When we started our Atlanta search marketing agency back in ‘the good old days’ of 2001, we had just three employees working out of a small condo on Roswell Road. We didn’t know it back then, but online marketing was easy in 2001. Search engine optimization and paid search were in their infancy and most people had no idea what SEO and PPC were all about.  In fact, the first search engine conference I attended back in 1998 had just 200 people. That same conference today has thousands of attendees, multiple times a year.

To rank well in Google back in the good old days, all you had to do was tweak a few things on a website and add a few targeted keywords here and there and PRESTO! – you showed up on page one in just a few weeks.  Paid search was no different. You could throw a small budget at a few targeted keywords and your phone would actually ring!

My how things have changed!!!  If you are in charge of marketing, then you are probably tired and overwhelmed.  This marketing thing is out of control – really it is – I’m not being funny.  I’m tired.

Search Engine Optimization
SEO has gotten hard to manipulate and only the highest quality sites with great content dominate.  The days of submitting a press release or an article to help your site rank well for a keyword phrase are long gone.  I bet PRWeb.com misses the good old days too.  Once Matt Cutts said press releases didn’t help with organic search rankings, I bet things went south for them fast.

Paid Search Advertising
When we started out, most paid search clicks cost about 5 to 10 cents each.  The good old days are over my friend and prices are going up.  Now Google AdWords provides their customers with about 200 different ways to optimize a paid search campaign.  Not to mention all the other related channels, such as display ads, product listings, content networks, social networks and the list goes on.  Paid search advertising (PPC) is anything but simple these days.

Social Media Marketing
When we began our Atlanta online marketing agency, Facebook wasn’t even born yet, not to mention every other multi-billion dollar social media channel that lives today.  Can you believe someone actually paid $19 Billion for WhatsApp? I’m willing to bet you anything that was a bad idea.  But I digress…

Website Conversion Tracking
Web analytics has advanced into a very complex world as well.  Back in 2001 Urchin was king, but today Google Analytics rules the roost (notice the link love to Google – maybe they will love me back).  Today it’s more complicated.  There are many other measurements to consider, including audience segmentation, website conversion, phone call tracking, ROI analysis, cost per conversion, cost per lead, cost per sale…and the list goes on.

So you get the idea.  In the world of online marketing there are hundreds, even thousands of things to keep track of, stay up to date on, benchmark, measure, analyze, reverse engineer and learn.  Things change fast my friend, which is why we are all exhausted.  You gotta keep up or die.

Marketing Hasn’t Changed
The good news is that in spite of all these new channels and bells and whistles, the most important things about marketing remain the same.  To win in business you still have to have a great product and a great story.  Most companies don’t make it very far without a decent product or service, so lets assume that you have a great product too.

So what’s missing from your marketing plan?  Why is your website not converting visitors into buyers? Why is you PPC and your SEO and your SMM in the tank?

The answer is simple.  The problem is not the channel, or the bell, or the whistle. The problem is you don’t have a great story.  Scratch that.  Maybe you have a great story, but you are probably a horrible story teller.  How do I know this?

Because crafting a great story that actually engages potential customers and inspires them to act is hard work.  Differentiating your business from the competition and clearly articulating your value proposition is no walk in the park either.  And don’t let me forget to mention all the work it takes to educate and nurture a customer over time, long before they are ready to buy.  Telling a great story and engaging customers and persuading them to buy takes work my friend.

If you don’t tell a good story, no one will care what you do or why you do it.  They will have no proof that you are any better than the guy or gal down the street. They won’t learn anything new by visiting your website and they won’t have any loyalty to you at all. And they won’t laugh or smile when that look at your stuff either.

Back in the good old days, we used to say ‘content is king’.  Today this is still true, but now we call it ‘content marketing’.  Rebecca Lieb, an analyst that covers the content marketing space at Altimeter recently said “Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing. Everything. There’s no owned media without content. There’s no social media without content. And there’s no paid media without content.” I would add there is no SEO without content either.  You can quote me on that.

If you are not good at content marketing; if you don’t create a virtual relationship with your customers through education; if you don’t establish yourself as a thought leader; if you don’t entertain people and stand out from the crowd…

then your marketing efforts will FAIL.

Marketers in todays’ world have to understand and communicate with different audiences in a unique way that is appropriate for the time, place and channel. They have to help their customers solve their problems.  They have to prove they are worthy of making the short list of consideration before anyone thinks about calling your sales guy.

The web has changed the way we buy.  The good old days of customers calling sales people for information are long gone.  It’s time you catch up and tell a better story – or go the way of the dinosaurs.  Content marketing is king, and everything else in the marketing ecosystem depends on it.