Utah Valley BusinessQ invited six marketing experts to share the right way to win the digital marketing game.
Jeanette Bennett, BusinessQ: What does digital marketing entail? What tools are we talking about?
Mike Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: Digital marketing isn’t one set of rules. It’s your digital presence. A lot of people think they need SEO, PPC or YouTube, and quite frankly those are all tactics. Digital marketing is growing a digital presence for the audience you’re trying to go after.
Mike Smith, Petersen West: I look at digital marketing from a company standpoint. We like to focus on the content first and then deliver that content through specific channels where the audience lives.
Kelly Shelton, Boostability: Digital marketing includes everything from reputation management to social media to website builds to YouTube to anything that’s online.
Bennett, BusinessQ: What are your clients asking for right now? What are the current needs in today’s marketing climate?
Matt Frisbie, Art + War Agency: Most of our clients want to be able to differentiate themselves from competitors and that comes from telling the right story.
Jordan Barker, Relic: One thing we’re seeing a lot of is desire for predictability in marketing. The nice thing about digital is it’s so measurable. You can measure from an impression or clicks all the way down to whatever your conversion point is — whether that’s a lead or a customer. More and more of our customers are asking how to build predictable revenue engines so that when they build financial models it’s just a function of what goes in the top of that funnel and what comes out. The lines are blurring between marketing, product and finance. I’ve had more conversations with the CFO or the finance parts of the organization than I have in the past eight or nine years because they understand the power of marketing. It’s actually an exciting time to be part of marketing.
Tyler Brown, Big Leap: To add to that, we’ve been getting a lot of clients lately who ask, “Can you project what these numbers would look like if I were to do x, y, and z?” For us, I think it helps having a wide range of clients to be able to say, “We have five different clients in this vertical and here are some of the results we’ve seen.” We can add onto that predictability, and it can be different from brand to brand but it’s fun to take data and make predictions.
Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: Yes, there is this saturation of data in our everyday lives but data has been around for marketers for decades. It is making a more educated and sophisticated client, but they all are still coming to us with “what” they want. But as marketers we don’t talk about the “what,” we should talk about the “why.” The number one thing you have to do as a marketer is ask why, because you can cut so much fluff out of marketing and just get down to the brass tacks of what they want. Good marketing is so simple and people should be able to embrace it right away. Every one of us at this table could offer something to someone, but we attract different audiences because of the why.
Bennett, BusinessQ: How does the marketing conversation change from a startup company to a mid-range venture to a large company that already has a great share of the market?
Smith, Petersen West: Like Mike was saying, the conversation starts with the why. People don’t care about what you do, they care about why you do it — I’m referencing Simon Sinek here. Ours really starts with what is the why that we really want to communicate, and then once we understand that, marketing really becomes easy no matter the size of the company.
Frisbie, Art + War Agency: I like that because most people come to you with a to-do list not a to-be list. To-do lists can get real arduous and long, but a to-be list is very short, and once you know who you want to be, then what you need to do becomes very clear. The problem with startups is they think they want to do all this marketing, but their product is going to change 100 times within the first year so it’s really about figuring it out. Growing companies are in the phase of, “Which message works? Who am I talking to and why am I talking to them?” With big companies it’s about position — it’s more like defense. You have this “I’m invincible” mentality as a startup. As a growing company you have the, “I just don’t want to die” mentality. And then you have the, “We’re going to war” mentality.
Smith, Petersen West: But I think there’s a difference between marketing as a product vs. principle-based marketing. In my heart of hearts, every company that ever starts would follow a principle-based marketing pathway. There are so many pain points that a small business has, and coming in and really having a conversation with them about “why” can really gridlock them. Kelly, I’m interested in what onboarding conversations Boostability is now having.
Shelton, Boostability: We deal with a lot of startups and small businesses, so survival is top of mind. Typically, a lot of these aren’t well-funded businesses with big budgets to invest in marketing, so they have to find a cost-effective way to get their message in front of consumers that will drive leads and sales. The number one thing our customers care about is ROI. “Am I getting a customer from this? Is this building my business?” We help them connect the dots. It’s a little easier in digital, but it’s still complicated especially for a small business that doesn’t understand the reporting you give them. It’s educating them, finding out what their products are, where their audience lies and then getting that message out in the most cost-effective way. Sometimes that’s social media, SEO, PPC, or a magazine. There are lot of different things. And sure, you pivot here and there, but you need clients.
Frisbie, Art + War Agency: When you meet with new clients, how do you communicate that sales components are different than marketing?
Shelton, Boostability: The marketing side of it is, “What activities are driving conversations and driving me to be able to present my products?” That’s what we focus on — measuring and showing, “You had zero visitors to your web page. Now with this service, you had 100 visitors.” And showing how many of those 100 visitors converted into a conversation or led to a sale. It’s, “Did what I pay for bring me a customer that will help me stay in business?” But the sales side is on them. They have to be able to sell.
Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: If you don’t have a traction channel as a small company you have nothing. You have to find a traction channel that gives you a reliable source of revenue and customers. Once you find that, you grow it as much as you can, and then you start expanding into different areas and trying other things. You have as an entrepreneur a God-given duty to do everything in your power to get customers before you go to an agency and ask them to do it for you. If you’re not selling your guts out, and fighting for every one of your first customers, and finding out what makes them tick and how you got them — you’re not going to survive. If you’re a startup that outsources your marketing as a first step, that is a major red flag.
Barker, Relic: The underlying theme everyone is hitting on is this idea of focus. It’s so common for a startup to see competitors that are well-funded and using all of these channels. Then the startup sits down with an agency and says, “I want to do all of it. My competitors are crushing it. How can I replicate that?” To Mike’s point, it’s about finding one or two channels that work really well for your business and getting those dialed in. What is it about that channel that’s working well and how do you replicate that across other channels? What we’ve seen with startups is a founder who is really good at technology but they’re not a marketer. It’s important for startups to be real and honest with themselves about what they’re good at, play to their strengths and when the time comes, hire someone to do marketing. That might be hiring someone in-house or an agency, but they need to be honest with themselves and say, “I can’t afford to wear 15 hats and spend a fourth of my time on marketing.” It’s such a critical component to growth that you’ve got to be modest and be prepared to make that call even though it might be a tough one.
Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: I don’t think marketing makes you successful. I think you are a successful business that then markets. If you work on being the best company regardless, you’ll have customer testimonials, word of mouth and people who will die to refer you to their friends. That’s what you should want more than the No. 1 ranking on Google.
Frisbie, Art + War Agency: I like what you said about word of mouth. We have to remember the human elements of day-to-day interactions like talking over a meal. They’re not gone just because there’s a thousand ways to communicate on platform after platform. It’s funny because I’ve personally gone through three rebrands in the past six months and I haven’t had a functional website, but we’ve gotten the biggest clients we’ve ever had and we have more revenue from them. We didn’t go to a networking event, we just got referred. It’s interesting as you get that traction channel that opportunities come to you.
Shelton, Boostability: Yes, be awesome, but there are certainly some fundamentals that every business can apply. Our tagline for BoostSocial is, “Word of mouth isn’t spoken anymore, it’s posted.” So make things easy for people to share and talk about. Use these channels that are available to help you grow your business. That is critical. The best leads we get for our customers are people searching for them because you’re not interrupting them — they are out there looking for you.
Bennett, BusinessQ: What role does traditional marketing play in the overall marketing strategy?
Smith, Petersen West: When I look at BusinessQ, for example, it showcases the quality content found in traditional marketing that sometimes digital marketing agencies brush over because they can become content mills. Traditional marketing establishes credibility and brand presence. Perception is everything, and when I see ads and articles in a magazine, I think those guys must be successful. It makes me think, “Maybe I’m not going to do business directly with them right now, but when I have that need, I know this is an established, credible company.” With traditional media, the barrier to entry is stiffer. There is measurable brand value found in traditional marketing. Print can guide clients to the place where you want to have the conversation happen.
Bennett, BusinessQ: In this digital world, what fads have you seen come and go?
Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: Influencer marketing. There are so many inauthentic influencers out there who are happy to take your money and run off with it. If it’s done in an authentic manner where you partner with someone who is really cool, influencer marketing can work because greatness attracts greatness. That’s true influencer marketing. You might find that it works every once in awhile to pay someone $500 to do a tweet because they have 2,000 followers, but I don’t believe it’s scalable.
Smith, Petersen West: It depends on the industry. If it’s authentic, influencer marketing still can work. Freshly Picked exploded based on influencer marketing, but their relationships are authentic. They are partnering with women who are moms. The trend that’s really dead is inauthentic marketing.
Brown, Big Leap: We’re seeing tools popping up where you can actually upload your entire customer list into a tool and find influencers who have already purchased your product. From a sales perspective, once you get that person in the door, you can give them a really good experience. You can ask them about the product they purchased voluntarily. That’s the future of influencer marketing, not the sponsored stuff. It’s more the organic posts and knowing who your customer is and leveraging that.
Shelton, Boostability: What’s really cool about the digital space is that it’s changed the position of the consumer. The consumer has more power than they’ve ever had, and Google has made it easy for them to find information. What really matters from a marketing standpoint is, “Am I providing information that helps the user make a better decision. Am I providing an experience?” Sometimes an influencer they trust can provide information and it can be effective.
Barker, Relic: The other interesting thing we’re seeing along the same lines of authenticity is increased transparency in general. If you look at fads that have come and gone — there was this concept of a blind ad network. I place an ad and I would have no idea which sites those ran on other than categories. Now you take a look and you see some of what these big brands are doing with programmatic display and they’re calling for more and more transparency. And transparency is good for the consumer, it’s good for the advertiser and it’s actually good for the publisher. It’s a win-win-win. If your product depends on the concept of having a blind ad network to survive, those days are over. I think that trend will continue. We’ll see more consumer empowerment where they’ll say, “These are the types of ads I want to see and this is how I want to see them.” It’s going to be more and more the consumer who is in the driver’s seat.
Smith, Petersen West: Along the lines of transparency, there’s going to be a responsibility on our end as marketers to help clients set their Google analytics properly — going in and making sure we’re tracking every tactic and piece of content and learning from our data. We are able to use that in making decisions and prioritizing what we should do for clients.
Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: Something that I think is dead — and I could not be happier that it is dead — is the idea of going viral. I think people finally understand that you can’t create something viral just by saying it. I can’t tell you how many times a boring tech company that needs reliable marketing came to us and said, “Mike, what’s our ‘ice bucket challenge’ going to be?” People finally realized that going viral does not mean success.
Frisbie, Art + War Agency: I just read “Shoe Dog” and it says that Nike had more failures than you can imagine. Everyone thinks Nike just showed up and everything was awesome but they should’ve died so many times. Sometimes you get lucky. So those things that went viral, it was the right time, the right thing, the right person, the right economy, the right humanity, whatever. It just worked out. And sometimes marketers take credit for it.
Smith, Petersen West: I agree that you can’t force it, but there are principles to follow.
Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: You can give your campaign the most opportunity to succeed. If you have a website, you’re more likely to succeed. If you have social media presence, you’re more likely to succeed.
Smith, Petersen West: There are principles of virality. I think the problem with when someone says, “What’s our next ‘ice bucket challenge’” is it comes back to what you mentioned early on, that “why.” That’s where a lot of businesses stray because most businesses are running against the clock and against budget. They want fast results and they want them today, so they’re hoping for a shortcut instead of what really needs to happen if you want to build a brand.
Shelton, Boostability: You can’t take shortcuts, you can’t use black hat tactics, you have to earn it. When you enter the digital world, keep in mind that it’s a slow and steady process. Be useful, transparent, authentic and communicate that so that when a consumer finds you, they recognize you as a great company. That then signals to Google, “Wow, customers really like them,” and therefore your presence continues to grow. Companies try to cut corners and it hurts them. You’ve got to be authentic because people want real, Google wants real, Facebook wants real.
Bennett, BusinessQ: What are “best practices” for the marketing team when it comes to working with the rest of the company? How can marketing strategy be integrated throughout company culture?
Templeman, Foxtail Marketing: Internally for a marketing team, it all comes down to expectations. Friction occurs when there’s a delta between expectations and reality. If you can get the expectations as inline as possible ahead of time and everybody agrees to that, then things are harmonious.
Barker, Relic: Along the same lines — it’s so easy for someone to fall in love with what they’re doing, especially from a digital perspective. It’s important to understand your audience and what’s important to them. If the sales team or whomever they are speaking to doesn’t understand how it impacts their world, then it’s going to be a complete waste of time. It’s about translating what you do and why it’s important to them. At the end of the day, make sure to know what the stakeholders care about and genuinely take a vested interest in what’s important to them.
Brown, Big Leap: It comes down to communication. On the marketer’s side we might be thinking, “We just doubled leads,” but on the client side they might say, “That didn’t affect our sales.” We might put that feather in our cap where we really should have a conversation and make sure we’re inline with the client. Having regular communication on whatever channel works for all of the parties involved is a huge key for setting expectations and getting internal marketing teams and external marketing teams all on the same page and working harmoniously.
Smith, Petersen West: Marketing sometimes has to do a job of saying, “This department is far removed from the customer experience. What is their place in the customer experience and how can we have the customer present in their minds as they work?”
Shelton, Boostability: The cool thing about marketing is it’s touching everything now. It’s touching the customer experience more than it ever has. Customers are engaging in social media and in reviews. Engagement is a big marketing thing. Obviously lead generating, branding and marketing touches so much of the organization now that it’s more of a close-knit thing and so more people are buying in and more people know how to help that customer experience progress. It’s cool that it’s not just making the phone ring, it’s really critical to an organization’s success.
Bennett, BusinessQ: How is Utah County’s marketing landscape unique?
Barker, Relic: When I first got into digital marketing, I was in a meeting with the CEO and he said to everyone in the room, “Finally we can go get some real talent from the Bay Area or Chicago or New York.” That doesn’t happen around here as much anymore. I’ve been at conferences in Chicago, Boston and LA and I’ve watched people from here in Utah County presenting a case study that they’ve done that is so unique to the digital community that nobody else is doing anywhere in the world. The things we’re working on are marketing challenges nobody has ever solved before, so we’re having to be creative. As a marketing community we’re starting to mature and home-grow our talent.
Smith, Petersen West: There’s definitely a saturation as far as marketing agency options. There’s an abundance of creativity and we have functioned primarily off referral but we’ll turn people away as well because we want to have a vision for what they do. I think there’s an abundance of agencies that have experience, talent and have the ability to get you the results you want to get — but if all of those things are equal, you have to be working with someone who has a vision for what you do. There’s that opportunity for companies to be less focused on price and more focused on working with the agency that really has a vision for what they can become and where they can go.
Shelton, Boostability: I’ve seen a maturity in Utah County as far as talent. There’s a lot of digital marketing companies here and it’s awesome. I think as more and more organizations and universities invest in helping their students and employees learn how to do it, they will go out and build companies and do well. We hire a lot of entry level positions and the talent is there, the brains are there, the skills are there. It’s nice to work with universities like UVU and BYU and try to create training programs to help them learn digital marketing skills. Salt Lake City, Provo and Silicon Slopes can rival other digital cities. And I love what Silicon Slopes is doing to showcase that there’s a lot of talent here and it’s affordable. The future is really bright for Utah County when it comes to digital marketing.
Bennett, BusinessQ: Thank you, digital geniuses, for being part of this print magazine article.