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Where is everybody?

We're answering the big question "where is everybody?" and offering the reasons why organizations struggle to build awareness, drive traffic, and create engagement – and the steps you can take to make a measurable impact on your business.


Where is everybody?

Welcome back to 40 front doors, our weekly digital strategy and user experience podcast. This week, we're asking the big question. Where is everybody? This is one of the most common questions we encounter with our clients and one of the most important, so let's spend some time answering the question together, but first let's start with a story.

The Drake equation, the Drake equation was named after Frank Drake and astronomer, who in 1960 led the first official search for extra terrestrial radio signals at the national radio astronomy observatory in green bank, West Virginia, during a meeting with an eclectic group of thinkers, including Carl Sagan, Drake introduced a formula that could conceivably calculate the number of civilizations. Currently transmitting signals out into the Milky way. Drake measured the number of civilizations that could potentially transmit signals on seven factors. The yearly formation rate of stars has splittable to planets where life could develop. Then the fraction of those stars with planets, then the number of planets per solar system with conditions suitable for life.

Then the fraction of planets suitable for life on which life actually appears the fraction of planets on which intelligent life emerges. Then the fraction of planets with intelligent life that developed technologies like radio transmissions that we could detect. And finally, the average length of time in years that civilizations could produce such science based on that the universe should be teaming with life. But in 1950, during a meeting with other physicists at Los Alamos national laboratory and Rico phenome famously asked, where is everybody? And the same can be said for the current state of digital.

Most of what we do is digital strategists falls neatly into the category of that's obvious when examined after the fact, but getting there is a little more complicated. Here's why most of our clients know that content is a key ingredient for digital success. They should also know that keywords that align with the search intent of the user improve the quality of their content. We hope that most of our clients know that using those key words that most closely aligned to their business while simultaneously differentiating it from other similar businesses will ensure that their URL ranks higher than others on a search page.

They should also know that it's important that the content that the newly engaged user reads should be easy to understand digestible, charismatic, and informative. We should hope that they know that the user experience must be carefully designed to ensure that that newly engaged user is directed through a funnel that provides more specific and detailed information at each passing step. They should know that the user experience must be designed around a specific action co-located to the engaging and informative content, such that it captures and transforms that engagement into action. And most of our clients should know that the goals have to be measured through a disciplined and carefully designed analytic system to measure the return on investment or effectiveness of all of the steps I just described.

So if most of our clients know most of this, where is everyone? Why do agencies like 39, a exists to help organizations navigate these needs? Why do the companies we work with enterprise scale organizations, the biggest global brands complete with marketing capabilities, digital strategists, copywriters, user experience designers, SEO, experts, and technologists, all working together sometimes have a Bismal performing content, poor search rankings and lower than hoped for conversion and engagement rates. If the basic blueprint for digital success, the one that I just laid out is known by so many. Why isn't everyone performing better?

The answer is surprisingly simple. You're likely not spending enough and not for long enough, a survey of 168 chief marketing officers revealed that the median marketing budget was only 10% of the overall operating budget. And a mean average of 12%. When shown as a percentage of overall revenue, the mean was 8% and the median was 5%. That's not enough. For example, SAS companies spend more than half on average, more than half of their annual recurring revenue on sales and marketing costs. And some SAS companies can spend anywhere from 80 to 120% of their revenue on sales and marketing. Here's the unforgiving truth about that statement, whether or not we have the individual means to allocate that amount of marketing budget, it's who you're competing with online.

You're competing with that from a demand generation perspective, from a content marketing perspective, from an overall brand awareness and engagement strategy. You are competing with organizations who are throwing everything they have into making their audience aware of their brand and finding ways to engage with them. Now, content marketing is a longterm investment and results are not going to compound immediately. So you should expect a range of about four to six months to see significant and performance. Even if you're putting much more budget against that, it still takes time.

This raises our next big question. Why would an organization put upwards of 80% of their overall budget towards marketing? And that's obviously an extreme case, but why would an organization put 40 to 50% of its overall budget towards marketing? You have to understand and live by the reality that until somebody has a successful experience with your product, not just any experience, but a successful experience, your content is more valuable than your product. Once someone has a successful experience, the product itself, or the service itself becomes the marketing, but until then, your content plays an enormous role. In that, for example, the Cleveland clinic doesn't sell medical technology. It sells healthy life.

This is an organization that both performs exceptionally and markets exceptionally. It's not there to market the access to medical technology. It's to sell access to healthy health, full life. Porsche doesn't sell cars. Anyone can sell cars, it's sales performance Toyota can't sell performance the way that Porsche can. So Porsche sells performance. Nike doesn't sell shoes. It sells athletic ability and apple doesn't sell phones. It sells experiences. You're interacting with the content from the Cleveland clinic, Porsche, Nike, and apple. You're engaging with the descriptions of that product and with the customer driven benefits of those products. And that's experienced, especially in a digital context where most of the experiences we have occur, that that experience happens in content.

So now that 40 to let's say, 80% of your overall budget contribution starts to make a little bit more sense. These organizations sell the benefits and experiences, their products and services provide through rich content experiences that span every type of media from influencers to TV, podcast, radio, PPC, advertisements, sponsorships, PR blogs, and web content. The irony is that those organizations specifically the four that I mentioned can spend a hundred million dollars on advertising and more than likely you cannot. So your content marketing practice must be effective to survive like it or not. You're competing with global giants.

You're competing with them for keywords, eyeballs, and engagements. The internet is a crowded place. If you don't know where to stand. So spend where it matters and know which levers to pull.

If I was running a marketing organization, here are the three key areas that I would focus on. This is exactly what we tell our clients. This is broad advice, but this really covers so many of the challenges that we encounter first, develop your analytics capabilities, know what to measure, but importantly, how to measure it, getting the, how right is more important upfront. The what comes with experimentation. If you're not an expert and you don't know exactly how to measure things, the what won't matter as much. So you have to know how to create the right types of goals, how to measure the right types of engagements.

Then that gives you the latitude to experiment on what you begin measuring. So a lot of that is technical expertise, develop in-house technical expertise, or find an agency that can augment that for you to develop your key word development and analysis capabilities. You have to define the problem. Your customers are trying to solve too many organizations, focus on the product or the service they're trying to sell more than they should and ignore the problem that customers or your audience is trying to solve. Identify the common keywords that those customer problems are described with. You have to connect that search intent to the words inside the customer's head, and then learn how to develop keyword rich high value content, and understand how things like page titles, meta descriptions, H ones and semantically related keywords, page length, and readability impact the performance of your page.

This comes back to where the conversation started. If everybody knows how to do this, why isn't it getting done? And the likely answer, if you don't have the capabilities or you don't have the dollars towards the investment is becomes latent knowledge. Nothing happens with it. It's, it's got a lot of potential, but it's a Boulder sitting at the edge of a cliff until you push it off, nothing's going to happen. It's not going to build any momentum. Third, develop your ability to design a funnel and effective user experiences. You have to craft user experiences that collate those customer benefits with your value propositions, you have to design interactions and click paths that help you better understand what kind of decisions users are making.

And the content they're more interested in your website is an ongoing experiment. If you're just moving things around and you don't understand how to create controls to the experiment, it's experimentation gone awry. But if you understand the interaction between user experience and content, you can start to design those click paths that will tell you what your audience is more interested in. And that's how you begin to optimize that value towards an engagement. You have to design pages that have clear calls to action forms and engagements that give users and your organization a concrete next step. You also should be thinking about designing automated communications, that support that user experience and confirm next steps through emails, chat routines, and provide additional information and value at every step of the engagement. We love answering the big question, where is everybody?

It's why we exist. We love helping our clients answer that big question, and hopefully I've provided some blueprint to help you understand how to answer that question. So now you can take the necessary steps and hopefully avoid the question being asked of you. It's not a fun question to get asked if you don't have the answers. So with the right content in place, your audience will find you and with the right user experience in place, you will engage them. So go and develop your budget, build your practice, develop your content and commit as always. Thank you for spending this time with me. I hope that this information has given you ideas as to how you'll build your practice. And I look forward to speaking with you again soon, take care.