I had a funny conversation with a sales rep from Google who called to sell me on reselling AdWords and AdSense. She was smart, well informed on Google’s offering, and pretty well briefed on the company I work for. But when I told her Paid Search and SEO weren’t on the roster of services I would be offering in 2006, she went, like, totally blonde on me. "You’re a PR and Marketing firm, right?" Yes, I confirmed, and we don’t do search marketing. She barely concealed her incredulity, circling back to the beginner’s pitch to introduce me to AdWords. Yes, yes, I know. Great stuff, really. No, not interested, thanks. But if you want to send me some material I’ll keep it on file. She couldn’t resist confirming one final time, "You are a PR firm…right?"
Yes. I know Google is a really big phenomenon, and I know AdWords is critical for generating topline revenue at many companies–especially if they happen to be selling something like refrigerator magnets or life insurance. I’ve advised businesses spending 10s of thousands of dollars a month on paid search, and others spending over $100k on SEO. When something like 80% of all Internet traffic begins at a search engine, it’s a good idea to understand how the game works. But–gasp–I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all marketing strategy for most businesses. This seemed to come as a genuine shock to the Google Ad Rep. As if, what else is there?
Well, I think the biggest What Else is what seems to be a rapidly resurging relevance for Social Marketing–a marketing approach that focuses on meticulously cultivating relationships with a selected audience rather than trying to push a critical mass of anonymous and abstract targets through a response filter. As effective as AdWords is today, it still represents a paint-by-numbers approach to mass marketing that won’t stand on its own in a world where users have on-demand access–through Google, no less–to hundreds of data points on your product from media sources, expert reviews and countless peers. Businesses are rapidly losing control of their own message, and channel efficiency isn’t going to solve the problem.
I’ll post more on this after the CMO Summit in Monterey this week. For now, I’m not sure whether I’m captivated more by the Google Ad Rep’s inability to conceive of any marketing tactic beyond Search–are they really that self-inflated?–or by the thought that she was so incredulous because she doesn’t come across any other companies that question Search’s omnipotence. That can’t be true. Can it?