The Death Of Marketing Expertise
Where have all the search professionals gone? Contributor Andrew Goodman explores the state of the search agency industry today and wonders if we can be doing better.
Recently, I had dinner in Orlando with Bill and Ted (not their real names), some pretty successful digital agency owners. (By successful, I mean more than 50 employees and strong annual revenues.)
They’ve been friends of mine for a long time, so I assumed they’d be up for a little of the usual expert banter.
The first punch in the gut came when I casually explained about some PPC bidding methods we routinely use. My friends had no idea what I was talking about. Hyperventilating, I reminded myself they deliver SEO services, primarily.
So I told a story from the SEO world. As usual, it involved a chartered jet, a bottle of Scandinavian spirits, a spammer with a weird nickname and a senior Google evangelist who shall remain nameless. I was interrupted as I was just getting warmed up. The guys who run this SEO-first agency simply had not heard of the senior Googler — one of a handful of SEO evangelists Google has ever had in its history.
Talk turned to sports. The longevity of Jaromir Jagr’s mullet was debated.
Pardon the assumption, but I always thought the owners of professional services firms were more respected when they had “chops.” Granted, the owners or top execs of an agency may not need to get down in the weeds for their team to be successful. But you’d think we’d at least need to maintain a culture of expertise in agencies.
Less obvious — but no less important, if you ask me — is the need to keep up with an industry’s people, personalities and events. At some level, networks and connections matter. It’s hard to divorce the concept of maintaining relationships with key people (key experts) in a fast-moving industry from the very kernel of expertise itself. There are the “on paper” answers to tough problems, and there are the “real answers.” A great network provides shortcuts to the truth.