I'm joined by Jake Eisenberg, president of Reach Digital Group. Jake shares his approach to local marketing and explains how he uses social media to boost lead generation and acquire solid leads. His company specializes in helping local businesses, but his approach works for national brands as well.
Q: Jake, you're president of the Reach Digital Group. How did you get into this business and why did you choose to start your own agency?
Originally, I got started with a mixed martial arts blog that I had in 2009, before MMA really took off. This website was gaining a lot of traffic, and I was generating money through ad revenue, and I saw how to bring new traffic in. I started getting familiar with search engine optimization and started thinking to myself, "What are other ways that I can bring this up?"
As I was going through school, and working, and all these other things, I started working on other projects and I stumbled across doing some e-commerce websites, and I got familiar with doing Google AdWords. That lead to search engine optimization, Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and running social media calendars.
I was having great success with these strategies that I was working on and building through time. Some friends or family members started to approach me and say, "Can you give me a website for my business? We liked what you were doing; let's kind of see what you can do for us."
These strategies were working at a local level and at the national level. Actually, it’s easier at a local level, because there's not as much competition.
So, I started having success with that and it quickly turned into family members who had businesses, became my testimonials, or my case studies. I was able to then get new business through referral. That's how I got started with it: I tapped my own network, did the work well, and was able to use that to leverage new business.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes that you've seen since you started that MMA blog in 2009? Technology changes at warp-speed, so in the online marketing space, what have you experienced in terms of changes?
A lot of the changes I've seen are from the platforms growing. Search engine optimization used to be something where you could just do what they call "keyword stuffing." If you wanted to rank for a certain keyword, you could just put a bunch of that same keyword on a page and you would rank. That's changed, because now there are so many more websites out there. So everyone's doing that, and now you've got to find new techniques, and new ways to do it.
The same thing with Google AdWords. The pay-per-clicks have gone up a lot, because more people are using those channels. Facebook advertising is still relatively new and it's just gotten even more acknowledgment in the media world, because of everything that's just happened. So, we can still kind of consider the Internet to be new.
There are a lot of unknown territories and directions that we can go. We're all learning and it's constantly changing and evolving. There's just so much more competition that you've got to come up with new strategies, and the platforms have become a lot more advanced.
Q: I'd like to explore that a little bit more. For your peers, what should they be focusing on, in terms of skills they need to be honing or new platforms that they need to be becoming more adept at using?
With how the marketing world is changing, it's a content-first world. You've got to build this customer loyalty. If you're selling a service or a product, you want to provide the information to the potential customer, what it is that you have that leads to it. You can put content out there in the form of video or blog posting, and be able to share that.
The two top converting platforms right now are still Facebook and Instagram. If you're able to meet your customers at least on those two channels, as well as having a blog to explain what your business is, because that will help bring in keywords and maybe some backlinking to boost it; start with those.
You don't need to be on every single channel. You just want to be able to meet them on at least the two biggest channels. I recommend tapping those three sources and provide information about yourself and your service.
Q: There are many platforms, and it seems like new ones popping up every day. Obviously, it's better to go where your audience is and Facebook and Instagram are where they are. It seems like a lot of people feel compelled to be on as many platforms as they possibly can, almost like the shiny object syndrome, "There's this new thing; I have to do it." What is your advice for people who feel like they're getting spread too thin?
Realistically, it's because they are getting spread too thin when you're trying to keep up with all the new trends. Coming from a business perspective, you look at the analytics and ask, "Where's my engagement coming from? Where am I getting the most clicks, the likes, the shares?" I would focus on those and chop off the ones that you think you're getting spread too thin on. Because you're wasting valuable time or effort that you could be putting towards something else to just try to keep up with these other channels to maybe meet a small percent of your client base.
Q: So you focus your efforts where there's the likelihood that you're going to get the biggest return on that investment?
Exactly; just make sure to keep checking on that and making sure that your engagement is there, because it can change.
Going back to the idea of how this world is evolving and new technology, one platform could be big now, and in two years it could be a different one. Keep an eye on it and make sure you know where you're actually getting the best benefit.
Q: You mentioned analytics and following this data-driven approach. What are some of the key performance metrics that you use, and what platforms or tools do you use to gather data and analyze those metrics?
That really depends on the approach. If it's paid outreach, look at your cost per conversion and your cost per click, because if your cost for conversion is too high, there's already going to be something wrong there. Always look at it from the monetary standpoint.
For social media, do the posting and look at engagement; see what posts are working, what posts aren't working.
I take a different approach than most: I actually track through my own spreadsheet. I'll give a score to posts that I think were better or worse, and how they did. And I'll go back at the end of the month and review those scores. It's just a method that I found to work.
Q: The only wrong way is one that doesn't work for you.
Right, and I just feel that the analytic software is -- it's data driven, but they don't understand how people are responding to a certain question. So, if you're asking a more human-type question than one that's systematic, those programs aren't going to be able to tell you that. That's something that it's easier to keep track of by going through and judging those type of posts … and constantly seeing if you're going up, what pages were doing better, and focusing on where those numbers are going.
Q: With Reach Digital, you focus on, primarily, helping local businesses?
Local and small businesses. We started locally and have now grown into doing some business at the national level, but we've got a lot of local businesses.
Q: To what extent do you find that small business who tend to do business locally, have more limited resources? How does that affect how you start to help them?
That's one of the reasons they'll approach us. A small business might not have the resources to hire someone in-house for marketing. So we're able to offset those costs. Often they're saying, "We want to be on social media; we want to be on blogs; our expertise is focusing on the business; we want someone else to handle the online efforts."
Working with us is a way to offset the cost of getting someone with knowledge. They don't have to train, they don't have to get benefits, and so that's kind of where we found that connection point with local businesses.
Q: Can you describe for me who your ideal client would be?
Our ideal client is someone who has a little bit of knowledge of online marketing, already started to attempt it, and is looking for repairs and someone to monitor it. So we're kind of looking for that now, companies with semi-established to established online presence.
Q: When you have a conversation with a potential client who has some knowledge, and has attempted it on their own, do you find that they come to you with a better sense of where their limitations are, where their needs are, and where their particular pain points are?
Oh, yeah, 100%. When they've actually rolled up their sleeves and attempted it and have got it going, they know where their weakness is and where they need help. They also have a better idea of the message that's going to connect better socially with their customer base from actually trying it. So, it's not as much of a learning period. For us, as a business, we're able to go in there, talk with them, get their knowledge that they've already learned from their client base, and then apply that to help correct those challenges.
Q: What are the typical questions that they ask you when you have that first conversation?
They actually all range. Some of them say, "We know what we're doing, but can you just help us schedule?" Or, "Can you show us how this will bring us ROI (return on investment)?”
That's one of the biggest things. With online marketing, a lot of companies have a hard time seeing how social media can bring a return on investment. That's when we tell them that, “Let's look at the analytics, let us show you where your traffic is coming from, and let's set up some type of conversion campaign to show you that people are calling or signing up.” That's really what they're looking for.
Q: When you're looking at metrics like cost-per-conversion, that gets right at their bottom-line.
Right. So they're able to see exactly what's going on, if it's making them money. Because, if it's not making them money, they don't want to pay us. We have to show them that what we're doing is working.
Q: You have a Chief Barketing Officer; tell me about him.
That's my good boy. Actually, it's his birthday today.
Congratulations! Happy birthday.
I'll be sure to pass it along. So, yeah, my dog Bear is a black Lab mixed with a Newfoundland, so he's a big boy, and he keeps the spirits up. He makes sure that everyone is happy (when he's not sleeping), he's always got a toy in his mouth, and he gives us some good suggestions [laughter].
Q: Having a Lab around the office is always a good idea, I think.
Oh, yeah. It keeps morale high!
Q: As you're paying attention to what's happening in the marketing space, you see organizations that do some things that you think, "Wow; that was really brilliant." And then you also see others do things where you just feel like smacking your forehead and going, "What were they thinking?" Tell me about something that fits the latter category, where you wonder where their brains were on that day.
People are starting to take Twitter a lot more seriously than they did a couple of years ago. You'll see now a lot of gaffs on there. They say something that may offend a group of people, and the next thing you know it's a public relations nightmare. I'm seeing people and businesses making that problem. Then having another problem cleaning up that problem, either by over-addressing it (and upsetting other people because they over-addressed it), or not addressing it at all.
Everything is about finding that middle ground. In social media, now, with the way everything is going, is like stepping on glass. A lot of companies are starting to realize that they shouldn't have said something. And especially recently, that's really the biggest thing. I'm like, "What are you guys doing? Filter.”
Q: The feedback that you get when you misstep, as an individual or as an organization, can be swift and severe.
Right. Public opinion can crush you.
Q: Yeah, it seems like there are examples of that in the headlines just about every day. Let's flip that around; for an organization that's done something in the online marketing space that was really quite clever, have you seen any where you said, "Oh, I need to make a note of that; that was brilliant?"
Yeah. A lot of it is becoming these grassroots campaigns, especially with e-commerce, how people are tying in with social media influencers. I've seen a lot of really funny campaigns that they've mixed in their products with an influencer and it’s gone viral. I always kind of take note of what the campaign was, how they did it, and just something to keep in my back pocket if I feel that I have a similar product. You've just got to be funny and it's got to connect with the audience. It's amazing how quickly something can go viral.
Q: Are there any that are particularly memorable for you?
There are so many. There's a phone case company that every time they put out a video, it was just using real-world situations that people could really relate to: Dropping your phone or leaving your phone on top of the car, or needing to take a selfie. It was a self-adhesive phone case that could stick to surfaces and it was just using those situations like walking by a mirror wall and they just stuck it on there and took a picture. It was really creative how they tied in actual people’s situations to connect consumers with their product
Q: What advice do you give to CEOs or business owners when you're advising them on how to increase their return on investment for their online marketing programs?
When it comes to social media marketing, it's:
The importance of testing
And another thing I tell them is to constantly A/B test, which is split testing.
Online Marketing Tools
Q: Are there particular tools that you use to do that split testing, or any other testing, to continue to improve the ROI?
For email marketing, MailChimp has an option for you to do that (split test). If it's building landing pages, there are a couple of companies (Leadpages and UnBounce) that already have those options built in. Whatever program you're using, just check to see if they have an option for you to be able to test different headlines, different subject lines, different blocks of text, images, all of that.
Q: How big is the Reach Digital team now?
We have four people who are full time and we have a couple that freelance for us on some bigger projects. Five if you want to include my Chief Barketing Officer.
Well, you got to include him. You have to feed him, so he needs to work, too.
Right, there you go.
Q: Are you guys all co-located or are you geographically disbursed?
We are a mix; it just depends on the service. We are a mix, because with it being a digital world now, everyone doesn’t need to be working in one location. We've found that we have some better employees that we've worked with who are located in different parts of the country and it's just easier to keep them working from their location.
Q: That's another one of those big things that's changed in the last decade that you don't have to all be in the same building and the same room to do work really well.
Right. We've found that using Google Hangouts, you can video chat with everyone at one time, so if you need to have a meeting, click of a button.
Q: What are some other tools that you use to effectively manage the team?
We use a project management tool called Asana. It's just really easy to keep our clients in there. We'll give our clients the connection to it and they can see the projects they're working on. Everyone can effectively communicate and it's a really good way to stay focused.
Another tool that we use for our back end and CRM is Zoho One.
Those are the two main ones that keep us on our path.
The Future: Voice, Video, Bots, and AI
Q: We talked about changes since you started in the online marketing space almost 10 years ago. Look 10 years into the future, where do you see that space going and what should we be doing to prepare ourselves to be effective as we move into the future?
A lot of the future is going to go to voice and video. Most of the Google searches right now are being done on voice. So, it's preparing those new search keywords to work that way.
Another part will be messenger bots. Having messenger bots using artificial intelligence technology is allowing small businesses to compete with big business. They're able to build these messenger bots through Facebook and other tools that are allowing them to, almost, build out a full support staff, to where they can really have all the customers’ questions answered.
They don't need to have these big rooms of customer service reps, and it keeps the customer happy because they're able to handle business without leaving the app.
Voice, video, and artificial intelligence are where I see us going. In 10 years, who knows; look how much technology's advanced in the last 10. So, I can only imagine the next 10.
Q: It could be both scary and very exciting, with a lot of opportunities.
Right. It's going to be a roller coaster!
Q: Are you strapped in and ready for the ride?
Oh, yeah. I love it.
Going back into your history a little bit, you got a bachelor's degree in media and information from Michigan State. Any chance you'll go to the University of Michigan for a master's program [laughter]?
Our family is divided. My entire family went to the University of Michigan, and my sister and I are the only two to go to Michigan State. We've had that in-house rivalry for a while, and it's been great, because Michigan State, athletically, has been on top the last six or seven years now. It's been good that I've been winning the argument.
Q: That's wonderful; congratulations. I was at an event recently with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and he's from Lansing (Michigan) and is a big fan. So he was singing the school’s and the team's praises. So I think he's there as much as he can to cheer on the Spartans.
Some of the best experiences of my life.
Online Marketing for Local Businesses
Q: There you go, that's perfect. Reach Digital focuses primarily on five areas of work, in which you're able to help small business owners:
Tell me about business listing management. What is that?
Business listing management is where, if you have a business, it will be in any of the business directories: Yelp, Citymapper, Google, My Business, Bing Places, Yahoo, there's so many different directories.
A big, big thing about that with your search engine optimization on a local level, especially, is having yourself listed correctly in all these directories.
There's something call the NAP, which stands for “Name, Address, Place.” Search engines want to make sure that the name, address, and place are correct for all the businesses listed, that is, all the business directories that you're in.
If it's incorrect, they see inconsistencies and it's harder for them to score it. It's harder for them to give you that trust score or ranking, because they see that there's some inconsistency. So it's good to be consistent across the board.
Another thing we're able to do is monitor reviews that come across those listings. If you get a bad review, we're able to let you know so you can respond to it. If you get a good review, we're also able to let you know, so you can thank them and be engaged with your client base.
Q: I would think that would a critically important service, and a strategic investment that small business owners could make to continue to build those key relationships and manage their online reputation.
Yes, online reputation is very important. A lot of people will look at reviews before they even decide to call you, and it's just that extra trust factor. So, you want to make sure that you're on top of it.
Q: In terms of your overall business, how would you rank order those areas of work in terms of where the team spends the majority of the effort and time?
For the majority of our effort and time, we do a lot of regeneration campaigning. Which is, if someone's got a service to offer or a product to sell, we're trying to get them leads, so they can call. A lot of our time and effort is spent building those landing pages, and then running page campaigns, mainly through Facebook advertising to send traffic to generate those leads. The main effort is testing and building those pages, and building out those campaigns.
Q: When you do that, do you manage the CRM on your end, or do you use the CRM and relationship management tools that your customers already use?
We will integrate within their CRM. We'll have it set up to where those leads are going to go right into the clients’ systems. Their ads are all run into their own ad managers.
We're not like a normal agency where we'll say, "Okay, you’re going to spend $1,000 a month, and we're going to hit you with 10% on top of it," or something like that. We say, " It's in your ad manager. Those campaigns are yours. Once we're done creating it, it's yours, and we run it.” We'll optimize it, but everything is through their programs.
Q: To what extent are you agnostic about whatever platforms they're using?
Really good question. There are a lot of these programs and platforms. Most of our clients are using the bigger CRM platforms, and point of service systems that we've had experience with. A lot are using Salesforce, Zoho, and Lightspeed, which is a point of service, point of sale system.
Q: Your team is capable of helping them regardless of how they've implemented on their end?
We'll tie into either their email marketing platform, or we'll tie into a web form that was created within their CRM. That web form will link to their system. We will format that form to have the same name to match, so if something is typed in on that form, and they hit submit, it will automatically be properly implemented into that lead form. It's really matching the field names that they already have set up.
Q: Jake, what have I not asked you that I should have?
Let’s touch on the local business aspect. If someone has a new business, one that's struggling, I can help them get that domain name, web hosting, or a contact management system that they should probably be looking at to use.
Q: Sounds like they need to give you a call.
Q: If you've got a small business and you need help getting online, or you've already gone online to increase your marketing, and you've realized that you need some expertise and some more horsepower, Reach Digital sounds like a really great place to go. How do they get in touch with you?
I'd like to share strategic communication and stakeholder engagement lessons from the commandant of the Marine Corps.
So to set the stage, in Washington D.C. the Marine Barracks Washington is downtown. If you've ever heard of 8th and I, that's Marine Barracks. It's the oldest post of the Corps. As the oldest post of the Corps, they do something very special every Friday evening during the summer called the evening parade. And according to their website, the parade has become a universal symbol of the professionalism, the discipline, and the Espirit de Corps of the United States Marines. The story of the ceremony reflects the story of Marines serving throughout the world. Whether aboard ship, in foreign embassies, at recruit depots, or in divisions, or in the many positions and places where Marines project their image, the individual marine continually tells the story of the Marine Corps.
So the evening parade, let me paint a picture for you. You pull up and immediately, even though you're on the streets of Washington, D.C. and it's really crowded, lots of traffic. You're immediately met by a group of Marines who are in their full-service dress. The white hat, the blue jacket, the white pants, and they're just exquisite. They've got all their medals and they meet you, they park you, they bring you in, and they're very, very welcoming and professional. I was able to go to a VIP reception that the commandant hosted for about 200 people. He gave remarks and he also introduced the guest of honor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and then there were 3 other congressional members who participated that evening, along with about 24 NCAA coaches. And those two groups are really important. There were many other people there that night. And then typically, after the reception which lasts about an hour and a half, out on the parade deck there are bleachers that hold probably 2,000 people, and they give an hour and fifteen-minute performance where they have Chesty XIV, who is the current mascot of Marine Barracks Washington. He's an English bulldog, he has all of his uniform and decorations on, all of his medals and awards. The silent drill team which is just absolutely astonishing in their precision and the Marine Band also gives a performance including numbers by John Phillip Sousa, one of the most famous Marine Band leaders.
So altogether, it's an evening where you get to experience the Marine Corps on parade, but you also get to engage with both enlisted and officer marines. So during the reception, we had both officers and really junior enlisted marines come up and ask us how we were doing, welcomed us to the Barracks, talked about their role in the Marine Corps. They are very much steeped in their tradition in history and it gives you a very personal welcome and really heartwarming experience, being part of that whole evening. After the performance, the members of the VIP reception were able to take photos with the Commandant and his wife, with the drill team, with the mascot, and with some of the bandsmen. It's a really wonderful evening and lasts a couple hours.
So here's some strategic communication lessons. For the purpose of this exercise, I'm talking about strategic communication in terms of the stakeholder engagement that affects your organization's ability to survive and thrive. I'm not talking about media relations, I'm not talking about broad public engagement. I'm talking about focusing on those stakeholders who have some kind of really important effect on your organization and its ability to exist and continue to operate. So the lens I would like to share with you, that we'll look at this through, is, and if you're a marketer, you're familiar with AIDA, A-I-D-A, which is an acronym that stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. So if you think about this being a funnel, at the very widest, open part of the funnel is attention. You have to get somebody's attention. Once you've got their attention, you have to create interest in what it is you're doing, your organization has to offer, whether it's a product or a service. Then you have to move them from interest to desire. You want them to, in the case of sales marketing, you want them to buy your product or purchase your service. In the case of the Marine Corps, you probably need to attract recruits, and there are other things that the Corps depends on as well. And finally, once you have that attention leading to interest leading to desire, you want them to take action.
So in this case, there are three groups of people who are there participating. You have the Congressional members, you have coaches, and you have members of the public. All three of those are important for the future of the Marine Corps. So for the Congressional members, what does the Marine Corps, like every other government organization, rely on from Congress? One of the main things is funding. So that night we had the House Majority Leader and three other members of Congress. Through that process, they have a better understanding of the Marine Corps. They certainly have a positive impression of the professionalism and discipline and the polish of the Marines, and that probably leads them to be predisposed to positively supporting the Marines when they put in their funding request.
Same thing with the coaches. These are NCAA coaches from a lot of different sports, from, I believe, that night were Division 3 coaches from around the country. Those coaches, whether they are just coaching or they're coaching and they're teaching on campus, are interacting with students and with parents, and they are in a prime position to make recommendations and suggestions for avenues that the students might follow for the rest of their careers. Being able to recommend the United States Marine Corps only serves to drive talented, professional, disciplined, young people to the recruiters. That also helps the Marine Corps because they're always looking for new enlisted and officer recruits, and to have the parents also being exposed to the Marine Corps in this very positive setting, that gives another voice to recommend the Marine Corps as a potential career path for young people.
If you think about what the Marine Corps is entirely dependent on, they're dependent on recruits and funding. Those are the two big things. So over the course of one summer season, you could have all of the members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that play a major role in determining the funding for all the military services, you could have most of the professional staff members that work on those funding packages, you could have most of the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for Defense also participating. And so if you have just the majority of them coming through over the course of a couple of years, now you've reminded them of who the Marine Corps is, what role they play in national security and national defense, why that investment in the Marine Corps is important. You also have touched thousands and thousands of either potential recruits or influencers of recruits, whether they're parents or teachers or coaches. And so those become positive voices to represent the Marine Corps when young people are trying to making a decision about what path they are going to follow in life. So if you think about this from a marketing perspective, in terms of creating influence and positive impressions and getting these groups of people to help you with your messaging to those who are potential recruits and new members of the Marine Corps or to those who make funding decisions about the Marine Corps's budget, the evening parade throughout the summer is a fantastic way to do it.
So, is that an opportunity that's only open to the Marine Corps? Absolutely not. Every organization could do that. The United States Army does it with their Twilight Tattoos in Washington, both of which, if you are in Washington or come for a visit, make sure that you see one of those events because they're absolutely spectacular. But if you think about it, any organization, whether it's a school or a manufacturing company or a services company, could take an opportunity to create some kind of personal experience, personal engagement with the stakeholders that are most strategically important to your organization.
So for me, that's the takeaway. It's understand who your strategic stakeholders are and why they are so important to you and your organization. Find ways to connect with them that are meaningful and that help to build understanding, and in the AIDA model, they build attention, they create interest, they create desire, and ultimately, they can lead to action that is mutually beneficial for you and your organization and your stakeholders.
So that's the lesson for today. I hope you find it valuable. I really want you to get as much value out of this podcast or video series as possible, and I want to know what you have questions about, so if you have a question about public relations, marketing, organizational communication, drop me a line at email@example.com. If you have a question about this episode or about the field in general, let me know. Also if you want to nominate a guest for the podcast, drop me a line. Again it's firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you, and finally, before we close out, I want to remind you about my transcription partner. They've got a great 25% off deal. Just go to transcribeme.com/betterprnow. I'll catch you on the next episode. Thanks a lot.