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4 Steps Needed to Transform the Digital-Marketing Industry

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It’s not easy being a provider in the digital-marketing industry. Research suggests that while owners believe they need to promote themselves online, there’s an undertone of mistrust.

A recent poll conducted by my company, ReachLocal, showed that 73 percent of local businesses have more than one digital- marketing provider. And some industry experts think that client churn rates range from 50 percent to 90 percent. There’s a clear perception problem that these technologies are a black box and that providers overpromise results yet don’t deliver a return on investment. Who can blame them?

Each day business owners are pulled in multiple directions, wearing many hats as they handle diverse areas from operations and to accounting and . They’re professionals in their designated fields and need the best support possible in the areas in which they're not experts.  

To better serve busy entrepreneurs, the digital-marketing industry should undergo a transformation so that its practitioners provide transparent and trusted service. Here are four steps digital marketers should take:

Related: Why the Future of Retail Will Blow Your Mind

1. Explain the technology in simple terms.

At the basic level, it comes down to education. Industry practitioners need to do a better job teaching their salespeople to clearly, and without marketing jargon, explain the technology, walk customers through how it works, set expectations and honestly say whether their products will help clients meet their needs.

2. Have easy-to-understand reporting and metrics.

In an industry where dollar spending involves intangibles such as ad impressions, clicks, contacts or potential sales leads, plainly bridge the gap in understanding about what happens in between online promotions and in-store purchases.

Start by asking simple questions of clients about their sales in the past quarter, the number of returning customers and expectations. Get this information up front to set realistic goals.

Then follow up consistently with clients to show them how their marketing dollars are coverting site visitors into paying customers. As the industry adopts these practices, there will be an abundance of data sets to drive recommendations, compare results and give clients proper guidance.

Related: The Four Ms of Social Media That All Marketers Should Master

3. Be a partner and go-to expert.

Almost daily, search engines go through updates that affect business-ranking results. These changes can inadvertently harm business owners' digital-marketing spending, causing their dollars to not work to the highest potential.

Marketers succeed only if their customers do. Industry players need to be more hands on and provide proper counsel as the industry changes and new services, search capabilities or promotions emerge. 

4. Explain that quality results take time.

One of the biggest misconceptions of customers is that a one-time campaign will result in the business-driving miracle they need. A "one-and-done" approach is the wrong mentality.

Online marketing is a long-term strategy that requires sustained campaigns with a holistic approach, incorporating all the techniques from the marketing tool kit. Practictioners need to explain this to customers. What's required is a stream of fresh content, updated keywords to match seasonal searches and new promotions across devices to build a highly successful, well-nurtured marketing engine to produce the results expected

Digital-marketing providers need to come together to improve the education, service, reporting and transparency provided clients. The misperceptions plaguing the industry won't be eradicated overnight, but it's necessary to start the process and gain customers' trust.

Related: Transparency Can Overcome Consumer Resistance to Sharing Data

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