MarketingSherpa: Describe any digital marketing challenges and/or opportunities that you’ve personally experienced in the past year.
Ryan Phelan, Adestra: I’ve been in the martech industry for more than 15 years, and year after year, I think the biggest challenge is trying to anticipate what my audience needs help with. In the case of Adestra, merely pushing out a message telling marketers that we’re an incredible company to work with isn’t enough. It’s about understanding their successes and their struggles. So the challenge that I have on a daily basis is balancing the research time that is needed to stay in touch with the market and all of the other responsibilities I have to grow our U.S. business. It’s so hard some days, but that investment is critical. The payoff is that my business development job becomes easier over time because I know from that research and talking to different marketers what they are going through and how we can help. This informs our marketing approach, our messaging and our roadmap for our company so that we can continue to innovate with – and ahead of – marketer need.
MarketingSherpa: What has been your most valuable asset in digital marketing?
Ryan Phelan, Adestra: Great question! The most valuable asset is the breadth and depth of available data from ALL of my efforts and marketing channels. Seth Godin once said, “Don’t find customers for your product. Find products for your customers.” And with the massive amount of data available to marketers, finding that product for your customer becomes easier. With that said, it’s still a challenge to cut through all that information and find those things that are relevant, valuable and accurate, but it’s a good problem to have. With so much available to us, we can literally test all the time about where our sweet spot is – what message is resonating with what audience on what channel – and then quickly apply that learning. Like our marketer clients, there’s not a single channel that is awesome for us, but rather a combination that seems to resonate.
MarketingSherpa: How can marketers use digital to be customer-centric?
Ryan Phelan, Adestra: Well, think about your customer first, not about the tactic of executing the campaign. We find this time and time again in email marketing in that we sometimes focus on the tactics, and not the strategy. This leads to the dark side of marketing where you’re distributing things that you want to see, not what the end user needs to hear. Customer-centric means first asking, “What does the customer truly need?” And then, “How can we provide that to them?” This ties back to the Godin quote. Customer-centric is hard because it’s counter to the non-stop marketing machine that we all know (and hate). Taking a moment to think about the right strategy and what narrative will most resonate with customers is sometimes thought of as a waste of time. I used to work for a company where the phrase “Ready, Fire, Aim” was a way of life. We wasted so much money and time that way because we did not think about the “Aim” as being the most important and first step.
MarketingSherpa: What was your big picture takeaway from digital marketing this year?
Ryan Phelan, Adestra: It’s how many times I end up talking about email in connection to social, mobile, advertising or just digital media. Email is the gateway to so many touchpoints for our end users. Not only the email address, but the other information on preference and behavior that we have at our fingertips. Not that email is the solution to everything because as we all know that sometimes email doesn’t work. Meaning that the customer just isn’t that responsive to it at that moment in time. Yet, that’s not where email’s power ends. Customers are responsive somewhere; the job is knowing for whom and where to look. The extension that you get to the addressable consumer is immense. Then you start to get into discussions of advanced segmentation, multi-channel marketing and big data. The big picture is that email is at the center of it all. I see this increasing as marketers have the lightbulb moment where they realize the power of email beyond its value as a communication tool.
MarketingSherpa: What are some tactics you are or will be implementing in your digital marketing in the future?
Ryan Phelan, Adestra: Testing, testing and more testing. Everything from the copy, frequency, channel, offering – all of it. For years, we’ve been preaching the importance of testing to make sure that you’re resonating with the audience. Sure, we all get in a hurry, and sometimes it’s hard to stop yourself and think, “Ok, what do we not know?” I’ve been guilty of just sending off an email campaign, checking it off the list and asking, “What’s next?” But I keep having to remind myself that success takes hard work. It’s not only the act of testing, but it’s the discipline to ensure that you’re doing it right. Even after 15 years in the industry, I have to take that discipline step. Finally, reporting is key for us. It’s the consolidation of different reports from different companies and systems and picking out what is relevant and actionable. It’s no wonder that most people are overwhelmed by the talk of big data. Where do you start? Again, it goes back to having a clear definition of success and a well-thought-out strategy. The strategy will tell you what data is important and also fair for consideration. Not all data is useful, and you commonly will have to think about what will help you achieve your objectives.
MarketingSherpa: What are some trends that you see coming up in digital marketing?
Ryan Phelan, Adestra: When making the choice of an email service provider, having great technology should be table stakes. Beyond that, it’s becoming more and more about that provider’s level of service and expertise. Many companies have cool bells and whistles, or what I like to call “shiny moments,” but marketers are starting to connect the importance of having a partner who provides both the software and the service. Plus, their needs are more complex as we see greater adoption by consumers with mobile, disconnected behavioral patterns that need to be unified across devices and so on. Layer on to that the propagation of big data concepts and advanced segmentation, and it can get pretty overwhelming. So the support and service we provide at Adestra is more and more vital to our business. Finally, I’m excited about the next wave of innovation that is ahead. Not only on the provider side, but client side driven by consumer adoption. Digital media is more exciting than at any time in its history, and I for one am thrilled to be a part of it.
Adestra is a Silver Sponsor of MarketingSherpa Summit 2016. To learn more about their solution, visit their website or stop by Booth #406 in the Solutions District at #SHERPA16.