FYE Chris Hood | Digital Strategy

 

When adopting a customer-centric mindset, incorporating storytelling, integrating AI, and leveraging data analysis, businesses can create impactful marketing campaigns that resonate with consumers, foster emotional connections, and drive sales growth. In this episode, Chris Hood, the Host of the Chris Hood Digital Show, shares how you can level up your digital strategy. Chris explains how you can build your story and bring your voice consistently into the messaging, social accounts, and story to market your business, brand, and product because these factors can bring an emotional connection to your consumers. Chris and Michelle also bring AI further into the conversation and how AI contributes to your marketing strategy. Also, Chris highlights the value of leveraging data to understand what holds back your sales and how to improve it to grow. Create an impact on your business and drive sales growth by tuning in to this valuable episode with Chris Hood.

 

Here is the link to Michelle’s podcast, Exit Rich:

Website – https://seilertucker.com/podcast

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelleseiler

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/michele.seilertucker

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/michelleseilertucker

Twitter – https://twitter.com/MSeilerTucker

 

Looking forward to seeing you in the comments!

– Michelle Seiler Tucker, Exit Rich

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Drive Sales Growth! Level Up Your Digital Strategy With Chris Hood

Every episode, we bring you the best and greatest content with some of the greatest entrepreneurs that are doing huge things in the world and changing the way that we do business and dropping all these golden nuggets. I can’t be as excited as I am now to welcome Chris Hood to the show. I took Chris’s bio and I will tell you that of all the famous guests I have interviewed, Chris Hood has a very extensive bio. He has done so much. I love it when he tells me in his spare time he does this and this. I’m like, “Where is the spare time?” Chris Hood is an internationally recognized voice, thought leader, and digital strategist with many years of experience and online entertainment marketing for TV, film, music, and video games.

We’ve had some marketing people on the show before, but nobody specializes in TV, film, music, and video games. Now, he hosts The Chris Hood Digital Show, which I will be a guest on very soon. He works with companies worldwide to develop digital and innovation acceleration strategies. Previously, Chris worked as the Head of Digital Business Strategies and Platforms for Google, where he engaged with Fortune 500 companies to create digital transformational programs and build cultures of innovation.

While at Google, he launched and hosted a weekly business podcast. Chris also worked as a Director for Fox Broadcasting where he developed storytelling technologies. I can’t wait to dig in and find out more about his storytelling technologies. He innovated new mechanisms for viewers to engage with television content for shows like Glee, Gotham, Sleepy Hollow, The X Factor, and American Idol, which is still on. His work included developing TV everywhere products and interactive media platforms for streaming services.

In his spare time, Chris teaches in the business and informational technology departments at Southern New Hampshire University and Colorado Technical Universities. Chris has been delivering digital strategies to some of the largest brands in the world such as Universal, Doritos, Reebok, Columbia Pictures, Emmys and so many more. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be here.

Let’s get right into it because I know we’re going to have a whole bunch of questions. I know the audience is going to participate, so let’s dig in. Please share a little bit of your background, your life story, and how you got into this industry. I know you did start working at a movie theater.

My first job was working at a local movie theater, where I fell in love with the sights and sounds of movies. I spent a lot of time cleaning movie auditoriums, popping popcorn, selling candy and tickets, and all of this.

You got to start somewhere.

I tell a lot of people, “One of the best jobs you could ever have is working at a movie theater.” You learn so much. From that spawns this love for movies. When I got into college, I thought, “I’m going to get into the movie industry. I’m going to be a director. I’m going to produce movies.” That’s where my passion was.

At some point in time, I realized that maybe movies were not the right career choice. I went into technology but became very interested was this connection as we started to get into the late ‘90s and the 2000s. It is this correlation between technology and business and how the film was a form of entertainment that we started to experience online. I was able to take all of these different concepts and merge them into a job in a career that focused a lot of attention on building storytelling technologies, engagement models between the products that we are all passionate about, and the business of how to make entrepreneurs, small businesses, and enterprise businesses successful through those relationships.

What age were you when you were working at the movie theater?

Seventeen.

I’m not going to ask your age. You’ve done a lot and you’ve expanded your career. I talked before you came on my show and we talked about business owners sometimes struggling when it comes to hiring marketing companies. Can you provide an overview of your company’s marketing philosophy and approach? I know it’s very unique to everybody else’s.

From my perspective, when we think about marketing, it’s about understanding what the consumer experience means to a business. It’s a lot more than just coming up with colorful words and flowery descriptions of products to try to entice somebody to come and buy your products. This is about connecting at a consumer level, understanding what their challenges, expectations, and needs are, and meeting those with your products and services to be successful.

When we think about traditional marketing, a lot of people out there think, “It’s the mechanism by which I drive my sales.” That’s partially true, but there’s a lot more to marketing than just trying to drive sales. I say often that your marketing goals are not your sales goals. They’re completely different. If you start to understand what those differences are and focus on what that marketing strategy is and what those goals for your marketing needs are, you can start to fine-tune what the customer is expecting from you and message that so that you can be more successful.

Your marketing goals are not your sales goals. Share on X

Your marketing goals are not the same as yourselves goes, correct? That’s a big point. If my team can put that in there, your marketing goals are not the same as yourselves goes because a lot of business owners look at it like that. What’s your marketing company apart from others in the industry? There are so many marketing people out there. People are like, “What am I going to do next? I’m going to go become a marketer.” There’s a lot of strategy and thoughts that go into it. What sets you apart?

To clarify from the start, we’re not just a marketing organization. We deal with various forms of digital strategies. If we think about the entire life cycle, customer life cycle, or customer journey, there are various aspects of that that have nothing to do with marketing but are still critical for business success. It could be as simple as the types of devices or interfaces that they are engaging with you in.

We’re very familiar with the concept of a smartphone. Not everybody needs a mobile app in order to reach their customers. Interfaces are becoming more ubiquitous. They’re everywhere. You have screens that you engage with at the grocery store or the gas station. The gas station pumps have screens on them that you are engaged with and now are presenting you with promotional opportunities, then it’s not even just screens.

We all have this or at least we know what smart devices are. You can say, “Google,” or, “Alexa,” and you can get information without a screen and without touching anything. These devices are the ways that people are engaging with your business, but that’s not necessarily marketing. There are elements of that and you have to understand that they are connecting with you in these devices.

The entire strategy is we discover who you are, begin to engage with you, and are presented with an opportunity. We have communities that are out there that are helping, influencing, and growing the loyalty of your business as well as then what the purchasing process looks like. My company deals with all of those value chains throughout the process.

Other marketing companies don’t. Many of them don’t. How do you tailor marketing strategies to fit different businesses and industries?

I touched on this when we talked. To me, marketing is marketing. It doesn’t matter what company, what business, or what industry. There will always be nuances that we can dive into, but it is simple as this. All businesses have customers. All businesses are trying to reach those customers and get customers to purchase or use their services. That’s it. There is no magic to this.

FYE Chris Hood | Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy: All businesses have customers. Businesses try to reach customers and get them to purchase or use the services. There is no magic to this.

 

Is there a difference in marketing to B2C versus B2B?

No, and I’ll tell you why. This is also something fascinating that we talk about often or I talk about with enterprises often. We’re B2B. I go, “Let’s present this premise.” You can call them a C or a B or whatever you want to call them, but your customer has customers. What most organizations are doing is trying to sell a product or a service to the business to business and they’re not thinking about the end consumer that ultimately has to use it.

I’ll give you an example. I was having a conversation with an insurance company. We’re like, “What are we going to do to sell to this other insurance company?” I go, “What do their customers need?” “We don’t know that’s not what we’re trying to solve.” I go, “Yes, but if you can offer a product to that company that they can then, in turn, offer to their customers, their customers are going to buy more from that business, which, in turn, is going to need your product.” You always have to think about how that end consumer is going to be engaging with your customers because if you don’t, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Do you think a lot of marketing companies take that into consideration?

No, most marketing companies are trying to solve whatever you ask them to solve. They’re not willing to dive into the challenges or the consumer perspective or look at it from a customer empathy point of view and try to build that value chain all the way back to who the customer is. Again, it’s not your business to business who is your customer. It is their customer that ultimately you have to serve.

That’s a very good point. When you’re marketing, you’re, in my mind and most of my client’s mind, hiring a marketing expert. In many cases, as you said, they’re trying to solve a problem or get immediate results. They’re not looking at the strategy behind it and the customer experience. I’ve always said that you have to create a wow customer experience. Otherwise, you won’t attract those customers. If you do, you won’t have a very long lifetime customer value relationship. Do you agree?

That’s correct.

There’s no real tailing. A business is a business. It’s like what I say in sales. Everybody’s like, “Michelle, have you ever sold a manufacturing plant? Have you ever sold a car dealership? Have you ever sold this or that?” I’m like, “Selling a business is a business.” There’s different uniqueness. There are different nuances that you have to know but, at the end of the day, the processes are the same. It sounds like that’s the same in marketing.

Tell us. Do you have any case studies like any real good client stories that you’ve worked with in the past that you’ve helped them transform? Let’s back up for a second. I know you’re all about the storytelling. Tell us real quick about story storytelling and how important or imperative that is in clients’ campaigns.

Stories are everything. We connect with stories. Stories have been around since the dawn of human existence. We go to the movies because of stories. We read books because of stories. We listen to music because it transports us into new worlds and ways of feeling and thinking. Video games are giant interactive stories. Stories are everywhere. Every brand should have a story. You don’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m offering a product,” and then people come. Unless you’re selling pet rocks, which was a thing way back when.

They still have a story.

At some point in time, your brand, your product, and your service have a story to it. You’ve got to craft that story in a way that brings an emotional connection and fulfills the needs and expectations that consumers have. How are you going to solve that problem? Through storytelling. That’s what it’s all about.

Give my reader because they’re reading and going, “How do include my story into my marketing?” How does that work? Any marketing people never think about that and certainly never do it. Give us an example of a campaign that you ran where you included this around the story brand.

There are lots. Instead of trying to give a use case, let’s break this down. What do you have to do? First off, you have to decide what your story is. Most people who are reading probably have some understanding of what that is.

Every entrepreneur has a story of how they got into the business.

Also, on why they started the business, so start there. That’s your premise. Now try to break it down. How are you going to communicate that story? You can do it on a podcast. Come on and share your personal story and your goals and whatever. Some people take that to the next level and you say, “Our brand itself has its own story.” Some of that is influenced.

There’s a marketing company that I’m aware of in Sweden. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember the name. I just remember the concept of this. They built their entire brand around two founders. For the sake of this conversation, we’ll call them Smith and Jones. They named their entire marketing, organization or their agency Smith and Jones Marketing.

They had their profile photos hung up in their lobbies. They went all out on Smith and Jones as being the founding fathers of the marketing agency. The story is that they weren’t real people. They were made up of people right to present this corporate image that they wanted to portray. It’s a fascinating example of how you can make up a story that drives a certain type of clientele or brand image out into the public so that people are interested in what you serve.

Storytelling can be real. It can be made up, make-believe, or a certain voice that you want to portray. If we compare, the voice of Starbucks is different than the voice of McDonald’s. I’m sure that anybody who’s reading understands both of those voices pretty quickly. That’s what you have to try to achieve. It is how you get a consistent voice message story out to the public and intertwined it into your messaging, advertising, and social accounts.

Try to achieve how you get your consistent voice message story out to the public and intertwined into your messaging, advertising, and social accounts. Share on X

Isn’t it important to be transparent when you are creating that brand? Number two, I always tell my clients when I help them exit rich, “You have your company brand and you have your personal brand. If the company is completely branded around that individual, it’s going to be very difficult to sell,” like Tony Robbins for example. Tony Robbins ended up doing ESOP to his employees because he wasn’t able to sell himself. Going back to those two questions, what are your thoughts?

If you’re an entrepreneur, you have to make that decision whether or not you’re going to personally brand yourself or a brand of business.

I didn’t introduce your brand both.

I have both. My website is ChrisHood.com, as well as my agency, which is CHDigital.com. CH stands for Chris Hood but I could also say that it means anything. I could say it means Cloudy House Digital. The story becomes how I want to brand that CH as part of CH Digital. Ultimately, CH Digital and ChrisHood.com are completely different brands with completely different identities and social media accounts, all for very specific reasons as well. ChrisHood.com, my personal brand, and me, focus on thought leadership and conversations like we’re having now ultimately to drive business to CH Digital, which focuses on enterprise and corporate-wide marketing and digital strategy initiatives but very clear, distinctive, different business models and brands.

I believe it’s important to be transparent. I know that you said you could make up a story. The whole thing to me for entrepreneurs and businesses that sell large-size businesses is to be transparent and get that inspiring story out. Many of my entrepreneurs like we’ve got a gentleman that built a $100 million company and he started selling stuff out of his pickup truck at the age of sixteen. These stories are so inspirational. It’s important to be transparent. I don’t know what your thoughts are on that.

Transparency is critical in most areas of business. Branding and marketing is one of these challenging ones because there’s no marketing out there that’s truthful. That’s the bottom line.

That’s not true. Let’s change that.

Marketing is intended to be deception. Even when we have good intentions to deliver a truthful message in marketing, it can come back and bite us. Marketing is all about playing on words and ensuring the right accuracy of every word is precisely meant for exactly the context of what it is. That’s fine. That’s not to say that you can’t be honest in that process, be transparent about who you are as a brand, or communicate your story through advertising or marketing efforts.

Marketing is all about playing on words and ensuring the right accuracy of every word is precisely meant for exactly the context. Share on X

Transparency is critical. More importantly, it is how you come across in your community and you have to be authentic in that process. You can say that’s transparency, but there are certain things that you can hide or not communicate about and still be authentic with your loyal customers or your community. That’s the difference.

I agree. We had Dr. Misner on the show, the Founder of BNI, the largest business network in the world. He has now marketing his own brand. It’s always been BNI. Now he is out there marketing Dr. Misner. We have a couple of questions from the audience. Stefan asks, “How do you ensure alignment between a client’s brand voice and the marketing campaigns you develop?”

That’s a challenging one. It’s a challenging one for a lot of factors. The turnover rate is one of the biggest. If I get somebody in, it’s like establishing my voice. Let’s say they’re my social media person. They write the same way. They’ve established that voice. Two years down the line, they leave and I bring in somebody else. Do you shift your voice? How do you maintain that voice? It’s a very challenging way of looking at it.

It’s ever-changing too, right?

It could be ever-changing based on cultural scenarios, marketplace situations, bad press, or good press news. All of that could change what your voice becomes. Believe it or not, there are some AI tools that are out there now to help you manage your voice. What it’s doing is it’s looking at consistency in word use. For example, if every time I welcome somebody, I say, “Hello,” and hello is my word, all of a sudden, I decide to use hey to introduce somebody, it would flag like, “Hey is out of your voice. We use hello.” Those types of things.

The more traditional way of how it was done was you basically build a spreadsheet of keywords and words that you use and words that you don’t use. As you’re formulating your social copy, you’re like, “I’m going to go to the words that I do use and not use the words that I don’t use.” Unless it’s a new word that has become relevant for pop culture reasons, you’ve got to be able to maintain that. You’ve got to be able to maintain the style, the word usage, and the word count. All those elements have to be considered.

I agree. We’re going to get an AI in a few minutes. What is your process for conducting market research and targeting audiences?

Most of the market research information is already out there. Do the research. Believe it or not, there are a lot of AI tools that can help you get to that market research data quicker. The challenge with some of that is dates and availability. For example, ChatGPT is as recent as 2021. However, there are now plugins that are available that will allow you to access more current and relevant data. You could go into ChatGPT and say, “Supply me with market information for Columbus, Ohio, home services companies.” It’s going to be able to provide you with some pretty good data. You’ll still have to go and validate that data.

It also lies to you.

It’s only as smart as it’s been programmed for as that gets more advanced. Most of this data is out there. There are plenty of stats and websites that support market data and market trends that you can go and research.

Coach Kenny asks, “What is the best marketing strategy for new companies without a voice or brand like startups?”

Make up a voice. Make up a brand. What is your voice? if we were sitting down together, the first thing I would say is like, “Tell me your story. How did you come up with your company? What is the company? What is the startup? What are you doing? What are you producing? Why are you doing it? What do you think you’re trying to solve?” Let’s get that out there. What is your personal voice? How do you see this coming across to consumers? Do you want to come across as something classy like a Ritz Carlton? Do you want to come across as something simple like a McDonald’s? Do you want to come off with something casual like social media?

FYE Chris Hood | Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy: Make up a voice, make up a brand.

 

There are some tones and vibes of other companies out there that you can hone in on and say, “We want to be like that company. I like that company. That’s one of my favorite brands. Let’s do that.” Let’s continue to evolve this. Do you see yourself with a mascot? What does your logo represent? Some people have mascots. Do you see this mascot coming to life for you and being the voice in some way? There are things that you can start to do immediately and pretty quickly within a day to define what that voice and story is and what your brand colors are. What colors do you like?

Believe me, you don’t have to go off and hire somebody with this strategy. This can come from you and no one should be saying that they don’t have time to do it. This is essentially how you’re going to grow your business. You have to set aside a day or two days to through that process of, “What is my story? What’s the voice? What companies do we want to mimic? What are our colors?” Colors have moods. Colors have representations.

You can go research that. That’s easy to research.

Those are all researchable. There are tools out there that will help you with this process. There’s a brand and story messaging generator and put in some ideas.

Let’s put that brand and story generators to help people come up with their brand. It takes some soul searching. It takes some, “What did I come up with? Why did I come up with this company?” Your story’s perfect. You started a movie theater picking up trash and you were so inspired to go into that industry.

My client, who sell a $100 million business, grew up in farming, has no formal education, and took off on his own at the age of 15 or 16 and started selling to major grocery store chains. You got to dive into why you are doing what you’re doing. What moves you? What inspires you? I love what you said earlier about looking at other brands that you like. I always tell my clients, “Stop searching in your industry. Look outside of your industry.” Look at what Disney, Ritz Carlton, and Apple are doing, these huge brands. Pick and choose from some of those brands that you want to incorporate into yours. The brand is always evolving too.

This goes back to what we were talking about earlier in terms of every business being a business and every marketing is marketing. I did some work with Domino’s Pizza. During that time, they developed some interesting technologies that would allow people to basically order pizzas faster. Domino’s, if you go to their corporate office, they have signs around. The CEO of Domino’s came out years ago and said, “We are not a pizza company. We are a technology company.”

I share this story with a lot of businesses and position them on how they could think about their own business. Usually, the response I get is, “Yes, but we’re not Domino’s Pizza.” I’m like, “You’re missing the whole point. You have to be able to look at companies outside of your industry as being role models for what you want to accomplish.”

FYE Chris Hood | Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy: You have to be able to look at companies outside of your industry as role models for what you want to accomplish.

 

You can look at like Disney as an example. Disney is a role model for thousands of businesses out there. Why? It’s because of how they treat their customers or their creativity process, imagination, and the art of the possible. All those things have nothing to do with what you’re trying to sell. They are all part of who you become, who your brand is, and what your marketing is all about. That’s what you have to think about.

It goes back to the question, “What business am I in? What’s my superpower? What business should I be in?” If you watch the movie The Founder based on a McDonald’s story, Ray Kroc came in and some people say stole the franchise from McDonald’s brothers, but he started the franchise and blew it up. If it wasn’t for the advice of a gentleman that was listening to Ray Kroc’s story in the bank, when the banker kept saying, “You’re over leverage. I can’t lend you any money.” Ray kept saying, “This is a good business. This is a great business. It’s going to explode and this and this.” The banker said, “I’m sorry,” then what happens? He walks out, and the gentleman followed him out and said, “What business are you in?”

He said, “I’m in the restaurant business.” He said, “No, you’re not. What business are you in?” He kept saying the restaurant business. He said, “No, you’re in the real estate business.” If Ray Kroc didn’t listen to that gentleman right then and there, McDonald’s would never be what it is now. They are in the real estate business. They’re the largest real estate holding company in the world. Mr. Wang has a question, “What is your process for continuous optimization and improvement in marketing campaigns?”

Clear goals and clear metrics. To overly simplify this, let’s say that you have a goal of the number of qualified leads. “I want to increase the number of qualified leads.” That’s my marketing objective. What do you want to increase it to? A hundred qualified leads in the month? Great. Did you reach that? “No, I got 50 out of 100 qualified leads this month.” You’re at 50%. That’s it. Define what your goal is then build a metric or KPI to reach that goal.

Define your goal and then build a metric to reach that goal. Share on X

A step further from that, I say, “I want 100 leads this month,” and they get 50. I would even take it a step beyond and say, “Out of those leads, what is the monetary amount? What am I expecting out of those leads?” For instance, on our marketing, they’re saying, “We can get you up to 30 valuations per month.” We ran the dollar amounts. We ran the projections for that. We put together our own three-year plan to see what type of ROI that brings us. I would take it one step further and build that into your projections and your ROI. You can say, “I want 100 new leads,” but if you’re having to hire all these people, if you’re having to do all this stuff, and it’s not profitable, maybe that’s not the direction you want to go in. Somebody like Chris can probably help you figure that out.

I would agree. I would say that your marketing goals are not your sales goals or marketing is not responsible for your financial success within your business. If you put that aside, I would agree that you should be developing marketing goals that are going to help ensure your financial success, which is your ROI. As an example, you might say, “I want to get 100 new listeners on my podcast.” If you can’t tell me what’s that going to do for the business, if there’s no answer for that, then the argument would be then don’t focus on generating more listeners for your podcast. Focus attention on something that’s going to generate business value.

You have to look at it as what’s going to generate the income and not just generate the income because then so many business owners forget the biggest piece, “What is the operating expense to generate that income? Am I making a profit after the operating expense?” If you have to go out and hire 10 to 15 people, you’re paying for marketing, new content, brochures, etc., then it might not be worth it. I always follow it out, “We want this many leads. This many evaluations. This is what it’s going to mean. This is how profitable we don’t have to hire anybody else. We have to get sophisticated with the strategies that we’re using and improve those.” Any other thoughts on that?

We could use real-world examples on that one. If we take the movie from Disney, Little Mermaid, Little Mermaid was $250 million in production cost. There’s an estimate of about another $200 million to 250 million spent solely on marketing for that film. There’s probably an additional $200 million or $250 million for distribution and rights out to theaters, whoever’s distributing the film, licensing, and all of that. The total operating expense for the movie is about $750 million. Whereas, they spent $250 million on marketing for it.

How much did it generate?

Worldwide, it’s at $440 some odd million. Total spend was $700 million.

What about all the promotional stuff that came out of that movie that they’re selling?

That’s all included in that.

They lost money.

Disney’s losing money in that scenario, but it gives you an example of like, “We’re going to focus $250 million in marketing.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that because of all of the other expenses behind the scenes that you have to deal with, like production costs, distribution costs, royalties, and everything else, doesn’t mean that you’re going to make up the money that you’ve spent.

They should have had me build out their projections. That’s right. That’s why I say take into consideration what the marketing’s going to cost you and everything behind the scenes is going to cost you. Now, you didn’t have anything to do with that movie, right? All your movies made money?

I’d like to think so.

We’ll say yes. Let’s dive into the pitfalls of marketing. One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had was I’ve spent over $250 million in marketing and got nothing but excuses and why there were no results. One excuse was, “My wife left me for another man and took all the money out of the account. I had a much less budget.”

All my clients come to me and say, “Michelle, who do you recommend in marketing? I’ve spent so much money. I’ve wasted so much money. There’s no ROI.” Sometimes marketing in the industry can be the biggest conner out there because everybody goes up, puts up a website, and says they’re an expert at marketing and they are not an expert at marketing. What are some of the common pitfalls or challenges that companies encounter when implementing their marketing strategies? Let’s talk about due diligence, vetting, and what we should be doing to protect these clients.

You touched on the big ones. It’s vetting. You’ve got to find somebody, first and foremost, who you align with.

How do you do that? How do you find these people? I found my marketing expert at a mastermind I’m a part of. It took me three years to get to know him and see what he’s doing for everybody else in a mastermind. A lot of companies can’t wait years and they need to make decisions now. Do you have any resources for finding good marketing people?

No. We can start with this. You get what you pay for, so you have to understand that. Don’t go to Fiverr, as an example, looking for a marketing expert. There are a lot of sites out there that say, “We’ll deliver.” Unless, you’re able to sit down, have a conversation with a real person, and walk through what you want to accomplish, I would steer away from them. Anything that’s online like, “We’ll do this for you online,” I would stay away from them because it’s all pre-processed, pre-packaged, and automated types of services that are not going to give you the one-on-one touch that you need to be successful. That’s the first thing.

FYE Chris Hood | Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy: Steer away from marketing agencies if you can’t get a conversation with a real person from them, and walk through what you want to accomplish.

 

What about checking references? Everybody’s like, “Here are my references,” but you’re only going to give out your good references. I always say google them, research them, or anything that you can pull up on them. Do that first and foremost, but what other stuff can you do to vet marketing agencies?

You’re going to have to do interviews. You’re going to have to interview with them. I agree that most vetting is like, “Give me a list of your references,” and they’re going to give you good references. Try to find a list of references that are not good. See if there are online reviews of the company. Read the one-star review and see if it’s a legitimate complaint or maybe it’s not. You’ve got to build that perspective.

That’s a catch-22 because you want to go there for reviews and there are a lot of negative reviews that are not validated reviews because somebody got upset about something.

That should be able to give you some perspective of the company. The other thing you need to be able to do is to vet them through a small project. Have a small project you can call it a trial run or whatever you want. If we go back to the example earlier like, “I’m trying to reach 100 validated leads by this month. I want you to reach 100 validated leads for me this month. That’s the only thing I want you to do,” and see what they do. See how they handle it and how they communicate with you.

See if they’re proactively communicating with you throughout the month. Are they calling you and saying, “It’s week one, we’re at 25. We feel we’re on track,” or, “It’s week one and I don’t think we’re going to hit this but we’re still working on it.” If they’re being honest with you and saying, “Three weeks out from our due date, it looks like we’re struggling, and here’s where we’re struggling but we wanted to let you know we’re still working on it.” That’s a good sign.

That’s the transparency we were talking about. I would expect somebody to be reaching out to me in week 1, week 2, week 3, and week 4 through the entire process, giving me stats, telling me how they’re doing, what their challenges are, and what their conflicts are. All of that should be a part of a very small deliverable to test them and see if they’re the right fit.

That’s a great idea. Start off vetting small projects and give them a small project. If they don’t communicate at all, if they don’t know how it’s performing so far, then get rid of them quickly. That’s where I say, “Run Forrest, run.”

Start vetting by small projects. Give digital agencies a small project, and if they don't communicate at all, and don't let you know how it's performing so far, then get rid of them quickly. Share on X

The first red flag is if refuses to communicate with you because it’s not going well. That’s a red flag.

They’re so busy, so tied up, and can’t get to you. They don’t have the team that they said they do. I love that. Start with small projects. Stephan asks, “What steps do you take to mitigate the risk of overspending on marketing without achieving desired results?” We talked a little bit about that and I would say have an ironclad contract on deliverables as well.

Every single thing that you do should have a number associated with it. Have a benchmark. It should have a, “Where are we today?” We’ll use the leads because that’s what we’ve been doing. If you’re generating 50 solid leads every month consistently, that’s your benchmark. That’s where you’re at. If your goal is to improve that by 10% or 20% or whatever it is, then that’s your goal.

You are watching your agency and getting the reports and making sure that they are doing the work that you’ve paid for. If they come back and say, “We need more money to be able to achieve the goal you have,” that needs to be vetted, worked out, and decided before you agree to it. What are you going to do differently? What hasn’t worked so far?

From marketing budget 101, you should set what your marketing budget is for all marketing initiatives and channels. If that’s 20% of your revenue, 30% of your revenue, 10% of your revenue, or 40% of your revenue, you set that and that’s your budget. Don’t go over it. You may want to tweak that. You might want to say, “I’m going to put a little bit more money this month into podcasts and settle down a little bit more on the display ads. I want to go up and down on this based on the season.” It’s never going to go past whatever that budget is. If you tackle it in that way and your marketing support understands that, then they have to work within that. They’re never going to be coming and saying, “We need more money from you.”

They should be identifying what are those marketing channels that are getting because it’s back to the 80/20 rule, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients or 20% of your channels or whatever you want to use that role towards. I would say it’s marketing. The marketing company’s job, too, is to monitor that and say, “You getting huge traffic on LinkedIn and YouTube. Let’s have more ad spend over here.”

It’s like what I did with my clients during the pandemic. They’re like, “I’m only going to be able to stay in business for a few months.” I said, “No, that’s not true. Let’s go back through your overhead. Let’s cut a bunch of stuff that you don’t need. If you don’t have people in the office, you can get rid of water, coffee, and many things. The one thing you never cut is marketing. Now you look at all your channels and you see which ones are overperforming and which ones are underperforming. You double down on the overperforming and get rid of the other ones.”

That doesn’t mean you decrease your budget. That means you effectively increase it to the platforms that are working. The other thing I’d like to add is we say quality leads because I have marketing companies bring me leads. I’m like, “I’m not selling a $50,000 coffee shop.” I love you coffee shop owners. I do and I’ve sold a whole bunch of you in the beginning. I can refer you to who does sell those. What is a quality lead for you? You need to identify that and be on the same page with your marketing team. We should switch a little bit now to AI. Unless there are any other go-to nuggets you have to drop under pitfalls of marketing?

No, all good.

AI, that’s taking a role by storm now. How is our artificial intelligence being used in marketing? What are the potential benefits and challenges associated with its implementation? There’s going to be good and bad as with anything.

AI is being used pretty dramatically now in marketing. The number one area that is being used is in generative content. This is the voice that we talked about earlier. Your SEO, the blog post, and the content that you’re writing, there’s AI that we’re seeing also across social media, for social media distribution. Podcasting has introduced some elements of AI. All of that is in, “I want to create content and get content out into the world.” AI has a huge impact on those areas now. What it’s not having a huge impact on is the sales process and customer support, sales, and pretty much anything that is after marketing that AI is still struggling with now.

FYE Chris Hood | Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy: AI is being used pretty dramatically now in marketing for its generative content.

 

To give marketing a break here, marketing can bring clients to your door. It’s up to you to close them. Some good marketing companies will listen to those calls because they have certain phone numbers. They’ll go back and listen to recordings. They’ll do some quality insurance of their own because they wanted to make sure, especially if they do participate in a revenue share, which I always suggest that business owners look for those companies.

They will put their money where their mouth is and do some rev share because it speaks volumes of their confidence about being able to produce. Many times, they’ll listen to those calls. They’ll check on you. They’ll make sure that you guys are doing your job because marking gets in there. Your sales team closes them. Hayden asks, “How can AI algorithms be used to predict customers’ behavior and anticipate market trends and optimize marketing strategies accordingly?”

There are a couple of different elements in there. The customer part is the easiest one. If you’ve got people who are visiting your website engaging with you or are existing customers or repeat customers, AI will help you build profiles on them and personalize that. That’s happening in a lot of places now and you may not even realize it.

We talked about Starbucks. Starbucks has AI built into its mobile app application. There’s a good use case where McDonald’s implemented AI into their ordering process as part of their mobile app and started to recommend like, “We see that you’ve ordered Big Mac for the last five times you’ve been here. Would you like a Big Mac and a value meal again today?” “Yes.” As a result, they show a substantial increase in their profits solely because AI is making personalized recommendations through their app.

The profile for consumers is fairly easy to do with AI. When we start looking at the broader, the macro, the marketing trends that are out there, unless you have the data that you can input into AI and have AI do an analysis on that market data, then it’s a little bit harder for you to build a model that can predict what’s happening.

If you read a lot of publications and stay familiar with your market, you yourself should be able to begin predicting where the market is headed. The core of that is listening to your consumer because your consumer is going to drive market change and your market change is going to drive your business. All the way back to the beginning of our conversation, if you understand what the consumer needs are first and listen what their needs and their changing preferences are, then you can start to build your own market analysis and start to see how things are going to evolve.

That’s a great answer. Melissa asked Chris, “Do you find that most SMBs, especially ones with a longer history brand, word of mouth, understand that their websites, while nice looking, are unattractive to google voice searches on mobile? Their sites are not selling for them because they are not being reached through true digital strategy.”

The answer is complex but also simple. Your website is not going to sell anything for you. Your website is your brand and identity, but ultimately, it has to be simple to use. Consumers get frustrated pretty easily. There’s a lot of research out there that shows that over 70% of consumers will abandon their shopping cart if it takes more than 2 or 3 steps to reach the shopping cart.

FYE Chris Hood | Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy: Your website will not sell anything for you. It is your brand and identity. It should be simple to use.

 

For all of you who go and fill out a form then you put stuff into your cart and, “Do you want to sign up for this? Do you want to sign up for that? Are we going to confirm your email?” and eventually, you get to the checkout. With all of those steps, you’ve already lost half of your audience. You have to think again from a consumer perspective.

You who are reading are all consumers. We are all consumers ourselves. If you went into the grocery store and the grocery store said, “You bagged your ten things of groceries for your family and the bill is $200,” and you pull out your credit card to pay or your debit card. They say, “Sorry, we don’t take debit cards anymore. We only take cash.”

The odds of you leaving that grocery store are very high because that grocery store is not meeting your expectations. Your expectation is, “I buy groceries. I pay with my debit card.” The cash has, all of a sudden, confused you. Your website is no different than this. You have to make it easy and convenient for people to get in, find what they want, and check out.

Why Amazon is so popular is because they have a concept of one-click checkout. They’ve gotten it down to, “I click a button and I can buy and have delivered everything I want.” If your website doesn’t accommodate that type of experience, you’ll have a challenge. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. A nice-looking website is going to be valuable for you, but you also have to understand what the consumer wants.

I’m going to tell you another quick story. I was working with the CEO of a fashion eCommerce platform, and she was getting a lot of abandoned carts. I said, “How about we have a survey and we ask the customers, ‘Why did you abandon the cart?’ In the process, we’ll give them a 10% discount so they can come back and maybe they’ll buy something.” We set up the survey and it was one question, which was basically, “why did you abandon the cart?”

We gave multiple-choice answers or responses. “The checkout process was too confusing. The product was too expensive. I couldn’t find what I was looking for. You didn’t have my size.” We got about 1,000 responses. We put all of those responses together. The number one response by far was the product was too expensive.

Seventy percent said the product was too expensive. The CEO then said, “Let’s change the checkout process. I think it’s too confusing. I don’t want to change the price of the product.” If you’re not capturing the data, if you don’t understand why people are abandoning your cart and you’re not then doing anything about it, that’s the digital strategy that you have to adhere to. You have to know why, you have to have the data to back it up, and then you have to do something about it, make the change, and improve so that you can get the business sale.

You have to have the data to back up your digital strategy, then do something about it. Make the change improve so that you can get the business sale. Share on X

Melissa came back and said, “I mean that they think that they are being found organically by Google but they are not as Google is working differently. Lead gen is not happening to get targeted consumers to the site to act on.”

Ignore everything I said then.

It was still good information, Chris.

We’re talking about SEO, which is how Google finds your website, how your website comes up in the search results, and how Google helps. I’m a customer, I’m looking for a particular product. I have a problem. I type it into Google. Your product or your website comes up. It’s discoverable and people then visit your website. I’m guessing that’s what we’re talking about now.

In that case, there are a lot of tools out there that will show you where you are in the process because also understand that if you go and you search for your own business yourself, you will appear closer to the top. What Google does is its posting relevancy. It believes that your business is relevant because every time you do your own search for yourself, you click on it and it says, “This is what they’re looking for.” It gets repositioned to the top.

There are a lot of people out there that say, “I’m number one.” No, you’re number one for you for your own search. For somebody in a completely different state who’s searching for the same term or keywords, you’re probably number 25 on the list. There are a lot of websites out there that will show you what your true position is. We’ll also show you what things you should be doing with your website to improve your position and to get it moved up higher.

Some of that has nothing to do with keywords. Keywords are a part of it. I search for this key, I find your website. Some of it is the speed of your website, the style of your website, the way it’s formatted, or how fast it loads on a mobile device. There are all of these other technical elements that you have to adhere to as well so that it can move up. Again, there are tons of services out there that will show you and analyze your website for where your true position is and what technical things you need to do to improve your position. Hopefully, I got that one right.

It was good information both ways. We have so many more questions but we’re out of time here. I’m going to ask one more question then we’re going to talk about your upcoming book. How can AI power tools assist in generating and optimizing content including automated copywriting, image recognition, and video editing?

That’s a big topic as well. AI can do a lot of things, and there’s a lot of tools out there to help you with a lot of things. I will promote one of my favorites. It’s a service called Lately.ai. Lately.ai takes long-form content like blog posts, video, or podcast audio or video. It listens to your voice, your business voice, whatever that is, then analyzes by keywords. Let’s say Exit Rich is a keyword.

The AI will search for all of the audio clips where we talk about Exit Rich and it will cut them into shareable slices of video and audio formats with social media content that has been crafted in your voice and schedule it to be published online. It’s fabulous. It’s a great way to leverage AI to help you craft additional content that you can publish there through social media, video, audio, images, etc. The copyright thing, that’s a whole other legal conversation. I am happy to talk about it offline. There are lots of AI tools out there that do a lot of things. If there’s something specific you’re looking for, I’m sure it’s out there.

We might have you come back on as a guest to talk through AI because that’s on everybody’s mind now. By the way, Melissa Brown said, “Yes, I appreciate it. Thank you.”

Awesome. I love it.

Let’s talk because we’re out of time here. I do want to mention your book that’s coming out in called Customer Transformation. If you can just give us a little snippet about that. I know you’re not in pre-orders yet. We’ll have you on again before August, so we can talk in greater detail about Customer Transformation.

The book is called Customer Transformation. It’s a seven-stage framework for aligning with your customers and generating business value. The concept is, a lot of what we’ve talked about is that us, as consumers or customers, our needs and expectations are constantly evolving. In order for a business to be able to keep up with that continuous evolution of the way we connect with businesses and the types of devices that we use to purchase and engage with businesses. Again, our personal needs, desires, and expectations. We have to be able to understand that, align with it, and keep up with it in order to be successful. This walks through those seven stages and how you can do it for yourself.

We’ll have to have you back on because nobody can pre-order. I know you primarily work on Fortune 500 companies, but how can our audience get in touch with you?

The easiest way is ChrisHood.com and you can find my contact information there. You can reach out to me if you have a question. You can sign up for my newsletter, which I will then notify you of when pre-sales and sales are available for the book. You can find my podcast and ways to connect with me online. Everything is right there.

You have dropped so many golden nuggets. The reason I like to use the word golden nuggets is because each chapter in Exit Rich is called a golden nugget. You gave us lots of words of wisdom. You’ve given us advice on how to be able to vet these marketing companies and try to see if any of them will show revenue and get some skin in the game, how to avoid the pitfalls, what separates a great marketer from a not-so-great marketer, and what we could do be doing in AI.

I thank you so much for coming to the show. I thank my readers for reading every episode of Exit Rich. I know you’re going to have to go back and read this because it’s like drinking from a fire hose. There are all kinds of tools and strategies and things that you need to go back and reflect on and implement in your own company because knowledge is power, but implementation is key to success. Share this with your audience, your coworkers, fellow entrepreneurs, or anybody in your circle. Share this information with everyone and I’ll see you on the next episode. Thank you again, Chris.

Thank you.

 

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About Chris Hood

FYE Chris Hood | Digital StrategyChris Hood is an internationally recognized voice, thought leader, and digital strategist with over 35 years of experience in online business and technology development. He often speaks to audiences about cultures of innovation, customer-centric mindsets, and digital acceleration. He currently hosts The Chris Hood Digital Show and consults with enterprises and startups about digital acceleration. Mr. Hood teaches business and information technology at Southern New Hampshire University and Colorado Technical University. He previously worked for Google, Fox Broadcasting, and Disney and co-founded Blind Squirrel Games.

 

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