Andy Crestodina, CEO of Orbit, the digital marketing industry is dominated by what he refers to as Hares and Tortoises, innovators and optimizers. These archetypes have different strengths and weaknesses, but both will be equally important in the future.
Optimisation Tortoises are currently the dominant species among Search marketing specialists. They focus on iterative procedures,slowly glean insights from their experiences, and deploy any changes as experiments. Data is the foundation of all their decisions. This makes them great at continuously improving performance but they will rarely bring forth earth-shattering innovations. In other words, their impact is certain but limited. Optimisation Tortoises are a necessity in any marketing team, but if you overly rely on them, you will be overtaken by fast-moving competitors.
Innovation Hares are the speedy and creative individuals in a marketing team, who always strive to push for innovation and bring new ideas to the table. In recent years, Innovation Hares have been lacking in Search marketing teams, but they will be more important in today’s environment. This is because the need for organizational collaboration will require more out-of-box thinking since the opportunities for organizational synergies rarely present themselves easily. However, with rapid innovation comes a lack of reliance on data, something that will be extremely detrimental for a Search campaign. Running Search activity without experimentation and efficiency will inevitably hurt performance, so to keep a balanced ecosystem in your team. You will need mindset-diversity.
We are all different. You can be Hare-Warrior seeking vertical scope increase by securing resources for a new audience-based landing page strategy. Or a Tortoise-Wizard improving the reliability of the multi-channel data warehouse to assess budget efficiency.
But it is important to remember that humans rarely fit perfectly the generalizations we use to make sense of personality types and the world in general. We all exist in some type of spectrum. However, when managers plan their Search teams, they may use these stereotypes to identify traits in potential hires that the team is currently lacking. The most important part is that teams start embracing the changes in the industry, and cultivate both skill and mindset diversification. It will otherwise be impossible for Search marketers to enhance their scope, either horizontally and vertically.
The next and last post in our Search 2020 series will focus on translating insights into actions and discuss why data silos are the bane of innovation. Read it online 04/03/2020.