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The Human Side of Marketing and Why Algorithms will Never Sell Anything

A few weeks back, GRIT had the opportunity to make a quick trip to the Big Apple and spend a day at the Conductor C3 conference where some super smart digital marketers from around the world came together to share tactics, insight and ideas. This was our first trip to the C3 conference and we have to say, we were pleasantly surprised. While still in its infancy as conferences go, there were some great keynotes, worthwhile break-out sessions and yet the conference was still small enough to be able to engage in meaningful conversation with like-minded marketing professionals. Of course there was free food and cocktails, which always helps.

If you are not familiar with Conductor, it is a Web Presence Management and SEO Platform that claims to help businesses deliver “meaningful results” across unpaid channels like content marketing, SEO and mobile—so it’s no surprise that the gist of the conference was organic marketing with content marketing, make that QUALITY content marketing, being the overarching theme.

Throughout the day we heard some great stories from brand managers and content marketers – some start-up consumer brands who have just recently entered the space as well as some heavy-hitters that have been leaders in the digital space from the get-go. But beyond the stories, the biggest thing we took from the day wasn’t necessarily the tips and the tricks on how to boost your SEO or using social media to build organic search or even the value of quality content (which hopefully we all know by now) – it was a return to the human side of marketing.

Possibly more so than any other industry, the digital marketing space is evolving at a frenetic pace. Every day there are web and interactive marketing firms popping up claiming to have the best strategies and know-how to help boost your brands’ paid and search efforts. But in the end, as smart as we get in our efforts to analyze data and decipher algorithms, we are also increasingly losing touch with the human side of marketing. You know, the REAL reason why someone makes a purchase or selects a service provider. Not what brand popped up first in a search and maybe momentarily made them think that showing up first must make you best, but that something about a brand or better yet, about a brand experience, made them open their wallets, spend their money or enlist their trust.

Hands down, the best part of the day was the keynote from Will Reynolds, founder of SEER Interactive. Will’s address, The Ranking Farce – and What You Should Do About It, was a big slap in the face and wake up call to all of us that ranking #1 just ain’t what it used to be.

Particularly in the world of consumer marketing, it was a great reminder that you can spend thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars and hours trying to get a brand or client to rank number one, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that ranking is actually going to convert to sales.

And really, isn’t that the goal – to sell something?  

You can be the smartest digital marketer on the planet and know the ins and outs of Panda and Penguin like the back of your hand, but if your website or brand isn’t providing a product or service that makes someone’s life easier or WORSE, you’re not putting out the right content to motivate someone to pick/choose/select you – then what’s the point of ranking #1?

One particular nugget of brilliance REALLY resonated with us and we have a feeling we’ll probably be muttering it a lot around our offices:

“Audiences over Algorithm”

Or to keep it simple, humans over computers. Wish we had thought of it, but we’re glad it’s at least stuck in our heads now.

Listen, nobody is saying that brands should suddenly scrap their digital marketing strategies. That’s not happening. BUT, maybe it’s time to slow down for a moment and remember that in the end, we aren’t just trying to outsmart Google, we are trying to provide something of value to real, living people. Take it back to the basics for a bit, think about what motivates people to buy. Is it an experience? A bias? An emotion? Or is it just that you provide the best-in-class product or service and by doing so are making someone’s life a little easier/better/happier?

If you are, AND if you are also effective in putting out the right content to make customers aware of that, then you can stop worrying so much about search and rankings or paid vs. organic and get back to the business of providing a quality service or product to your customers.

Interested in getting back to the basics or talking to us about why your digital marketing strategies might not be working? Give us a shout at [email protected]. We promise there is a real person on the receiving end.