For the past 11 years Jason Romain, CMO of IQPC has helped shape our global marketing strategy, essentially revolutionising the way we interact with our customers and prospects. Here Jason shares some of the changes he’s seen in that time and his view on what’s coming next.
ES: Hi Jason, thanks for taking the time to meet with me today. I wanted to start this interview by asking what you think are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in marketing strategy over the last 10 years
JR: Wow, yes it changed a lot in the last 10 years. 10 years ago I remember and I’m sure you do as well, marketers sitting around in groups, putting stamps on envelopes and handwriting addresses; essentially trying to personalise packages that went out.
ES: I remember choosing the different colored envelopes
JS: Yep those too, the big brochures, all that kind of stuff and even faxes, we used to line up at fax machines! Apart from the major technology changes, I also think the customer has changed, trying to reach the customer has become harder and harder. It wasn’t just about direct mail and fax; the phone was a key part of our strategy too. Our outbound delegate sales essentially cold called prospects and drove 50% maybe 60% of revenue, now it’s harder to get someone on the phone, so we do as much work on trying to nurture leads as we do on other marketing mediums. Linked in, Facebook, You Tube none of this existed; and these changes have affected consumer behavior as much as they have marketing strategy.
ES: Has the customer become more discerning about how they are approached?
JR: Maybe, they certainly have more filters in place, there are more barriers to entry, most people don’t have secretaries anymore but they have automated phone systems, they use email and social media to connect; it’s just not as simple as picking up a phone and calling someone anymore. Social selling is on the rise and consumers interact with brands and products in a really different way.
ES: So what does that mean for us? How has IQPC’s strategy changed to adapt to all this?
JR: We definitely spend allot more time on online marketing then we ever did before, whether that is pay per click, looking at google analytics, communicating through social media channels, or trying to craft a compelling message. But certainly the generation of content and how we leverage it is the biggest change. We no longer focus on just the brochure and a sales letter, now we want to produce value based content, white papers, info-graphics, videos; more formats to reach people in an interactive way and drive inbound leads which we work hard to nurture. We post the content on multiple social media channels and a wide variety of channels, including some of our own online communities like PEX Network or the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON). To reach people we have to cut through the noise. We talk about fishing where the fish are, trying to reach people where they are already interacting in groups so that we don’t have to interrupt. We also try to find key influencers, the people who lead those communities and engage with them and we work hard with some of our speakers and sponsors so that they also shout about our events.
ES: There seems to be allot of chatter on the social channels about storytelling, is that important for us?
JR: Yes I think storytelling is important, we talk allot about the customer journey at IQPC. Storytelling is in essence a modern way of saying copywriting; but it’s also about how you can communicate with your customer by adding value. For us that used to be about crafting a compelling ‘main mail’ sales letter, now its about creating meaningful pieces of content for our customers, content that is relevant for each individual or skill or sector that we are targeting for a particular event. Content that “adds more value than we can capture.”
ES: Can you give me an example of a recent content piece we’ve used?
JR: We just did some really interesting stuff on process excellence called ‘My Pex Journey’. It was about how different customers have interacted with our Process Excellent Summit over time; so the first time they came to the event, what they learnt, what they took away, how they applied it. It’s about getting those customer stories to come to the forefront rather than constantly saying here are our features and benefits.
ES: So getting our customers to do our storytelling for us?
JR: In essence yes.
ES: Can you tell me about DART, does this move into Data Analytics also play a part?
JR: Yes, absolutely! DART or SSON Analytics combines all our internal event based data and new external data sources to create a powerful story about various aspects of the Shared Services and Outsourcing industry. It’s very exciting, but we are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data and it’s potential.
ES: So what’s coming next in marketing?
JR: For IQPC its marketing automation and that means more work on lead scoring and automated responses to behavior, so if the customers interact with our marketing in a certain way they get a certain response. And it’s all pre-programmed ahead of time so we can just watch the results and tweak the communication to make sure its working. This is all driven by the Oracle sales and marketing cloud software that we’re implementing and some very smart thinking by our marketing teams! The system will help us understand customer behavior better, for example how people interact with our website will now be incorporated into our lead score and this should have dramatic impact on inbound marketing. I also think we will continue to see allot more leads being generating, huge increases in volume which means we will be able to focus our sales team on the higher scoring leads, We might not even call some of the lower ranked leads and instead put them into lead nurturing campaigns, so that will be a big change internally as well.
I also think we are going to see ongoing proliferation of social media channels, there will always be new channels coming up that we are going to have to deal with. I can imagine one of our genius marketers is adding a pokestop to their event as we speak!
I think we will also see big changes in email which will be extremely challenging, not just regulatory but also how companies filter emails. We will also see the continued rise of re-marketing, which I hope will also become more intuitive and effective.
ES: So how is this affecting the type of people we look to hire? What qualities do we look for in a new marketer? Do they need to be extremely tech savvy?
I think the younger generation of marketers that are coming through are already allot more tech savvy because they study it at university, but they are also mostly digital natives, they grew up with it. In fact they are introducing the skills to us, which is to be honest the most exciting bit. But I think underlying all this is that more than before, you have to be passionate about marketing. It didn’t matter before if they had a degree in English or the Arts of whatever, and maybe it doesn’t matter, but I think it helps to have a specialist degree in marketing and at a minimum they have to show that they’ve self learned allot of these different skills, whether it’s SEO or pay for click, social media etc. Allot of this stuff has to be self taught so they have to have that passion.
I think all the same skills like time management, copy writing, analytical ability; these basic core skills have to be there too, but an over-arching passion for marketing and specifically digital marketing is probably more important than it’s ever been.
ES: And what about our existing marketing team, what are we doing to continually develop them?
JR: That’s a good question, we have two levels. We have the local training and the global training. I think at a local, office level we are talking about standard stuff, how to use the systems, how to build basic marketing plans, how to execute those plans, how to work with the teams. All this plan strategy and execution training is done locally. Then at a global level its talent identification, where we take all the up and coming talent once a year through a 12 week management development course that involves internal leaders and external trainers. It’s also not all one way, they have to do some work!
But above and beyond all that the best marketers these days are the ones that are always self learning; you have to keep up to date with this stuff. So we’ve tried to create a culture where people are constantly sharing things. So I’ll have a Marketing Manager in Dubai email me and say hey have you heard about this new thing and quite often I won’t have. There’s such a proliferation of channels and technology, some of which doesn’t require a massive instillation like the Oracle CRM system, so allot of this stuff they can just implement tomorrow. So it’s about staying aware and constantly testing. That’s why I think if we can hire people who are passionate about marketing and constantly interested in learning they will also drive this learning journey for themselves and for us.
ES: Thank you Jason
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