I talked recently with Gini Dietrich, the founder, and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger at the PR and marketing blog Spin Sucks and is co-author Marketing in the Round. She is also co-host of Inside PR, which is a weekly podcast about communications and social media.
I wanted to ask Gini how to stay on top of any new developing marketing trends, and how to capitalize on them ahead of the competition. These are the highlights from our conversation.
Gini Dietrich: So, I'm going to relate a story of when I was twenty-two years old, and I had a boss who knew everything. You would ask her a question about upcoming trends, or where the industry was going, and she could tell you exactly. And I remember at the time thinking, 'How the heck does she do this? Like, I can't understand, a, how she can stay up on all of this stuff, and b, where she's getting all this information.' And it turned out that she was just reading, and I think that that's what it is, is you just have to pay attention to what you would consider the influencers are talking about. Go to conferences, read blogs, watch videos, watch your Facebook Live, pay attention to what people are talking about, not necessarily in the trending topics, but what the influencers in your industry are talking about. And you can start to see what's happening in terms of the industry you're in, or the marketing industry. You can start to see little pockets of trends because that's what people are talking about.
David Reimherr: I couldn't agree more. One thing I do is follow people like you on Twitter, but then the Twitter feeds are so much. So, I have a 'best experts' list, and you're on it. That way, I can filter through, pick the top five, ten, fifteen, twenty people, and I have my readings.
GD: That’s great. You really have to test out new trends and see what works for you. At the beginning of last year, Peach was the new social network that everybody was talking about. We've had Ello, we, of course, had Google Plus. Snapchat's a really good example where it was a trend for a few minutes, and now Instagram seems to be taking it over, and it may not exist a year from now. So, you kind of have to just test it, and try and figure it out for yourself. Some things are going to work really well for business, some things are going to work really well personally, and some things are not going to work at all.
DR: Do you have any pointers on how to anticipate trends before they happen? I mean I know that probably goes to 'that's how you make a billion dollars' right?
GD: No, I think it's experience. I think it comes with wisdom, and the older you get, the wiser you get, of course. So, I think it's a couple of those things, but it's also being able to look at something and think, 'You know, this is really interesting, and I don't know how or when it's going to affect what we do…’ I'll give you a good example. Artificial intelligence. I believe artificial intelligence is going to change the job of the marketer drastically in the next five years, but I don't know exactly how yet, and so I'm really paying attention to what AI is doing in other industries. You know it certainly can replace more of the automated tasks that happen in other industries, but there are lots of automated tasks that we do, and when is it going to kind of take over, and how do our jobs evolve? So, even though I'm not going to say that that's necessarily a trend for next year, it's something that I'm definitely researching and keeping an eye on.
DR: How would you go about deciding if a new trend is something that you should invest your time, energy, and possibly money into? Do you have any sort of benchmarks or indicators? Keeping an eye on AI is one thing, investing into it is another, right? So, any advice there how you go about it? And again, I understand there's not going to be a cookie cutter answer for everybody.
GD: I really do think it comes down to experience. It's knowing when something is going to change your industry or shake it up. We all knew when Twitter was launched there was something about this Twitter thing, but we didn't really know what it meant, or if it could be used from a business perspective, or was it just B2B, or B2C? We didn't know, and so we sort of just tested it out, and we tried different things, and we figured out where it worked and where it doesn't, and then other social networks came into play from that perspective as well. I think it's trial and error & research. You can look at things from a global perspective like self-driving cars. If you are an Uber driver, or a cab driver, or a semi driver, that's going to affect your job. So, you look at things like that from a global perspective, and though they're not here yet, it's something that the national media is talking.
Solar roofs from Elon Musk. Even though it's going to be way too expensive right now for everybody to put a solar roof on their homes, it's something that you should be thinking about. Does that change your job based on the industry you're in?
DR: So, what do you personally do when you spot a potential trend?
GD: I personally dig in. Because AI is on my radar, I've been talking to friends who are in the industry. I had a conversation with Chris Penn a couple of weeks ago from Shift Communications, because IBM is a client of theirs, and I was asking him about Watson, and what that means. And he's pretty close to it, so he was able to give me some information that I don't think is necessarily out there in the world, so building relationships with influencers in your industry, building relationships with journalists at conferences, having conversations with people about the kinds of things that you think are going to affect it, it's that research phase. Right now, I think where AI does affect marketing is in the chat bots, and what Facebook Messenger is doing with chat bots and being able to order things, virtual assistance. I mean, you can have a virtual assistant who doesn't exist schedule meetings for you. It's a robot. So, I think that's right now where it's affecting the marketing industry in particular, but our clients certainly aren't ready for that, so it's just something that I'm keeping an eye on from that perspective.
Artificial Intelligence is here. It's going to change the way that we do our jobs.
DR: When you say 'AI'. is that more the chat bots or are there other applications you see on the horizon?
GD: It's going to span everything. My friend Chris was telling me about a girl who had a certain strain of leukemia, and her physical doctors couldn't figure out what it was. And so, they put her blood profile into Watson, the IBM Watson, and it spit out in thirty seconds a diagnosis, and it was correct. And it was something that her doctors couldn't figure out, so if it can do that, think about all the things in your job that you do the same way every day, that it can take over. If it can diagnose a certain strain of leukemia in thirty seconds, it's here. It's going to change the way that we do our jobs. And they keep talking about how the kids that are starting school right now are preparing for jobs that don't exist yet, and we don't know what they'll be, but that's because artificial intelligence will be doing so much of what exists today.
DR: Well, that's good news, at least from a business owner take on it is, there is so much talent coming into the marketplace with all these different things, which will keep the cost down. Four or five years ago, every developer coming out of college was asking for six figures, and now they're getting paid a third or half of that now, just because of simple supply and demand. But it's also good in general though, just for the world. If you have all these people who are learning this other skill set, it's nice just to have more people out there figuring stuff out and doing stuff. There's just so much talent that's coming in with those skill sets, and I totally see it. So, what about the B2B world? Anything coming up that you see? I know there's all talks of automation, and that's kind of a little bit old, isn't that crazy? But anything that you see out there that we should keep our eye on?
GD: Yeah, I definitely would be looking at the video, because I don't think it's oversaturated by any stretch of the imagination. I also would be looking at beginning to collect cell phone numbers, so that you can do text campaigns versus email campaigns. You don't want to give up e-mail yet, but I think we're on the verge of texting campaigns becoming more efficient than e-mail.
I still want to see every business being smarter about their metrics, and about creating, actually tracking effectiveness, paying attention to your brand ambassadors and what they're saying.
DR: Okay, well what are some not so new trends that are somewhat still fairly recent? You talked about videos a little bit, really imploring everybody to go that direction, and I couldn't agree more. But what are some other trends that marketers and business owners should be aware of, or maybe get a refresher or reminder from you that they really need to get going with?
GD: So, at Content Marketing World, I did a breakout session on email driven campaigns, and there were about six hundred people in there. And I was shocked at how few people actually do some sort of email marketing automation. It was shocking. It was less than one percent who were actually doing it. So, even though we're talking about email marketing, and we're talking about marketing automation, and we're talking about drip campaigns, nobody's actually doing it. And truthfully, it's not brain surgery, it's not hard to do, and you can create all sorts of campaigns where you are engaging a prospect and then a customer in their buying process, and you can give them the right kinds of content to help them make decisions either to buy the first time, or continue to buy, to upsell them, or whatever it happens to be. There are so many things that you can do, and that can all be automated.
Now, of course, there are yucky ways to do it, right? I mean I think we've all gotten emails that it's like, 'I saw you opened my email last week, and you haven't responded, so you must be stuck under a file cabinet.' That's bad email marketing. What's good email marketing is figuring out the buying process, and your marketing funnels, and pushing people through that. And it worked extraordinarily well.
DR: And let's touch on that. I think I can answer why a lot of people haven't done it. I mean we currently are, but there are still some things that we're tweaking and figuring out to apply to other clients and stuff. But you're right, it is simple to set up. There are all kinds of platforms. First, you have all your big players out there, Pardot, Marketo, Act-on, Hubspot, that have these automation features, but now there's a lot of less expensive options, so yes, there's really no excuse to at least start to dig into it, but what I think withholds people from moving forward on it is the strategy behind it. Like you mentioned the buying cycles and all that, but like, how do I know where they are with that? I know we're kind of digging into this, but I think it's going to be very helpful for people. I know we could do an entire podcast on this, and I probably will have someone scheduled on this, but since we're talking about it, what is your thought process on the strategy behind setting up these IP campaigns? Do you feed them a piece of content that - there's either three, five, or seven stages of the buying cycle based on who you've read up on, but even the three to seven, they all kind of apply?
Do you take pieces, or write pieces of content that fall under each one of the three, five, or seven stages, and then just serve those in order, and eventually ask for some sort of sign up, or call or whatever? Explain that part, because I think that will help maybe give some people some ideas on how to implement.
GD: So, let me tell you how we do it with a new subscriber. So, you subscribe to Spin Sucks, and you automatically get an email from me that says, 'Welcome to the community. Don't be intimidated, a lot of the people who comment have been commenting for years, and so there are lots of inside jokes, and people teasing one another. We've had a wedding where the couple met in the comments on Spin Sucks, and then they met in person, and then they started dating, and they got married.' So, I tell that story in the first email. There's an email that goes out I think every other day for two weeks, and those emails are that there are certain things you have to understand to read this blog because there are certain things we talk about a lot. The peso model. Paid, shared and owned media. Influencer relations. Leadership tips. Women's equality. There are things that we talk about all the time, so I give new subscribers that information so that they're caught up to where everybody else is if they've just come in. At the end of each of those emails, I have a P.S. 'P.S, if you want to learn how to master modern PR, we have an online course. We offer it to new subscribers for about half of what we offered it when we launched it initially.'
It's self-study, they don't get access to me or anything like that, which, there are lots of benefits for doing it for the full price, but it's like a way scaled back version. So in those two weeks emails, there's a P.S. at the bottom of every one of those emails. We sell between six and eight of those a day.
DR: Wow. And it's just the P.S. And that's a great point. Basically, what you're doing is, you're giving content and asking at the same time, but you're doing it in such a soft way that it's not intrusive at all, and you don't have to have a dedicated email that goes out asking for that, it's just on the P.S. And that's on the first email, second email, third email?
GD: It's on every email. Every email.
DR: That's a fantastic idea.
GD: So, those go out, it's content, content, content, content, content with the P.S., and then at the end of the two weeks they get an email that's specific to that online course, and they only get that if they've not purchased. So, we've set up the automation to weed all those out. If they purchase, they don't get that, and then the very last email they get, essentially, the objective is, I have this mastermind group that's made up of PR firm owners, and I'm always looking to add new people to that. So, the very last email is, 'Occasionally I like to spend time with PR firm owners, and we get to talk about their business plans, and their strategies, and their growth objectives and all those kinds of things. If you'd like to apply to spend an hour with me for free, here's how you do it.' And then there's an application, it goes to my assistant, my assistant vets it all, and if it's somebody who looks like they would be good for the mastermind, I spend an hour talking to them on video chat, and then I determine whether or not they'd be a good fit for my group.
If they're not, then they just go on their merry way and continue to read Spin Sucks. If they are, then they go into a different email campaign.
DR: So, the two weeks go by. What if they never reply?
GD: If they never reply, they just get the blog posts.
DR: Then it just ends. So, you don't do any driven campaigns outside of people who sign up. Correct?
GD: We do every two months. That's the only ongoing thing they get and it's right when they sign up.
DR: Then it ends, and then they're out, and then they just get your content, and then if they're ever going to reach out to you, they'll reach out to you. But those are triggered on sign ups, not like a list of prospects that I've had over the years that I'm going to start to reach out to.
GD: Yeah. It's definitely when they subscribe.
DR: That's a great example because that's the thing. Buying, that confuses people, where they are in the stages of buying.
DR: Gini, this was a lot of fun, as always. How can people continue to learn from you?
About Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication firm. She also is the founder of the professional development site for PR and marketing pros, Spin Sucks Pro, and co-author of Marketing In the Round.
Gini is the author of the PR and marketing blog, Spin Sucks, which is a 2012 Cision Top 100 Blog, the 2010 and 2011 Readers Choice Blog of the Year, a Top 42 Content Marketing Blog from Junta42, a top 10 social media blog from Social Media Examiner, and an AdAge Power 150 blog. And she is co-host of Inside PR, a weekly podcast about communications, social media, and where they all meet and intersect.