005 | When Chaos is Your Competition with Chris Turner | Studio CMO
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The Episode in 60 Seconds
Golden Spiral’s own Chris Turner, Senior Director of Digital Strategy and Performance Analytics, joins us via Zoom to discuss how companies, specifically marketing leaders, can transition, think, plan, and strategize during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chris eats, sleeps, and breathes digital strategy and has a tremendous backdrop that has facilitated his deep expertise in the field.
This interview delves into:
- The three categories B2B tech companies are falling into amidst the crisis
- Why this isn’t the time for bold actions
- How and when to advance your B2B tech company
- Why it’s critical to fortify your digital marketing infrastructure
- How to avoid data paralysis during the COVID-19 pandemic
Chris Turner is Golden Spiral’s Senior Director of Digital Strategy and Performance Analytics and an expert in all things digital. Chris manages and monitors the online strategies for our clients related to paid media, content, social media marketing, and digital optimization.
Chris helps our teams build synergistic digital strategies that touch on everything from relationship building with partners to content creation and syndication — all to help clients make an impact through their business. He leverages his experience of 10+ years of marketing leadership to direct marketing teams to success based on addressable KPIs and data-driven tactics.
Chris has a bachelor’s degree in information technology and a master’s in information systems. He is well educated, heavily experienced, and always seeking more knowledge.
Before diving into data analytics, learn how to create and maintain a SaaS marketing and sales scorecard.
We created a comprehensive guide to fortifying your marketing infrastructure. Check it out.
The marketing and sales funnel is rapidly evolving.
To learn more about optimization from Chris, check out his Compete SEO Guide for B2B Tech Marketing.
How Does Your B2B Tech Company React During a Time of Crisis?
Given the current coronavirus pandemic, B2B companies are generally falling into these three categories:
- The company’s solution meets a need that has been accelerated by the crisis (i.e. healthcare, healthtech, health IT)
- The company’s solution remains essential regardless of the crisis
- The company’s solution transforms a workflow — increasing efficiency and offering significant savings — but isn’t seen as essential amidst the crisis
Most B2B tech companies are falling into the third category. If your solution isn’t essential to overcoming the crisis, it will be difficult for your company to start conversations. It’s not a great time for your company to act boldly.
If your funnel has evaporated overnight, your salespeople can’t get anyone to return calls, your open rates have dropped through the floor, and you’re grasping at straws trying to figure out how to engage in the market…
“It’s not time to advance right now, but it is time to fortify.” – John Farkas
Don’t Give Up Now: Here’s How Your B2B Tech Company Can Advance
Just because the environment around you changes, it doesn’t mean you can’t still keep moving forward. The journey will just look a little different.
It’s important for B2B companies to expand focus into innovation and transformation, so when the time comes, they’ll be ready to enter the conversation.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Your key asset is your people. Ask them what your company should do to make an impact in the future.
Why You Must Fortify Your Digital Marketing Infrastructure
If you put your soldiers in place now, when the time comes, you’ll be more than ready to win the battle.
Fortifying the essentials means understanding and optimizing the assets that you currently have while also planning for the assets you need to have.
There are three prerequisites before you are able to fortify your digital marketing infrastructure:
- Have a clear view of your goals and make sure they’re in line with the rest of your organization. What do you want to see happen by the end of the next quarter?
- Have a solid understanding of your buyer’s needs. Then, articulate your solutions in the context of those needs.
- Have a clear view of your competition. What are they declaring right now in the market, and how can you present your product or service in a way that’s clearly differentiated?
1. Evaluate Your Toolbox
You must understand what you have that solves the problems your buyers are really trying to figure out.
Evaluate not only your content and digital assets, but also the assets in human capital that can help you move forward.
Determine what elements of your marketing strategy align with the awareness, consideration, and decision phases of the buyer’s journey to know exactly what you need to address.
To appeal to buyers in the consideration and decision phases of the buyer’s journey, it’s essential to dissect your buyer and develop a deep understanding of their motivations.
“It’s looking at demographics, it’s looking at engagement with your content, it’s looking at the ways that buyers want to be engaged.” – Chris Turner
2. Fill Your Toolbox
Once you’ve identified the gaps in your digital strategy, it’s all about taking your insight and understanding of the marketplace and saying “what’s the easiest route to the end goal?”
In the consideration phase, potential buyers are comparing and contrasting different solutions. Are you answering those questions? If you’re not, your competitors may be.
“It’s not about what the environment’s doing, it’s what your buyer is doing and how you can address that buyer in a meaningful way.” – Chris Turner
3. Optimize Your Assets
The rubber meets the road when you combine the great assets that you’ve now crafted or developed, but you also need to make sure they’re visible in the right ways and at the right places. Not all content needs to be everywhere.
There are three keys to optimization:
- Understanding the feedback you receive. SEO, and any marketing efforts, should be executed based on the data of the people you’re targeting. Sometimes those changes will be drastic, sometimes they’ll be minimal.
- Connecting the dots between existing pieces of material that help to foster the whole journey. There’s an actual physical path that people will take through your website.
- Leading people towards the final goal, otherwise known as conversion optimization.
How to Effectively Leverage Data During the COVID-19 Pandemic
What gives data value is your interpretation of it. Look at your company’s data, truly understand what you’re seeing, and create a narrative. That’s what real insight is.
These are tools Chris, and most SEOs, use to interpret data in meaningful ways:
Are you creating material that actually matters?
“Content for content’s sake, webinars for webinars’ sake, videos, infographics, anything digital for digital’s sake has little value. You have to have a purpose behind it all.” – Chris Turner
What is Data Paralysis and Why Does it Matter?
Marketing leaders often dive into data and end up over-analyzing, resulting in a sense of coma. They put their own biases inside of the data set. It may then be difficult to identify driving factors.
You must break apart all that you are as a business, and parse it into solution sets, content, material, and resources that inform and equip your audience. Your website doesn’t rank, your pages do.
“Your people aren’t looking for you. They’re looking for a solution.” – Chris Turner
The most important thing to remember is:
“The key to success in the correlation is not causation. It’s common sense.” – Chris Turner
Mark Whitlock’s wife’s Starbucks gift card display board. She has collected thousands over the years and changes the display with the seasons.
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Mark Whitlock: When it comes to B2B tech marketing, it’s loud. How do we quiet the noise and calm down in order to plot a plan for the future? That’s what we’re going to be talking about today on Studio CMO.
Welcome to Studio CMO. I’m Mark Whitlock and this is an odd edition. Unfortunately, we’re not all in the same spot and I bet you can relate to that because your workforce is probably distributed and you’ve been spending a lot of time looking into the eyes of your coworkers through a camera and a screen. Only. Other end of this zoom call is our CEO and chief storyteller for Golden Spiral and the host to Studio CMO, John Farkas. John, I like your home office.
John Farkas: Thanks. It’s nice digs. Yours is pretty cool, too. I love that. Uh, you guys can’t see it, but Mark’s wife has a legendary collection of Starbucks gift cards that she’s created into a collage that is part of his background background in his home office. So I’m a little envious of the coolness.
Mark Whitlock: We’ll put a picture of that in the show notes for some quarantine distraction.
John, this isn’t the first time you and I’ve connected via zoom into your home office. We’ve had a number of conversations about how companies, especially marketing leaders can transition, can think, can’t plan, can’t strategize during this time. And you’ve got some pretty significant thoughts for us.
John Farkas: Well, I hope they’re at least at some level useful. If I’ve heard one set of superlatives, I’ve heard 50 in the last 24 hours and we’ve talked about this with a number of our clients. The world is a really loud place right now. There’s a whole lot of people communicating a lot of things in response to what’s going on, on the world stage at the moment. And uh, there’s a lot of meta being declared. It’s phrases like the whole world has changed. The world has gone crazy. Things like unprecedented things like the market has fallen off a cliff.
There’s a lot being stated. There’s a lot going on. Uh, not to mention the health crisis that many people are finding themselves in, which is certainly front and center in this. So the question is, what do we do? You know, and what I’ve seen, and we are seeing this with our clients, is that B2B companies right now are essentially falling into three categories. One of them is the company who has a solution that meets a real need that has been accelerated by this crisis right now. There’s a number of ways that that can happen. Uh, we have a number of health tech clients that have solutions are directly pertinent to helping health systems cope with some of the changes that are happening right at this moment and they’re they’re seeing some traction. So that’s a good thing in a sense. There’s also companies whose solution remains essential kind of regardless of this.
And so their world has changed. They have to retune how they talk, but they don’t have to, um, change their fundamental strategies as far as keeping things forward. But then there’s the third company and a lot of B2B tech companies fall in this category. You’re bringing a solution that transforms a workflow or increases efficiency or offers incremental or even significant savings as a result of those transformations. But it’s not something right now that people are seeing as essential. And if it’s not essential, it’s really hard to get conversations. And so for many of you who are in that scenario, it’s not a great time to be bold or loud, right? I think that time is coming fairly soon, but it’s not going to happen until we reach some sort of equilibrium and what’s going on right now. So this morning I want to spend some time talking about that third type of company and you know who you are because your funnel has essentially evaporated overnight.
Your salespeople can’t get anyone to return calls. Your open rates have dropped through the floor and you’re grasping at straws right now trying to figure out what it means to engage in the market. Truth is, I don’t think it’s time to advance right now, but it is time to fortify. So I’ve invited our director of digital strategy, Chris Turner, to join us in the studio in our virtual studio today and talk about what some of those fortifications can look like because the time is going to come. This is going to end. And at that time the companies who are ready to move are going to get the right kind of attention the right ways. And so what we want to talk about today is what does it mean to fortify and do appropriate work for right now that’s going to position you to move aggressively when the time comes.
Mark Whitlock: Well Chris, welcome to Studio CMO and I happen to like your home office very well. too.
Chris Turner: I happen to like it as well. It’s a also doubles as my bedroom. The new weird normal for right now.
John Farkas (05:31): Yeah. So Chris, um, I don’t know how to categorize Chris, uh, other than that could be good or bad, decide being awesome. Chris is just eats, sleeps and breathes digital strategy and has a tremendous backdrop that has brought him to this point and understanding, uh, some of the essentials that make up digital strategy for companies. And Chris, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your backdrop and what brings you to this?
Chris Turner (06:02): I feel like I’m catching up with my experience. And the reason I say that is I used to as a 20 something used to be like, man, I’ve lived the life of an 80 year old in 20 years and there are sorted stories that lead through that. But the ones that are pertinent to the B2B tech environment are, I have a bachelor’s degree in information technology and master’s in information systems. I’ve always loved tinkering. And so with strategy, it’s tinkering, it’s playing around, it’s taking apart something just to put it back maybe the same way. That wasn’t always the case. Sometimes you just broke things. But with strategy and over my, the course of my career, I’ve been able to tinker with a lot of things and find success. And what it comes down to is experience experiencing different things with different clients, with different customer sets and different solution sets. And so my experience crosses several different categories. I started with, you know, mom and pops building websites. Then it led into small and medium businesses that it led to working with specific industries such as lawyers, which was fantastic and fun. I loved my lawyer friends and then it became enterprise level in working with fortune 100 companies and then it led to the wonderful environment that I am in today, which is with B2B tech companies at Golden Spiral.
John Farkas (07:32): Awesome. Thanks. A lot of folks listening to this podcast are in companies where they are bringing really innovative solutions, solutions that people have not even thought about being possible before, but right now are not in the category of essential. I mean everything is being refigured. People are trying to figure out how to, how to stay afloat. They are not having in many cases the bandwidth to consider a new direction when they’re trying to maintain a direction. So it’s an unprecedented, crazy, all those superlative words that we are throwing out time. It’s not were we not been here before. Knowing that this is going to pass. What would be some good ways for those companies whose funnel is on some form of pause right now? What would be some ways that they could fortify their marketing presence so that when things do settle down and people are able to expand their focus into some areas of innovation and transformation, that they’ll be ready to enter the conversation strong and have a presence that is optimized so that they can be found and be in the conversation.
Chris Turner (08:52): That’s a great question and it to everyone because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And so as they’re talking about fortifying and looking at ways of fortifying, you go to your core people, you go to the core thing, that is your key asset, which is your people and you say, what can we do right now that will make an impact in the future? And the biggest thing that that is as everyone knows from an SEO standpoint is content. And so you can be using this time to start fortifying your content foundation. That’s making sure you understand how you want to talk about your solutions, how you want to talk to your audience, and really what your audience is looking for right now. You know where everyone is there at home. So if you have to do some insight into figuring out how best to talk to your clients and your consumers and your customers, the best way to figure that out is to talk to them right now.
And part of that is just to say plan on addressing that need when you can, but right now they still have needs and they still have things that are top of mind and you can start to strategize what your calendar looks like, what your content will really be speaking towards and building up a repertoire and the a number of resources that you can come out of the gate using once all of this, for lack of a better term, blows over. I’m not to minimize or negate the fact that there are thousands of people on the front lines working to combat coven, but the life will go on. We are stronger than this.
John Farkas (10:33): Yeah, and it’s worth saying too, I mean that’s the tricky world we’re living in right now. We’re not trying to jump over what’s going on. It’s really a critical situation. And it’s also a critical situation for a lot of you out there who are trying to find a way to maintain business and to move things forward because we have to. And so we’re acknowledging the disparity. It is a critical situation. A lot of what we’re talking about would fall outside the categories of essential. And for us it is essential. I mean, this is our livelihoods. These are our businesses. We have to move it forward. That’s why we’re having the conversation. So let’s just kind of bring it out in the open here. For a lot of companies, optimization is a hard thing to get to. It’s not easy to stick that on the front burner all the time because the tyranny of the urgent, uh, trade show schedules, uh, the new product launches, all those things, the, the tyranny, the urgent creeps in and takes our eye off of the ball of some of the essentials. This is a time where we can fortify some of the essentials. So walk us through what some of that looks like, Chris.
Chris Turner (11:49): Fortifying the essentials. That’s a great statement that I’m going to kind of now, so fortifying the essentials looks like understanding and optimizing the assets that you currently have while also planning for the assets you need to have and I think a lot of companies are missing out on the fact that you have a number of resources that you can tap currently in the current state of the world to really understand what it is you may be missing, but also to look at the ways that you can use the content, the existing assets to approach the marketplace.
John Farkas: Right now, I want to talk about some of the prerequisites for this fortification process. There’s some fundamentals that you need to bring to the table, and I don’t want to take this for granted because the market is moving and changing so quickly because you have a solution that is evolving fast and you’re having to be aggressive in taking it to market. Sometimes you don’t have the time to get some of these basics checked off. The first is you need to have a clear view of your goals that are in line with the rest of the organization. So if you haven’t had those conversations, if you haven’t talked about what a likely revision for your goals are, then that’s something that you need because any marketing effort has to be tied clearly to goals so that you can take those goals and translate them into the KPIs that are going to be meaningful for your program.
John Farkas (13:20): So if you don’t have a clear view of what your goals are, understanding that we’re probably looking at a solid Q3 push that is going to, you know, really need them to roll some of this out. What do you want to see happen by the end of Q three moving into Q4 that we can be planning for? What are those goals look like? So that’s the first thing. Make sure that you understand your goals. Then you want to have a clear understanding of what your buyer’s needs are. And some of them are changing right now, but most of them are going to remain essentially the same. But you have to be able to clearly articulate an understanding of what their real market needs are. We talk a lot about that here in the context of studio CEO’s. Our proprietary process that we have is called the buyer matrix.
Taking your the real market needs that are in any way, shape or form associated with your product. And then making sure that you are articulating your solutions in the context of those needs. That’s an important thing to come to the table with and understand really clearly. And then the final thing is you need to have a clear view of your competition. What are they saying and doing? What are they declaring right now in the market and how can you bring what you’re bringing in a way that’s clearly differentiated. So those are the requisites. Okay, we need to have that stuff covered. That’s great John. So let’s say that the prerequisites are in place. Now what do we need to do? We’ve got a clear view of the goals in light of what’s happening right now, we understand our buyer’s needs and we have a current up to date picture of our competition. Who they are and what they’re doing and how they speak to the needs and the culture. What do we do now? So we’re going to take a look at three critical steps to make ensure that you’ve got your digital infrastructure ready to go. So Chris, talk us through how we want to approach it.
Chris Turner (15:24): Marketing is focused on connections at rare since the cave drawings that showed you the best hunting grounds that was marketing at play. You know, we drew on the cave wall to say go to this place. That’s the best thing. And ultimately what CMOs and their marketing teams are really doing are trying to make those same connections, those relationships for themselves, for their clients because they have a solution for a problem. And so the first step is identifying exactly that, understanding what you’ve got that solves the problems that your buyers are really trying to figure out.
Mark Whitlock (16:01):
Yeah, you’ve got to evaluate that toolbox and find out what’s in the toolbox.
Chris Turner (16:05): Exactly. You got to know what you’re working with. “Show me what they’re working with.” So the idea here is to say, okay, what do we have? What do we have from a marketing standpoint? And even from a sales standpoint, you know, a little caveat here, I’m not a believer in siloing. So I think marketing sales to really work together. And we had a great interview with Kevin from Cofense where he talked about the translation layer. And it’s great to have a cohesive system where you are all communicating sales, marketing, leadership, and your employees and, and evaluating your toolbox. You’re evaluating all of that. You’re evaluating not only the content and the digital assets you have, but also the assets in human capital you have that can help you as you move forward, especially through these very trying times. And so that looks like a data analysis to understand what’s being effective and what’s not being effective.
And we talk about things like bounce rates and impressions and click throughs. All that’s great data, but it only means something if you can interpret it correctly. So a lot of times when we’re kind of nurturing and helping marketing leaders through the the path to the right tools, uh, we’re trying to educate them and help them understand some of the insights that they can gather and then teach their teams those same techniques and tools. So it’s looking at things like a specific landing page and saying, okay, this landing page has a 80% bounce rate. Is that good or bad? Well, what was the duration on that landing page? Oh, it was about two minutes. That’s an effective landing page. But key performance indicator would say, are people converting? And so that then leads to the next part of that evaluate your toolbox step, which is mapping it to the buyer’s journey.
You might have great landing pages and great content, but it’s only great if it’s effective for your buyer. And so it’s looking at the awareness, the consideration and the decision phases and seeing what elements of your marketing align with those different phases and understanding your buyer so that you know what you need to do to address their needs at each of those stages. So part of that consideration is also therefore understanding the buyer and saying, okay, what kind of buyer is this? Is this an audio buyer, a visual buyer? Do they like to feel things? Do I need to ship them a box of stuff so that they can feel like we’re engaging here? You know, do they, do they need me to send them a picture of the best hunting grounds? Will that resonate well with them? And that then that also leads you to saying, okay, well maybe what’s my competitors doing?
How are they approaching the marketplace both previous to now, now and how do I foresee them doing this in the future? And that’s not to say, Hey, let’s look at the competitors and follow them. You know, my, my father would be ecstatic if I would follow people through the minefield. That was one of the first things he told me when I joined the military. He’s like, if you’re going through a minefield, follow somebody. What he didn’t understand was that I was in the air force, so we sat in tents and just played PlayStation all day. And I was like, all right, dad, if I go through my field, I’ll do exactly that. But the idea is that with your competitors, you’re seeing what they’re doing and if you’re doing this as intelligently as I know you are, then you’re mapping this to the buyer’s journey, seeing where your gaps are, but you’re also being able to see where your competitors gaps are and you’re seeing what they’re being vocal about, how vocal they are being and then who they’re trying to talk to.
Mark Whitlock (19:49): So Chris, uh, talking about that buyer’s journey, we, we use the terms awareness, consideration and decision phases. Uh, those are terms that were made popular by HubSpot. Other people have other steps they’ve added into their buyer journey. I know firsthand from the work that I’ve created for golden spiral that creating material for the awareness stage is the easiest, is often the most populated step in the buyer’s journey for, for most of the companies we work with, what are some ways we can dig down into consideration and decision to beef those up and then help me compare the three stages of that buyer’s journey to my funnel. Because if I’ve got problems in my funnel, I probably have problems with my buyer’s journey and vice versa. How do I best look at that to make some decisions?
Chris Turner (20:38): Let me break that apart a little bit. So what that looks like, what you’re really focusing on is where do I invest my energy and am I investing my energy there in those three different categories of the buyer’s journey? And so with awareness, it’s easy to do awareness. That’s brand awareness. That’s, you know, solution awareness. That’s my product. That’s making sure that the marketplace knows about me. That’s the fun stuff. It’s fun to come out with some great taglines and be like, we are the trendsetter. We’re on the bleeding edge of technology and X. insert your industry here. You know? It’s like that’s the fun stuff. That’s what marketers coming out of college are looking to do. They’re like, Oh, I’m going to be able to write some taglines and put some ads together. That’s great. That’s also the simplest part of this whole process is putting together the awareness play.
When you get into consideration, that’s where you’re going up against the competitors. That’s where you’re going up against people’s own biases. That’s where you start to learn about psychology and marketing and it’s, it’s saying, how am I addressing my marketplace and my target buyer with the material that I’m pulling together? What channels work well for these buyers? And so it’s then dissecting your buyer and understanding their motivations deeper at that level, figuratively, of course, yes. Do not do that physically because we don’t need an episode of Dexter. So the, the idea of a hide dissecting is really dissecting the data. It’s looking at demographics, is looking at engagement with your content, is looking at the ways that they want to be engaged. And that’s why the learning styles matter so much because if you’re going after someone in a healthcare space or cybersecurity, they typically have a vein that they really like. There are people that love, Hey, guess what? Podcasts, there’s people that love to look at infographics that are well-researched and well-informed. So, depending on who your audience is and what phase of the buyer journey they’re at, that helps to facilitate the type of material that you put together and how you put that material out to the marketplace.
And John, you’ve really put your finger on one of the problems that we have with filling the buyer’s journey because most companies don’t know how many people are actually shopping until it can be too late. That the funnel has changed. Clearly all the data that we are privy to and a lot of the industry trends would say that for B2B solutions, so much of the funnel is in a self-service mode and we’re seeing numbers anywhere between 60 and 80% of the buying process at this point is done before anybody gets a phone call, before anybody clicks on a form fill. And so super important to have that journey really well-founded, understood, articulated, and served because uh, you, you don’t have, other than giving people what they need along that process, you don’t have control. And so the most control you have is making sure that you’re putting stuff in their path when they need it.
How they need it so they have what they need and at the moment when they’re ready to be considering. And so, you know, as we look at getting stuff prepared, this is a great time to look at that infrastructure and say, do we have all of those elements in place in ways that we feel reasonably confident are gonna are, are gonna do a good job of bringing people into that process? And I’m going to put in the show notes, a link to a video where John talks about the changing dynamics of the funnel. Uh, so you can see firsthand, and here’s some advice from John about how to move your leads and prospects through the funnel better. So Chris, we’ve evaluated our toolbox. We’ve mapped our content to the buyer’s journey. We’ve found out where our competitors are doing content and, and talking about the same things we are. And we figured out how they’re doing it. Okay, what do I do now? How do we take the data we’ve determined and the holes that we have to fill? How do we fill them?
That’s a great way of kind of illustrating the concern. And the frustration that a lot of businesses and their, their marketing leads are feeling right now because they may are, have already identified some of those gaps. They may have already identified some of those holes and they’re trying to figure out strategies and tactics that will help them fill those spaces. It’s really taking the insight and the understanding of the marketplace and saying, what’s the easiest route to the end goal and the end goal being the relationship connecting with those audiences. And so that looks like saying, okay, right now there’s content that needs to be published or crafted or created by my team that helps to illustrate how we’re addressing the needs at this phase. So in the consideration phase, they’re comparing and contrasting different solutions. Are you making sure you’re answering those questions? Because if you’re not answering those questions, then your competitors may be.
And so the idea behind that is to say, okay, let’s just directly answer some of these questions. And from those answers, you craft new material, you’re crafting material that is really evergreen and so that’s something you can launch. Now today, if you can answer those questions directly, if you can’t or because of privacy or because your solution is just so revolutionary, you can’t put out that material because it’s trademark. Then it’s, it’s saying, here’s how we can push out information once this time passes, that will help in the new normal, inform those buyers as they make considerations for what to do next. And so the way you go about filling those holes is really to say, okay, we’ve got a B and C cover, but we don’t have the, and D may look like content for webinars. It may be eBooks and maybe how do we really do some marketing automation that’s meaningful?
How do we help these individuals and between now and the time when it’s the new normal, you’ve got time to build it well and diversify. How important is it to put these pieces of content in different formats and different ways of learning? For the audience, it’s extremely important. It’s like the choice between steak, fish or veggies. It’s like people like to consume things and their own way and so you have to make sure that maybe this material that you put into a webinar is easily digestible for someone in an infographic or it’s a great blog post or it becomes an ebook that they can read at their leisure. You’re giving them good material in the medium that they want it in, and so by lowering those barriers, you make their journey to you easier. So as they’re going through the awareness and the consideration and the decision phases, it’s easy for them to jump over those boundaries because if it’s hard for them to consume your information, it’s hard for them to trust you. It’s hard for you to develop the relationship that you’re looking for because they can’t understand the material you’re presenting.
John Farkas (28:06): It’s real common for clients to kind of err on one side of the funnel or the other where they’ll have lots of early stage conversation pieces out there, but not much to pull them through into the later buying stages. Or they’ll have lots of technical information and really heavy later funnel stuff that has very little to do with the the start of the funnel and where people are just in the information gathering phase and so it really is important to do that inventory and make sure that you’ve got the right elements in your box so that you are ready to walk them through each stage.
Chris Turner: Exactly, exactly. Okay, so we’ve evaluated the box, we’ve worked on fill in the box, we’ve got the right stuff. Part of the necessary work that a lot of people don’t take the time to do is to optimize that content and make sure that all of the wiring is in place. That helps ensure that what they have ends up where they want it online and the, in the search universe, we typically talk about optimization in four categories. You have content, you have technical, then you have things that you can do. We really would call it owned media and then the offsite stuff. So with SEO you might have content optimization, then you’ll have technical optimizations and then on and off site. From a paid media standpoint, you might say, okay, we’re going to optimize these ads and then we’re going to see how the audience engages with it. So let’s say your toolbox, you feel great about it, you’ve got the right amount of awareness plays and content, you’ve got the right amount of consideration phase and elements, and that you’ve got some great webinars planned for the decision phase to drive some demos of your platform. So how do they find it? How do you get people to it? So that’s where the marketing really hits the road.
The rubber meets the road when you’re combining the great assets that you’ve now crafted or developed, and now you need to make sure they’re visible. So optimization is the marketing effort to make sure it’s discoverable, it’s visible, and it gets the traction. I’ve loved the way you described it, John, where you said it’s really making sure that people can get to it, that they can find it. It’s making sure that it’s visible in the right ways, at the right places. And so not all content needs to be everywhere. If I’m doing a webinar, it needs to be somewhere where webinars exist. Let that free range webinar be free. You know when I have a blog post, it needs to be indexable. That means the search engines can crawl it, find it and index it for the right reasons on the right terms for the right people.
John Farkas (30:57): And it’s worth just saying it’s not the terms you think they are. It’s the terms that you need to know they are and this is an a, an opportunity to to just make sure that you know what the data says that they’re actually looking for and making sure that you’re crafting the right company.
Chris Turner (31:13): Correct. Correct. And the optimization may look different than what you anticipated looking like. Especially if one, you’re talking to your existing and potential clients and you’re talking to your sales team who are actually having those conversations. That is key here. That’s key to optimizing. Anything that you’re doing is understanding the feedback you’re receiving. If a business leader, a marketer, a COO, is sitting in a room thinking, I have all the answers, they don’t, that answer is wrong. The answer is what does the market say? What do the people who I’m crafting this content for say about this content, and so that’s how the SEO, the optimization, any marketing effort should be run is based on the data of the people you’re targeting. And so that looks like optimizing not only the keywords in a piece of content and the metadata such as the titles and descriptions.
It’s also connecting the dots between existing pieces of material that help to foster the whole journey. There’s a metaphysical journey, the buyer journey, but there’s an actual physical path that people will take through your website. When we’ve done some of the research, we tell our clients and potential clients, people will do anywhere between eight to 12 searches before they actually get to you. When they’re doing those searches, what results are showing up? That’s where you want to be. So that’s part of that awareness play. But now that they’re at your website, they’re on your content. Where do they go next? They’re considering you now they’re looking at you. They, they saw your webinar, they saw your material in the search result, or they saw an ad and it brought them to your website in their mind space. Now you’re worthy enough to be engaged with that. You’re worthy enough to have them engage with your content. So the idea there is to say, okay, you’re engaging with this content, looking for a solution or, or gaining some knowledge or information. What should I do next? And that’s where we start to talk about conversion optimization. It’s call to actions. It’s relevant material that’s accessible through blogs and it’s leading people towards that final goal of doing a demo or reaching the sales team. Awesome.
Mark Whitlock (33:28): And if you want to know more about optimization and how to make those things happen. So your information is seen. Chris has authored an excellent guide on all things SEO and we’ve got a connection to that from our shownotes. So come to studiocmo.com click on the interview with Chris Turner about chaos being competition and we can connect you to that guide. It’s a free download from golden spiral. We’d love for you to have that. Now, John, we’ve evaluated our toolbox. We filled it up. We’ve got the two pound sledge, we’ve got the ball ping hammer. We have all four sizes of the Phillips head screwdriver and even have a new set of Starr heads for our drill. What’s next? What’s step three? Those things, yeah. Don’t get me started on standardization of fasteners.
John Farkas (34:19): Don’t want to, you don’t want to, don’t want me to go there. It may be, it may be one of my hot buttons right now. What is certain is uncertainty and so we are in a time of a unprecedented uncertainty right now where you know we, we’ve said this a hundred times, there’s no playbook for what’s going on right now, right? What is certain is that it’s going to be different than we think it’s going to be a month from now. So staying flexible is really important. It’s always important in marketing because everything changes all the time and right now is in a sense no different and in a sense is accelerated because of where we are. You’re going to need to stay flexible. And so keep your stretching discipline because you’re going to need it. I would just encourage you, take this time to cross train your team on some essential disciplines. Help your team be ready to field what’s likely to becoming or may be unlikely to becoming, but will happen anyway because this is an important time to be ready and ready. Looks like who knows what. So, um, so that’s a critical component. Any thoughts there, Chris?
Chris Turner (35:29): Oh, tons of thoughts. But one good illustration was that we don’t want to take the plumber and make him the head chef. You know, we don’t want to take someone who maybe doesn’t have the right skill sets, the right color or the right understanding and put them in a role that makes them very uncomfortable, especially in the, the uncharted territory that we’re currently in. We want to take people who have the desire, the, the ability, the wherewithal and foster that wherewithal, foster that experience by giving them the chance to kind of spread their wings a little bit. So, for example, in leading my team, a lot of people have the ability to kind of cross train into very like-minded areas. So I may take my SEO and help him lead teams or lead himself through doing some paid advertising, paid search. And what that really looks like is because the SEO has a wealth of knowledge around users, demographics, search intent, and understands how people want to be engaged with, because that’s what we’re doing where we’re optimizing content towards an audience so that can be used in crafting ads, looking at search and looking at the way that we can inject our clients into the right terms, into the right queries so that they get shown to the right audience.
And same thing with social where we have our content, people who are great with understanding a client, understanding their products, their solution, and connecting the dots with those target buyers. And so that translates into a wealth of insight that can be used for social media and connecting with people as they’re engaging with their social media platforms, from Instagram through LinkedIn all the way through Twitter. It’s a situation where these people have the understanding it just needs to be redrafted reframed for the right platform and they can blossom into a new category of their own understanding.
John Farkas (37:27): Use your team, you’ve got lots of expertise in your team. Figuring out how you can leverage them in, fill in that tool box and making sure that you’re connecting the dots the right way. It’s going to be an important time to be flexible and hold the reigns loosely.
Mark Whitlock: So, John, let me, let me talk about the elephant in the room. These marketing executives have got budget challenges there. This, the rest of the C suites. Seriously, you think marketing, marketing executives with budget challenges? I’ve never heard of that.
Chris Turner (37:58): We have blue oceans everywhere. It’s good, everything’s good.
Mark Whitlock (38:02): Uh, no. For sure. We understand. How can they justify to themselves or to the rest of the C suite, the necessity of fortifying the marketing infrastructure.
John Farkas: Well, the important thing is to help make sure people understand why this may not be a good time to push out aggressively into the market. And the good news here is that we’re really not talking about big spends. This effort is using existing resources and focusing in on really what it means to make sure your foundation is four to five and you’re going to be ready to do what needs to happen. So we’re not talking about justifying a big new spend. We’re talking about optimizing the utilization of existing resources to prepare for the road ahead. And so that’s the good news here. We’re really not needing to push things out. We’re taking existing resources. What’s happened for a lot of us, what we planned on spending a lot of these expensive shows, a lot of associated travel, a lot of the collaterals needing to be created for, for now.
That is money that we’re not spending. And so in some sense the budget’s already been cut because we haven’t spent a lot of the anticipated money that we were going to. Now we’re going to turn our focus into the creation of some elements that are gonna help us really launch things forward. I think we’ve had a great discussion around this. Uh, I think it’s essential work for a lot of companies right now who are in a holding pattern while their buyers reorient. I think if they take some of this input and put it into action several months from now when it’s time to go, they’re going to be in a better situation than they’ve ever been. There’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of confusion in some cases, desperation and so it’s really important to set clear expectations of what’s possible and why that is right now it is a loud distracted, uncertain time.
So for the companies that we’re talking to today, like we said at the front end are companies who have solutions that are not regarded by many as essential. Right now they are new frontiers and it’s hard to get new frontier conversations when people don’t know what the next hour holds for them. And right now, I mean the future is two hours from now and that’s about as far as they’re able to see in that scenario. You’re going to be best situated to fortify for the future, and making that case clearly is going to be an essential part for a lot because they are getting everybody’s under pressure. Helping lead the conversation of what that future movement looks like is important.
Mark Whitlock (40:54): Chris, thank you for being a part of studio CMO today and listener. If you want to grab his great guide, come to studio cmo.com. Click on the Chris Turner “chaos” interview and you will find a link out to download that free guide on SEO there as well as other resources we’ve developed to help you evaluate and fill your toolbox. And as always, thanks for listening to Studio CMO where we care about you figuring out your buyer’s problems, leading with an empathetic understanding
John Farkas: and making your buyer the hero.
Mark Whitlock: We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.