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Professor Eric Clemons: Time for Some New Senior Vice Presidents?

Danny Sullivan made a great reply to this Eric Clemons’ previous post on TechCrunch today. As you know, I’ve been pretty quiet here on my blog lately. I’ve been busy on the phone, organizing speaking, planning a book and talking to people about really changing the world either as an executive and/or as a consultant while quietly executing some search projects.

In the “cage match” post, there is one phrase that got me out of my silence because the ignorance was too much for me to hold my tongue… Eric Clemons said:

“Mr. Sullivan argues that in all his years thinking through and working through issues in internet advertising he has never heard any company or any individual complain about paid search. In contrast, I have been hearing this complaint from senior vice presidents in travel companies for years, and this year the chorus has been joined by retailers and manufacturers”

Dear Mr. Clemons,

Perhaps it’s time for you to get some new senior vice president’s to talk to? It’s time for a new breed of leaders who know how to truly lead and not whine about taking the easy way out using purely 100% paid search.  Someone at that level should understand content strategy, social media strategy, seo strategy (do you even know what SEO is Professor Clemons?) and paid search and should be managing them strategically in conjunction with each other. All too often, I see executives whose qualifications to be a senior leader in an Internet company or large ecommerce division amount to little more than they worked at an Internet company since 1999, they worked and some ‘elitebusiness strategy consulting company(where they never executed or implemented anything), they’ve been passively recruited from place to place and it hides that they can’t move the needle or that they were a brand marketing person a long, long time ago and still think in terms of campaign awards…sigh.

To manage customer acquisition via the Internet effectively and create an awesome customer experience using all of the tools in the tool box isn’t tough if you have the right leaders in place who understand that strategy is about incremental daily improvement not hiring a 20th century management consulting firm. As a top 10 MBA holder myself I can honestly say that the education in almost all programs is lacking relevancy to today’s Internet world. I discussed this with the heads of the a major marketing professor conference here in Chicago recently – I was pleased by their receptiveness to my outreach. It’s too bad Mr. Clemons wasn’t there to share the conversation with us. My experiences at BlackRock managing data structures, living offline social media, creating elite customer service via the web and driving standards that created competitive advantages that have lasted a decade. Due to BlackRock’s B2B nature, much is still not understood publicly, but the Internet world would be wise to learn from BlackRock’s lessons.

The combination of my experience BlackRock, my top 10 MBA (least important of these) and the wonderful experiences I’ve had immersing myself in search engine marketing when Danny Sullivan was kind enough to let me hold a microphone in lieu of registration fee at my first SES conference in December, 2005 had led to the amazing learning that followed over the last several years. My life has never been the same since! I now have an amazing and wonderful small circle of the world’s greatest search marketing minds whom I can pick up the phone and discuss how search marketing is creating the largest change in business since the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago! I’ll admit it’s challenging and frustrating some days to be part of a tiny group that understands the massive power of how pull marketing via search is changing organizational structures and profitability at their very foundation.

The paradox is most of the leaders of companies don’t have the right combination of old and new skills to lead this change and the number of people in the world truly qualified to lead the largest change management project in the history of the world. I can truly count on two hands at most at present – yet senior management and the world’s understanding of search marketing is so limited at this juncture that those people aren’t even coveted…yet. How can one hire the best leader or search marketing if they are still basically clueless about what they are buying? That’s right, they can’t effectively!

Retained marketing executive search consultants are still picking most CMO candidates based on 1989 standards and position specs and/or last job title held nonsense – oddly a side effect of the effect of search being used too heavily in candidate sourcing and job search. Worse, they are letting the roles be defined by the CEO, CFO and boards of directors who don’t know the first thing about how search engine optimization, content strategy and marketing are changing the world. This causes people with outdated skills to frequently be placed in leadership roles again and again with less than optimal financial results and creating an unpleasant working environment (and a high turnover rate) for the wonderful and hard working search marketers and social media folks that they manage.

It doesn’t have to be this way Professor Clemons. It’s about time you had some new senior vice presidents to talk to that understood search, understand the theory of exactly how and why they need to transform their new organizations and will test and learn their way to success – the kind of success that you can write case studies about and that I can one day come visit your class and share about. But for now, I’d challenge you to name the SVP’s that are complaining instead of performing…I’d love to consult for them and make them look good…or be their replacement if they’d like to continue to complain and not build a balanced (and profitable) traffic acquisition strategy.

5 thoughts on “Professor Eric Clemons: Time for Some New Senior Vice Presidents?

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  4. Not surprisingly, I consider this quite silly, since I am the author of the piece that cited these company officers. Polite, reasoned even, but silly. These officers are sharp enough to realize that there are at least two parts to customer acquisition. One is getting new customers. The other is being found by customers who are already looking for you. Google can pretty much charge whatever it wants for access to customers who are already looking for you. The DoJ took a very dim view of this 20 years ago when airline reservations systems had the power to bankrupt an airline. The officers I have worked with understand acquisition. They also understand extortion. We can discuss this offline if you wish. But I hope never to have to explain my last post again. And, again, thanks for writing a relatively calm and reasoned piece in an environment where that was all too rare.

  5. Eric,

    Thanks for the reply. This is where you (and your friends are out of date), you stated: “One is getting new customers. The other is being found by customers who are already looking for you.”

    Customers aren’t looking for *YOU*. Potential prospects are looking for attributes of products and services or trying to solve a problem that they have. To understand how radical a shift that is you’d have to understand search marketing fully.

    Silly? Silly is doing the same old brand marketing when it’s not your most effective channel – not by a long shot.

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