Digital Marketing Tips CEOs is based on an interview conducted by Dr. Stephie Althouse of Dr. Stephie and shared our views and opinions on how CEOs can shape, guide and translate their business vision into a digital marketing effort.

This short video titled: Digital Marketing Tips CEOs - summarizes the main points. The entire transcript is available below the video, as is the audio track itself. Enjoy!

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This is Dr. Stephie Althouse, CEO of Top-Notch CEO. Welcome to our interview series of top experts called Top-Notch CEO Geek Radio. As you may know, by Geek we mean top experts who are both very passionate and extremely knowledgeable in their craft.  To that end, it's my pleasure to introduce to you again Robert Donnell from P5 Marketing. He's an absolute wizard in SEO, search engine optimization. But also, he really is an expert in digital marketing strategy. We've invited you back to talk about what every CEO really needs to know today about digital marketing strategy. Welcome back, Robert.

Robert: Good to be here. Glad to be a geek.

Dr. Stephie: Yes. Geeks are the best. What would happen in the world without Geeks? You and I, we have interviewed a large number of CEOs over time. Luckily they've been very receptive and helpful to really gain a greater insight into the challenges that CEOs face nowadays with respect to gaining visibility online in the digital world and to add a solid digital marketing strategy to their overall marketing efforts. What I've asked you to do is to come on with us on Top-Notch CEO Geek Radio again and share some tips that can help CEOs to best manage their marketing efforts in today's digital world.

Robert: Great. Glad to be part of it.

Dr. Stephie: Let's start here. What would you say is the biggest disconnect in marketing that a CEO can and, most likely actually, must remedy?

Robert: My favorite topic. I think that there's a huge focus in digital marketing strategy conversations, which I guess it's an oxymoron. Everybody is a lot more focused on tactics, right, then they are about the digital marketing itself. I think the biggest disconnect is just exactly that. People they go off, they build SEO campaigns. They talk about social media. They're talking about a website redesign. Those are all tactics. People are not paying sufficient attention to the overarching digital marketing strategy that should guide all of that. I think the biggest contribution a CEO can make is to keep a lot of those conversations at the strategic level.

The visual that goes on in my head is this giant Rube Goldberg machine that is the embodiment of the digital marketing strategy. The CEO is the owner of that machine. They're not the operator, but they're the owner of that machine. They're not the designer of that machine, but they're the owner of that machine. On one side comes all the investment, the time and effort, and money. On the other side comes to ROI. I think that by setting good strategy, the CEO can make sure that the ROI is a lot higher up the other end of the machine.

Dr. Stephie: The point that I'm hearing out of all this ... By the way, you and I talked about this before a little bit. I think you were even more visual about all of the gears and the huffing and puffing that takes place of this machine. It's a pretty complex machine. You were saying that if you don't put the machine together correctly, which is really the strategy is putting the machine together correctly, then there's oil leaking all over the place, which really the oil is money and time. The result that you could be having and you slip on the oil, which is equivalent to the frustration that you get when it's not working despite all that work and money that goes into it.

Robert: I think that's the case in too many instances frankly.

Dr. Stephie: I guess one of the things that I'm hearing out of that is that you as the CEO cannot delegate marketing to your marketing department without being still pretty heavily involved in the strategy.

Robert: That's absolutely correct.

Dr. Stephie: Well, that's a big point because it's pretty tempting. Especially, let's say, we deal with a lot of geeky companies, and it's not very uncommon. In fact, it's rather common that you have highly technical people who are experts in some high expertise area. They are the CEO. They do not consider marketing necessarily their strength, and so they hire somebody who gets involved with that. They try to wipe their hands clean off of it as quickly as they can and just let the marketing people handle it. You're saying that's a recipe for disaster, is it not?

Robert: Right. We can get into that in a little bit more detail when we talk about the five things that every CEO needs to know about digital marketing strategy. Boy, that was a mouthful. But it's so important to set that strategy so that everybody has a touchstone to measure against it. A great example, right, was our very own plan for the interview, right? We're all excited about sharing this information. But it took discipline and a review of our checklist if you will to sit there and go, "What's the right keyword for this talk?" That's part of our own digital marketing strategy is we want to make sure we're consistent with certain groups of keywords that we think are important for our customers to classify our information and for our SEO purposes.

We could have easily forgotten that, spent all this time on the interview, and been unclear about what this is all about. That's how we are able to start the top of the conversation and make sure we're talking about the fact that this is all about digital marketing strategy and how to be successful at it. See? We just put in another keyword.

Dr. Stephie: Excellent.

Robert: You might have a little fun with it, but that's the touchstone. We had a structure to fall back on to say, "Oop, that's what we should be talking about."

Dr. Stephie: Well, we wanted to make sure that we're connecting information to the right audience. Then the keyword is you have to think about what is the information we want to convey and who wants it and what would they search for in order to find this information?

Robert: Right.

Dr. Stephie: It's connecting the information with the audience. Let's talk about ... That was a great example ... on how the strategy has to precede tactics. You had mentioned to me before that there're really five things every CEO needs to know today to get digital marketing strategy right. What's the first one?

Robert: I think the first one with is that you can't really do marketing without being able to clearly articulate the business strategy of the company itself, even a higher step than marketing.

Dr. Stephie: That is exactly the reason why a CEO has to be involved. He or she has to make sure that the marketing is really tied-in to the overall business plan, the overall business goals, which I articulated in at least a simple business plan. In fact, it's usually better to use a simple business plan we find than these big, enormous business plans that most everybody thinks about.

Robert: Yeah. This isn't the three-ring binder that's on your shelf that's about two inches thick that has way too much information in it. This is actually a two or three-page, very simple document that clearly articulates the vision and strategy and goals of the organization itself. That leads really to the second thing, which is you need to do the same thing with the marketing plan. Plan, I think, maybe conjures up a lot of visions of a lot of complexity. The idea is this is actually meant, designed, and has to be very, very simple. But the purpose of the marketing plan is to basically take the vision that's called out in the business plan and translate that into a set of marketing strategies and objectives.

But you should talk about that. That's actually more your expertise than mine. I want to make sure that that simple business plan is available so that I can draw on it for the marketing plan.

Dr. Stephie: Well, yeah, to be completely honest with our audience here, we have discovered that there's a great deal of synergy between what Top-Notch CEO does and what you do at P5 Marketing with respect to generating business success, which nowadays definitely involves becoming visible online to a great extent. That's very important. We've discovered this first tip and the second tip that you have to have a simple business plan, which actually Top-Notch CEO does. We do this with our clients in four to five hours. It's really hard to imagine how a CEO would not be able to come up with four to five hours to do something this important.

We have clients who doubled their business in less than a year. Many, quite many clients who do that. That's because of this part of this business plan, which then also provides the foundation to create an equally simple marketing plan. But again, as you said, plan is a word that in many people's brains creates the idea that this is complex and takes a lot of time and, therefore, a lot of money. But that's not what we're talking about here. It's just simply what you as a CEO must do the most is to think through what this is even all about and to design that machine that we were just talking about.

Robert: Right. That's really the goal of this process. Those first two steps really help us build-out everything else that we need to achieve.

Dr. Stephie: I want to just put in a quick, flesh this out a little bit, in the sense that what we're talking about here. Why can't you just take your beloved marketing expert, you being maybe a geek CEO who is a, let's say, an expert in software development creating world standards. Or maybe you're in the business of developing drugs or whatever the case may be. Why can't you just simply delegate that to your beloved marketing person in your company from A to Z? Well, let's talk a little bit about one of the foundational pieces of the marketing plan is the niche, isn't it?

Robert: Absolutely. I think we had the old, traditional marketing plan. That's not an invalid thing except when you get into actually doing business. What you have to do when you build-out your digital marketing strategy is to understand that to blend with the search engines ... I'll talk more about what a search engine is because it's a lot more than Google. But what the search engines are looking for is that you're an established authority on a topic. The truth of the matter is you can only be an established authority on a very limited number of topics, especially if you're just getting started or you're smaller or whatever. This focus, another word for that is the niches that you're gonna go after or the audiences that you're gonna go after. I think that's the secret sauce is this ability to focus on particular niches. Focus your resources on specific, narrow targets where you can win.

Dr. Stephie: Right. Exactly. If you don't get that part right, then you're doomed to lose right then.

Robert: That's absolutely, and the buzzword for that that we love they're called cornerstone topics. These form the foundation of your digital marketing strategy.

Dr. Stephie: Right. Without going too deep on the cornerstone content stuff, I just want to make sure that our audience gets the point that obviously your marketing guy needs your support as the CEO to really get the definition of the niches right, which need to be narrower, more narrowly defined than they ever needed to be when you were doing only offline marketing.

Robert: Correct.

Dr. Stephie: That is the key digital marketing tips CEOs.

Robert: The role of the CEO in that, by the way, I believe is to empower his marketing person or his marketing consultant, or however, you've got it to build the marketing and to create a feedback loop and a check and balance between the marketing plan and the business plan. Does the marketing plan execute a strategy that's called out in the business plan?

Dr. Stephie: Right. Okay. We're gonna get there in a moment. The point that we're making here is we're not discouraging CEOs from delegating. We are obviously encouraging CEOs to delegate. That's very important. However, we're telling you, the CEO basically, that you must stay engaged in this. You can't just 100% delegate marketing because when you go into online marketing, you need to probably think ... If you haven't been in online marketing very much before or just half-heartedly if you want to really ramp up your online visibility, it is almost a foregone conclusion that you're gonna have to narrow the definition of your niches and really put some thought into that. That requires your input, too.

Robert: Absolutely.

Dr. Stephie: With that, let's go to the third topic, which you already hinted on. Everything is search. What does that mean?

Robert: Well, it means that everything on the internet involves a search engine. I think we all tend to think when we say search engine we go, "Okay. That's Google and Bing and Yahoo or whoever. Google has 90% of the market, so that's all there is." But the truth of the matter is YouTube is a search engine. Facebook is a search engine. LinkedIn is a search engine. Everything uses search principles and search philosophies to try to ferret out relevant information for all of those tools. That includes Pinterest. That includes Tumblr. That includes Snapchat. Almost everything you see on the internet is a search engine. This ability to think, "search" is probably one of the most important things that a CEO can contribute. Because the CEO knows about all of the buried information that's inside a corporation that perhaps they could leverage by exposing to the search engine. That's knowledge that's already paid for that when shared helps build your authority on particular niches.

Dr. Stephie: Yes. Actually, I want to just pitch in. One of the CEOs I was talking with recently is actually a client. He said that there's also a shift in buying patterns and actually in selling patterns. He's in a specialty construction business. They have basically been doing all their marketing to what he calls boots on the ground type of marketing. That would be offline marketing. Now, as younger people are becoming the salespeople, they really don't want to do that. They're digital. Their mindset is digital. Also, their customers, as the customers get younger and younger, they really don't want to be marketed to that way either. They want to just go online and find whoever they want and then go with that. As a CEO, you have to consider that these patterns are shifting where the on-the-ground stuff is starting to become perhaps less effective in at least some businesses. You have to look at yours to see how that pans out. I thought that was very interesting.

Robert: Well, it's not just the younger people. Most salespeople, the first time that they talk to a customer, the customer's already done their research online. They've already been to their website. They've already downloaded white papers. They're way more educated than they used to be. Today's salesperson is a very different person, whether they know it or not, because their customers are so much better educated than they used to be. Ten years ago, the salesperson had all the information, and you had to go to the salesperson to get that information. Today that information is available to everybody in the world.

Dr. Stephie: Right. Actually, there's good news in all of this because as a CEO if you embrace online digital marketing strategy and get this right, yes, it's an investment. But on the boots ... What do they call it? The-

Robert: On the ground. The boots on the ground.

Dr. Stephie: The boots on the ground strategy. That ain't cheap either for sure.

Robert: It's expensive.

Dr. Stephie: It's very expensive. Yeah. Let's keep it moving along because we have only a certain amount of time.

Robert: Yep.

Dr. Stephie: The next point is about measuring regularly. What? I'm gonna get something that's not a black box you're telling me?

Robert: Oh, by definition it shouldn't be a black box. In order words, both the business plan and the marketing plan should tie-out specific goals whether that be website visits, conversions, or all of those things. But everything you do in digital marketing is measurable. Your role as the CEO is to set up certain key performance indicators, KPIs that you're gonna be focused on that are gonna tell you the results of your ROI. You might need to give it a month or two to cook if you will. But you should see measured results change and trend in a positive direction in 60 to 90 days. The importance of measuring regularly is that this isn't a set it or forget it situation.

Dr. Stephie: Right. Top-Notch CEO, the company I am CEO of, is going through that process. We're going through this process ourselves. I can deeply relate to what you're saying. It's wonderful because I have gone through this journey before with what I would consider a tactics company. A tactics company would be a company that says, "Hey, we do SEO." Yeah? Wonderful. I paid the money. They said, "What keyword do you think you want to rank for?" They gave me a few minutes of conversation about that. Then they took the money and did something. The phone never rang. No emails ever came in from it. Nothing. They were never any updates.

The experience that your clients are getting is very different in that the whole point of this interview is that it's digital marketing strategy first, and then it's tied into the business plan. There is a little bit of a marketing plan, not overwhelming. But then you measure and you show it. Then what's the last piece though?

Robert: I think the last piece is just as important as all the others. But we talked about measurement in step four and measuring regularly. I think one of the key roles that the CEO plays is to create a feedback loop between what the marketing team is learning, what the measurements are, and actually potentially revising the marketing plan, shifting the focus of the marketing plan, and perhaps the business plan itself. I think as the digital marketing strategy gets implemented, you'll find that there are niches that were more valuable than you thought, which might cause you to want to adjust both the marketing plan and the business plan. That's an important step because what happens in a lot of companies is people don't document the changes. Then they get driven by the events as opposed to being intentional in their digital marketing strategy itself.

Dr. Stephie: Yes. Very, very important point. I have to say, sometimes it can be difficult to change from a path that you just thought you worked so hard to get on. Then the results show you that maybe there's a tweak needed. But that's really vital.

Robert: That's what keeps it alive.

Dr. Stephie: Right.

Robert: Keeps your machine humming, whistling, and the dials turning and ROI coming out the end of the funnel.

Dr. Stephie: Okay. Great. In wrapping up, the main message here is what?

Robert: Strategy before tactics.

Dr. Stephie: Okay. For digital marketing to work, you have to have strategy first to figure out which tactics to employ and which way to tune it into your business so that the whole thing actually works.

Robert: Right. The CEO's in the perfect position to make that happen.

Dr. Stephie: All right. To just repeat the five things. Every CEO must need know-

Robert: Has to know today.

Dr. Stephie: Has to know today, even though the interviewer can't talk.

Robert: Okay. All right.

Dr. Stephie: You can't-do marketing without the simple business plan or some business plan that is actually operationally useful. We call that the Business Power Plan. It's about three pages and four to five hours of work. You need a simple marketing plan, which has about that same length.

Robert: Right.

Dr. Stephie: Then everything is search. It's not just Google and Bing, but it's all the other things, too. From YouTube to Facebook to LinkedIn, you name it. Then the feedback loop.

Robert: No, number four, which is to measure.

Dr. Stephie: Measure regularly. Measure regularly and then the feedback loop.

Robert: Right.

Dr. Stephie: Cool. Well, thank you very much.

Robert: All right. I think if anybody has any questions, they can reach out to either you at or us at We're comfortable working together. I invite for both of you, so give us a call.

Dr. Stephie: Sounds wonderful. Yeah, we love working together actually. Thank you. Cheers. Bye-bye.

Robert: Bye-bye.

This interview "Digital Marketing Tips CEOs" is copyrighted by Top Notch CEO and P5 Marketing



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Robert Donnell

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