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Podcast Transcript

Peter: Welcome to episode five of the Corporate Digital Marketing Podcast. I am your host Peter Applebaum, and we have a couple of firsts today. First number one, if that makes sense, is that we are actually recording live in the Corporate Digital Marketing Podcast Studio. So, our guest has kindly come into the studio, and we will talk about Adele a lot more in a little time. But, the second first is that we are welcoming a co-host. Enough of just hearing from me with heard overwhelming thoughts that it’s like enough of just me we want some interesting people. So, we’ve invited our Director of Digital Strategy, Susan Workner to join me on the podcast. Susan works with us, but she also has her own company and works in the investor relations and corporate communication space. And, probably much more relevant to what we’re talking about today is the fact that Susan certainly is a pioneer in her industry in the corp comms and the investor relations space in developing proprietary software. So, we’re going to be speaking to the marketing director of a SASS software model, so I think it is very relevant so Susan welcome.

Susan: Thank you, Peter I am very happy to be on the show what a wonderful opportunity I’m very pleased to also be here when Adele is here I’ve seen her career over the last few years and I think she’s landed a wonderful role as CMO so will be interesting to hear her experience.

Peter: It certainly will be. So we will come back and speak to Adele.

Peter: I would like to welcome Adele Benard who’s the Marketing Director APAC for Lithium Technology. Adele welcome.

Adele: Thanks very much Peter and really excited to be here.

Peter: As we are too. Adele if you could tell us a little bit about your very impressive background that has brought you to Lithium and brought us to the studios here today.

Adele: Oh great, thanks, Peter. Well just very quickly I actually graduated from UTS and my first role was in office systems which was the early days of tech. So, I like to think of myself as a bit of a tech-chick pioneer.

Peter: A tech chick; is that politically correct?

Adele: From office systems, I graduated into IT and high-tech, and then about 15 years ago I did my first start-up at a company called Websense, and I was on the original start-up team.  One of the challenges of start-ups is high-growth; that’s when I first started really getting down and into the depths of Digital marketing and how to grow a company exponentially. So, I’ve done a couple of start-ups they grew, they got acquired, I looked for other start-ups they grew got acquired. And, now I’m at Lithium which is a digital engagement platform as the APAC Marketing Director.

Peter: Okay. So it’s interesting that you’ve actually be doing digital marketing for the last 15 years or so you would be one of the pioneers in that space in Australia. Do you find that digital marketing is central to the success you’ve enjoyed in previous organisations and also Lithium?

Adele: Yes, I find digital is one of the key marketing strategies for marketeers. One of my challenges with start-ups is how do I cover such a broad depth of geography and some of the start-ups that I have been doing I’d have to cover about 16 countries. So, yes you can definitely do off-line events, but to get the kind of coverage and the kind of key growth and hit my KPIs as you’re given from head office in Silicon Valley, digital has been the real key and the heart of what I do with the marketing strategy. So, that kind of brings the question I guess to well with a digital strategy where do you start? So, looking at where you start obviously it’s at the top of the funnel, so how are you going to bring the traffic to the top funnel. And, nowadays I speak to many marketeers, and they’re going Google, just put the whole spin into Google, and I question that, is that the right thing to do, is that really where you’re going to get some really good pipeline high performing leads?

Or, do you put your spend more into a digital strategy and content. And, really as the cliche is content is king. And, when you look at the way you know Google works and search marketing works most of the content for search engine should be in HTML. If you put it into nontext content it’s often ignored or devalued by search engines, and so the easiest way for the search engines to find key content is through the text, and the written word is also very easily displayed to your visitors or to the traffic. So, in other words, if I could sort of articulate what I’m trying to say with the digital strategy is, have a lot of content on your website because then the search engines have a lot to take in.

Susan: Does that mean Adele with your company Lithium being a SASS model how do you find most of your customers then, are they mostly online or are you still using traditional methods to gain customers for Lithium?

Adele: That’s a really good question. Lithium has a B2B model, so we work with very large businesses. And, the way that we get our brand across and the way that we engage in customer acquisition, social acquisition we actually use our own platform. So, we have a community, and we also use our social media tools also to acquire customers and one of the things I do every day when I look in my inbox I get a report. And, I use a lot of analytics reports to identify who my key targets are and how the pipelines performing, what’s a high performing pipeline or target, what’s not converting. So, looking at reports of who’s hitting our website, and then from there, we can get with Lithium a 360-degree view of our customer. And, what I mean by that is Lithium actually bought Klout which I’m sure you know that’s a social media influence score. So, with Klout not only can we recognise who’s hitting our website, who’s responding to our campaigns, we can get a really good view of that customer, what their likes are, what their interests are, for example, do they like tennis do they like Bon Jovi. So, getting that 360 degree view is what you can do in digital where you can’t really do that, you go to a conference, you go to an event you get someone’s business card that’s great but are they really a lead? Are they qualified for a marketing lead that you would hand over to sales? Well, that’s questionable because you don’t really have that 360-degree view of who they actually are and what they’re looking for.

Peter: So, as a marketer listening to this podcast, their boss has come to them and said, okay time to do something digital, we think digital’s the future we’ve seen all the, we’ve been to the conferences, we’ve read all the reports, we’ve got to do something digital. You are a sophisticated corporate digital marketer, what advice would you give to that person who’s saying that’s all great Adele, but that sounds really sophisticated high-end type of things to do. So, what are the simple things that I, starting off on my digital marketing journey, what can I do from an iterative process to lay those foundations for the organisation?

Adele: Well basically going back to the principles of the buyer’s journey, let’s take a look at how does the buyer find a brand. Basically, they do most of their research online before they even contact that brand.

Peter: Do you have insights to back that up research to back that up?

Adele: Yes, in fact, the statistics are between 63% and 70% of customers actually research what they’re going to buy online before they even contact the brand. So, for example if you’re searching for a new telco plan you don’t rush into a telco you don’t rush into Telstra or Optus’s retail store, you’re going to go online you’re going to research all the telco plans, what suits your lifestyle, what suits your budget. And, then you go and contact Telstra Optus Vodafone whoever that telco is.

Susan: In your space, as you mentioned it’s a B2B model. I imagine you have a lot of competitors in that space. How sophisticated is the marketing of your competitors?

Adele: It’s very sophisticated in the B2B space as you can imagine. I actually did some research: how many marketing tools are there available for B2B marketers such as myself? The results were there are over 6,000 marketing technology, models and software tools available for marketeers today.

Susan: 6,000!

Adele: Over 6,000. So, where do you start? Being a B2B in the high-tech space, my competitors are also B2B in the high-tech space, so not only are we living and breathing because that’s what we’re marketing. Also, our competitors are also living and breathing their tools they’re also using their tools, platform to also market their product and do customer acquisition, so it’s an incredibly noisy space. The market has developed I’d say in the last five years, it’s absolutely amazing the kind of tools and platforms that marketeers have, and it’s become a real science. I mean we’ve really moved on from the madmen days where it was all about telephones, telemarketing, telexes, put an ad in the Financial Review and hope and pray someone’s going to look at your ad. Those days are gone, it’s a very sophisticated high-tech world and keeping up with all the changes that are happening and all the MarTech stacks that are available is also part of the challenge of a B2B marketeer here today.

Susan: And, how do you find the budgets of your competitors, are they larger than maybe Lithium’s budgets marketing budget?

Adele: You know Susan I’ve never been threatened by the size of the budget because it really depends on a couple of things. It depends on what you do with the budget and how engaged you are, what your brand ambassadors are. What’s great at Lithium is we have really cool customers who have really cool stories to tell about what they’re doing with our software platform. And, yes we do compete in a very noisy space, and we do compete with a lot of high-tech companies that have very large budgets. But, I’ve worked a lot in the high-tech space, and I don’t think I’ve worked at a company that have such passionate customers that are actual brand advocates of Lithium.

And, the key to digital marketing nowadays is that peer-to-peer conversation that peer-to-peer content that’s written on websites blogs, forums and if you can get your customer’s super engaged in what you do and talking about what you do you don’t need a large marketing budget. So, that’s why I say at Lithium it doesn’t really matter the size of the budget, at the end of the day it does boil down to who are your brand ambassadors, who are your brand advocates, and are your customers really engaged?

Peter: I think one of the challenges with a lot of brands though is they’re not high-tech, they’re not SAAS models, there’s not a great deal of sexiness factor. For example let’s say I’m marketing nails in a hardware store and the main channel is hardware. If I was that marketer I would say well that’s great for you Adele you got an online play, you’ve got a lot of people, a lot of really cool clever people that are associated with it and even your customers are really up to date with what the latest digital marketing techniques are. I’m marketing to Joe and Jane public who’s not that interested they’ll look at their phone occasionally but hardly go online. What would you say to someone like that as to what their opportunities are?

Adele: Peter, you can make nails look sexy.

Peter: Oh, Adele tell me more, we’re all ears!

Adele: In fact, we actually have a customer I just recently heard this story about a customer in Spain, and it’s all about home hardware and home improvements. So, to your point you know hammers, nails, how do you make that really exciting and get brand advocates and brand ambassadors out of nails how do you do that? So, what our customer did…

Peter: Oh good, you have the answer because I don’t.

Adele: I do, I have it. So, what our customer did was they built a community, and the community was all about the how-to. They encouraged all the customers and they rewarded them so with gamification they rewarded the content to send in stories, send in Snapchats, send in videos, photos of all the cool stuff that they’re doing with their home improvements. Then they went one step further than that from the community they actually took it off-line, so the original concept was digital to be online in the community and share all the tips and tricks and advice. The whole concept grew that they took it off-line and they had meet-ups, they had in-store demonstrations, so they had their customers coming in and doing in-store demonstrations. But, I think the real key to the success of the whole strategy of making all the home handy tips and tricks looking sexy was having photos of all the cool renovations and all the cool stuff that they did. And, so this particular customer, which is Leroy Merlin for those that know the Spanish hardware store, have been quite successful getting brand ambassadors of the brand to talk about Leroy Merlin.

Susan: Can I ask for those marketers out there that might not be as digital savvy as yourself Adele, what do you mean by gamification? How does that work in the context of this case study?

Adele: Well, gamification is something that Lithium I must say is really good at we actually have a chief scientist officer called Dr Woo who is one of the leading thought leaders of gamification. He’s written books on the science of social, but a very high-level view of gamification is, is basically rewarding a customer for content. So, how do you do that, and we have customers that reward the content with say for example movie tickets. Another example of gamification is giving your content writers that are writing the content in the communities and blogging in the forums a status and calling them stars or ambassadors. And, then people aspire to be an ambassador or people will aspire to be a star, so they’ll write more content. In fact, we have a customer in Melbourne where on their community this guy is so passionate about electricity and power and energy he spends 30 hours a week just contributing on the energy levels of fridges for example.

Peter: So, in a way the product or service is incidental if you have this type of mindset?

Adele: It’s the strategy of how you use the community, that’s the real key. And, we have a network of people that can help once you actually employ the community that’s the first stage, the next stage is making that community successful, whether it’s through gamification, rewards, strategy, what exactly do you want to do with that community.

Peter: Or isn’t it more to the point what does the community want to do with you, and you need to give them incentives and reasons to engage with you, but more importantly the other members of the community?

Adele: That also is a strategy of the community, so, for example, crowd-sourcing ideas and using the community to crowd-source new products, new innovations that keep customers, keep coming back to you brand and becoming more engaged and sticky with the brand.

Peter: We talked before about your market, and you have got a lot of high-tech and well-funded competitors. Do you find that your customers and prospects are more digital-savvy than most other customers? I know you’ve worked in the high-tech space for most of your career, but given the sophistication, I’m sure most of your customers and prospects have, do you find that a greater challenge?

Adele: The world is definitely going digital, whether we like it or not we all have mobile phones, so we’re getting more high-tech and more savvy as consumers. But, not only that, consumers nowadays have really extreme expectations from the brand. And, that’s because we’re getting these really disruptive brands out there. So, for example, Uber has completely disrupted the way that we expect service to be. We expect to know where a service is being delivered instantly on the telephone. So, that’s pushing more for the rise in customer expectation, so as our consumers get more sophisticated so should the brand in the way that they engage. And, definitely, the way the brands are engaging and the trends that I’m seeing nowadays is through social media and being able to respond socially because let’s face it who wants to be on the telephone waiting and waiting for that customer agent to take the call? Nowadays, people just want to go on Google and just search what the problem is and go bang straight to the answer and bypass the telephone.

Susan: So, with that then Adele what is some of the digital strategies or programs that you have found have had the greatest impact and delivered the best results for companies?

Adele: So, taking the principle of that consumers want to go on Google and search for the content rather than going straight to the brand, one great example that comes to mind is Sephora. Now Sephora wanted to be the go-to place for beauty, and so they created a community called BeautyTalk. When people are passionate about beauty they’re very, very passionate, so they have a huge community of people from all over the world talking about products. They’re not necessarily Sephora customers; they’re just people that are passionate about beauty. So, some of the questions that are being asked where it becomes and transfers into the social acquisition or digital strategy side of the business is.

So, for example, you want to know what mascara to wear when you’re at the gym, so it’s not running, so you put that into Google, and I guarantee 100% smack bang that will go into a Sephora community. So, because of the content that’s been written Sephora’s been able to engage with people that aren’t customers. But, once they go into the community, and they read what other passionate beauty experts are talking about they have found that they’ve been able to increase their revenue by 21/2 times because of the traffic into the community. But, one step further what Sephora did which was really clever is they then analysed who in the community was one of their stars or who is writing a lot of content, and that’s when they used to your other question gamification. And, so they actually rewarded their brand ambassadors or the loyalists with Sephora product which made them write even more about Sephora products into the community. And, those brand ambassadors they found they actually bought 10 times more than the average consumer. So, a digital strategy works two ways: it increases the traffic to get a conversion into a sale, but then you can build on engagement and brand ambassadors which increase your revenue exponentially.

Susan: That actually touches exactly what everyone wants I guess from social and digital is the return on investment. So, can you tell us a little bit more about some of the results and the real ROI that a lot of these companies are experiencing with this strategy?

Adele: There’s a really strong ROI, and as you know as marketeers we’re constantly asked to increase the cost per lead, get that cost down, get our return on investment down. There are so many demands on a marketeer, but by using digital, you can actually socially acquire customers without chipping into the marketing budget. So, let me give you an example of a customer that did I think a really clever social acquisition and of course they used Lithium social response to do this and the customer is Optus. There was a lady called Bronwyn Cook. Bronwyn Cook wrote a blog where what she basically did is what we’re all faced with today there’s a lot of telco plans out there; what telco plan best suits you? So, she sent a tweet out waiting for someone to match Optus’s new multiple device plan, now Optus immediately responded because they’re out there listening and socially responding to those kind of tweets that are out there. So, Optus’s response was Bronwyn sounds like you’re living on a prayer if you get off the lost Highway I’d be happy to have a chat. Now Susan and Peter, that might sound a bit weird.

Peter: It does Adele.

Susan: It does sound strange.

Adele: But, the reason why the Optus agent wrote that is with the Lithium profile plus which is a 360-degree view of the customer; they were able to see that Bronwyn was a Bon Jovi fan, so the response that they wrote was living on a prayer which is.

Susan: Which would resonate with her obviously.

Adele: It resonated with her and of course needless to say they converted Bronwyn into a customer. So, that’s just one example of many of our customers that are actually using social for social acquisition.

Peter: Now I would listen to that case study and I think from a commercial point of view isn’t that fabulous, from a consumer point of view there are going to be some people saying that is creepy. Whilst obviously I have information out there in the public space that’s public obviously on Twitter, for example, we can access that, but it’s a very big brother-esque. Now, what would you say to consumer or even a company marketing person that would say it’s we get it, it’s really clever, but it’s it seems quite intrusive.

Adele: So, the information that was there was all public information.

Peter: Understand that, but it still seems like it this amorphous, faceless corporate is accessing my personal information. It’s clever what you did, what Optus did, but it just seems some people are going to love it, and some people going to think it’s just a bit invasive.

Adele: And, look, Peter, no doubt there’s a fine line between creepiness.

Peter: Pleasure and pain and any other songs.

Adele: And, 360. But, what a smart digital marketeer would do is get to know their prospect, and make them with a personal message and make them feel more engaged with the brand by this example of using Bon Jovi, which really resonated well. So, if you use that information in the correct way, if you use it in the wrong way, so an example and it’s gone viral in the US there was a case of a particular retail store that sent this women an email promoting baby goods. And, her father actually got the email and she was pregnant, but she hadn’t told anyone now that’s creepy that’s not public information. But, having information about someone that is used in a way to get them engaged and feel very personal then I don’t think that’s creepy.

Peter: This is a case study that’s been on the news recently with United Airlines taking four passengers, in one case forcibly off the plane because they wanted to make way for United Airlines employees and was handled terribly; it hit the social media channels instantly. Let say you’re Delta or you’re a competitor to United using the sort of strategies you’re talking about what can you do to again address the fact that where it’s not invasive but it’s reactive and doing it in a positive way? We see that you hate United come fly the friendly skies. I assume that’s Delta, I’m not sure.

Adele: Yeah, exactly you would if you wanted to take advantage of a competitor’s misfortune where their customers had very bad customer experience, and let’s face it customer experience is the new marketing weapon. The way around that would be to create a campaign where it’s very positive, and we treat everyone personally like family; you know you wouldn’t throw family out the house.

Peter: Like we don’t forcibly take you off the plane, fly with us.

Adele: Yes exactly and do a social media campaign around that.

Susan: So, what are the main challenges that you have in marketing your services?

Peter: How long have we got?

Susan: Yes, the main one. I am sure there is many since you have 6,000 competitors, but what are the main challenges?

Adele: Yeah, there are always challenges, working in the corporate workplace. And, I’d have to say in the last 15 years I’ve been working in the start-up B2B high-tech space, what that means is I’ve been given a lot of what I call BHAG’s for those that don’t know that acronym it’s Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

Susan: Yep, we love that acronym here.

Adele: So, how do you scale for those BHAG’s where head office is changing the goal post, increasing your targets. Well digital is definitely the way to go, what I have found personally in the past is when head office is asking for you know deliver more pipeline. They may have acquired a new product, they may have launched a new product, so there’s, even more, products and services to market, digital is definitely the way to go. So, developing content where the Google search engine will find those keywords and bring the traffic into your website. And, personally as I said before working in start-ups I have a very geographically dispersed region that I look after, so if I was getting the more pipeline to develop with the same budget digital is definitely the way I would go.

Susan: So, another question then since you do work across continents as well and working in as you said the high-tech area for so many years. How have you found working in a more male-oriented industry, we don’t see many top, a lot of women are very good at digital marketing, but we don’t necessarily see them in the top roles all the time. So, have you faced any challenges in that area?

Adele: There is no doubt about that IT is male-dominated I was tech chick way-way ago.

Susan: Yes, we like that tech chick.

Adele: But, you know that’s never stopped me, all I could say to other marketeers is just follow your passion, and if you’re passionate about something people really work off your energy and your passion. That’s the best thing to when you leave school it’s really hard to sort of find out what exactly you want to do. I say to a lot of graduates that I personally mentor, and it’s very cliche but just follow your passion. So, I did follow my passion which was marketing, I really enjoyed marketing, I actually fell into IT but once I was there, it was a male dominated industry I just kept going with it because I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed what I did, and people respect your work more than you know your gender.

Peter: You’ve been involved in the high-tech IT industry for some years shall we say.

Adele: Many more years that what I want to admit to Peter.

Peter: Of course so let’s look forward Adele, and this is the final two questions we have we ask all of our guests and the first one is where do you see digital marketing will be in five years’ time?

Adele: Five years’ time is quite a chunk of time.

Peter: It’s is, in the digital space absolutely.

Adele: In the digital space, I would see so many disruptive brands coming along that would actually change the way, and the way we look at digital. But, if I look at the next even 12 to 18 months I would say some of the transit’s coming out is definitely AI and VR.

Peter: Which means?

Adele: Well VR Virtual Reality and AI is Artificial Intelligence.

Peter: Which we’ve heard a lot about if you read all the blogs and all the things in trade magazines, what does that actually mean, it’s like gamification there’s a lot of jargon, what does it mean to me as the corporate marketer who wants to achieve results now?

Adele: So, if we look at our iPhone, we’ve got Siri if we look at Amazon we’ve got Alexa we are already using it, but we’re not calling it artificial intelligence. If we look into the future, definitely content and knowledge-base is going to be key, to not just the marketing strategy or a digital strategy, the overall corporate strategy. And what I mean by that is when you’re looking at artificial intelligence it has to come from somewhere where do you start. If you already have a community that is the best place to start because there’s a lot of knowledge that you can do first call support on.

So, for example if you are and I go back to telcos because they have many customers, if you are a telco with a business model where you have a lot of customers to support, an economy of scale if you could do an automated response to those frequently asked questions that are always coming through that customer service channel you can actually experience a lot of savings. And, also a better customer experience for your customers. Obviously, those complicated questions you would bring in a customer agent for a more complicated question, but if you have a very simple question that is asked many times, then there’s no reason why using the content that’s in a community you can use artificial intelligence to answer that.

Peter: So, in a way you’re saying that the community is going to be enduring, which correlates with the answer I always give when it comes to what’s your prediction. It’s like I don’t know what the platform is going to be, I have no idea if Facebook is going to be bigger than Ben Hur or bigger than it is today. But, what I do know is customer relationships will endure, they have to, because that’s the only way from the back to the bazaars of Babylon into the future we we’re all riding around with chips in our heads on spaceships. That is always going to be the perennial there is absolutely no doubt about that.

So, the final question what are your three tips for corporate marketers looking to achieve digital marketing success.

Adele: The three tips Peter would be digital definitely drives conversion, so those madmen days are over, don’t rely on off-line strategies for conversion of leads. And, if you look at the sales funnel or the marketing funnel, at the top of the funnel, the middle of funnel and the bottom of the funnel what’s driving all the conversion it definitely is digital, digital is the way to go. The other tip is understand the number of digital touch points of your customers or prospects, so how are your potential customers or where is your traffic coming from. Is it coming from the website, is it coming from Twitter, is it coming from Facebook, is it coming from LinkedIn, are you across all those digital touch points, do you have a strategy to listen about the conversations that are happening in those digital touch points? And, then I don’t know if this is advice or tip is, and this could be even a podcast just on this particular comment which is quite provocative. Brand loyalty, did digital kill it.

Peter: Well did it, did it Adele, did it kill it?

Adele: Yes yes, it did, and the reason why I say that is not in all cases, but in the majority of cases the customer drives a conversation. It used to be the brand could drive the conversation, the brand could drive the image, the brand delivered what your expectation was of that particular product; that’s now 360. The customer drives that conversation, the customer talks about the product. Now there are few rare cases, for example Apple. Apple does drive their brand and Apple didn’t create the phone, Apple didn’t create a watch, it just made it sleeker and sexy and they had a really clever way where they could still control the brand. But, outside that and a few other rare cases, digital killed the brand so what does that mean for marketeers? You need a strategy where you can get your customers engaged and loyal and become brand ambassadors.

Susan: Thank you, Adele, well I think that was wonderful, great insights I think for anyone out there working in marketing, and certainly, in the digital marketing space, I think we have all learnt a lot so thank you for coming into the show.

Adele: My pleasure thank you so much for inviting me.

Peter: And, Adele as I say the first with a co-host and with a guest in the studio Adele I think there some really key insights that we’ve had our team here in the studio listening to this interview and have taken a raft of notes. So, thank you so much for contributing your expertise and your knowledge which I think is going to be very very valuable for anyone who listens. So, thank you again, and we hope to speak to you soon.

Peter: So, there’s episode five and we have to thank Adele Benard from Lithium Technologies for being with us in the studio and giving us as I mentioned before some really interesting insights that I think all marketers at all stages of their career can learn from and take to planning sessions and their agencies and ask them why aren’t we doing this, what about crowd-sourcing, what about content, how we can really make the content work harder for us and whether you’re marketing software as a service offerings or nails or hammers there’s so many things you can do and building communities I think is central to that as well. So, in wrapping up as always, we’ll have the show notes with a lot of the links that Adele spoke to us about and I would like to particularly thank Susan Werkner, our Director of Digital Strategy who joined for the very first time today and who did a splendid job.

Susan: Thank you, Peter well I enjoyed that thoroughly and I think I certainly learned something myself from the episode, certainly from Adele.

Peter: Well, I think we all did which is wonderful. So, thank you again for listening, and we will speak to you again with another fascinating guest very soon.