Every CEO Needs to Know Digital Marketing Basics

by | Oct 10, 2010

Remember the old days when marketing resulted in printed material you could touch and feel? Just 10 years ago, the majority of marketing artifacts included printed brochures, product packaging, magazine advertisements and direct mail letters. Stuff you could hold in your hands. Those were the days when most CEOs and senior executives felt compelled to comment on minutiae of decisions about marketing execution, whether they were marketing experts or not.

“Could we see that in a darker blue.” “I don’t like the feel of that paper.” “Why don’t we say this on the front of the envelope?” Business leaders chimed in and happily drove designers and copywriters crazy with their feedback. On the whole, though, executive involvement in the design details helped more than it hurt. At least leaders were passionately involved.

Now that marketing has gone digital, many CEOs of small businesses, non-profits and  tech startups are completely abdicating any involvement in marketing execution. “I’m not a technical person.” “I don’t understand SEO and website analytics.” “All this social media stuff is complicated. Don’t we have someone to do that?”

This is both ironic and scary. You can’t lead a business if you don’t know how your market engages to buy products and services. The tactics of marketing have changed drastically in the last 10 years — digital marketing has overtaken “traditional marketing” in most industries. (Most of my clients have NO physical marketing deliverables other than business cards. They are all digital.)

Marketing is also more content-driven, measurable, and modifiable than ever now that digital tactics dominate. This should be great news for business leaders, but many senior executives and founders have left the marketing discussion completely now that it’s “technical.” It’s not simply an “generation gap” issue either. I see just as many younger CEOs with this problem as older ones.

The sad fact is that many business owners and leaders have still not learned even the basics of digital marketing. They are getting left behind quickly, as did the sorry politicians who ignored bloggers and social media in the last few years.

Business Leaders Need to Understand the Basics of Digital Marketing

The main areas of modern digital marketing that business leaders need to understand are these:

  • Web search – How does the mechanism of web search affect how interested buyers find your products and services?
  • Social media – How is the growing conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and other social websites driving the discussion about your products and your business?
  • Websites – What story are you telling your customers in the content and design of your website? Is your content useful, clear and complete?
  • Blogs – How are blogs and review sites changing the way industry experts communicate deliver news and information to your market?
  • Web analytics – What information is getting tracked in every area of digital marketing that can help you understand what’s happening and improve your marketing?
  • Email marketing – How can you offer timely and relevant email content to prospects and customers that creates action?
  • Mobile – How are smartphones and the iPad changing how people get information and interact with your company? Is location important to your business?
  • Content – What useful content and information do you offer to attract and engage your customers?

There are many ways to learn about these topics so you can make informed decisions. Go online (it’s all there), hire an expert, go to local digital marketing conferences or have your website manager explain it to you.  You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to know enough to make sound business decisions, including which digital marketing expert to hire and when you should hire them.

I know hundreds of CEOs and startup entrepreneurs. The winners among them have already learned Internet marketing fundamentals and are well-versed in the advanced tactics most important to their businesses. The struggling CEOs think digital marketing is someone else’s job.

Times have changed. Marketing has already gone digital. CEOs need to get on board before it’s too late.