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Vitamin of the Week: John C. (Talent)


John C.
Senior Online Marketing Manager

With over 20 years of experience in the marketing and digital marketing fields, John blogs and writes extensively about marketing, PR, social media, and the Internet at large. A fellow at the Society for New Communications Research, author of “Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging, and past president of AMA Boston, he currently works as Sr. Online Marketing Manager for customer experience management company SDL and (amazingly) runs the Boston Agile Marketing Group in his spare moments.

He was kind enough to take a breather to speak to us about the importance of customer relations, the skills he admires in a good online marketing person, and his favorite places to keep up with changes in the digital world.

When you think about digital marketing, what are you most excited about?

That’s a big topic. A personal favorite has always been pay per click marketing. I love the structure and rigorous discipline of Google Adwords. You can really get a sense of results and get them quickly. I also value the ROI of affiliate marketing; some interesting work has been done in this space.

Lastly, I think the work that’s been conducted around orchestration for marketing operations is important. Most marketers today are overwhelmed with the whole process. Figuring out how to build new systems to manage the process means that we’re all in an incredibly exciting time for marketing.

You run an Agile Marketing group. How would you explain that concept to someone you just met at a cocktail party?

Agile Marketing is about focusing on what will produce the most results for your business. You’ll start with the final result, work out the steps to the result, and meet regularly to see you will get to that result.

How do you talk to CEOs and CFOs about the importance of customer relations?

Customer relations or customer experience is about growth and innovation, without it the company cannot grow or hope to remain competitive.

Probably the easiest way to explain the importance to senior management is to have them think about Steve Jobs’ track record with the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Each technology succeeded because Apple built a series of platform technologies that helped catapult the main product into the product leadership position for a new market. The App Store, touch screen technologies, and a marketplace for developers have each enabled Apple to build products that dominated these new markets, because at its core, each technology was all about recognizing that the technology had to innovate when it came to customer experience. The innovation wasn’t just about making a new technology, but rather about making a technology that served customers in a way they’d never been served before.

Where does corporate blogging fit into a company’s marketing mix?

Content marketing is the process of creating content for customers that meets their needs at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Blogging is the content that meets customer needs at the top of the funnel, when customers are looking for answers to their questions. At least that’s the sort of content that works best on a blog. But I also think that blog content can also enable a company to develop a series of posts into longer content pieces.

You wrote "Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging” in 2007. How much has the world of corporate blogging changed since then? And where do you see it going?

I think there have been a number of changes in social media, which is a term that wasn’t even well used at the time I wrote the book. Blogging isn’t the only game in town anymore; we have Twitter, Facebook, and a myriad of other social technologies. Those technologies mean the conversation isn’t just on blogs or forums. But that doesn’t mean blogs are unimportant, they can still be very much part of a company’s domain and a place for them to create unique content that draws visitors to their site.

I see blogging continuing, but I do think there will be more integration with other social technologies around commentary. A company might own a blog, but it’s easier to converse with individuals if they have access to social technologies that integrate into a blogging platform for comments.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an Online Marketing Manager?

Actually, it’s metrics: pulling all the data together and making sure you’ve got a clear picture of what’s going on. Often what happens is that you get different layers of numbers and it’s an incomplete picture, which can be frustrating at times. But I think you learn over time that’s that’s just life and the way it is, so you just work to get more sets of data.

Another enormous challenge is knowing what to do with all that data once you get it.

Essentially both are about numbers, which is good, because isn’t that what marketing is all about?

What’s your opinion on Native Advertising?

I’ve seen some good results. Though I do think you have to be careful not to tread over the line with this technique. Mashable’s business editor Todd Wasserman has a great article and a link to an infographic on the topic.

What's your best tip for a company trying to improve their online presence?

Understand who is visiting your website.

What are some brands that you most admire?

I can’t answer this question without talking about Aquent; I recall you folks have always been great supporters of the American Marketing Association. What I particularly admired was the great strategy for marketing to marketers through the AMA. You spent money with AMA national on advertising. You joined chapters, and spent money with local chapters, plus Aquent made sure they supported each of the local chapters with local representation at the local chapter level. I don’t think I’ve seen another company use this type of strategy with the AMA across all of the different channels, and continue to maintain the consistency.

(John voluntarily came up with this response himself, with no prompting from us. Promise!)

If you were a digital marketer with the resources to only go to one event this year, which would you recommend and why?

I’d have problems choosing just one. But if I had to it’d be either Search Engine strategies or an event from MarketingProfs.

Which skills do you admire most in an online marketing professional?

The ability to come up with a plan, build tasks based around it, and execute it to reach a set of goals based around the understanding of a target audience.

Because if you do that, you’ll be successful, whatever medium you’re working in. It’s really much more important to have those basics down as a marketer than anything else. These are really critical skills.

You’ve given some great presentations, do you have a link to anything online, so people don’t have to fly into Boston to hear you personally?

I’ve got some stuff on my website. You can find a lot of the presentations I’ve done in the past under the speaking section.

Where’s your favorite place to keep up with changes in the digital world?

I can’t just name one, because it’s really a combination of things from a variety of sources.

I really like Marketing Profs and CMO Council. Also some of the top bloggers out there from the Advertising Age 150 (they shut the service down in July of this year, but still you can see a snapshot of where rankings stood.) The Altimeter Group and Forrester are especially good places to get strong reports,

Who is your “must follow” person on Twitter?

That’s going to stump me! Because there’s just so many people. Brian Solis, Jeff Cutler, Jeremiah Owyang, Anne Handy at MarketingProfs, Elisa Camahort Page at BlogHer, Nora Ganim Barnes at Umass Boston, and Ian Lurie, my old boss in Portend Interactive in Seattle. On customer experience, Colin Shaw has some really good content.

Thanks again to John for taking more than a few moment to share his incredible wealth of marketing knowledge with us!

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