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Evolve or Die: Why Successful Marketers Are Lifelong Learners

May 24, 2016

Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the biggest, the brightest or the best that will survive but those who adapt the quickest.” Although Darwin was not referencing the modern marketing landscape, I can’t help but think how relevant this quote is. Marketing isn’t about having the biggest billboard or the funniest television commercial (anymore), it is about connecting with your audience in an authentic and meaningful way. Sounds easy right?

To gain insight into how marketers can “adapt the quickest” I turned to Greg Jarboe, a veteran of the marketing space. Greg has been a marketing practitioner for decades and has witnessed the massive changes the marketing industry has experienced. Greg is the Co-Founder and Principal of SEO-PR and has been teaching at Rutgers since 2010 and Market Motive since 2007. Not only does Greg have valuable thoughts into how marketers should be adapting but he is also an expert in many current marketing trends including video content, SEO and (of course) influencer marketing. This interview is an educator’s view on translating changes in the marketing space into the office.

About Greg Jarboe:

JF: You founded SEO-PR 13 years ago, how has this content marketing agency evolved over the years?

GJ: Fairly dramatically. We were founded after Google News was launched in September of 2002. We took a look at some of the early search results of Google News and discovered that press releases were one of the sources of information that was being indexed at the time. We realized if we could optimize a page for Google, then we could optimize a press release for Google News and that is where the concept behind SEO-PR was born.

We started off in the press release business. Then a friend of ours in 2004 said what about blogs?

Would this work for blogs? And that idea got us to start expanding the business. As our agency evolved we realized that influencers were a powerful resource we could integrate into strategy as well. By 2006 we were pitching stories for a series of media for a client. This is how we evolved into what we are now. We are a content marketing agency. We can optimize anything for everything.

JF: It sounds like you were doing influencer relations early on?

GJ: Influencer relations actually builds on a lot of those best practices. The original term for influencers was “opinion leaders.” We were familiar with that construct, so when influencer marketing came about, it made sense. It was the old opinion leader methodology with a new name.

About the Marketing Space:

JF: How has influencer marketing changed the marketing landscape?

GJ: Influencer marketing has changed the marketing landscape by providing people with a very very different path forward. Influencers have their influence today in social networks. They always did, but those networks were invisible. Now, social media allows these networks to become more tangible. Influencer marketing has dramatically shifted the paradigm of marketing. Today’s world is very different. Influencer marketing is the marketing of the 21st century.

JF: What is the biggest shift you have seen in the marketing space over the past 5 years?

GJ: It’s like night and day. No one was even using the term “influencer marketing” five years ago - it was still a relatively new idea. Fast forward to today, and it is well understood. People are executing influencer marketing on a large scale and budget is being allocated to implement.

Another big shift I’ve witnessed over the past five years is how marketing activity is measured. How do I know what kind of results you can get for me? It’s all focused on measurement. Measurement has moved a long way. Marketers have to be more accountable than ever before for the output and outcomes of their tactics.

About Video Content:

JF: How will video content affect marketing departments?

GJ: Most companies have marketers who lack video skills. The people who used to do direct mail are now doing email marketing. The people who used to do PR have now gravitated towards social media marketing. But, who knows video? Unfortunately… it is not the thing that most people are prepared to tackle. Video is immensely important in influencer relations. Finding the right YouTube influencers can often be one of the strategies to tap into video.

JF: What advice would you have for marketers who want to get started with video?

GJ: I’d have to quote Yoda, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” The first thing that people have to purge themselves of, is the notion that video content today is just like television, only online. That is the fundamental reason that people fail. They take their 30 second long TV commercial, upload it to YouTube and it dies. Television was not designed to be shared, but YouTube is designed to be shared, it is all about storytelling. If it takes you a couple minutes to tell the story, tell the story. That’s what engages people. Buying time is so expensive on television, and marketers limited the commercials to 30 or 60 seconds because that’s all they could afford. Now, marketers are not restricted to this time constraint like they have been in the past.

About Being an Educator:

JF: Considering that you teach at both Rutgers and Market Motive, how do you incorporate emerging trends like influencer marketing in the classroom?

GJ: In a few ways, I’ve been teaching mini MBA courses since 2010 at Rutgers. Practitioners are realizing that what they learned in college is not going to get them to the level they need to be today. Students are savvy but frustrated. The old thing doesn’t work anymore, and marketers want to understand what will work and be shown step-by-step. The students that we are dealing with, all industry professionals, are hungry for information.

JF: What is your top challenge as an educator in a quickly changing space?

GJ: One is the normal challenge of just trying to keep up with everything that is moving around. The students assume that you know it all. I always feel like, I knew what it was like up until yesterday, but I may have missed the changes this morning. It really changes that quickly. I can’t tell you how many times it has happened, the morning I’m about to teach a course, and something new happens in the industry, and then I need to rewrite my course material for that day. On average, about a third of what I was teaching at the start of the year, is now obsolete. If you do the math, you’ll discover about 50% of what we know is obsolete within 18 months. On top of that, “everything” we know is obsolete within 3 years.

JF: What would be your advice to those wanting to stay relevant with the ever changing marketing space?

GJ: We are NOT working in a static field. The challenge I have when teaching is the students come in expecting to learn three simple tricks that they can grab and run home and implement and they will be heroes. And I have to teach them that, if I teach them three tricks, one of them is out of date by the end of the year. One of the fastest things that is changing is the Google algorithm, it is all subject to change. Marketers need to take on the responsibility of keeping themselves updated.

The term for this is ‘lifelong learning’, the point is that… learning a new practice within marketing is something that people are beginning to realize they are going to have to do.

Don’t let your marketing skills become obsolete. Like Greg said, it is essential for marketers to be lifelong learners. Here at Traackr, we are dedicated to helping marketers become the best that they can be. We understand it can be frustrating and difficult at times working in such a dynamic field. But, it can also be the most rewarding. All good marketers know the feeling of mastering a new skill, deploying it effectively and seeing the business results.

Feeling inspired? Become an influencer marketing expert today. Enroll in the Academy of Influencer Marketing (AIM) and begin your journey.