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Voice search is getting a lot of buzz these days, but what types of companies is it right for and how should you use it as part of your marketing mix?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Yext CMO Jeff Rohrs breaks down the subject of voice-first search and explains what types of companies it is particularly well suited for. He also shares specific examples of how small and medium sized businesses can quickly and easily get set up to be found on voice search and translate that into more business.
Listen to the podcast to hear Jeff's insights on the current - and future - potential of voice search and what your business should be doing right now to capitalize on it.
Jeff Rohrs (Guest):Thanks Kathleen. I'm excited to be here, thanks a lot.
Jeff and Kathleen recording this episode
Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited to talk to you because, as people have been listening to this podcast for the last several episodes, they now know that in the last month or so I was able to launch a new voice skill for Alexa that allows people to listen to the podcast on their smart home device. I'm not yet on Google Home but maybe that will be next.
So voice is top of mind for me and you are someone who has done a lot of thinking around what it means to market in a voice-first world and what businesses need to do to get ready for this, so I am excited to pick your brain today.
Meet Jeff Rohrs
Kathleen: Before we start on that, can you tell our audience a little bit more about yourself and your background and what you do at Yext?
I run the global marketing department and we've got folks in the States, over in London and Berlin and Paris and Tokyo and support all of our sales, product marketing, and customer success teams with what we do.
I joined Yext a little over three years ago after having been with Salesforce by way of their acquisition of ExactTarget. I had joined ExactTarget in the middle of 2007 and got to ride that wave as they went public, helped build the content marketing, thought leadership teams, their connections events, did a lot of programming and a lot of creative work around that before the acquisition by Salesforce in the middle of 2013, which also happened to be when I was writing my book, "Audience," so they kept me around because I was the guy who was publishing a book just in time for DreamForce that year and it was quite an education and quite an opportunity to join Salesforce as they were expanding.
At that point, I think ExactTarget was their biggest acquisition to date and I got to see Mark Benioff in action at a couple of executive off-sites and really see why that company is so successful, just because of his leadership and just the overall teams' contribution to their success and their customers' success.
Kathleen: Wow. I feel like we could do a whole other podcast episode just on how the world of content and inbound marketing has evolved over the last 10 or so years, because you've really been in this arena for that time span, as have I, but in a completely different way, and boy has it changed a lot.
Jeff: It sure has. I was fortunate to be doing content marketing before it was called content marketing and in a small world story, Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, and I led kind of parallel lives in Cleveland for a while. We both lived in Cleveland.
I've since moved to the New Jersey area, but it took Ann Handley of Marketing Profs to email us, I think back in 2008 or 2009, and say, "You guys really should get together."
I vividly remember sitting down with Joe at a now-defunct Caribou Coffee for our first meeting and we were peas in a pod believing what that medium could do and he obviously built Content Marketing Institute into a great resource and then Content Marketing World into a tremendous event, which I'm honored to come back and speak at in a couple of weeks here.
Kathleen: Oh, great. Yeah, those are two really key figures in this world, too. Joe Pulizzi has been a real source of inspiration for me personally and for IMPACT as a company, and we just had Ann Handley keynote our conference a few weeks ago.
Kathleen: I love her.
Jeff: Good people.
Kathleen: She's fantastic.
Jeff: She is.
Kathleen: She's a ball of energy.
Kathleen: Well I could go on and on about all those people, but I think what we're here to talk about and what I'm so interested to learn about is voice-first.
It's amazing how quickly it seems we've come to rely on voice searches and it's been fascinating to me ... it feels like the Wild West ... to observe all the different ways that brands and companies are starting to try and experiment with it. I feel like it's a massively untapped opportunity and I would just love to get your take on it.
Where do you see it going? What do you think the opportunity is for the average company out there that isn't Pizza Hut or Coca-Cola? How do you think the small and medium sized business market is going to use voice search in the future?
Jeff: Voice search is a UI so it is a user interface, a way that a human being is going to interact with some sort of intelligent service. When you put it into that perspective, you can begin to understand how it impacts your world.
If you are in a space where perhaps taking customer questions and a lot of repeatable questions and you're already looking at chatbots and things like that, voice is just gonna be a natural evolution and way that people will interface with that chatbot expertise that you might be building up.
Or, as you indicated, it could be skills-based and then there would be an app. I have an app on my phone. What is a skill? It's an app on a voice assistant to do something, add value in some way.
Jeff: Voice-first as a hashtag is very catchy and is spreading like a virus, but in a good way, because it's getting people to think about, "Okay. Let me look at my day and let me look at the value I offer to my customers, and how is voice going to play into that?"
If you are a company that is developing software products, SaaS products, things like that, you need to look at the product itself and say, "How am I going to develop a ... ", or "How is voice gonna impact it, to create greater usability, less friction, less experiences, and an overall better customer experience?"
If you're more on the services side, you might take a different look, and as you have, go down a skills-based path or come up with other ideas that are marketing ideas to get your ... the value of your services out in the marketplace.
I think voice is as varied as any user interface. It's just that it has been in our consciousness because of sci-fi for a very long time.
I would encourage people to let their minds wander creatively, just like the authors of science fiction did a long time ago about how this applies, because we're in the very early innings of the applications here.
But when you hear ... and you should absolutely follow Dave Isbitski of Amazon. He tweets a lot of great stuff and one of them ... he tweets some pretty inspirational things because people send them his way, but like the father with the child who's having spelling difficulties, and he's able to use the skill that is his kid's spelling list, and the child interacts with the voice assistant like a teacher and it gains confidence from that because it's less intimidating to interact with a speaker than with a human being.
There are a lot of things like that that I think we'll see come to fruition and it's gonna take your creativity to figure out how it best applies to your business.
Kathleen: Yeah. It's really interesting. One of the things that I've been thinking a lot about is, being a content marketer and being so focused on creating great content that's going to rank, what's interesting to me about voice search is it fundamentally changes the game because most content marketers historically have been focused on getting into the top of the search engine results pages.
Kathleen: That objective assumes that there are going to be multiple results and you want to be in the top or at the top or near the top but when we talk about voice search, we're often talking about screenless search, and all of a sudden when you talk about screenless search, you're talking about one result.
So it's almost like a zero sum game, you're either in the results or you're not.
It's not only getting there, it's how your information is formatted to lend itself well to those kind of results. I guess it's kind of similar with where Google is going with featured snippets and all of that, but that's something that I've been thinking about so much. Like, how does the fundamental structure and format of our content need to change to lend itself well to being the one result, and not only to getting into that position but to delivering some value when somebody gets it?
Jeff: Well, it's a great question and it's actually the very thing I'm sort of addressing at Content Marketing World in a couple of weeks.
It requires you to shift your paradigm, because as you have rightfully noted, if you are in a voice-first world without a second screen or without a screen connected, you're getting an answer. You're not getting a multitude of results. I think we also need to acknowledge that as effective as SEO is and as much of a believer as I am in it, when you have a multitude of competition that's relevant, you're beholden to whatever the intelligent service is to dictate who's gonna be shown first.
The constant chase to try and reverse engineer the black box that decides that can be a fool's errand. It can be mind-numbing.
So when I say paradigm shift, what I believe you need to think about is your smallest content first. What are the facts about your business that you are the primary source of truth for?
This is what Yext's entire business is built upon. It's a philosophy that consumers deserve perfect information everywhere and that businesses should be in control of the objective facts that appear on those services everywhere, because they have the greatest motivation to ensure that they are true.
So if it is subjective, if it is reviews, well then you certainly want to be listening, responding, and then generating first party reviews from customers you know came through, but you're not gonna control what they say.
However, if it is name, address, phone numbers, store hours, does this doctor have these certifications, does this marketer have these certifications, do you take this type of insurance? If you're an insurance agent, what insurance do you represent? If you're in food service, what is your menu? What's your special of the month? What are your prices?
All of these are objective facts and because we've grown up with the Internet around a notion of search engine indexing, therefore based on search engine spidering, we have a paradigm that the world should work, that I should put my content out on a website that I own, and this spider should come along and grab that, pull it back and apply algorithms to it, it's intelligence, to then output a result in whatever the UI is the consumer is asking.
I would challenge the audience to think about that and say, "Well, if the Internet started today and Google had the market cap it had, do you think it would begin by indexing?" My guess is it would not.
My guess is it would begin by going to businesses, opening up APIs, just like it has, just like what we've integrated into our knowledge network and say, "Hey businesses, we want you to provide this information directly because we know you're the best source. The only reason we relied on third party data or indexing in the past is that was the only thing that was available to us."
This is something we've seen as we have evolved is as those services open up the APIs and begin to recognize, "Gosh, when businesses are controlling that information through Yext, it's really, really reliable."
It seems so self-evident, but it takes that recognition for the paradigm shift.
Voice demands that paradigm shift, because you're not gonna be the answer on a lot of unbranded searches. You are going to be one of many and so what are you gonna be the answer for? Well, if somebody's asking for your hours of operation or if you're taking new clients or things that you should be objectively in control of, you better be in control of those.
That's why we believe that we're shifting to a world of digital knowledge management, where you're controlling the facts in a centralized way and then outputting them to all of the endpoints where the consumer can engage with them.
That is, I think, the fundamental underpinning of voice search as we see it today, and the effort to kind of reverse engineer how your white paper or your ebook is gonna be number one on an esoteric kind of question, I think is chasing your tail until and if such time, that there is greater clarity about how that portion of the brain behind the index is creating.
Not to totally prolong the answer, but I'm gonna give you one more thought.
As of right now, none of the voice assistants accept advertising. At the point at which they try and begin to do advertising, then there are gonna be people, just as in paid search, that buy their way to the top.
Now whether the user will accept that remains to be seen. I remember when paid search ads came out, everybody said, "Oh, nobody's gonna click on these," and Google laughed their way all the way to the bank.
So early stages, it's a new medium, but what I can tell you is that fundamentally your facts should be things you control, and if you focus your effort there, flip the paradigm, you're gonna be in the places when consumers are asking about you specifically.
Kathleen: Yeah, I really love the approach that you took there, because I was actually talking with somebody about this yesterday.
I'm involved in an accelerator program where I teach marketing to start ups and the person who was organizing it and I were talking about the marketing curriculum, and we were talking about how companies can get so wrapped up in certain tactics or channels, like pay-per-click marketing for example. They'll be like, "That's what I need to do. It's just gonna deliver my leads to me."
The problem with that is that not only are there diminishing returns to scale at certain points, but you're not in control of that channel. If you put all of your eggs in a basket that you don't control, inevitably the rules of the game will change and the basket will fall apart, will crumble.
I believe that it is important to make sure that everything that is within your control you have really got buttoned up and done well, and then if you've done that, sure, there's times you experiment with trying to optimize with other things, trying to use these platforms in new ways, and seeing what happens, but if you don't have the foundation built strongly, the house is gonna crumble.
Jeff: Absolutely. In fact, that's kind of the premise of my book from a couple years back, "Audience, Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans, and Followers." It's the idea that you should be building direct, proprietary audiences across a number of different platforms so that you are able to reduce or better optimize your paid media, because what is paid media? You are just buying eyeballs, you're renting them actually, you're not even buying them.
So the price will fluctuate and your ability to reach a market becomes very, very compromised.
One only needs to look at what has happened to Blue Apron's stock over ... as they went public and just got hammered because their cost of acquisition and retention is higher because they're so dependent on paid media.
But if you focus on, "Okay, how do I build a Facebook audience, Twitter following, email?" If you analogize that as you were then to voice, your facts about your business are the things that are ... They're not immutable, because your store hours can change, you can move locations.
There's a lot of things like that that can happen. But you are the best source of truth for them.
Now, we have to take this sense of ownership, and to your listeners who perhaps are sole proprietors or only have a couple of business locations, this might not seem like a big deal. But the law of big numbers is as you increase locations, it gets exponentially more difficult to manage this at scale accurately.
We will often have customers come in and dump 10 different sources of "truth" on the table about their various facts about the business. We've had retailers come to us and give us databases that they say are the current database of stores and 20-25% of the locations are closed, never existed or moved.
The factual management of the things that consumers are engaging with is fundamental just as I still believe that proprietary audience development is fundamental to long-term success.
Kathleen: Oh, absolutely. I think your audience is one of those things that you can own if you do it correctly. If you're building your audience on a platform that you control, whether that's collecting emails or starting a private Slack group or what have you.
Your audience is not necessarily the people that follow you on social media. We've all seen what happens. Five, ten years ago you had a Facebook page. It was all about "I want to get likes for my page, so people will see my updates," and now, Facebook pages are like a ghost town, so nobody sees anything.
Building it where you have that control is essential.
You started talking about smaller businesses, and there's obviously this sliding scale of businesses that start small. They start to grow, they get more locations, but for some of these smaller businesses, when they hear voice search, it seems just like, "I don't even want to think about that. That's not something I can tackle or that's within the realm of possibility for me because I'm just a local restaurant." Or, "I'm just a local law firm." Or just a dentist office.
Can you talk a little bit about what should a small business like that be trying to accomplish with voice? What is realistic given their time, their budget, and their level of expertise?
How Small Businesses Can Take Advantage of Voice Search
Jeff: I don't want to get commercial, but I want to tell you one of the reasons that I'm here at Yext that ties to that.
I was contacted by a head hunter coming back from a speaking gig in Frankfurt that was frankly really depressing because I'd been given the bait and switch. Supposed to be a keynote, ended up being a breakout. I'm speaking english. The one against me is speaking german.
Kathleen: Oh boy.
Jeff: Spent time away from the family and not a lot of return.
I get this call from a head hunter, talking about this exciting company in New York. He's building it up, building it up, and he does the big reveal that it's Yext.
At the very moment I was pulling out a tin of mints from my bag, as I was cleaning my bag from the trip that said, "Yext, keep your geo data fresh," which was their motto at the time, and I had just happened and didn't even connect it that I had been given that at an SMX show that I had spoken at. I'm like, "That's funny. That must be a sign."
Well then the next sign was when I pinged my friend, Jay Baer, and I said, "Hey, Jay. Do you have some time to talk?" He said, "Sure." I said, "Well, I've been approached about this opportunity with this company called Yext." He goes, "God, that's weird." I'm like, "Why?" He said, "Because I'm writing the portion of the chapter of my new book at the time, Hug Your Haters, in which this lawyer in San Diego discovered that there was this zero star rating on Yelp for his law firm, and he discovered it because he was a customer of Yext. It alerted him. He reached out to the individual, discovered it was a misunderstanding, was able to turn that hater into a fan and reverse it to a five star rating."
Jeff: And it was such serendipity. He's a single attorney, but he was using a platform for review listing management or response. We obviously want folks to work with us, look at us, whatever. But whatever you do, and we hope you do think about working with us, but pick something that you're going to use to manage that base location information because you want to be found on search accurately.
Let's set that aside. That's the fundamental of voice search -- discovery of your business in branded or informational ways.
Jeff: Let's keep in mind "near me" search because near me search is up exponentially in part because Google now just assumes you have a near me search if you're on a mobile device.
Jeff: If you're not accurate and found on Google, and the other thing I've been waiting for, I've mentioned this in a couple places, a few years ago or a number of years ago now because I'm getting older as the gray in my goatee attests. I remember when the big thing that hit everybody's PowerPoints for a while was "Do You Know What the Second Biggest Search Engine is?" The answer was YouTube, and everybody's like, "Wow. That's amazing."
I have this sneaking suspicion now because people are putting in searches into the map. They're using that as not just point A to point B, but navigation. If you look at all the rich information that Google and others are putting in their maps, it's transformed it.
So get that right. That's the voice search piece. Then you've gotta make sure the rest of your website has got appropriate schema that'll work markups so that the information can be found, assessed, that is less factual or subjective or expertise or what have you.
Then I think you have to do as you did. Really look at who your customers are, and this is true for any marketing. This isn't just a voice conversation.
Who are your customers and where do they live? If they are interacting with voice assistance, in greater numbers in certain circumstance, I would focus on those circumstances to see if you can add value in that environment.
If not, just doing a voice application or something, a skill to do it and say you did, might have a slight PR bump. It might have a first mover kind of bump, but it won't have the long, contributory value to your bottom line that you would like.
Then look at other ways that you can get into "voice." Right?
I don't have a podcast, but today I'm a guest on your podcast. This is voice in a way, right?
I look at news and PR and other ways that you can be getting into that voice assist in interesting ways, but don't feel obligated that you have to have some sort of profound strategy out of the gate.
I think especially as a small business you're worried about keeping the lights on and people's paychecks coming. Continue to focus on where your customers are and how you optimize for them, and what you're going to see is technologies that kind of help you future proof.
One of the things that we do is we try to expand our knowledge network. Our customers didn't have to lift a finger when three weeks ago we announced we're integrated with Amazon Alexa. They're now in Amazon Alexa. They didn't have to do a thing.
You need to be looking at the technologies that allow for distribution or access of voice audiences as just part of the way they evolve and help you.
For SMBs, I think, right now, I don't want to say wait and see. I think it's more read and listen and participate in your own life, but listen to your customers first. They'll help you see where they can be value added.
Kathleen: Yeah. So if I'm hearing you correctly, and tell me if I have this wrong, it sounds like what you're saying is if you are a small or medium sized business and if your market is somehow geographically specific or if you have multiple geographically specific markets, multiple locations, et cetera, that it is not only possible, but it is incredibly accessible to make sure that you're doing at least the basic things you need to do to enable the customers that are looking for you and trying to get information about you in your local market to find that via voice.
Jeff: Yeah, we've got a great customer, Romeo's Pizza, in my old haunt of Cleveland and Medina, Ohio. Their CEO, Ryan Rose, is one of the smartest minds in any kind of business that I've run into.
They're growing. They're, I think, at about, I don't know, 55 locations now with a pretty big growth plan. They came onboard earlier this year, or maybe it was last year, at a smaller base.
What they see, once they got their digital knowledge management right and they began to not just get listings and local pages and reviews correct, they began to understand that they could operationalize this because the reviews were telling them where franchises were falling short of their customer experience. They could address that before it became a fire.
The listings and the pages and the increased local discovery helped them see who was benefiting, where did they perhaps need to take a look at expansion, what kind of contributions from the franchises community should they be looking for? Because they were essentially ensuring accuracy at that local level like never before.
What sort of excited me about joining Yext is there was a shoe for every foot. It didn't matter the size of your business.
We also have great partners that we integrate with like DexYP and Hibu and others who integrate us into their solutions for super small business, single locations, et cetera. That's, I think, important in those situations where you're truly one or two location kind of business, and you don't want multiple logins and everything else. You want a solution.
We always are looking for partners that we can work with, we can integrate with, or we also have reseller and preferred partner programs so that we can reach customers where they have preexisting relationships, let's say with agencies or digital marketers.
For small businesses, like I said, you're worried about keeping the lights on. There's no CMO. There's usually an owner and owner's sibling, spouse or son or daughter. It's a family affair, and you're wearing 20 different hats.
Kathleen: You're the chief cook and bottle washer, right?
Jeff: You got it. You need some things that are going to work for you in that way, and that's certainly how we try to approach the business.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's actually how I first came across Yext when I had my digital marketing agency. Especially in our earlier years, we worked a lot with smaller, more local clients, and it was exactly that point. They were like, "I know I need to be on all these platforms. I need to be on Yelp and Google Maps and yellowpages.com and what have you." Managing that was such a nightmare.
For us, it was a great solution.
Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
How Yext Is Using the Move To Voice-First to Grow
Kathleen: You are producing a lot of thought leadership content around digital knowledge management, voice search. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you're tackling that and what that's doing for you as a company?
Jeff: The way that we're tackling it is we're expanding internationally. We're expanding vertically. We have really defined the values that we provide.
I look at our content marketing strategy as how does it align with that, and then also how does it align with our product roadmap.
We just came out with Yext for Events, so the very thing we did with listings back in the day and creating this then called power listings network. It's now called our knowledge network because there's a lot of non-search partners in that, but when we created that it was that update once, publish everywhere mentality. Well events has the exact same problem. If I want to promote an event, how the heck do I promote an event?
Ben and Jerry's has free ice cream cone day. They've had it since their founding, but it was taking them hundreds of hours to promote that. They were in our beta, and that hundreds of hours went down to two. They could apply that time savings elsewhere.
So applying it back to your content plan, now our team is focused on, "Okay, how do we tell this story? What content do we need to produce?" We're not going whole hog with like a white paper or ebook because we're learning the space, we're talking to the practitioners, we're seeing how it works, so that then we can create really relevant content that helps our customers and prospects better understand and utilize that particular product.
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, let's look at the five values. We believe that our platform offers brand control, local discoverability (which positively impacts the bottom line), customer experience (making sure it's consistent on your website, your app and all the third party systems), organizational efficiency (like in that Ben and Jerry's story), and then future proofing the business.
When we produce content, I want my team to look at that, and say, "Okay, what content are we producing for which values?" Sometimes it can be two or three or four.
But we just came out with something called To Rebrand or Refresh, That is the Question. One of my favorite conversations that I've moderated, spoken about, read about over the years is that conversation about when should you rebrand. Because I will tell you what, I don't know.
I look at Taco Bell and Doritos, and they're constantly refreshing their brands every few years, and I know the cost that takes in terms of signage and packaging and everything else. That is a bold bag.
Then you've got some companies that completely rebrand. We wanted to dig into that, but why? Because we discovered through seeing how our customers used us that they were using us a lot when they would rebrand because it wasn't just about physical rebranding, it was about making sure the digital universe was correct.
Okay, so now I get it. You've got customers that rebrand like a Best Buy or a Crabtree & Evelyn or any of these types of customers. We're a part of that story, and I think that's important to recognize. We're not the whole story.
Great content marketing on behalf of B2B businesses isn't just writing a sales pitch. It is telling a very relevant and hopefully evergreen story with context where you add value in that final chapter. That's kind of the punch line so that if anybody picked that up who was in marketing, it would be of value to them.
So that's kind of the approach that we've taken. Then some things, like I co-authored an ebook called "The Everywhere Brand" with Jay Baer that was truly inspired, like literally that one is a funny story where we found a little bit of extra money in a quarter. I've worked with Jay many times before. We called him up on the phone. I said, "Jay, hey, I want to co-author something with you. We're just trying to figure out what it would be." Because at the time we were really trying to establish a better sense of who we are, the messaging, et cetera.
As we were brainstorming, I said, "What if we wrote something called "The Everywhere Brand"?" Then from there Jay and I just riffed and it came together very, very quickly. The notion that your brand now needs to be correct everywhere, and there are these seven tenants of a great everywhere brand.
Inspiration can sometimes strike, but often times it's that good planning and understanding who you are, what your customers value from you, and how your products fit into that, and then regionalizing, localizing it as appropriate.
Kathleen: Yeah, something you just said really resonated with me because, I think I was just telling you, I've published my 52nd podcast recently-
Jeff: That's awesome, congrats.
Kathleen: Thank you. I've been seeing certain themes emerge over the course of the last year because I'm always trying to surface what are the things that really make certain content or inbound marketers effective.
One of the most prominent themes that has come out of a large number of the interviews I've done has to do with being audience centric rather than product centric. So many marketers like to create content that does revolve around specifically what their product does, or how it works.
Some of the most incredible stories I've heard where marketers have gotten the best results have occurred when those marketers have created content that has nothing to do with what they're selling, but everything to do with the pain point their audience is feeling. And really it's about just opening the conversation. And the conversation doesn't have to be around what you're selling, it's just establishing a line of communication with the audience.
I think it was my third or fourth episode, I interviewed Stephanie Casstevens, who actually now works with me. She was not one of my coworkers at the time, she was at a different company, and she was working at a company that was marketing medical waste disposal, which, you know, it's not super sexy stuff.
Kathleen: Yeah. And they were really kind of thumping their heads up against the wall in their efforts to get traction, and it wasn't until they realized, "Well, we're selling this to doctor's offices, and the gatekeeper in the office is the office manager, and they already have this solution, to taking about medical waste disposal isn't going to get us anywhere."
They actually found out that the biggest pain points that person had was no-shows, patient no-shows. That has nothing to do with medical waste.
Kathleen: And they created all this content around how to reduce patient no-shows, and all of a sudden, their marketing took off, and then they could, later on down the line, talk about medical waste, but they had to establish that bond and that line of communication first. So that was all a very long way of saying-
Jeff: I completely agree.
Kathleen: What you talk about really hits home.
Jeff: I completely agree. When you can strike upon that, it's magic.
And isn't it funny that the content part of our conversation tied back to finding out what is your customer's pain, listening to your customers.
Same thing with how should you approach voice, and how should you approach audience building, and how should you ... You can't go wrong by coming back and understanding where your customers live, and I think we fail to because we're so caught up in a checklist of, "Oh, we've got to launch this. I've got to do this, I've got to do this." And we get very me-centric about ourselves, the brand, the product, and magic can happen when you put yourself in the shoes of that customer.
Kathleen: Yeah, I've always heard people say, and I think it's so true, that we as marketers are our own worst enemies because we know all this as customers, but as soon as we put our marketer hat on, we immediately forget all of it, right?
Kathleen: And we do the opposite of what we should do.
Kathleen's Two Questions
Kathleen: So I feel like we could talk all day about voice search. There's so much interesting stuff here, and I'm fascinated to see where Yext is going. I'm definitely going to watch that more closely now, especially given some of the recent releases you had with Amazon Alexa integration, et cetera.
Before we wrap up, though, two questions that I always ask everyone that I interview, I'm really curious to hear what you have to say. The first, and this one I'm really interested in because you have been in this world of content marketing for quite some time and you've seen a lot and you've worked for a lot of the companies that have been in the middle of all this. Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?
Jeff: So as I thought about my answer to this question, I realized that I am no longer the consumer of a lot of inbound marketing, even though I'm the CMO.
Let me explain, and this is I think important for those of your audience who are trying to reach a CMO. We are of a scale that I have a great marketing core team of lieutenants who own marketing operations and demand, who own brand and marketing strategy, who own revenue marketing, including field, owned and sponsored events, creative, international, et cetera. So my inbox is inundated with all sorts of efforts to attract my attention, dangling on the end of the fishing pole, a piece of content that I could download.
The best you can hope for from me, and I could be an anomaly, is I will just forward that along to one of my lieutenants and say, "For your consideration."
I know they are busy, and I do not expect anything back from them, but if it piques their interest and they dig into it, they know to come back and say, "Hey, there could be an interesting solution here."
So perhaps rather than answer who is the best at inbound, how do you perhaps penetrate the wall? And inevitably, the things that get through are the things that are able to succinctly and quickly convey value. So provocative research that's on point with what we're doing, people who are able to lead with the lead as opposed to burying the lead about ROI, around certain solutions. And also ... whatever ... who aren't guilt tripping you that you haven't responded to them, or you haven't done x, y, or z, and they've sent you ten emails. If you tell me you've sent me ten emails, I know I've ignored you nine times.
Jeff: I'm not going to respond to the tenth. So I know this ... I'm explaining an outbound marketing aspect, but those same resources are the same ones that are going on the inbound sites, this is just the outbound activity of that.
I'm just not in a search and find part of my career because it's up to those lieutenants to say, "Oh, we've got this pain point. We need to go find a solution." They're going to be the ones that are looking for that inbound solution, unless it is something so big and so pressing that I'm going to enter into that conversation.
Kathleen: What was the last company that was able to penetrate the wall for you?
Jeff: Oh, how exciting. Let me go into the forwarded mail.
Actually, I know right off hand, I don't know the company name, but I know there is a company that manages field events that had sent us something.
I know that PFL, which is a printing and resource company, sent a really nice mail piece to me with several pieces of content in it as well as a mug and some caramels, and it was very funny because the BDR who had sent it emailed me and said, "Oh, I hope you got my gif," et cetera. "I'd love to schedule a follow-up call." I didn't respond to him because I didn't know what he was talking about, I hadn't gotten it yet. His email had beaten the package. So then, all of a sudden, literally five minutes later the package arrives, I'm like, "Oh, oh, this is really interesting." I had a good conversation with him at an event recently. I didn't respond, but I forwarded it along to the person who runs campaigns for us and gave him the package and the caramels and the coffee mug, I will note. I didn't hold onto it.
Kathleen: Oh, you're so nice, you didn't eat the caramels.
Jeff: I didn't eat the caramels. But that is how it can work, and it was because ... they didn't know that was a particularly good time to hit us. We were the ones who decided it was, and now there's an ongoing conversation because we're talking with multiple players, and assessing pricing and value and everything else.
In an inbox, if I were to just let my inbox run today, I bet you I would get probably a hundred unsolicited emails. That's just untenable to respond to.
Jeff: So going back to your question, inbound marketing remains strong because it's my lieutenants who are going to go out and search, and that's where you want to be found for the types of solutions and speaking to the pain points that they're looking for.
Kathleen: Yeah. Makes sense. So you've got to not only know your ultimate target audience, but you've got to know who the influencers are as well. Sometimes, they're the ones that you have to get first.
Second question. The world of digital marketing is changing so quickly. Voice search is a great example of that. How do you personally stay educated and up to date on all these changes?
Jeff: So my entire marketing career grew up around the internet.
I've shared this on other podcasts, but I do not have a business class to my name. I've never taken a marketing class. I was a Mass Communication undergrad BS, an appropriate abbreviation for the degree, I guess. And I got a Master's as well, a law degree. I practiced law for a couple years before I wove my way back towards technology in the mid '90s as the internet was exploding.
So one of the things I did is I just started going down what I call the rabbit hole, was following the links to stories that were of interest, and I discovered very early on that they were linking to sources that I liked, so then I'd subscribe to that source, and then I'd subscribe to that source, then unsubscribe to things as they became less and less valuable.
What I can tell you today, is that one of the ones that I still subscribe to that I know were very early on, is SmartBrief. So for your audience, if they aren't aware, SmartBrief is a company that actually manages and produces I think over 200 newsletters for different industry associations or topical areas, and I love their synopsis. It is actually the model upon which, arguably, The Skimm and Inside are based.
They have been summarizing the news around particular topics. So they have a leadership SmartBrief, they have a social media SmartBrief, they have a mobile SmartBrief, they have a franchise association SmartBrief. That is such a great summation because just skimming the headlines and skipping through can be a powerful way, especially on the train or commuting or what have you, to quickly digest.
I also remain a big fan and loyal subscriber to eMarketer. So loyal, as I've told them in the past, that I remember their charts before they were black and red. And they rebranded them in ... that is one of the great untold branding stories, about how they branded the color of their charts.
Jeff: And now, you see red and black, you know it's eMarketer.
Kathleen: So true.
Jeff: And what I love there, it's always provocative to understand trends and how consumer behavior or other behaviors are working. So I really like that. I could go on and on with the subscriptions, but it really is about finding the ones you like and going down the rabbit hole to find others.
Kathleen: I love those all. Those are all new ones, nobody has mentioned them before, so I'm going to definitely be checking them out. So much good stuff here. I learned a tremendous amount, and I'm sure that there are listeners who ... and also who are now realizing that they need to gain greater control over their own presence online.
How to Reach Jeff
Kathleen: So if someone listening has a question, wants to learn more, wants to check out Yext, what is the best way for them to find information about Yext online and also to find you online?
Jeff: Sure. So Yext.com, Y-E-X-T.com has all the information about the company. You can sign up to get a demo if you are a small business. You can even go through the process and actually sign up and subscribe.
We are on all the social channels, so you'll find us there. My personal Twitter is @JKRohrs, and if you ... you can DM me there with a question, always happy to ping you back and answer. But those are probably the two primary ways and the best ways to get ahold of me.
Kathleen: Great. Thank you so much. Thanks for all the great information and the wonderful sources to check out for digital marketing knowledge. It's been fascinating to me.
If you're listening and you liked what you heard, I would really appreciate it if you would give the podcast a review on iTunes or Stitcher, the platform of your choice, and if you're listening and you know somebody who is doing kick ass inbound marketing, like Jeff is, tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love to interview them.
Thank you so much, Jeff.
Jeff: Thank you.
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