Go Home Digital Marketers, You’re Drunk
The toughest job in business right now is Digital Marketing Manager. Not because any one thing that she does is so difficult, but because we’re not giving her the tools that she needs to be successful.
The first day that you walk into your job as an accountant, salesperson, operations manager, it’s clear what your objective is. There’s also a history of successes and failures in your role that give your employer a pretty good range of what they can expect as output.
That’s just not case for the Digital Marketing Manager. On her first day she’s typically told that the brand is full of opportunity and it’s up to her to chart her own path using the resources available to deliver results. What are those results, though? We’ve become drunk on the case studies and the campaign videos that show massive success with minimal input to the point where we can’t distinguish one from the other.
Remember Amy Brown? She’s the Wendy’s Social Media Manager who everyone fell in love with when she “threw shade” at McDonalds and various other people on Twitter. She’s led us to believe that our Twitter account can get us national press if we just find that magic combination of 280 characters.
Remember Michael Dubin? He’s the real-life CEO of Dollar Shave Club who skyrocketed the launch of his new company with his perfectly timed video that broke through a stagnant industry, gaining millions of views along the way. Michael trained us to think that if our content was just a bit funnier, that we, too, could get bought out by Unilever for $1 Billion.
And how about Michael Preysman? He’s the founder of Everlane who earned massive word-of-mouth growth through organic community and beautifully styled social media content. Brands like his have tricked us into thinking that we just need a slightly better photo set, plus some transparency, and our channels will start pumping people into our stores.
The problem is not that we look to these success stories as inspiration, the problem is that we look at all of them together as a model of what’s possible. It’s not.
I promise you that no matter how much budget you give your Digital Marketing Manager that she will never achieve Wendy’s street cred, Dollar Shave Club’s virality and Everlane’s passionate community.
If the organization wholeheartedly supports her, not only with cash, but with its trust, creativity, and enthusiasm, and if the brand genuinely has a compelling story to tell, and if she’s a goddamn rockstar, then maybe (just maybe) you can achieve one of those elements of success.
The problem is not our people or even the good intentions that we have when we hire them. The problem is the way that we define what success looks like.
Here’s the solution
Define what success looks like in real, non-digital terms. Then be 100% transparent about those expectations and rely on your Manager to tell you what she needs in order to achieve that. If you’ve hired the right person, then she’ll know what she needs in order to go get that success for you.
Sounds simple, right?
It isn’t, and that’s because we’re drunk. It’s the 2am drive-thru order at Wendy’s. A Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, Spicy Chicken and a bowl of Chili? No meal is complete without a Frosty. Throw some fries in there, too.
Has anyone ever actually finished one of those orders?
Our inebriated eyes are bigger than our stomachs, which is why we think that we can have it all. Instead, we actually give ourselves a chance to be successful when we decide what we are and what we want.
I’ve prepared a list for you, both to help illustrate my point, and to guide your thinking. In no way is this list meant to be the whole menu, but it should start to shape some thinking about how you can define success for your own team:
Direct Success Value
- Traffic & revenue – the obvious one: how much stuff did we sell? There’s nothing wrong with setting this as your target, but don’t hire a comedian to do a data-driven marketers’ job.
- Balance sheet – the work that we do can have a real impact on balance sheets. Organic search results, social media audiences, and owned media traffic can each contribute to the price that people will pay for franchises, or a company’s valuation for financing.
- Strategic value – what is X worth to you? Sometimes business leaders see a strategic reason for an objective that may not appear on a balance sheet or PnL. There’s nothing wrong with that, but those leaders must clearly define up front: This is what success looks like, and it’s worth $X to us, therefore the budget is $Y.
Indirect Success Value
- Cost displacement – digital & social can recruit new staff, retain existing staff, manage crisis, provide customer support and a variety of other functions that you’d otherwise be using budget on in other areas of the business. The displacement value comes from costs that are displaced, or become unnecessary, because of your digital & social team.
- Risk mitigation – are you the market incumbent looking to fend off encroachments on your space? Or a publicly traded company that is significantly damaged by negative sentiment or false information? That has value, the question is: How much?
- Opportunity creation – have you been thinking about opening an online store but don’t have the audience? Or are you looking at expanding into a new market and want to gauge interest? Define what success looks like, assign a $ value to it and set your Manager free to go get it for you.
I know that this is true, and that each of those six Success Values is possible because I’ve worked with digital teams for the past seven years, and what has become painfully clear to me is that teams with clear objectives have a great chance to achieve them, and teams with drunk leaders stagger around until either the leaders or the team inevitably leave the company.
We’ll have lots more on Success Valuation, objective setting, and team development in the coming weeks, so make sure that you’re on the email list. Every Monday I send out an email with thoughts like these, as well as the latest digital & social news along with why you should (or shouldn’t) pay attention to them. Sign up below and I’ll see you in your inbox next Monday.