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Navigating the Complexities of Digital Marketing

In Conversation with Martin Jones

For this episode of E-coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Martin Jones, Marketing Director at Underscore Marketing. Martin emphasizes the importance of alignment, data-driven insights, and a deliberate martech stack for effective marketing.

Data is critical. Having a clear and concise way of capturing the right data, ingesting it, and extracting actionable insights is essential for effective marketing.

Martin Jones
Marketing Director at Underscore Marketing

Hey. Hi everyone. This is Ranmay here, your host for the show with experts. Thank you, everyone, for joining us and we have a very special guest Mr. Martin Jones from marketing today with us. Martin is the marketing director of Underscore Marketing, a strategic media company providing marketing solutions through an integrated team of cross-media specialists in New York City. Welcome to the show, Martin.

Hi. Thank you for having me.

Great, Martin, before we move forward, I would like you to introduce ourselves to our audiences tonight, and we’ll take you forward from there.

Yes, sure. So my name is Martin Jones. Thank you for the introduction, Ranmay. I am the marketing director for underscore marketing. As a quick intro, we’re a health and wellness-focused media agency helping startups, pharma, biopharma, MedTech sorry, med device, and biotechs launching often their first product or brand campaigns.

And we provide paid search, organic, social media, data analytics, and programmatic right across the board. I’ve worked in marketing for nine on 15 years. Cutting my teeth as a content creator. And I’ve worked all across saas. I’ve been at publicly listed corporations, several startups, and currently an agency. Hopefully, yeah, I can offer some reasonably valuable insights today.

We are sure about that, Martin. Audiences are gonna benefit a lot out of what we’re gonna speak about today. Great. So Martin, as a marketing leader, and you as the marketing director at Underscore Marketing, what are some of the core best practices that you feel, B2B marketing leaders need to follow more as of today to drive team alignment and output and achieve faster results?

I think you’ve touched on the first one in your question. I think it is alignment. I think it’s often in the past, at least, Marketing, sales, product, and tech all have their various stakeholders that report up to, of course, to corporate or the CEO or the founders, et cetera.

And it’s only by actually having a holistic 30,000-foot view. Where everyone is on the same page, you can execute an effective marketing strategy, which means by proxy that you execute an effective business strategy. So alignment is critical. Now, of course, when you work at a corporation with 50,000 people or a startup with 10 people, it’s obviously gonna be different challenges in terms of how you execute.

So alignment is key. But secondly, I think it’s really understanding what the expectation is, what is the need of the business. We have many platforms and buzzwords that are used nowadays, especially around data and MarTech tools and these stacks. Fundamentally, you need to know who the business what the business is trying to achieve.

And so by having that top-level direction, that’s clear. And everyone knows what the BHAGs, the big, hairy, audacious goals are of the company, marketing, sales, tech, and software can all align around that. So that’s what I’d say is one of the most critical areas of marketing. Now, to dive a little bit deeper, the relationship between sales and marketing is especially critical now.

Often touted in the past, at least I’ve seen it a few times in my career as a cold war of sorts. Salespeople are often infield under very, tough targets and short turnaround times to close deals. Whereas marketing are often seen on the other end of the spectrum, providing the materials, the battle cards, the case studies, the support, therefore, that. But it’s only actually by truly aligning them together and being in, in real lockstep and communicating seamlessly and helping each other on both sides and feeding back. So you have an iterative loop of information between these two entities that you can actually either be successful with your sales or of course conversely be successful with your marketing cuz you have a sales team that isn’t fully, for example, educated on a product or you have a sales team that is very good at selling a product with insufficient materials. There won’t be any success. So that’s the second one of the third facets that I think is critical and it is used by many people for good reason, is of course the data and data is within the customer context is particularly important I don’t know if people have been watching Mad Men in the past, I was always, I was a fan of that show and, watching a typical agency with Draper and he’d be pitching and, just be a nice board. Someone walking in a room showing a board of execs what they wanna sell. And then, a billboard would go up in the street or in a newspaper, some kind of print media. Of course there was no, I think the typewriter was in, in full swing and the computer wasn’t quite there yet. So who.

How could you attribute where someone saw your, for example, ad for Pepsi or where did someone read in the paper about this pair of shoes? There was no way of attributing it. It was extremely difficult. So we have gone, I’d say more than 360, probably almost seven 20 in today’s world, that we have so much data about where people are seeing banner ads or where they’re clicking, where they’ve been on your site, which emails they’ve opened, where they’ve clicked.

It’s absolutely critical not to get ground out and lost in all of the noise by having a very clear and concise and well aligned way of capturing the right data, ingesting that data, and being able to have people who perhaps aren’t necessarily data scientists, but who can actually understand how to read a report and share it with the business.

This is a way of not only from a slightly Machiavellian approach to marketing that you want to prove you are providing value to the business. Say, look at these reports. I’ve got these MQLs, these marketing qualified leads, and I’m passing them to sales. But it’s actually about doing something that’s meaningful, knowing where you can optimize to be more successful.

So data is critical. And I say the final point, not to go on too long on the first question. The final point then is being very deliberate about your martech stack, your marketing software that you’re using to, for example, capture this data. And of course you need APIs to connect this data together, or you can use tools like Zapier to have all of your data from all of the different facets of your digital campaigns.

Cuz this is what we are really talking about at the moment. To bring it all together and to have the right technology to enable you to extract those insights from the data. Now again, it does paint me a little bit saying actionable insights in this kind of stuff, cuz that’s all we hear. But they use a lot cuz it is necessary.

So I think if you have all of these different pieces of the jigsaw in place, which is what marketing is for me, it’s a huge jigsaw puzzle, especially nowadays with more and more amount of information we have. If you’re very deliberate with what the business needs, and then you can choose what tools that you can achieve, those help the business achieve those goals within budget, then you’re on the road to success. I would say.

Great. Great. Thank you. Thank you for the detailed answer. My next question was, how would you think of aligning your marketing and sales team to achieve desirable outcomes, but that is taken care of. Yeah. So we can move on to the next one. Talk us through your first digital marketing campaign.

Martin, the first one that you go through. What are the challenges, how do you overcame them? If you can help us understand how was it, how was the experience altogether?

Of course. So I worked for a major travel technology provider several years ago providing the inventory, booking systems, even the flight planning systems that major airlines and smaller airlines use.

So I was running the product marketing for their data and analytics function. And so one of our campaigns, we know we had a meeting with our sales colleagues and with our product team that we were rolling out it’s called not very sexy, it’s called a proration engine. So it was a way when airlines co-share.

When Lufthansa and Etihad share, share a flight, for example, a flight, someone wants to fly from Krakow, Poland to Dallas, Texas, they may need to go via Frankfurt. Often the airlines are sharing, the way to transport via the airplanes. So Proration Engine is just a way of deciding insight into what the profit is.

For those partnerships that airlines have, are they making money from them? So it’s a new product. Very fiercely competitive market. Our, one of our competitors was seizing market share at quite a rapid rate. And so action had to be taken. So the digital campaign was and it was accounts-based marketing, ABM based.

It was to look at the runway in terms of finding potential target accounts that we could. rollout, sell, pitch and sell this new proration Engine to. So it was a very multifaceted campaign and many different stakeholders involved. So it was a full go-to-market strategy, but focused on digital.

So the first part was looking at, I’d put it into three pillars when we were executing this digital campaign. So how do we actually what content do we need and who, of course, who is the customer first and foremost? So we work very closely with our sales our well business development side of the business to understand the conversations they’d had in the past.

You are using Salesforce, our CRM, to go through historical data, figure out patterns, almost like re-engineering the buyers funnel, the actual customer journey of previous successful wins for similar products, and we tried to reverse-engineer it. So the first part of the campaign, the digital campaign is, and this all came actually out of Pardot, which was our marketing automation tool.

So we went in there and started working with so I was responsible for content. So we started working on the content for the landing pages that we are gonna be directing people to. How do people get to the landing pages? It would be through, for example, targeted email. That we would also run out of our marketing automation tool.

So we would be creating many different types I could even say this, we probably created some master content based on the meetings that we had, workshops that we would have at the beginning of the go to of the kickoff with, like I said sales engineers who have the extra level of scoping customers.

And we’d have tech and of course product. What’s our messaging? Who is our target audience? So it would be, first we created the content that was then repurposed and. Yes, broken down into the different layers for the different types of content for the emails that would then have the link inside with an asset, a white paper out the proration engine, taking it through to the landing page, and then of course, getting those clicks.

Optimizing, getting the reporting in place. Many different people in the team, of course. And of course it was of course across different markets, North America, EMEA. Apac, so many different stakeholders in place. Putting the plan together, of course wasn’t many people in different time zones, but it was really about identifying those.

As I said, it was an ABM campaign, so the first thing we did was really build those profiles, those customer profiles to understand. Who is it first is in who, who, where do these people go, call them watering holes? Where do they go to get their content? Do they start off at the top of the funnel with downloading, for example opening an email with a webinar link?

Or was it for example clicking on a social media post middle of the funnel? Was it something a little bit more, in depth where they’ve gone from consideration? Sorry, from awareness to consideration, are they reading white papers? Are they watching product demos with, sandboxing showing user interfaces and then the final part of the funnel?

What’s the content they like to to consume before they’re ready? To example, to have a serious conversation with a salesperson? Could it be a sales call? Could it be a product demo, or is it again, perhaps going into a white paper? So that was the campaign for this proration engine. I was involved in creating the content itself, working with the digital team to get this inputted into Pardot, using historical information from Salesforce, bringing all these different stakeholders and channels together into one cohesive plan.

And then of course, executing that plan with a hard launch, the campaign’s going out and then reporting and optimizing, going into Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics or into Pardot and getting all that data down. What are people reading? What’s not working? There are even tools like Hot Jar where you can see where people are clicking on the site.

Which page are they most interested in? Those landing pages, alpha beta testing, running that and iterating and trying to get the MQL into the pipeline and staying closely aligned with sales. And yeah, at the end of the actual campaign itself, there were, I think around 26 strong prospect leads in the system that were narrowed down to I believe it was seven serious prospects, and actually ended up in two closed deals, which we’re talking millions of dollars.

So a successful plan, but not without plenty of stress.

Can imagine that. Talking about content you touch upon the content piece, what are some of the best ways to collect data for content marketing purposes? What is your go-to?

Okay. So you can, there are plenty of tools out there nowadays. I wouldn’t say nefarious, but there are plenty of tools you can use out there like SimilarWeb. Even sim so you can just get an idea, for example, firstly how your competitors are doing especially from an SEO perspective, and see what keywords are ranking and even keywords give you a lot of insight into what people are searching for.

What are the hot topics? Of course that is a, I don’t say quick and dirty fix, but that is one way to getting quick insights. But what you really need to either do yourself or have in your marketing function is someone who is very actively involved in market research and competitive research and benchmarking.

So you need to be reading your analyst reports and you need to be keeping your finger on the pulse of what is happening in the industry. Now, data is coming, but you need to know what you can’t cheat that part. You need to have an SME in there who’s gonna do that for you? In terms of collecting data, of course, like I’ve mentioned those tools already, but fundamentally nowadays, there’s a lot of, there are different software tools and I can give you specific ones if it’s helpful.

The first one I mentioned in terms of if you want to create content is you need to have, firstly, in place your, you need to have in place your own MarTech stack. So if you have a website in place, as I mentioned before, you have tools like Hot Jar. So these are heat maps that allow you to actually see where people are clicking on your site.

Are they going on your case studies? Are they going? And it could be legacy. It may, if you’re doing, going to market again with a new product, you can see how a previous product fed. So are they going on your case studies, are they more interested in your brochures? Are they going to your blog?

Is it going yeah, on social media. So use your own zero party data, I suppose you could call it to figure out, yeah. What are, what kind of content are people digesting? Of course. Secondly I’m currently in HubSpot. This gives you a wealth of information about, time spent on page, pages clicked on.

There’s a lot of these, these general metrics. Of course you have open rates, clickthrough rates in Google Analytics, right? These have been around a while. Perhaps it’s not so valuable for me to dive deeply into these cause people know what they are and what they do. And some people use the term vanity metrics, which is fair enough, but they don’t always give you that much insight.

Yeah, you can start creating a content plan, of course, by knowing you know, what are important themes, how your past content has fared, what was successful, what worked and what didn’t. Looking at your competitors to do the same, or going into HubSpot and looking or going into Pardot or Marketer, whatever marketing automation tool you have, and seeing where people what they’re downloading, what’s working, what’s not.

This is very effective, but it’s also important when you launch. Your campaign to, optimize, report, and see if it’s working or not. Are people dropping off certain webpages very quickly or are they lingering? Are they, clicking on a CTA call to action and doing something?

The other important part in terms of content is talking to sales teams. I’ve obviously spoken, and mentioned sales several times on this call, but they are critical. If, for example, they have physical printouts that can have QR codes on, for example, if they’re going to sales, to events, conferences, or they’re just having sales calls, face-to-face meetings, get feedback from them or your customer services teams who are maybe talking to customers.

What are they reading? What have they been engaged in? What have they been interested in? Use that feedback from sales and or from customer service success, client services, or whatever you wanna call it, to get more first-party information back rather than guessing. That’s probably really what you want to be avoiding.

And if you are, a really small entity at that point and you don’t have much else, the third and final Tool I would mention that I actually like, and I guess I’m giving them an unsponsored shoutout. There’s a tool called Lead Feeder, which I find very useful.

So what Lead Feeder does, they have a couple of different products, but it’s using, and it’s called Data Compliant, using IP addresses, give them your website, and of course you get a dashboard and it shows you the company that has been on your website and the way they’ve interacted with your website. And the action they’ve taken.

So it’s like in a more, and it’s a far more granular than HubSpot that often won’t really tell you much to be honest. And they have a also a prospecting tool that goes with that. And this prospecting tool allows you to find, for example, if you’ve seen a company X, Y, Z company that is based in pharma, that has come to your site, downloaded two white papers and disappeared, but you know the name of the company, you can use that tool to actually.

Filtered by location, by job title. And so for example, and to use that criteria. And you can then see, for example, 10 people working in marketing who could be very interested in a follow up to what they’ve, the content they’ve downloaded. So they’re all very good ways to get ideas and to get data.

Of course, face-to-face events are also important. Go to all the industry events you can, that within budget, or that you are able to, comp go there. Listen to the most respected leaders in the field, analysts, and hear what the hot topics are. See which sessions are literally, be it virtual, or in person.

See which ones are the fullest. See which ones get the most engagement. You have to listen. It’s a really basic form of market research that’s always worked for me in the past. There’s actually it like a take on, I don’t know, but the founder of Walmart many years ago, he used to actually just stand in the carpark of Walmart before it became a multi-billion dollar behemoth

And he would just count the cars in the car park. And he connected, attributed the number of cars in the car park to what he thought would be success a high, revenue growth at the end of the month, and, It proved to be correct. And even today there are certain shops and high stores that have cameras that watch the car park.

You can, I think you can even pay to have access. They showed the amount of cars in the car park, and then you can connect that to the financial reporting. And there’s always a correlation. So it sounds very basic. It’s actually worked for Walmart and look where they are now. Yeah, the same thing. Go to events, see what’s actually getting traction.

Great. We also kinda covered switch keyword research. So we just coming back to the keyword research piece. So let’s see if you have a new campaign that we have to do for one of your clients, right?

And what is the way around keyword research at Underscore Marketing? I, how do you go about doing it? You know new plan, what are. Keyword study gonna, try tracking for them and try around ranking to others. So what is your strategy around keyword research?

No, I have to be completely honest with you. I’m not an expert on keywords and there are teams that Underscore with, very seasoned experts who do this day in, day out for many years and could probably talk to you about this for hours, if not days. So I have a competent understanding of what keyword research is, and I’ve used tools in the past to do it, but I’m by no means an authority, so you’ll have to forgive me there.

So I can’t really I don’t wanna speak highly specifically of Underscores tools and tactics for that because I’m just not the most qualified person. I work organically doing Underscore, I’m Underscore’s face on the market. So what I can tell you from my perspective is that, And I think I probably touched on this a little bit already, is that first and foremost, when you, whatever activity you want, whatever it is you want to do, if you want to promote an event or if you want to promote a piece of content, or if it’s a fully integrated digital campaign with, like I mentioned, these different facets before, you need to, and there are many tools out there.

Like I say of course SemRush is probably one of the most popular. Of course you do your competitor benchmarking. You can use SimilarWeb and there are plenty of other tools. I’m sure that you can go in there and figure out exactly of course, who your target market is, who is the customer persona or what is the term that’s used now, I think ideal customer profile, I believe.

And you can use these tools based on the industry, which of course is also critical. And, you can segment and do your targeting by, demographics or, whatever else you want. It could be geographical, it can be across, there are plenty of criteria nowadays to go into those tools and then figure out that those keywords, and of course, like I say, yeah, make sure that those keywords are being searched for most common.

You can go in and see your dashboard and if you are looking to, Data analytics for healthcare provider targeting, so targeting, doctors with specific content. You can go in there and see exactly. It could even be, disease states. What are being, searched for most commonly at the moment or what terms are currently at the moment?

Yeah, the most populous you can go in there, and of course that has to form the fundamental basis of any integrated campaign. Having a website that is not keyword optimized, of course, will create a number of problems in terms of keywords, as part of the plan that I try to do marketing for Underscore, we often look at a course, things like backlinks.

There are. I don’t wanna tread on the feet of you, your agency, but there are plenty of companies now who even give you marketplaces for backlinks where you can, go in there and bid and you can get your backlinks entered again. That’s the kind of the quick and dirty approach if you have if you are providing top-quality, well-written, thought-out content.

Those backlinks will come naturally. So I think maybe to touch on your point a little, from my perspective, is about having that partner, network, partner marketing, or we’ll call it syndicated content, having that in place. I often look at what are the most respected publications in, as I say, work in healthcare, which are those most respected publications or media outlets.

And then I work with these, I introduce myself and look to work with these partners, provide high-quality content that they can co-promote or simply run as a guest blog. And those backlink will build organically. But of course, you’ve gotta put the time and, the elbow grease in, so to speak, to get those backlinks working.

Guest blogging is another very good way to go about it. Again, building, let’s say, I don’t like these cliches, but your network is your net worth. Having a good network of respected writers, they could be key opinion leaders, and sub influencers, although that I never been a fan of that term.

If you have these kinds of Yeah. Yeah. If you have these people writing quality content, doing guest blogs for you, or yeah, you’re syndicating your content in respected areas, these backlinks generate themselves, or you don’t have time for that. You’re launching, the next big piece of software and you’ve got some cash to spend from your investors, then you can go to a marketplace and buy yourself some backlinks.

Yeah. Of course programmatic is also an important part. Having, of course, DSPs and the supply side platforms that you can. Utilized to go in there and automate all of it. Automation probably is a critical part of marketing, but I don’t like to automate too much because I believe it or not, I know we haven’t mentioned ChatGPT on this call yet.

I’m sure there would’ve been scope for it at some point, but automation in general is where we’re headed. It’s just part of life. But I’m still big as a human, I believe that we still have an important role to play in marketing, at least. Of course, you can go across industry, and I’m not going on a tangent here, but there are many, finance or HR or mundane processes that you do want a robot to do.

But I don’t believe marketing is one that you want a robot to do too much of. For example, writing posts because the point of that. Yeah, there’s a lot to consider. And like I say, It’s just about firstly, being aligned on what your goal is, what the business’s goal is, and knowing who you’re trying to target before you even look at keywords.

Absolutely. Very valid point. which you raised, in terms of having an organic approach towards building its off in the long term for shop, if you have your team doing it the organically versus, just going to the PBNs or having it like you mentioned, just purchasing the backlinks.

Just having the, number aspect of it and quality. Yeah. That’s a very valid point. Yeah. And before we kinda let you go Martin, what is that one big takeaway you want our listeners to get from this particular episode? What would you suggest?

I would say this, and this is based on my own experience, is don’t get too bulked down in what everyone else is doing.

And all the different emails that find their way into your inbox promising new 35 million MQLs per month. Be very deliberate about what it is you’re trying to achieve. And by doing that, be very certain you know what the business needs to achieve from the highest possible level. And I think focusing on doing a few things well is better than trying to do thousands of things.

To a mediocre level, if not worse. So I think if you know that you are about, that, you want to do lead generation and you know that you’re just gonna focus on startup biotech companies, and I’m just trying to give you some context and you know that there’s a big event taking place in two, two months. And that you have some potential prospects there who have already clicked on your website and downloaded a white paper or a past case study because you’ve seen it in the HubSpot, then focus on that and if it’s gonna be helpful to have a tool like a HubSpot and it’s in budget, it’s not gonna bankrupt you or like I mentioned, lead feeder or any of those tools that are out there, there are too many to count.

Then make that investment and focus on doing. These few big rocks to use a American term to do that well. And then optimize iterate, improve, and then look back and see how it went. That’s probably from the very highest, most, most distilled level what I think in my experience has been helpful to me just because we’re in a world of just an inundation of data and it is easy to lose your way sometimes.

And yeah, it’s marketing for me, it’s about having being of course having a strong intent, but having an integrated plan where you consider all the different channels. Cause they can all help you to some extent and you can’t hide from, all the stuff you’ve mentioned, like SEO and Backlinks and all these things are important, especially if you have a, you wanna have a strong web presence.

They are critical. But the other, on the flip side, with the internet, you can learn about something in five to 10 minutes. There are well-written articles there, it’s just a few clicks away. As opposed to, 56 years ago in Don Draper, probably you didn’t know what something was then. Maybe you had to take a big book out or something or just, wing it.

So that’s what I’d probably say from here.

Great. Great. Thank you. Thank you. Martin, it was lovely having you on our podcast. I’m sure our audiences benefitted a lot out of the insights you shared. Appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Likewise Ranmay and thank you very much for having me.

It has been our pleasure. Thank you, Martin.

Okay. Take care.

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