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Mastering Digital Marketing for SMB Success: Trends, Strategies, and Data-Driven Insights

In Conversation with Ryan Smith

For this episode of E- Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Ryan Smith, Vice President of Digital Marketing- New Road Advertising, located in Kinnelon, New Jersey. With a career spanning 17 years, Ryan sheds light on his journey across industries, the transformative power of AI, and the importance of advanced analytics for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Gain valuable insights into the challenges faced by SMBs and the strategies they can employ to stay at the forefront of the ever-changing digital marketing domain.

Watch the episode now for more insights!

Google Analytics 4 provides more granular data, helping businesses make informed decisions.

Ryan Smith
Vice President of Digital Marketing

Hey, hi, everyone. Welcome to your show, E-Coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay here, and today we have Ryan Smith, who is the Vice President of Digital Marketing at New Road Advertising with us. Welcome, Ryan, to our show.

Thank you so much for having me.

Great. Ryan, before we move forward and pick your brains, why don’t you introduce yourself, and your audience, and talk us through your journey this far? And also let us know what New Road advertising is all about, and we’ll take it forward from there.

Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah, I am Ryan Smith. I work for New Road Advertising, specifically with New Road, we work with small to medium-sized businesses, specifically those that have brick-and-mortar. Now that could be anything from specifically automotive, but we also work with purchase stores. We’ve worked with med spas in the past, so really a variety. But probably a bread and butter has been automotive with that. But I have been in the digital marketing space for about 17 years, and I didn’t always want to be in digital marketing. Matter of fact, I wanted to get into sales and sports specifically. I worked for a couple of sports teams out west in California, and I realized I just wasn’t a great salesperson and did not enjoy a lot of the calling and all that. I liked the business component of it, and I found my way into marketing. And once I got into digital marketing, I just loved it. I loved the strategy, and the analytics from it. And so through that, I have worked for a variety of companies over 17 years, both in the private and the public sector.

So I have a vast experience with it. But at the end of the day, when I got into working for an agency, that’s when I realized I liked marketing, if that makes sense, as opposed to a physical product with it. So I have been in that space for about close to 10 years now in the agency world, and it’s been great. I enjoy it because it’s always changing. What works today doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work tomorrow.

You’ve been having quite a journey from sports, and sales, now into digital marketing. And in digital marketing as well, your career has moved across industries, from automotive to healthcare to biotech. How do you adapt to the challenges of different industries and also devise strategies? Because every industry has its unique methods, right? And how do you find these strategies to be universally effective? Give us some tricks.

Yeah, thank you for that, because it’s a great question. It’s how do you move from various industries? And most things work in marketing. That’s the one thing I will say that it’s great, is some fundamentals will never change. In a sense you have to learn the industry that you’re in. Those are nuances, whether it is in biotech or healthcare, you’re working with software, you’re working with automotive clients. Those industries, again, have their jargon, they have their nuances. So learning that is key. So that’s one of the differences. However, knowing who your audience is marketing 101, knowing what their challenges are, what are the behaviors? Is it B2B? Is it B2C? Because those also are very different. But understanding that and then you get into the fundamentals, content. I still believe in this day and age, content is still king. The types of content change depending on, again, B2B or B2C. But at the same time, if you’re not producing, let’s say, video content, that’s how people want to consume content. That’s how they want to learn and digest that information. Those things are very across the board, social media.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, social media is very much a part of your marketing mix. Now you have to understand your audience. So maybe if you’re in a B2B, TikTok is not quite where you want to be, but LinkedIn should be there and vice versa. If you’re selling Cupcakes retail, you might not do so well on LinkedIn, but you’re going to do great on Instagram with Reels and so forth. So you just have to understand your audience and produce content where your audience hangs out. Where do they live online? I think that’s the biggest thing when it comes to understanding your audience. Personalization is a big part. Segmentation is a huge part. And through all of that, I still think some of the fundamentals are building trust. And that goes across B2C and B2B. People will buy from people that they trust or they perceive they are an authority in their space. A bunch of ways they look at that is they’ll go online. What are people saying about your product or your service? What are your reviews? What does social media say about that? So through content is how you build that trust and authority.

A lot of the principles there go across many industries, B2B and B2C.

You touched upon content. I’m also a firm believer in content still being the king, while we have other techniques. But yeah, the content industry as such was hit by the storm, this AI storm, a couple of quarters back. So what is your take? Exciting times are ahead for sure. People were scared for their jobs. Now learning the tech and getting IRPs and all of that is happening. But what is your take? Where are we headed?

By no means am I the originator of this? It’s been said a lot here in the last six to nine months. Ai is not going to take anybody’s job. It’s going to take the job of the people who do not use AI. And I do believe that. And it’s one of those things you shouldn’t fear it. You can’t wish it away because it’s one of those things. It’s out of the bag and you’re never going to be able to stuff it back in and hide it again. Ai is nothing new. That part of it has been around for years. As long as Google has been around, there’s been some form of AI that’s been around. The difference now is consumers, everyday marketers, and everyday business professionals have access to it that they never had before. And I think that is a big difference. And people are still learning, trying to figure out how it works, and how it doesn’t work. But once you learn some of the basics, AI is there to help. It is there to help with your systems. It’s there for the automation. And when we’re getting into places where AI is quicker, the accuracy aspect of it, that remains open to don’t just copy and paste something that you are doing, let’s say, in a ChatGPT without referencing it.

Those are still human elements to it. People said the same thing even in the manufacturing plants throughout the world that these robots were coming in and no longer were people going to be needed on the line because we had robots. I think the amount of people hasn’t changed. Don’t quote me on this in manufacturing plants. However, the jobs have changed. Because you need engineers, you need different people to run those things. So that maybe has changed. And I think AI is going to be the same thing. People aren’t going to lose jobs because of AI. However, the job duties, I think, are going to evolve as we continue to learn. Because again, this is brand new in our world right now of how Rapid AI is growing. And it is the fastest growing of anything that we’ve ever had. So it’ll be interesting to see where it goes, but I have high hopes for it.

Yeah, absolutely. It gives you a head start in terms of getting that information right in front of you. But it is never really a final product or deliverable product for that matter. It has to be human-edited and a lot of stuff has to be done around it before it is delivered because, at the end of the day, we have to understand the content has to be consumed by a human to decide between buying, purchasing a service or a product on a certain website. That human emotional question, that storytelling part of it has to be there while you convey that brand message. As I mentioned, it can give you that right upfront information, and then with your product, we can work around it. And then you very aptly said people who are using it will be seeing ahead of the curve at all times.

Absolutely. It’s not just like the content creation, which I think is amazing. And I’m one of those people where I have been in the past where I just get stuck. And all I see is a white Word doc with a blinking cursor at me, and I just can’t write. You have this block. But when you start with a ChatGPT, and many others are the hot topics, you put ideas and it will start to crank them out. And then from there, but they won’t always be your words. I think that the biggest thing is you need to write still in your style. Now there are ways you can teach those AI to have your brand voice. So you still have to work with all of this, but that’s just the content creation of it. There is a whole analytics side of things that humans just cannot keep up with, the speed at which AI can analyze data, how we could pick out patterns, and provide customer insights. We are just now tapping into that. And that, to me, is almost more exciting than the actual content creation that it can be. But all of it is here we are at the forefront of it.

And I don’t think most people realize what we have in front of us and what a game changer it’s going to be in all business as well. When we think about, for example, instant messaging. Businesses, or I should say, customers want businesses to respond to one of their messengers or Instagram messages within a minute or two. That’s what the expectation is. And most, especially small to medium size businesses, do not have the bandwidth to be able to be Johnny on the spot and answer all of those in real-time. That’s why you’ll see notifications of the average week time or response time of those. This is where AI comes in and the chatbots that have been trained can have a conversation that goes back and forth on the other end with a real live customer. We’re going to get to the point where the customer is not going to know that is a bot that has been trained to answer your questions, and that will buy the time until a human can come in and then take over. So there are a lot of things again, where it’s not going to be people are going to be losing their jobs.

It’s going to enhance everybody’s job that is there with an organization.

Yeah, absolutely. As I mentioned, exciting times are ahead. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Yeah, absolutely.

Yeah, agree. Right now, you specialize in the small to medium segment as you mentioned. Could you elaborate on some unique challenges of the SMB segment and the digital marketing landscape and how one should look at overcoming those challenges that lie in this particular space?

Yeah, there are. There are a lot of challenges, especially when you’re comparing to maybe a little bit larger companies with that. In the United States, look, your small to medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the American economy. There’s no doubt about it. Now, of course, globally, who do we know about? We know about Apple. We know about Amazon. Great American companies are all over the world, but they’re not the backbone. They aren’t. And a lot of times, even here in the US, we forget about that. So what are the challenges that face small to medium-sized businesses, especially around the world of digital marketing? I think first and foremost, limited budgets. I think that is being bootstrapped, strapped. That’s tough when you have that. And it really can limit the ability to invest in the right tools, invest in the paid advertising with it. So I think that is one of the big things. Also, resource again, the budget might not be able to fill a team, but the larger companies can, where you have more people do more things. And when you have that, obviously you can accomplish more. If you’re an agency like I am, you would be able to tackle more clientele.

Or if you have a bigger sales team, you could sell more products with that. So that is an issue with that. Also, the SMBs, not all of them, but a lot of them struggle with brand visibility, especially compared to larger competitors, whether they’re just getting crushed in the organic search or they just don’t have the, again, have the budgets to keep up from a paid standpoint where maybe they’re not reaching from organic with that. Those are some big ones. For others that I’ve noticed, especially what went off with AI, it is also difficult for them to keep up with trends. A lot of times they’re so busy doing the day-to-day stuff that as digital marketing continuously evolves and changes, are we keeping up with it? Are you laggards? Are you behind in making that change? This is an area where I think if SMBs can do a better job of keeping up with the trends, these are areas where you can get ahead of the larger corporations. And the whole point of that is the bigger the company, typically the more red tape that is associated with it. Smaller companies can pivot more.

And you just have not so many rings on the ladder that you have to climb to get decisions made. And so through what this is really can be an advantage of it. But I have seen a lot just do not keep up with it. And when they hear about something, they’re slow to test things out and get involved. And then last I’ll jump on that I see a lot of that challenge is the measurement of ROI that they don’t invest the right tools or they’re not making the right decisions with that. And a lot of that has to do with the metrics. What are you measuring? What are your goals? What are your objectives? And then what decisions are you making along those lines that when you analyze your ROI? I work with a ton of automotive clients and they want to sell more cars, no doubt about it. But they look at all the wrong metrics along the way. Look at how many people looked at our cars, and page views. They call them vehicle display pages in the automotive world, VDPs. And they love it.

They’ll see all this. But did that metric play a part in selling the car? And in the automotive world, they have a term called tire kickers. These are people who walk on the lots. They look at the car, they walk around the car. They have no intention of buying it. They’re dreamers. They could be coming in and you kick the tires, check them out, and then leave. You don’t have that as much today physically in the lot because people don’t go to the lot unless you’re ready to buy a car. What, 10, 15 years ago, that’s the way you shop and buy a car. So dealerships are looking at the wrong metrics. And when they’re doing that, sometimes they don’t always calculate the ROIs accurately. They care more about, for example, the cost per click. They want that to be low, but they’re missing the bigger picture, what was your cost per lead? How many leads did you go through to get a conversion rate to sell your product? At the end of the day, how much money do you have to invest to sell a product? Those are the things I think they’re missing out on or they’re not doing accurately.

And again, it’s based on some of it not adapting to more modern ways and more effective ways to measure, for example, ROI, KPIs, metrics, and things like that.

Yeah, absolutely. Very well explained, I must say. You’re also a co-host of a digital marketing podcast, and you must be having your finger on the pulse in terms of the latest trends in digital marketing. To ask you, what are the emerging trends and technologies you believe are most impactful for SMBs in this year, whatever time we have in the coming years, let’s say 2024, and how should they adapt to stay competitive?

Yeah, it’s always changing. So right here today, I noticed one of the two big things. One we already talked about was AI. It’s a trend. It’s something that everybody needs to take part in some form or fashion. The other thing, too, is analytics. Analytics itself is nothing new. Google just put it out there, I should say two years ago, I believe it was when they put out GA4, but they forced the hand in the summer of 2023 and made everybody learn it. But it’s different. There’s a reason why Google did not come up with an enhanced version of Universal Analytics. They built a whole new product from the ground up because it is different. It. It is a little bit more granular. Instead of looking just at page views and you have goals, now we’re looking at and used to have bounce rates. Now they strip down and say, We don’t care so much about how long somebody’s on the site. That was universal analytics. Google Analytics will tell you how long were they engaged on a site. That difference is huge, because if you think about it, let’s say you have a customer, they’re on your website and they are shopping.

They’re looking at whatever products that you have. They stop on a page because maybe they get a phone call. They have to get up and they go to the other room, whatever the reason is. No longer do you have any real activity happening on the website. However, Google Analytics and Universal Analytics were still tracking the amount of time that somebody was on that site. Now, with engaged sessions as one of the metrics in Google Analytics 4, we know truly how engaged somebody is. Are they scrolling? Do they make it to the bottom? Not only are they clicking, but are they pushing play? Are they watching a video? Those are all events that signal to Google that you are engaged. So it doesn’t sound like a lot of a difference, but it is because now you can truly track and see what sources and mediums that you are marketing at are driving the most engagement. And then, of course, when you get to that engagement, what are they doing? Are they calling? Are they filling out a form? Are they putting something in a shopping cart with that? Those are the things. Google Analytics 4, a lot of it you just have to learn as if it’s a new product.

So businesses who take the time and try to understand the analytics, specifically GA4, are going to have a much easier time navigating future marketing campaigns based on the analytics. Because I come from a background where you make decisions based on what the data tells us. We could have gut feelings. We could like nice shiny things because they look good and they make us feel good. But at the end of the day, you have to follow the data. And what the data tells you, is the direction that all businesses need to go. And that’s one of the differences with the larger companies. They have the resources and the people to do that so they can make those informed decisions. Small to medium size don’t always have that. But those are the things that maybe they need to redistribute some of the responsibilities and make that a priority because those who do it the best are the ones who truly succeed. And if you’re using the data, you’re spending less money. You are, because you’re using less trial and error because the data is telling you this is the direction needed, this is the type of messaging you should have.

With that, it’s really important for SMBs in American football, we have blocking and tackling, that’s a basic mental. And sometimes we get so consumed with the latest thing and we stop the fundamentals. So that’s a big thing. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves as long as we make sure we do the fundamentals.

Yeah, absolutely. Making those informed decisions, not only resources but these Martech tools that these huge organizations have at their disposal at a very hefty monthly subscription cost is something that small-scale organizations or companies or these business owners will not be able to afford. And even if they can, they will not find value to, first of all, process that information using those systems, even if they purchase or have subscriptions to those. So that also plays a big role in terms of taking those informed decisions as a larger set-up with proper processes in place versus the SMB segment, which we’re talking about. Great, Ryan it was lovely talking with you. Before we let you go, I’d like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.

Game on.

Game on? Perfect. What was your last Google search?

What was it?

What was your last Google search?

Lord, I have no idea.

You can check it. It is an open book. Don’t worry.

I have no idea. Probably was the restaurants, when do they open? Going to the store. I think that’s what it was.

Okay, all right.

That wasn’t exciting. That wasn’t marketing-related.

No, that’s fine. One of my guests is looking for the client’s business. I told him, You don’t have to say a name to this. That’s fine. All right. What day of the week do you love the most?

Oh, what day of the week do I love the most? I tell you what, I am a big fan of either Saturday or Sunday. Okay.

All right. And let’s say if we were to make a movie on you, what genre would it be?


I could have guessed that. All right. And what did you do with your first paycheck?

I paid my rent.

Again- Nothing exciting. Yeah.

All right. Okay, the last one will not get you any further, Ryan. Okay, your celebrity crush.

Oh, my celebrity crush? Oh, Jeez. No, it’s funny. I grew up, it was Sandra Bullock forever. That always had a soft spot there. Yeah.

All right. Great Ryan, it was lovely hosting you and I’m sure our audience has thought it insightful out of what you shared. Thank you for taking your time and doing this with us. Yeah, appreciate it.

I appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Great. Thank you.



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