What 12,480 Hours Taught Me About Digital and Social Media Marketing

A computer and phone with pictures of the websites Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Google and YouTube

When I started a sales job in 2011, someone shared with me Alec Baldwin’s “Always be closing” scene from the movie Glengarry Glenn Ross. 12,480 hours worth of sales and marketing experience later, I read that quote now as “Digital marketing leads to always be closing”.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

I spent the first part of my career in more traditional sales and marketing. Since I worked at a fast growing small manufacturing company, any day could see me to fill one of 10 different roles but I mainly focused on sales and marketing.

Every day I would hustle, make deals and move onto the next one. The formula was make it and sell it. I was the “sell it” part of the equation.

Obsessed with acquiring and closing as many deals as possible (I wanted the Cadillac El Dorado from Alec Baldwin’s speech), I first got into digital marketing with website SEO (Search Engine Optimization) back in 2011. Since cold calling can be limited in its effectiveness, I was looking for faster ways to get more customers. This was all new to me but I figured most people use the internet to look for things so it was worth a shot.

SEO worked. Really well.

Within weeks of “optimizing” the website to rank in Google search traffic, the phone calls started. From the website, I used to get one phone call every two weeks. This went up to one per week, one every other day and soon multiple times per day. Some days I had more leads than I could handle.

The best part? None of the competitors were focusing on SEO so it was easy to rank top 3 in each important keyword.

Around the same time, the company started doing magazine advertising. Not only would phone leads come from the website but also from magazine ads.

Life was pretty good on the marketing front.

Things Get Busier in Late 2012

The business started growing even quicker (5 time Inc. Magazine fast 5,000 winner) and my focus on digital marketing started to fade. The website had created a tremendous amount of momentum and leads were coming in all the time, so I eased off my SEO tasks. I knew I needed to start an active social media program but I got busy with other stuff. “Life is good” I thought, “so I’ll get to it next month.”

Next month never came.

I Realize My Mistakes in 2016

This continued until 2016 when I started noticing something, fewer leads were coming from the website and magazine ad. It started slowly as a quiet thought and got louder as time passed. Every week would be this question in the back of my head “What is going on?”

The answer hit me in May 2016:

  1. The website SEO was being neglected so competitors were ranking higher in Google searches.
  2. The website was not optimized for mobile internet browsing.
  3. There was no social media presence whereas all the competition was active across various social networks.
  4. Advertising dollars were being spent on a physical magazines with waning attention and could be spent on a place like Facebook that has practically the best ad product to ever exist.

In the marketing battle for a customer’s attention, I was losing.

I was doing exactly what Gary Vaynerchuk warns us not to do:

“The quickest way to go out of business is to be romantic about how you make your money. I’d rather put myself out of business before someone else does.”

What Did I Learn From 12,480 Hours?

Digital / social media marketing is the most important tool of the modern marketer.

In 2016, the average global internet user spent 118 minutes per day on social media. Facebook alone has almost two billion active monthly users worldwide.

That’s just social media, we spend so much time on our phones that they are part of the very fabric of our lives. What would life be like if you couldn’t access the news, scroll Facebook or ask Siri something on your phone? Next time you are in a public place, watch people at coffee shops, airports or waiting rooms and see how many are buried in their phones.

Website SEO, a mobile-optimized website, sharing valuable content on social media, highly targeted digital advertising on platforms like Facebook etc… are examples of how the modern marketer can reach customers. More importantly though, new technology and social media are difficult to learn but those of us in business have no choice.

If your customers are on Facebook, compelling video content with subtitles performs incredibly well (since about 90% of videos on Facebook are viewed without sound). Are they on Instagram? Pictures and videos that visually tell the story of your business will engage your customers while targeted hashtags will draw them to you.

Regardless of the platform or wherever your customers gather, one thing is certain:

with more and more time being spent on our phones and social media, these are the arenas where consumers will allow us to get their attention (and sell to them).

Also, don’t make my mistake. Prioritize digital marketing.


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Even though I write this on every post, thanks for reading.

Originally published at www.amawestmichigan.org.