We are fortunate to have friend-of-the-firm and EBH newsletter subscriber, Krista Todd join us for a conversation on marketing strategy for the digital age. Krista is the Chief Marketing Officer at NortonLifeLock where she is responsible for global corporate marketing, brand marketing, and communications for one of the most recognized brands in online safety and security. Enjoy!
[MV] For a lot of entrepreneurs, when they hear the word marketing, they think advertising i.e. lighting money on fire. How would you describe the core marketing role for an organization?
[KT] It’s true that Marketing can feel like an ‘expensive’ part of building a business, but marketing done well absolutely generates a significant return on the dollars and time invested. When I think of marketing, I imagine the broader, more holistic view of driving awareness of your business to your key audience groups, leveraging earned strategies such as media / trade journal outreach and driving owned strategies including your own website, newsletters, LinkedIn posts etc.
Another capital efficient approach to marketing is customer loyalty and advocacy. Setting up happy customers to easily share their appreciation for your business is often the most meaningful part of marketing and that really doesn’t cost you anything at all. Building social proof for your business helps attract new customers similar to the ones you have today.
It’s critical that every dollar in our marketing budget is justified and we are relentless about collecting data and measuring the success of our marketing efforts. That way we ensure we are getting the biggest bang for our buck.
[MV] That still feels like a lot of effort for most SMBs who may not have the resources to have a dedicated marketing team
[KT] Sure, larger companies have built out marketing organizations with teams of people who are specialists in their function or area of marketing. While being larger has its advantages, there is a lot of value in the ability to be targeted, strategic and consistent in a smaller universe which can drive even more impact. If you really understand your customer profile well, targeting can be much easier than you think.
The more we know about our customers the more likely we can build the right message via the right channel that resonates the best with each segment. I often push myself to not only understand the basics of a customer profile, but also which channel will be most effective for delivering the sales message I want to send. For instance, some customers may respond well to a Facebook ad while others may be more inclined to respond to an email drip campaign or even a cold call. None of these channels are mutually exclusive of course, but the more effective you can be at profiling your customers the more likely they are to respond favorably to your message.
[MV] If marketing is just about understanding your customers and their needs, I already have customers, so I've solved that challenge, right?
[KT] If you already have customers, you’ve solved step one. But the next step is two-fold. Both activating them to become your ambassadors and building a larger customer base by leveraging what you know about your current customers since frequently their affinities/profiles will be similar. Building brand/company ambassadors can be easy when you engage directly with your customers to learn more about what they appreciate about your business. Providing loyalty benefits or loyalty programs/incentives is a good way to ‘gamify’ and drive more engagement with customers. There is no better advocate than an existing customer so closing that sale is really just the beginning of the conversation.
[MV] How would you define the Ideal Customer Profile and its usefulness to a business?
[KT] The easy place to start is the functional role and industry you are selling to. It may be obvious that the VP of Supply Chain is the buyer, but maybe the CFO and factory lead are involved in the decision making process as well. They would each have their own unique profile where it’s important for you to understand their demographic and psychographic characteristics, their relationship to your category, other brand affinities, media consumption habits and behaviors and just about anything you can understand about what drives their decision making process.
You may be selling the same product to each constituent but for different reasons and it’s important to suss out those reasons. Furthermore, the more you can understand your customer the more likely you can build new products, services, and innovation that provides them benefits and is useful to their job.
[MV] There are more marketing channels now than ever before. How should a business owner determine where to spend their time and money?
[KT] Identifying how your current customers discovered you certainly helps you continue to build upon any current marketing channels. For example, if you are being found via search engine optimization, keep your content flowing, it means you are being ranked by the search engines which increases your chances of higher visibility.
Embracing a test-n-learn mindset is a part of every marketer's approach and there is no need to break the bank in doing so. You can test out social media advertising for just a couple hundred dollars to start if you have your content built and you know who you want to target. Search engine marketing is another great way to test affordably and learn a lot.
Spending time on your website, user-experience journey and eCommerce experience is something you are in complete control over and is your one-stop-shop for your customers to understand who you are, what you do and how you can help them in their lives – so your website is incredibly important.
I’m also a big fan of driving meaningful stories by leveraging public relations or media relations. This takes time to develop the right relationships, but trade publications are an easy place to start.
If your company is in a category where ratings and reviews matter – focus on responding to customer ratings, trying to improve the ones that may be negative and celebrate when you’ve hit 5 stars. As for reviews, if third-party editorial sites are interested in reviewing your product or service those are also very influential when it comes to purchasing decisions. Be proactive, don’t wait for them to come to you.
[MV] So let’s assume you have convinced our loyal subscribers that it’s time to get serious about marketing. What’s the first step?
[KT] The first step is self reflection. Take the time to craft your company narrative. Who you are, why you exist, what is your long-term plan and short-term approach to achieving your purpose or vision? How do you differentiate from competitors and most importantly how do you help your customers? How do you make their lives better or easier? What do your products or services help people do – simply. Once you’ve built your story you can customize it by marketing channel – whether that is your website, your email strategy, content marketing, social media or direct acquisition strategies.
It’s important to understand that marketing is dynamic, never static. What may not have worked before, could easily work again later. Be willing to test, learn, fail, and always take away something from an experience and then go for it again and again.
[MV] How do you think about the use of data in marketing and what does the future of marketing look like to you?
[KT] Marketing is a data business – there is no way around that. Because so many customer interactions now come through online channels, we have a tremendous amount of data at our disposal. There are many ways to measure marketing tactics from impressions to engagements to click-throughs to your website to conversion. There are return on advertising spend models that help you understand if your marketing dollars are being effective for you. The challenge now is how you pull the data together, how you identify trends or insights that make the data meaningful to your business.
The rate of change in marketing is extremely fast! It wasn’t that long ago we had one-way advertising/marketing and communication to our customers with no feedback loop and therefore no useful data. Fast-forward to today and the technology, tools, software, and services are incredible. We are far beyond the days when Nielsen ratings drove all of advertising. The future of marketing is to become even more personalized than it is today – in a way that is incredibly useful to the customer – not in violation of their privacy. The more relevant and meaningful we can be to our customers the more likely they will be bought into our products, services, solutions and brand.
[MV] Well it sounds like we have some work to do. Thanks Krista!
[KT] Of course!