We talked with Mike Rossi, director of Marketing at Crexendo Business Solutions and Advisory Board Member for our Digital Marketing Certificate Program, about navigating through this rapidly changing field.
Q: What digital marketing tools do you see being under-utilized?
First, everything starts with a properly built website. It’s the authoritative presence of any business. But a lot of companies view their website like it’s the Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” That’s not reality; people don’t just show up. You have to bring them there.
One way to do that is in an area I see grossly under-utilized: SEO. Executing that comes down to budget and investment, as well as an organization’s commitment to digital marketing activity.
Social media is another powerful tool. It allows for a new level of engagement to exist, such as viral marketing—building brand awareness by creating great content that is easily replicated and spread by word of mouth or across the web.
The third pillar is content marketing. Consumers today no longer like to be marketed or sold to. It’s just the reality of the environment we work in. So, forcing consumers to act on a certain campaign or offer is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Instead, we need to create authoritative content, expert opinions—and effectively distribute them to where our target markets can find and read them. You can build your brand around the reputation that comes from this content. This approach is a marathon, rather than a sprint. Pulling customers in with content takes time, but helps streamline the sales process and improve the relationship.
Q: Can you give some examples of how you’ve executed some of these practices?
First, digital marketing in general is something an organization has to fully commit to. It’s not like installing a radiator in your vehicle, where it works or it doesn’t. This is something that is constantly evaluated, every single day, because if you are not current you are going to fall behind.
For example, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing dictate nearly the entire online search environment. Their algorithms change constantly, so if we’re not current on those, things that are effective one day will end up hurting us the next.
We also have a team of content marketing strategists. Their goal is engagement. And their KPI’s as we call it here, are based on social activity. And that is judged by a number of things, but one fundamental metric is readership and membership to our blogs, e-mail campaigns, and online and offline events.
We have a special focus on this new idea of inbound marketing. That’s really the future of where marketing is going. The days of brochures are over. The days of Internet marketing are just beginning. We’re entering a new, exciting frontier. We’re not even sure where it will go.
As a company we’re extremely flexible because we have the ability and willingness to adapt and say, “That didn’t work, so we’re going to go in a different direction.” We have those conversations daily. And that’s the life of a digital marketer.
Q: What will marketing professionals learn in this course that they likely couldn’t on the job?
This course integrates both theory and practice. Participants are going to leave with a working knowledge of how to build a digital marketing strategy. That’s number one.
Number two is how to execute in a rapidly changing marketplace. It’s changing every single day, every hour in some cases.
Number three is the firm understanding that digital-marketing metrics are critical to today’s middle and senior managers. So participants will learn which metrics matter, and the process for collecting and formatting actionable data to be delivered to the right managers in order for them to make important decisions.
Q: With technology evolving so rapidly, how do you keep from being overwhelmed by new marketing challenges and opportunities?
It helps to remember that everyone is in the same boat. Those who get creative in their approach and have effective follow-through will succeed.
My advice is to be selective. You can’t manage every possible digital marketing approach that’s out there. Select ones you can commit to as an organization and put quality standards behind what you do.
Also, pick the ones with the greatest potential ROI for your business. Evaluate that constantly and focus on the quality of your digital marketing approach rather than how many angles you can take on it.
Q: How do you stay abreast of the latest digital advances?
I read. There are a lot of great books and blogs out there. That’s the most important thing, to know what others are doing. There are many successful strategies and approaches that work well. Rather than re-inventing the wheel every time, we use the approaches that make sense for our business. When they don’t make sense for us anymore, we branch out into our own unique direction.
Q: With digital marketing often providing analytics in near real time, are you able to disconnect when you’re off the clock?
That’s part of finding a work-life balance, which takes dedication. Today, we can do most anything from our mobile devices. If I really wanted to, I could keep a constant eye on all kinds of numbers, but I also have a saying, “Analysis is paralysis.” It’s amazing how much time can be wasted analyzing data that doesn’t matter.
There are specific things that are beneficial to your business, and not everything needs to be measured. In fact, some of the best things are intangibles that can’t be counted. How people feel and emotions that evolve around the type of content we’re delivering are also critical measurements that can help make or break the sales experience. It’s all about perception, and we are only as good as our market perceives us.
My advice would be to pick a few key indicators that will determine success. There will be 3–5 of them, and they’re going to dictate which direction you head. Set some time aside weekly. Maybe a Friday before you go home for the weekend, check the performance reports and be ready to fix whatever needs to be fixed on Monday.
Q: What is most the meaningful career advice you’ve been given?
I’m a Cal State Fullerton graduate, alum of 2009 and 2011 (MBA). One thing I learned during my time on campus was the importance of a mentor. I found a mentor and I was a sponge, asking a lot of questions. That’s huge, meeting someone regularly who has great advice and life experience, especially if you’re coming right out of college or new to your career.
Second, it’s important to focus on your value to an organization rather than your success. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being successful, as long as you’re valuable. This means going above and beyond, finding gaps and filling them, or simply executing well the first time. Make sure to execute well the first time—if the quality is done up front, the intended results will be delivered on time. Those who can execute that way are truly valuable. Your success in an organization can be stripped from you overnight, but it’s value that will provide you long-term opportunities.
Mike Rossi has served as the Director of Marketing for Crexendo since 2011. He is responsible for the development and execution of global marketing strategies, including lead generation and nurturing, marketing automation, affiliate marketing, pricing strategies, creative design, advertising, and partnership development.
He also serves on the board of directors of the American Marketing Association, and is actively involved in several advisory roles for organizations like Junior Achievement, and is an adviser to the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at Cal State Fullerton, and Cal State Long Beach’s College of Business.