You need to challenge yourself to think differently, and if you consistently do the same thing you won’t get the best result…
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Josh Wetzel.
Josh Wetzel is Chief Revenue Officer of OneSignal, the market leader in customer engagement, powering mobile push, web push, email, and in-app messages for over 800,000 companies. He has a two-decade career building digital commerce and software businesses, with leadership stints at eBay, PubMatic, and Bazaarvoice.
Thank you for being here! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
My first job was at GoLive CyberStudio, an HTML editing studio which was acquired by Adobe. I worked for the head of marketing who was responsible for building industry relationships, I was really excited about the job so I always tried to be really proactive and get stuff done. In the November timeframe, we got a bunch of holiday cards, so I decided to go through our client database for contacts and agency partners to get them sent out. Without asking anyone I went and filled out all these cards, in a very generic way. I didn’t think at the time about personalizing the cards based on the relationship we had with each person, and that some clients might even get offended if they saw such an impersonal message. Well, my boss was very unhappy when she found them stamped and in the mail basket, so she sat me down and explained the relationship-building aspect and why I had to be more thoughtful about doing things. It was my first learning that personalization is important in marketing. And I had to redo all the cards!
Another example where I learned about organizational malaise, and why focused startups thrive was my two stints at eBay. I was fortunate to be part of a startup, Shopping.com, in 2004 that IPO’d and less than 3 quarters later was acquired by eBay. At the time eBay was a goliath, and within weeks had also acquired Skype, then a disruptive communication product. The exposure to the wealth of talented, innovative thinkers was awesome. I was building a monetization distribution business at the time, what later became known as eBay Distributed Commerce, so I was collaborating with eBay’s Marketing teams. They were filled with brilliant folks — we were the largest search advertiser in the world, we had incredible SEO people, really some of the best of the best in the world at that time. What I loved was we were pushing the envelope, building great internal tools such as search engine optimization software, this was Kenshoo level but five years before Kenshoo. These types of efforts were happening across the marketing group. I left in 2008 to chase the user-generated content craze but returned to eBay in 2016 to help with some monetization projects. What I returned to was an entirely different company. There was absolutely NO one left who had any interest in innovating. There would be brainstorming but the appetite to actually build a new product, to test truly unique and improved ways of doing things was lost. A prime example — the CEO spoke publicly at length for several years about the importance of a product catalog. To this day, over three years later, that product work has still never seen the light of day even though it’s standard at Amazon and every other retail platform. This was a stark example of why large companies get bogged down with internal processes or fear of impacting their existing businesses, which opens up great opportunities for startups to fill the void.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
One thing to keep in mind is not to do the same thing, day in day out if it’s not working. You need to challenge yourself to think differently, and if you consistently do the same thing you won’t get the best result and you’ll get bored. The key to growth is challenging yourself and having the mindset of wanting to do things better.
Great advice. Can you share some basic Search Engine Optimization tips you have for less experienced marketers?
I recommend marketers just starting out to get familiar with SEO. Without a doubt, being relevant to an audience is a key aspect of marketing, so showing up well in search results is crucial to a healthy business. I definitely see SEO changing as mobile becomes the platform of choice for most consumers because the way you discover things is evolving.
As you know Google and other search engines constantly update their search algorithms. Do you believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still an important part of any long-term marketing plan?
It also comes back to having great content, proving that the product or service you’re providing is unique or better — that’s where SEO will pick up, if it’s what consumers want and are searching for. Based on the query users are providing. The whole notion of SEO is what are people asking about your business? At the end of the day, you should answer questions people are asking about your business. One example is that companies can be afraid to disclose pricing for fear of competitors, but the fact is potential buyers are asking this anyways, so why not be upfront? If you provide clear, accurate content you will be better at SEO, and it won’t work keeping things tight to your vest.
What “3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies” have been most effective for you in your industry?
- Take advantage of partnerships for increased distribution. There’s a huge value in extending your reach with other companies and doing it in a synergistic way, like software bundling and integration or partnering around deals. In consumer, it’s really obvious how this occurs, and Google search growth is tied to this. Getting your brand name out there is great exposure, and critical for breaking into a new market. It’s an extremely valuable channel, and various businesses have been built on the back of that.
- Retention is more valuable than acquisition if you focus on the users you already have. This is why it’s critical to use a consumer engagement platform to engage, retain, and grow your core users. Buying ads to attract new customers is important, but it’s cheaper to retain users than acquire a net new one.
- Get social proof for your product or service. Of course, the way you go about this will be dependent on your business type, for B2B social proof is in the form of case studies, also introductions, word of mouth platforms like G2, Capterra, TrustPilot are valuable. Influencer marketing is now a huge marketing component with consumer brands and influencer marketing to get evangelists to use and talk about your products. B2B evangelism is more subtle, and it’s important because people want to make decisions that other people have already made. It’s why franchises exist and why brands matter.
If you were only allowed to run paid ads on 1 platform (in your industry) over the next 12 months, what would it be and why?
It depends on the state of my product awareness. Assuming this is an established product, I would use Google search ads, it’s the largest scale and has the largest volume, so it’s highly efficient. There are limitations (from a branding & awareness standpoint) but from a pure scale and efficiency, Google’s search offering is the best channel.
As a professional marketer, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would like to see us celebrate and create a change movement around adopting a social capitalism democracy framework more akin to what you see in the UK, Sweden, Canada, Germany, where there is a holistic approach to your citizens, and specifically equality of essential services — fire, police, education, food, and healthcare. The long term cost to society, taxpayers is high in the US, if we could shift the mindset to a universal basic income model, we’d foster more collaboration, trust, and innovation from the entire country versus concentrating in where the social-economics enable it to prosper (among the coastal, urban areas).
What quote would you say has inspired you the most in your life or career?
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” — Steve Jobs
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!