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The organic marketer’s guide to thriving in uncertain times

By Geoff Griffiths | Chief Executive Officer



The Drum Network article

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January 5, 2023 | 7 min read

For marketers navigating organic channels, Geoff Griffiths of Builtvisible explains how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

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What now? Organic marketers must prime for the worst while hoping for the best / Nisonco PR and SEO via Unsplash

As individuals and as marketers, we’re navigating yet another period of global uncertainty. It can mean fewer resources, tighter budgets, more competition for fewer customers, and being asked to make marketing spend work even harder. So far, so similar to the pandemic years. There is but one distinct difference; this time we are not blindsided the way we were in 2020.

For those of us working in SEO, we have a hidden superpower: we’re comfortable with uncertainty in ways that other channels often aren’t. Unlike paid channels where you can effectively ‘turn things off’ immediately and pick them back up whenever suits, organic is far more nuanced. It's a game of consistency and momentum. Dialing down activity might not have an immediate impact, but it will come back to bite you. It’s also harder to get back the longer it’s neglected.

At Builtvisible, our stance has always been to share insights with our community and help find ways to answer those challenges directly. In November 2022 we explored these thorny topics with our community and friends of the business. Here, we've distilled the response down to three core themes.

You’ll get nowhere without the right mindset

Everything must be underpinned by the right mindset. During the pandemic, we used the the Stockdale paradox as a cornerstone of our internal strategy for navigating the pandemic. This relates to James Stockdale, a vice-admiral taken prisoner in the Vietnam war, who survived while many others didn’t. When asked why, he framed the paradox:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be”. It means hoping for the best while planning for the worst, and tackling challenges head-on.

Three steps to thrive amid uncertainty

Less resource means water-tight strategies are essential. Budgets needing to stretch further means that buy-in and alignment with internal stakeholders is vital. Increased competition means effectiveness is under scrutiny.

1. Develop a watertight organic strategy

Unless you have reliable, robust data, you’re forming your strategy on quicksand. Our head of data, Gary Stubbenhagen, believes data should be used strategically and without slavish devotion to any specific tool or ecosystem, but you still need a measurement framework to make the most of your first-party data, unlock real insight, and demonstrate positive impact on business performance.

When external headwinds are constantly changing the external landscape, you must identify how much of your organic performance is being artificially inflated or suppressed. Builtvisible's performance director Daniel Butler explored how to use Pestle frameworks alongside other tools, including the old faithful Google Trends, to find your true north.

2. Foster internal buy-in and alignment 

This all starts with the C-suite. The quickest way? A very large ROI. Alternatively, tackle negative perceptions with education; correct a lack of historic investment by showcasing opportunity; and navigate internal blockages by aligning organic goals with other business objectives.

There is no greater tale of alignment than the one of historically siloed teams coming together to push in the same direction. We heard from our clients Icelandair and Better on how they navigated incredibly tough times for travel and leisure during the pandemic, pivoted their strategy for digital and ‘traditional’ PR teams, and ultimately reaped the rewards.

3. Prove the effectiveness of your channel

One of Builtvisible’s values is ‘strategy is important, but execution is everything’. The first hurdle of proving the effectiveness of your channel is getting your recommendations implemented. This can’t be done alone.

We discussed with SEO experts from DemocratizingSEO, Gousto and Lovecrafts how they’ve seen this work (and not work) throughout their careers, and how they approach inter-team buy-in and collaboration. The short answer: explain why and create solid business cases.

The right mindset combined with these three organizational approaches are the keys to organic success and broader marketing effectiveness in 2023. Lose momentum now, and you’ll be doing less with less when the boom comes.

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We're a specialist agency driving forward the boundaries of Organic Digital marketing. We deliver measurable impact on the organic digital performance of brands in highly competitive verticals. We're also proud to be an Drum Elite Agency, ranking in the top two for financial performance in the latest census.

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