Gini Dietrich

Fifteen Reasons Digital Marketing Works for Us…and Not For You

By: Gini Dietrich | June 6, 2013 | 

Fifteen Reasons Digital Marketing Works for Us...and Not For YouYou know what sucks (besides spin, of course)?

People who think a communications firm isn’t a real company.

People who won’t invest in your success because they don’t perceive your multiple sale rate to be as large as, say, the newest tech idea.

Media outlets that won’t consider your leaders for awards such as Top 40 Under 40 because you do PR for a living (which, apparently, isn’t a real career).

New business prospects who want a bunch of stuff for free – including your high-level thinking on a business you don’t yet know intimately – before they decide to hire you (or not).

But you know the one that kills me? The one that really, really gets to me? People who say, “Of course all this digital marketing stuff works for you. It’s what you do for a living.”

I swear, if I hear that one more time, the poor soul who says it is going to get a piece of my mind.

The Shoemaker’s Children Have Shoes

Yes, content and email and social and mobile and on-page search engine optimization and integrating all four types of media (earned, owned, shared, and paid) are what we do for a living.

Yes, it does come more easily to us because we do it every single day.

Yes, in this case, the shoemaker’s children do have shoes.

But that doesn’t mean those are the reasons it works for us.

A Real Company

Just like most organizations, we have to hire and fire, we have to mentor and coach, we have to keep a pretty balance sheet, we have to improve margins each year, we have to create process and procedure (which, for this type A personality, is super, super painful), we have to grow revenue, we have to target the right audiences, we have payroll and benefits and quarterly incentives, and we have to carefully position ourselves in a market.

As it turns out, a communications firm is full of people and – just like every other organization – you have to motivate and inspire them to move toward a common vision.

We have the same issues, challenges, and concerns as every other organization…we just happen to be very, very good at marketing and communications.

But that’s not the reason this digital marketing stuff works for us and not for those of you trying to do it yourselves while you also do all of the things I mention above.

Fifteen Reasons Digital Marketing Works for Us…and Not For You

The reason this digital marketing stuff works for us and not for you is because we place a priority on it. We understand its intrinsic value and we don’t give up. We know which data to analyze and which metrics to watch. We instinctually know when something does or does not work.

I hear this comment every single time I speak to groups of CEOs, and it’s typically from the person in the room who is the most vocal about why nothing works in building his or her business.

Here are 15 reasons we are able to grow our real and thriving business with this “digital marketing stuff” and you are not.

  1. We’re not risk-averse.
  2. We’re curious.
  3. We constantly want to learn new skills and apply them to the growth of our business.
  4. We’re willing to test…and test again and again and again.
  5. We read, we learn, and we apply.
  6. We make marketing and communications a priority…even before sales.
  7. We know how to measure our efforts against real business goals.
  8. We have a team dedicated to the efforts.
  9. We don’t lump it in with sales, but it is integrated with all disciplines.
  10. We know it’s more than trade show attendance and pretty leave-behind brochures.
  11. We have access to the data, we analyze it, and we tweak.
  12. We integrate our efforts with the customer relationship management software.
  13. We communicate and involve one another.
  14. We brainstorm and develop new product ideas together.
  15. We’re patient; we understand it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re willing to invest the time and effort.

I’m sure there are probably 150 reasons, but I have to get this published in time to go out in the RSS feed. So I’ll leave it open for you now.

Why does digital marketing work for some and not others?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Great post! Anyone afraid of risk in marketing is not growing, but waiting to fold up shop. I can’t tell you how many times bosses or clients have looked at a 1 week dip in something like traffic and freaked out demanding a cut in budgets when the reality was the traffic from that week was more targeted from a campaign and produced higher than average goal conversion. Patience truly is a virtue in our business… that and walking the fine line of marketing as an art and science.

  • PattiRoseKnight1

    Question – how many times have you said this not only on the blog but to companies? A million?

  • You’re also not afraid to roll up your sleeves, get dirty — and break things.

    • jasonkonopinski LOL! You and I are very good at breaking things. My favorite thing to tell a client is “we broke your site.’

  • It doesn’t work for people with MEGAPHONITIS WHO CONSTANTLY TELL YOU TO DO THIS AND THAT ACROSS ALL PLATFORMS.  Engage me, don’t sell me.

    • TonyBennett Stop yelling at me!

      • You must be confused.. THEY are yelling at you… Or it’s Lindsay… Or the voices in your head


  • John_Trader1

    I think the most prominent of your 15 reasons is patience. It’s so easy in a lightning fast society to expect immediate results from digital marketing when realistically, it takes time to cultivate and harvest results. Many C-levels are so accustomed to seeing results manifest quickly, and when they don’t, they automatically assume that efforts are futile.
    One addition I would make to your list is passion. If you aren’t passionate about digital marketing and just go through the motions, it isn’t going to work. You rarely stumble into success by giving a half ass effort and digital marketing requires the “fire” inside for efforts to succeed. That “fire” can’t be taught, only demonstrated by creating an environment where it can flourish.

    • John_Trader1 I have this conversation on a regular basis. I am consistently surprised by people who think that because it is online everything will happen with two clicks of a mouse button.
      The marathon aspect is so very important, especially if you want to build things “right.”

    • John_Trader1 I like the addition of passion. I always ask myself, why do I care so much? And it’s because I have the “fire” as you call it. I want to be successful and I want my clients to be successful too. 
      And seriously, if another person says to me after a month “social/digital marketing isn’t working” I”m going to scream…or just roll my eyes and walk away…

      • yvettepistorio John_Trader1 Perhaps that’s partly our fault in not setting the correct expectations. Things online do happen more quickly than offline, but I like to use this blog as an example: We’ve been at it for nearly seven years. It just started generating revenue two years ago.

    • 100% agree with you on passion, but we have to remember to temper that passion at times because digital noobs, haters and traditionalists can get overwhelmed easily. Keeping non-digitals whelmed is the key to getting them passionate with you when they start to see the results.

      • John_Trader1

        briantudor Agreed Brian.

    • John_Trader1 I’m not sure I agree many c-levels are accustomed to seeing results quickly. I don’t know of anything that happens quickly without a ton of hard work.

      • John_Trader1

        ginidietrich John_Trader1 I think it differs by industry,  public vs. private companies, and culture.

        • John_Trader1 Sure, but do you know of anything that happens quickly?

        • John_Trader1

          ginidietrich The wealth accumulated by winning the lottery. I follow your point.

        • John_Trader1 LOL!!

  • Something I see over and over again, for digital marketing and soooo many other things: an unwillingness to do the work. YES it’s hard. YES it takes time. YES it takes effort. So what? You need to be willing to put in the work to make things happen. 🙂

    • daniellenelson I guess it’s partly societal, isn’t it? We want to get rich quickly and lose weight fast and not work for anything.

  • AMEN!!! You have written everything I was thinking!

  • patrickreyes

    PR, Communications, Digital Marketing Agency, whatever…as long as a premium is put into it, it will work for you. I just don’t understand why some are resistant to it. This piece of marketing is so measurable and your can create some very valuable insights and strategy based on data rather than guessing.
    Hi Gini!

    • patrickreyes And you can constantly tweak, based on what the data is telling you. People get pretty frustrated pretty quickly, but it’s so much better than even five years ago. We KNOW what’s working instead of guessing.
      Hi PR!

      • patrickreyes

        ginidietrich Absolutely. What get’s me even more is when people ignore the data. HOW CAN YOU IGNORE DATA??????
        Note: I figured I would jump on board the ALL CAPS bandwagon.

        • patrickreyes

          ginidietrich oops “gets”

        • patrickreyes STOP YELLING AT ME!

        • ginidietrich patrickreyes hush you both. You should only ignore Big Data. Oh and any data found on an infographic.

  • Oh holy crap! This article makes me want to run through the hills and burst into song, ala ‘Sound of Music’. 
    And then march through the streets showering the people with copies of it; with cannons firing and a marching band. But not just a normal marching band, one of those that does flips while playing the Tuba and stuff, like in Drumline.
    And then end the parade with a blimp carrying a sign that says: “The reason this digital marketing stuff works for us and not for you is because we place a priority on it.” And shoots out fireworks that turn into mini copies for people to take home and replace their forced family portraits and contrived Thomas Kinkade paintings with.

    • LauraPetrolino we are friends with some of the Von Trapp’s let me know when you want to come sing!

      • Howie Goldfarb Howie!?! Seriously??? Don’t mess with my fragile musical loving heart!
        I know every single song by heart still. When I was little my parents could not take me to a restaurant that had anything that might resemble a stage without me jumping up there and singing something either from the Sound of Music or Cats (not to mention at every dinner party they had, oh and a cruise we went on, and several other locations that I felt needed my performances…). 
        Oh yes….

        • LauraPetrolino yes they settled in Vermont. Martin and Kelly Von Trapp own an organic dairy farm up the road and they make craft cheese. Martin’s brother has a greenhouse/garden place across the street from him. More familiar is the Von Trappp Lodge up in Stowe. I don’t think my in-laws now them. I think Martin is the grandson of one of the girls in the troupe. You know that ginidietrich was in an off broadway sound of music tour in 1992. She played Gretl.

        • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich No way!!! I also played Gretl in an off broadway (aka elementary school) Sound of Music! This is mind blowing!!! Everything just seemed to fall into place in my life!!
          Howie, I’m coming to visit! The fact that they are on an organic dairy farm make this even better, so I can skip gleefully through the fields…
          The hilllllllllls are alive with the sound of music……..
          I need to start practicing!!

    • photo chris

      LauraPetrolino Is there a “love” button? I think there needs to be a “love” button- as “liking” this is just not strong enough.

      • photo chris Hahaha! Obviously you are a man of exceptional and discerning character Mr. Photo Chris 🙂 Gold star!

        • photo chris

          LauraPetrolino photo chris ha! All true, except for the small point of fact that I’m a Mrs., and a mom. 🙂

        • photo chris Hahahaha! Well that just makes you even more exceptional! Geez..I’m such a sexist pig! Sorry!

        • photo chris

          LauraPetrolino photo chris hysterical! I find that many times the ambiguity is fantastic entertainment. So, I clicked on your name, which actually WENT somewhere (I SO need to get on that!) and now I love you even more! 😉 You have a consulting biz named flying pig…. I work in sales and marketing for a wedding photography studio in Chicago and I am also a photographer. A few years ago, the owner wanted to draw a brighter line in the sand for tax purposes and paid for those who also worked in-studio to establish an LLC- something I threw a face down fit about. I did not WANT to own my own business. So I named the thing flying pigs creative services. Don’t look, you won’t find it anywhere; but I love that you have that humor. AND- you wrote about bras in business WITHOUT having to expose it. ha!

        • photo chris Hahaha! OMG! What a small world! That’s such a great story! You know the funny thing about Flying Pig is it totally took on a life of its own, above and beyond what I expected. I have people from around the world send me flying pig statues, pictures of flying pig things they see, etc. 

          I LOVE it! My whole office is covered with ‘pig’ stuff that I’ve collected from people along the way. Some people have plaques and awards, I have pigs (and I wouldn’t want it any other way)
          Where else can we connect with you Chris?  Facebook? Twitter? Blog? Get your Livefyre profile together woman! Your awesome needs to emerge from anonymity!!

    • LauraPetrolino If you could go ahead and do that and record it, I”ll use it as the Facebook question of the week video.

      • ginidietrich hmmm….let me see what I can do. At the very least I can do a short individual scene from ‘Spin Sucks: the Musical’! 
        Stand by…..

  • This is very similar to why social work for some but not for most. You have to commit to it. Not every industry and business will have the same impact using digital marketing than others. You have to look at the business goals and audience. I don’t think Airbus and Boeing will win new orders with a Facebook page or a digital ad campaign. But when a potential buyer goes to their websites to look at models there should be everything they need to see in an easily consumed format. Not like United Airlines Google’s ‘Who builds commercial jet planes since there are 2 big plane makers and a total of 4 that make smaller planes.
    But a PR firm needs a different digital foot print to bring in leads. Like Myspace Ads!

    • Howie Goldfarb I don’t disagree what digital footprint works for us may not work for Chobani or Boeing. What’s frustrating is when people automatically write off your expertise and the success you’ve had with your own business because it’s what you do, therefore it’d better work for you, but it’s not going to work for me.

      • ginidietrich you have my number right? Send them to me…the Closer.

  • I have a very (LOL) methodical way of picking what I respond to here on SS: 1) if something doesn’t have comments it gets the nod and 2) whatever’s on top. That’s a challenge when the “on top” is about something I really am not very knowledgeable about. I actually left this post, thinking I had nothing to say, and returned………to thank you for elaborating on the four types of media………everyone else probably knows but I appreciate the level of detail. 🙂

    • biggreenpen You know, that’s a great point. I’ll write a blog post about the four for you.

      • ginidietrich biggreenpen I would really love that. Thanks!

        • biggreenpen It’s on my list!

        • ginidietrich biggreenpen I thought Big Green Pen was above blog posts…leaping curbs in a single bound…..flying faster than a owl…..wait they fly really freaking fast…..a sparrow…wait a sparrow with a hurt wing…a sparrow with a hurt wing carrying jasonkonopinski …that is it faster than a sparrow with a hurt wing carrying jasonkonopinski

        • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich biggreenpen jasonkonopinski Have you TRIED to carry Jason, Howie…??

  • photo chris

    I LOVE this: We make marketing and
    communications a priority…even before sales…..
    Exactly HOW do I convince my boss, who IS the CEO (and CMO, and marketing manager..and…and..and..) that not only is it NOT a sprint, but, that if you create the proper content, focus on a strategy for more than a second and a half, stop throwing around silly promotions, sales will not old be sold, but more easily??!?! Because frankly, banging my head against the wall is starting to hurt.

    • photo chris You know, sometimes case studies are the best way to do it. Is there a company your boss respects? If so, show how long it took for them to achieve success and that it wasn’t overnight. I always talk about how we’re in year seven here and it took two years to see any real results. It may look like we’re successful to the outside person, but there is so much hard work that goes into this blog every, single day.

  • Very good Gini. About time someone wrote a post like this. The number one reason I find that it works for me but not other businesses is bravery. I am brave enough to not be risk-averse (sensibly of course) which is where you reap the most benefits.

  • Thanks for another interesting post. 
    In your list of things that suck, you mentioned “New business prospects who want a bunch of stuff for free – including your high-level thinking on a business you don’t yet know intimately – before they decide to hire you (or not).”
    I am dealing with this right now. I am a freelancer and have already spent some 14 hours talking strategy with a potential client, and they’re still not ready to sign. 
    How do you decide when enough is enough and the potential isn’t worth the upfront investment?

    • SarahPinho Hmmmm…I hate this answer, but I think it depends. We have two prospects right now in the funnel we’re really excited about. I’ve spent more time with both of them than I would normally, but the budgets they represent would make them our biggest clients and they’re both right smack dab in our core competencies. Typically I try to disqualify people immediately and try and try again. If I spend more than two hours with them (including writing a proposal), I take a hard look at whether or not they’ll be a good client. Usually the answer is no.

      • ginidietrich Appreciate your thoughts!

        • Schickie

          SarahPinho ginidietrich I’ve found most creatives have a hard time with the “close”, as it’s a binary event of either signing them or walking away. It can be incredibly stressful as it’s a make or break moment.  As I work with lots of creatives I’ve found they aren’t particularly good at conflict or confrontation of which a close is closely aligned (at least emotionally). So turn the close into the benchmark for continuing the process. When they continue the conversation by asking for more ‘free’ stuff, this is your opportunity to first agree to talk more but add something to the effect of “This is great, I’m happy you’re beginning to really dive in here and get the value of what we’re talking about. Here’s what the next steps look like for us to continue….” You’re not asking for a yes/no answer. You’re stating a fact and what you need to happen to move forward.  The benefit is you get to define and defend your value AND put pressure on the client to make a decision (where it belongs). Sales is easy when you can remove pain,  doubt, and fear. Just like everything else.

  • Ohhh… You totally nailed it! And you laid it on thick. I. Love. This. I’m totally sharing this all over the place.

    • blfarris LOL!! I was kind of on a rant this morning. You know exactly what conversations I’m talking about.

  • My #1 reason? Because we’ve tried it, we’ve committed to it, we’re doing it and have the evidence to prove it works. The prospects and clients who tell me it doesn’t work aren’t committed to going all in. They’re commenting on something they know absolutely nothing about based on testimonials from others who aren’t truly marketing in the digital space. 
    I recently asked a (very cynical) prospect why they want to join twitter and other social media channels. They told me they didn’t want to miss any channels. This tells me that they use the spaghetti marketing method in all areas – digital *and* traditional, which is probably costing them way more money, time and clients than if they had a comprehensive, well thought out and researched marketing plan tied to their business goals and targeting the right audience.

    • Karen_C_Wilson Love this, Karen! My very favorite question is “why?”

      • ginidietrich Wouldn’t it be nice if we could throw the question “why not” right back at them? Show me cold, hard facts that it doesn’t work. Give me a counter-argument – not cynicism – that shows me it doesn’t work. Then they can justifiably claim my business isn’t real. 
        Good thing we both know that’s not gonna happen!

        • Karen_C_Wilson Um, sometimes I do. Am I supposed to not do that?

        • ginidietrich Clearly I haven’t been in business long enough yet. But I have no problem with it. I think it’s a good idea. Now I just need to get comfortable doing it. Though I did tell that one prospect I didn’t think they really wanted to use social media. It was kind of a proud moment.

  • You wear sensible AND stylish shoes!

    • jonmikelbailey I knew I liked you for a reason.

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  • I’d say it had better work for you because comms firms can’t just be good at it — they have to be great at it. It’s a way to demonstrate the services you offer as part of the work flow.  I’ve done a few RFPs in my day and the first three things I look for are 1) corporate blog — do they market themselves effectively and can they do that for me? 2) social personas of the junior staff proposed for the account — – are they engaged because they love it or engaged because they have to be?  3)  ideas and thought process. They don’t have to be experts on my business, but I want to know they have the capacity to be experts once we start paying them.

  • Wow – your first 5 paragraphs sound EXACTLY like an experience I had with a potential client recently. Except he added in there that digital marketing (more specifically social media and blogging) is narcissistic. Interesting take on it, but I don’t see it. If your’e giving something of value away (tips, tricks, insight, new ideas, etc. etc. etc.) and engaging with people when they show interest or ask questions, that’s a conversation more than a one-sided sales pitch. 
    I love Karen_C_Wilson idea of asking ‘Why doesn’t it work?’ and putting the ball back in their court. I have the evidence that it does work, yet some people are still very cynical and pessimistic. It’d be interesting to understand the facts against it working that disprove my facts that it does work.

  • Most people don’t understand how to analyze data.
    I worked in the marketing department of a large auto insurance company were a 15 minute call could save you 15% on your auto insurance. I analyzed data. Big freaking piles of data.
    When a person buys a new policy, the company will lose money on them for three years. That’s how it works. So, an important metric is retention of customers. A group of customers who stays for 1095 days is better than a group who stays for 1000, but not as good as one who stays for 1128, or 4,035. Pretty simple stuff, right?
    For many years this insurance company had sent surveys to a tiny fraction of their new customers. The analysts before me had looked at the cost for postage, paper, envelope, and such, and decided it was worth it, but only on a small scale.
    I suggested there might be value they didn’t understand in terms of the good will people feel at having been asked their opinion by their new insurance carrier. We did a test!
    Of course there was a control group, and then we sent out close to a gazillion surveys. For the next year I watched the rates at which people left. There were three groups. People who did not receive a survey, people who did receive a survey but didn’t return it and those who sent it back.
    I created a methodology, which I had peer reviewed by other analysts in other departments, that was completely new. You see, the problem with such a survey is that to uncover value one needs to watch the people for many years. We needed answers now. After only a year, there isn’t much variance.
    Two hundred pages of code and I was able to prove, conclusively, that the people who returned the survey outperformed the control group such that the ROI of sending them the survey was 150%ish (I don’t remember the exact number) But that wasn’t surprising. The surprising part was that the people who received the survey, but didn’t return it, still covered the cost of the mailing and had a ROI of around 35%.
    Yes, the people who didn’t even bother to fill it out, still had some benefit that made them stay longer than the group who never received the survey. Just writing the code took probably 100 hours, because it was entirely new.
    This is how analysis works. It isn’t simply figuring out the average of a group of numbers. It is looking at massive amounts of data and knowing what questions to ask and then figuring out how to answer them.
    Knowing a set of data, after years of working with it, is how a person can get to the root of the issue. This is what separates the people who know what they are doing (Gini) and the people who say, “Yeah, we tried that, it didn’t work.”  My guess is they were not qualified to tell if it worked.

    • photo chris

      ExtremelyAvg “100 hours to develop code”  *FAINT* My congratulations to you for having the concept and carrying it through. Thank you for revealing the survey data! We send survey after survey here and get a fraction of them back and have always wondered if it matters!

      • photo chris ExtremelyAvg It was my job and it was fun. Admittedly, there were many times along the way where I had bits of code that didn’t work, so much of the time was spent getting it all sorted. Still, when it was done and the results came out, I got a few nice comments from my boss and the top brass.
        It was one of the must rewarding things I’ve every done in my life as an analyst.

  • shelaghcummins

    I love this post – thank you for the laugh. I think the number 1 reason you succeed at digital marketing is because… you actually do it. So many women in our community cut corners or want to take the easy, low cost way… with just a toe stuck in the water. To go swimming, you actually have to dunk your entire body in the pool – not just your big toe.
    Bravo for doing things well and thoroughly with a little risk and research thrown in for good measure!

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  • My cobbler’s kids’ do NOT have shoes…my plumber’s pipes are leaking.
    We need to work on your list of #15.

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