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CEO Roundtable: Marketing

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What are the current trends in marketing? Well, that’s hard to track because it always fluctuates – but these CEOs have a good idea of how to manage that change. Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson sat down with Dianne Davis, president and owner of DL Media Inc.; Matt Sellmeyer, president of Schilling/Sellmeyer & Associates Inc.; Nicole Jarratt, CEO and partner at Revel Advertising; and Mar’Ellen Felin, CEO of Hightide Communications LLC. They talked analytics, digital marketing and cultivating reliable branding.

Eric Olson: How do you define the marketing industry today?
Dianne Davis: Fluid.
Matt Sellmeyer: Competitive. There are too many options for people to spend their interest today, so reaching them is harder and harder. Every time you turn around, they are into something else.
Mar’Ellen Felin: Fundamentals. Everything is changing, and I think a lot of people see the new and shiny and they forget the basic fundamentals, and it’s critical. It’s more critical now than it was 25 years ago. It’s an extension of what we’ve always been doing, but the vehicle is changing.
Nicole Jarratt: Opportunity. There is traditional media, and really sticking to fundamentals is so key, but now it’s about using that platform to reach the audience in a new and engaging way – catching attention through the clutter.
 
Olson: Some marketers use a three touch-point rule – what are your top three vehicles to deliver a message?
Felin: It depends on the client. We fill gaps and it seems like the gap not being filled is digital. We do a lot of digital, and I’m a huge believer in traditional.
Sellmeyer: You have TV, radio and print advertising of you doing good in the community, something to keep your name out there. Then it’s social reviews. And then maybe the third one is a strong web presence when someone seeks you out and finds information about you.
Davis: TV broadcast is still the No. 1 way to get large numbers of people and build a brand because you get the most eyeballs. We spend more money on broadcast than any other. It’s all part of the equation, not the end all. You may start there and then do this and this. Our No. 2 is digital and No. 3 is radio.
Jarratt: There is no secret sauce. Every client is trying to reach a different target. You just have to find out what sources they trust and where they’re spending their time.

Olson: How much of a digital campaign should be mobile?
Felin: It all has to have a mobile component.
Sellmeyer: I have clients with less than 10 percent mobile. I have others who are 60 percent.
Jarratt: There has to be mobile, because that is how people find a location or phone number. The two go hand in hand.
 
Olson: Google officials say half of the 1 trillion searches made a year are on mobile devices. I’ve heard you should design mobile first. Do you agree?
Davis: I agree.
Jarratt: It’s not designing mobile first or second. It’s at the same time. When we do discovery on a website, we ask what types of things are people going to use mobile to find, and then where does all that information need to be at.
Felin: What’s critical is that mobile sites affect your search engine optimization. It doesn’t matter if the client has mobile traffic – it still affects your SEO.

Olson: What brands have you seen use social media effectively to build identity?
Sellmeyer: Trump.
Davis: I think he’s the best thing that could have happened to Twitter.
Sellmeyer: And Trump used Facebook. They went after all the analytics, and they went after small town America and delivered stuff.
Jarratt: Wendy’s does an amazing job. They have really funny and kitschy ways of talking about how much better they are than McDonald’s. You’re never offended; you always find the humor in it. As you see the humor, you want to be part of the culture.
Sellmeyer: It’s a good way to send a message. They aren’t trying to sell me anything. They’re just warming you up to the company.

Olson: What data analysis platform is your top choice?
Jarratt: You can’t argue with Google Analytics. They own their own data, so they deliver it in the best way. Google Trends is amazing to look at to see where you should be.
Davis: Google has been great about giving all the free tools we could use to analyze everything. They give great tools because they want you to use them and spend money with them. Google, just like Facebook, is a giant advertising company. As a Google partner agency, when we are doing a digital campaign, we will refuse to do it unless we can link to Analytics to do conversions.
Felin: That is still not a replacement for post-campaign research, direct research. Because even though you can track their digital footprint, you can’t track their eyeballs on TV and print or their ears on radio.
Olson: What is the state of Facebook? Is it a buy or sell proposition?
Sellmeyer: It depends on the client. Click-through rates are dismal.
Felin: I think we have to start looking at digital advertising differently. Click-through is not the end all, be all. It’s part of an integrated plan.
Jarratt: It’s just as much brand awareness. The “scrollers” of society that just look, they are still receiving that information and more directly than anywhere else because it’s in the palm of their hands. It’s also extremely targeted if you want it to be. I can target employees of a business; people who like a specific business. I can watch what types of areas they spend their time. You can get very specific about who sees your ad.
Sellmeyer: Since people are on social media so much of the time, if you have a presence, people are looking you up. They’re judging you on Facebook before they make it to your website and then your front door.
Felin: They are using Twitter as authority verification. You can have 20 followers, but your viewership is very large. They are using Twitter to verify your authority.

Olson: Then how often should you post?
Jarratt: It depends on what you’re trying to use it for. If you want them to see your feed, it has to be high. It’s kind of a race for engagement when you first post something. If they don’t engage within two weeks, you drop out of their newsfeed until they engage again.
Davis: You can post 10 times a day because you’re not going to show up and flood their newsfeed. And some content is worth reposting. You can promote the same post over a long period of time because you can boost it differently and choose different audiences.
Felin: It’s much more of a science now. You have to cut through the clutter.

Olson opens up the discussion to CEO Roundtable co-sponsors Richard Walters of Spencer Fane LLP and Aaron Emel of UMB Bank, who are at the table.

Walters: It seems like businesses can now use customers to promote their businesses by them liking or posting something that is shared with friends. Is that new?
Sellmeyer: Just the access is new. People used to go after reviews. The best form of advertising is word of mouth. It’s the same principal. They’re telling social media friends to go use the business.
Jarratt: It can be an inexpensive form of advertising if you have a brand that has champions who are going to spread that brand.
Felin: Online, people can eavesdrop easily. Conversations are happening online. There are entire firms dedicated to reputation management and that is new. It used to be called public relations. Like I said, none of this is new. It’s how you manage it that’s different.
Davis: Then there is crisis communication because something spun out of control very quickly. I was involved in a deal where we were trying to control an online conversation for an airline that canceled flights. You end up in a storm of ugly.
Sellmeyer: But the good thing is that there are so many vehicles out there that it goes away quicker than ever.
Felin: You used Trump as an example. Watching their machine is fascinating – and this is not political at all. You see something bad, and they just drown it out. It’s intentional.
Jarratt: There is what’s happening, and then there’s the circus you’re seeing.

Olson: It’s been said marketing isn’t about what you think; it’s what you know. It’s also said it’s about feeling. Which is it?
Jarratt: I think both, and it depends on what context. What you say, what you know, that’s about data. We have clients who come in and say, “I don’t like that.” Well, that’s OK because data show the customers do. Or they say, “I’m not on mobile, so my customers must not be.” Well, the data show differently.
Felin: I had a boss one time who said to me, “I haven’t seen a single TV ad.” And I said, “Thank goodness. You’re 65 with a doctorate, and we need people who have no education and are 18. If you see an ad, you need to call me. I put it in the wrong place.” It’s about what motivates that person, and there is no hard data for that. We are profilers – we’re just not doing it for the FBI.

Olson: With talk recently about a lack of identity for the city of Springfield, what are some steps and best practices community leaders and the community can take to cultivate the community’s identity?
Jarratt: Get out of the boardroom and talk to the community. It’s taking all the pieces of what makes Springfield and building a persona. They aren’t going to do that in a council meeting. It’s on the streets learning about people.
Felin: Research the existing perception and then measure it against what you actually can deliver. Where are the gaps in perception and reality? The city has to serve every citizen. They have to have multilayered target audience personas.
Davis: I think it’d be good to take categories and go to the 10 newest businesses and the 10 oldest. Ask why they started their business here. What did this market mean? Look at the reasons, and then look at what is consistent across. What made the difference?
Felin: Come to terms with the fact that what the new companies want may not be what the legacy companies want. Branson had to do this. It made for a very painful transition. They had to give up something to gain something.
Davis: Also, this isn’t just Springfield, but this is the Ozarks region. We have all these feeder communities with great schools, great services and opportunities. It also encompasses the lakes. It’s a bonus to have Branson close. Springfield can’t just be Greene County. It’s a bigger footprint of influence Springfield can have.
Felin: A lot of what I’m hearing, it’s not city driven; it’s millennials. They want other millennials to come here and stay here, and they know what the city has to offer. It’s not the people who have been working here 20 years; it’s not fitting the millennial brand. Young professionals desire that brand that is an identity. This is not as touchy-feely as it sounds. This is an economic crisis. We need the next generation to take our jobs, and we have to have a community that is welcoming to young individuals.

Olson: What about a slogan? Des Moines, Iowa, has “Hell Yes,” Omaha, Nebraska, has “We Don’t Coast.” Is that part of brand identity?
Sellmeyer: You don’t have to have it, but it’s nice to have something to brand with.
Felin: What the slogan does, it speaks to the attitude. It’s something that the community can rally around that you hang everything else off of.
Jarratt: There are people who love the flag redesign and run with it. It’s pulling the community together with people from different walks of life that may not have a common interest, but now they are getting behind it.

Interview excerpts by Features Editor Hanna Smith, hsmith@sbj.net.

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