Appreciation for technology. Marketing is now a technology-driven function in an organization. We need to be able to communicate with technology teams and help them understand the business reasons behind digital marketing requests. Similarly, we as marketers need to understand technical explanations of why different requests might be more feasible than others. Digital marketing can not be successful without an understanding of how technology enables us.
Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.
In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Best.
Jennifer Best is the Head of Marketing at All American Entertainment (AAE), a leading speakers bureau and talent booking agency headquartered in Durham, North Carolina. Jennifer has experience as an SBA award-winning entrepreneur and in leading high-performing digital marketing teams in the cybersecurity, healthcare technology, and entertainment industries.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thanks for having me here today! My start in the digital marketing world happened in the early 2000’s when websites were just emerging and the internet was gaining popularity. I was a new mom who was looking for a career path that would combine my creative side with technology. I took an online class to learn HTML, and then I volunteered to revamp the website of a local non-profit organization to see what I could do with what I learned.
A few years later, a member of that organization asked me to build his new law practice’s website. That was my first step into digital marketing. I was able to take that experience and later create a business that went on to win two SBA awards for its work in digital marketing.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I’m not sure it’s a funny mistake, but it did cause me to lose a lot of sleep! The biggest mistake I made when I was starting out as a new business owner was not measuring or valuing my time. I would price digital marketing projects based on the amount of time I thought it might take, but then I would work on projects for many hours beyond that, sometimes well into the evening. By trying to quote a very reasonable price, I neglected to consider the value of the service I was providing.
It’s important to remember to estimate your time and then add 25% more time to that estimate, because projects always take longer than you think they will. Include time for meetings, planning, and revisions to your campaign in your estimate as well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would say that someone who has been a long-time mentor to me is Trisha Paine. I’ve worked for her twice in my career and alongside her for many years, and she has always provided me with sound advice for how to advance my marketing career, mentor my team, and plan a solid marketing strategy.
We were on an international flight for work when she mentioned she was contemplating submitting herself for a promotion which would have taken her from working as my colleague to becoming my boss. She asked what I thought about it. It wasn’t an easy conversation to start. I’m honored she even asked me that, but that is what makes her a great leader. She cares enough to ask how people feel about things, not just what they’re working on. She did get the promotion and did an amazing job with it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Working at AAE, there are two things that make our company stand out. One is that we represent the needs of event organizers and planners first. We are serving an unmet need in the event industry to level the negotiation playing field when it comes to booking talent. Since we do not represent talent, we can be objective in an industry that is typically not and be sure our event planning clients get the best entertainment for their needs.
The second thing that makes us stand out is that we have invested a lot of our marketing strategy in search marketing, both paid and organic, and these sources drive nearly all of our new clients to us. AAE is a unicorn in our space. I’ve worked for several companies that had initially little to no no digital marketing strategy. They hired me to bring the benefit of having a search strategy to expand visibility. I’m working with the opposite situation here — we have a very solid search game and I’m working to expand visibility through our other mediums.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I would say that these are the three character traits that were most instrumental to my success:
- Curiosity — I’ve always been someone who is curious not just about something, but why that something works the way it does. This is likely what fueled my interest in User Experience (UX). Understanding the audience is critical for marketers.
- Problem-solving — I love a good puzzle. I was learning much of website design hands-on, so there was a lot of problem solving that went into finding out how to make a webpage render in the way I hoped. The tools and platforms to make it easy to DIY websites did not exist yet, so much of my design work had code involved, which meant I spent a lot of time looking for solutions.
- Desire to Mentor Others — In organizations I lead or participate in, my team members get the visibility and credit they work hard to receive. My role is to clear their paths and to ensure that their accomplishments and contributions are visible to the organization. I’ve also had some amazing mentors through my career, so I try to pay that forward to others. I am so passionate about mentorship that I also oversee a program for our local AMA Triangle chapter called CONNECT & INSPIRE that facilitates mentoring amongst marketers. It has been a rewarding experience.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently focused on promoting the return to in-person speaking engagements, while also supporting our clients with their virtual and hybrid events that need entertainment. Hybrid events are becoming more mainstream and this is great news for attendees who get to now choose how they attend an event — virtually or in person. This helps event organizers also get in front of many more attendees, so it’s beneficial for both sides.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.
I think the biggest mistake people make is not letting the data drive decisions about campaigns. Often, we let emotion or hunches determine the direction of our campaigns on SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing, and so on. There are many tools out there (marketing automation, heat mapping, conversion tracking) and companies need to leverage those.
For example, we were comparing two different websites we manage, and one of those sites had many menu options in the header. We noticed that people seemed to not know where to go, so they defaulted to the search box, which is fine, but we wanted to help guide the journey more than that. On the second site, we went with a more simplistic menu and tracked it. We learned that people were able to digest that smaller menu which saw far more clicks for the same themes as the first site. If you are considering making a change on your site, first and foremost, see what actual behavior is happening before you decide to change something.
If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint,” what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
Any digital marketing blueprint needs to start with a marketing automation platform and CRM. There needs to be a central point of data collection that allows you to attribute marketing efforts on the front end to revenue on the back end. From there, all campaigns should be multi-channel at this point, as we know as marketers that the customer journey is not linear. Several decision makers are typically involved in a single sale on the B2B side.
Know where your audience is engaging. If it’s on social media, which channel do they prefer? If they are likely to research reviews online first, make sure you’ve got some great ones and that they come up in organic search or through retargeting efforts. After you’ve identified your ideal customer and the channels they use, track everything back to the MA or CRM system of choice and identify what worked well and what did not. Let that insight define your next campaign.
Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?
The majority of my experience has been working with Google Ads. I’m a big fan of Google Ads Editor to make updates quickly and at scale. We run some fairly large campaigns and that platform has been a game changer for our team.
Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?
- Be detail-oriented and organized. This might be an obvious one, but if you are running campaigns the scale of ours, where there are tens of thousands of keywords and ads at any time, it can be easy to miss a keyword’s match type or intent. Organizing campaigns definitely helps there, but also have a keen eye for anomalies and you’ll be successful.
- Be patient. Don’t pause campaigns before they have enough measurable data. We had this situation recently where we were having a new campaign that was underperforming. Our first inclination was to pause it entirely, but fortunately we didn’t. Instead, we took the time to look through all the elements of the campaign and noticed some keywords that were not as targeted but highly searched. These were causing our campaigns to have high CPLs and low engagement rates. Once we removed these terms, our campaigns turned around and are now generating 3x the engagement rate.
- Know what’s next for Google. It feels like Google is always up to something new when it comes to Ads. Follow industry trends (SEJ is a great source or follow Google’s blog directly.) Recently, they changed how keyword match types work. They’ve also recently rolled out image extensions on Ads. Both of these changes will impact campaign effectiveness for sure, so it’s really important to stay ahead of these changes.
Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?
- Segment. Segment. Segment. The more targeted your audience is, the better results you will see. One of our biggest markets that we work with for booking speakers and entertainers is universities. Several times a year, we send that audience a targeted, segmented email specifically for them, and it is consistently our top performing email for open rate and click rate.
- Test often. Even if you think your email format is working well, always test something. Whether it is subject lines, image-based vs text-based, or email frequency, continue to strive for improvement over your existing metrics. We noticed a trend that our email newsletter engagement rate had started to decline, and now are testing a new format to bring those numbers back up.
- Play it cool. The automated emails that perform best in my experience are those that don’t appear to be automated. Speak in a natural voice while getting your point across. You’ll appear more human (versus corporate) and have a greater likelihood of a reply.
What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?
I’m a huge fan of marketing automation systems. I’ve worked with Pardot, Hubspot, and most recently, Sharpspring. They’ve come a long way from the tools that only pushed email. I think that for any marketing team to be successful, you’ve got to know which activities contribute to revenue, and which activities do not. They allow you to scale more efficiently and nurture people who aren’t sales-ready yet.
Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Curiosity. Be curious about why people purchase from your company and what drives people to choose your brand over another. Ask customers what matters most to them and why. When building a campaign, I often ask myself what the ‘why’ is behind it. If I can’t answer the why, I can’t expect our customers to either.
- Appreciation for technology. Marketing is now a technology-driven function in an organization. We need to be able to communicate with technology teams and help them understand the business reasons behind digital marketing requests. Similarly, we as marketers need to understand technical explanations of why different requests might be more feasible than others. Digital marketing can not be successful without an understanding of how technology enables us. Sometimes, that means we have to redefine marketing strategies, and that’s ok. The benefits of using technology far outweigh these limitations.
- Focus on experience. It’s all about your customers, so do everything possible to give them the best possible experience when engaging with your company. We have an initiative here called “#ExperienceMatters” because we want everyone who engages with us — event organizers, speakers, entertainers, partners, and even our own internal teams — to have a positive experience engaging with our brand. We’ve been fortunate to have received workplace awards because we believe that we can best support our customers when we have a great place to work. Exceptional service for customers starts from within.
- Great mentors. I mentioned earlier the importance of mentorship in my career, and I would not be where I am today without a few fantastic women who paved the way for me, created new job opportunities around my skill set, and allowed me to grow professionally. These women pushed me and empowered me to be successful. I continue to work hard to pay it forward and help others do the same.
- Flexibility. Sometimes, campaigns don’t go as planned, technology doesn’t do what you want it to, or situations outside of your control come up. Don’t be reactive, and instead, be flexible. There’s nothing in digital marketing that can’t be improved or tried again for greater success. That is the benefit of working in the digital space. There will always be obstacles, so be prepared to offer ideas for a way to shift. The biggest example of flexibility I’ve experienced in my career was the shift to virtual events due to the pandemic. My company has worked for nearly 20 years with event professionals to hire speakers or talent for in-person events. We were able to shift our services last year to include booking virtual speakers and entertainment, which is now a significant part of our product offering. This flexibility has allowed us to get through the economic challenges of 2020, as well as enjoy the experience of a record-setting year in 2021.
What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
My all-time favorite book on Marketing is Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” and I use the principles in that book to shape everything we create. When looking at a campaign, landing page, ad group, or email, consider how much you are asking your audience to think. Is the call to action clear? Is the messaging concise? Is the offer explanatory? Customers will hesitate if they have to think, and you want to create an experience for them that feels seamless and easy to follow. If you confuse them, you’ll lose them.
I’m also a fan of email newsletters — those from Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Roundtable, Medium, Hubspot, Google, and Content Marketing Institute are most helpful to stay ahead of digital marketing trends. I also try to attend events like MozCon to learn from others in the industry.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Our world has become so polarized, and stories about controversy and divisiveness seem to dominate the media. If there could be a movement that brought people together with differing opinions and helped them to learn how to respect each other’s differences, that would reduce a lot of stress for so many people in the world.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, or visit us online at https://www.aaespeakers.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!