From practicing law to trying and pay off the school that’s when I realized, that it was going to drive me a bit insane as being a litigator is we’re living the worst moments of other people’s lives and so, I turn to the course back towards technology, worked as an national applications consultant at LexisNexis for a few years before joining an agency and then living with a group of folks to join another agency called Optium.
All of that experiences at Lexis led me to realize my communications experience and desire to kind of clarify and help people better understand what are the opportunities and challenges are in front of them, was really to fit very well into the marketing realm.
You have a television audience and you buy 30 seconds of their attention in the form of advertising and that money goes right to the network and the network basically is monetizing the audience. They have turned the audience into an asset that they can sell back to advertisers. That model was never going to change. In fact, Facebook’s entire evaluation is based on it and Twitter’s evaluation is based on it. They’re based on trying to capture interest and convert it into a monetizable a bit of salable inventory and the advertiser wants to buy, and that model is fine and dandy.
But what I had discovered in kind of my global travels… …over the years is that there is a fundamental disconnect and that is the company’s are putting like 99% of their effort into content creation and only 1% of their effort into audience development or creation and that seems out of whack for me. Because any content marketer or marketer worth their salt should want their next piece of content or their next big announcement in front of more people and today if you’re going to do that, you can certainly pay for it. Advertiser or media companies are more than willing to take your money and if you have bottomless pockets, you can go and you can buy every single spot tonight on prime-time. However, nobody has the bottomless pocket.
A lot of my message is really about diversification of a portfolio and marketers beginning to think more like asset managers, and one of those key assets is audience. What are you building in terms of your direct audiences that gives you a greater soapbox if you will… than what your competitors have.
Like Facebook, it’s still a wonderful place to really engage brands to stir the pot around product development, product feedback, global or geographic expansion and Twitter remains a great amplification source and a great source for kind of breaking news to spread
Job number two, build amazing, lasting brand because if you have a brand that resonates, it makes job number one easier.
Job three out of this is, serve the customer passionately because that is now form of marketing. A satisfied customer becomes an amplifier and then three and four or I should say four and five in my list are great content and great audiences. It goes with the assets that you’re building. And if you have a great structure in that regard, it’s an incredible platform for you to work on. But if you have holes in that, go repair those and build in an iterative fashion. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once.
James: All right, welcome back my friends to yet another edition of the Big Value Big Business Podcast. I am your host, James Lynch. I am really big, big, big time super excited about my very special guest today. His name is Jeff Rohrs. Jeff is the VP of Marketing Insights at ExactTarget.com. He is also a global keynote speaker and author in his latest groundbreaking marketing book, it’s called Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers. Also, a little bit more about Jeff, he is a recovering attorney, a bacon lover and a diet coke addict. It’s a great pleasure to have Jeff with us today. Hello Jeff Rohrs. How are you today, sir?
Jeff: I’m doing well and yourself?
James: I’m doing fantastic. I’m so glad you could come on the show.
Jeff: Thanks for having me.
James: You are very welcome. I love that little tagline, the diet coke I’m there, bacon lover I’m there, I just I never passed the bar. So, two out of three my friend.
Jeff: Well, passing the bar, it was probably one of the more expensive times I went into a bar ever so.
James: I was going to say that I haven’t found many bars that I have been able to pass.
Jeff: Exactly. It’s the old joke.
James: Awesome. Hey, I’m really excited to get down to business and for you to help us to learn how to identify, create and develop our true audience and also to kind of find out where we can find them, what channels the best way to find them and to reach out to them. So, does that sound like a plan?
Jeff: It sounds like a plan to me.
James: Cool. Can we get just a little history about your sir and maybe find out where you came from, where you got your start and tell us just a little bit about the journey that brought you here to where you are today.
Jeff: Sure. So, my journey is rather circuitous. I did graduate from Boston University School of Law and did a Masters in Mass Communication out there as well back in ’94 when they were installing this state-of-the-art power McIntosh Lab with connection to this thing called the internet. That was my first exposure to the internet. I thought it was interesting. I just saw that Match.com celebrated its 20th anniversary and it reminded me that I have been using the internet for 20 plus years.
Jeff: And began to see its commercial promise then. But when I practiced law to try and pay off the school that’s when I realized, that itwas going to drive me a bit insane as being a litigator is we’re living the worst moments of other people’s lives and so, I turn to the course back towards technology, worked as an national applications consultant at LexisNexis for a few years before joining an agency and then leaving with a group of folks to join another agency called Optium that I eventually became President of for a few years. And that’s what helped forged our partnership with Exact Target which at that time, this would have been now 12 years ago was a startup ESP – Email Service Provider and we collaborated on a number of new business relationships. I helped manage the accounts for Sharon Williams and National City Bank back at the time and after a while of working with them and kind of – our team won Partner of the Year from Exact Target that one year, I was approached by the CEO and asked if I’d ever consider joining and after about a year of conversation I joined Exact Target in May of 2007.
So I’m running agency programs and also having a foot in the marketing world and then, after about a year, I just jumped over to marketing full time and I’ve been heading up our marketing insights and really kind of speaking and writing about marketing trends that I was seeing and at various points of my career, I’ve run our digital interactive team, had a hand in events, especially programming around our connections, user conference and built our content marketing team. And now, with the book just having come out, the last five months of my life have been in service to that, speaking around the globe on things of audience development.
James: That is awesome. What a story. Yeah, quite the journey I would say.
Jeff: Long and winding.
James: Yeah. No, it’s awesome. What made you – how did you tip towards marketing? How did that happen in your head like what went on?
Jeff: I’m always on it. I had a communications undergraduate degree. I’ve been a disc jockey on a commercial radio station during college and produced two music video shows. So, I’ve done a lot of stuff around media. Interestingly enough I had never taken a marketing class, never even taken a business class in college and so, as my career progressed I realized that really the biggest challenges I was seeing in business were often a matter of poor communication and when you look at what kind of communication sits with the consumer that sits in marketing and customer service. And so, I wanted very much to kind of turn the course that way, that’s a lot of what I did at LexisNexis, it was an interesting sales and education service kind of role and I found myself called upon to unveil and kind of do the presentation around the migration of their Sheppard site checking product to the web. So, we would call it moving to the cloud today. But when Sheppards.com was released I would just have to go out and speak to VIP audiences about that and as soon as light bulbs begin to click for me and sure enough while I was at Lexis, I also begin working on some competitive materials because our marketing team at a time is really slow to get some of them out in the marketplace. So, I created my own and low and behold it was getting picked up by marketing, shined up a bit and then used internationally.
So, all of that experiences at Lexis led me to realize my communications experience and desire to kind of clarify and help people better understand what are the opportunities and challenges are in front of them, was really skin fit very well into the marketing realm. And it just so happens that somebody would hire me in their law firm, had become general manager of really one of the top digital marketing firms in our area around 1998, ’99 and he gave me my first chance at managing projects and the rest is history.
James: Wow. And then at some point in time probably not too long ago, you decided to focus in on the audience and the type of audiences.
James: That’s unique and I was reading just a little blurb and it’s kind of like you’re focusing on the flipside of content marketing which is all the craze now, you’ve got to have content. We talked about our friend, Joe Pulizzi and he is the godfather of content marketing. So, you decided to take a dive into the audience portion. Marketing in the age of subscribers, fans and can we just dive right into the book because I’m really interested in these archetypes of audiences, the secrets, the amplifiers and the joiners. Could you just run those down a little bit? And just for my audience for them to understand, how you break them out?
Jeff: Sure. A maybe place to start is just what do I mean by audience because in a fundamental sense, marketing doesn’t happen without an audience. It’s just a question of where the audience comes from. And traditionally, we have been very used to vying for eyeballs or attention, right? And the audience comes from third parties who aggregate it in the form of the media.
Jeff: So, you have a television audience and you buy 30 seconds of their attention in the form of advertising and that money goes right to the network and the network basically is monetizing the audience. They have turned the audience into an asset that they can sell back to advertisers. That model was never going to change. In fact, Facebook’s entire evaluation is based on it and Twitter’s evaluation is based on it. They’re based on trying to capture interest and convert it into a monetizable a bit of salable inventory and the advertiser wants to buy, and that model is fine and dandy.
However, what the internet and mobility and social have brought to us is the ability to drive and build and grow and engage direct audiences.
Email marketing was the first place that businesses began to understand and then acknowledge that. They began to build databases and began to tell the promise of one to one marketing. And then, Facebook comes along and you can actually build your fanbase in Facebook and then Twitter, you can build your followers and in Instagram. You can build subscribers on YouTube etc. All these are direct audiences. But what I had discovered in kind of my global travels and having the honor of speaking at Joe’s, Content Marketing World over the years is that there is a fundamental disconnect and that is the company’s are putting like 99% of their effort into content creation and only 1% of their effort into audience development or creation and that seems out of whack for me. Because any content marketer or marketer worth their salt should want their next piece of content or their next big announcement in front of more people and today if you’re going to do that, you can certainly pay for it.
Advertiser or media companies are more than willing to take your money and if you have bottomless pockets, you can go and you can buy every single spot tonight on primetime. You can buy all the wrap around banners at once. You can do whatever you want in that regard. However, nobody has the bottomless pocket. So, my whole thesis is around the idea that is now we’re responsible with marketing to build proprietary audiences, audiences that your brand and your brand alone can reach. They’re permission based. They have given you permission to reach out to them through certain channels and I believe it’s going to become imperative that this gets professionalize, that just as you have content marketing professionals, we need audience development professionals in marketing organizations and the reason we do that comes back to your initial question around the types of audiences, seekers, amplifiers and joiners. Because the audiences are not monolithic, they are changed. Because they change around in whatever they their needs are at that time.
So, a seeker is a momentarily audience and they are defined by the fact they’re looking for information or entertainment and when they find that information or entertainment, they’re gone. All right, they’re either sitting there watching the television show. They’re not going to change the channel or they found a little bit of information on Google and it served their need, they’re off writing a paper or doing whatever else they want to do. So, for the brand that audience is tampered, where you reach them is through content so, content marketing, search engine optimization, paid advertising. We’re trying to capture initial interest, fleeting interest and convert it into some sort of deeper relationship. That then gets into the next two types of audiences.
Amplifiers are people who will take your information and then amplify it out to their audience. They are audiences with audiences. And this is one of the fundamental changes that we’ve had in the last 20 years because it used to be you would send a message through a channel to an audience. Period -End of story. Now, when it reaches that audience, everybody in that audience is connected with people on Facebook or Twitter or email or even just word of mouth and they will make the decision if they take that message or some portion of it and then amplify out. That’s kind of the viral effect that we all aspire to. It’s kind of a holy grail.
James: It’s the influencer, right? The influencer or the amplifier
Jeff: The influencer is a type of amplifier.
James: Okay. All right.
Jeff: The influencer usually is somebody who has built a certain amount of credibility, recognition, prestige in their career and so they have more influence over their audience than just say somebody that has friends and family on Facebook.
Jeff: So, there are also different types of amplifiers out there. Journalists are amplifiers, analysts in the space, Forester or Gardener, etc. So, you look at the amplifier, they too are a momentary audience. I don’t have the ability to push a button and make somebody amplify. I have the ability to push a button to send a content that you hope is going to get amplified or create an experience that you hope is going to get amplified, but I can’t force that audience to do this. And they do this amplification out of the sense of wanting access, wanting some information that the brand doesn’t share with just everybody, but more importantly, there’s a little bit of ego there, right? They want some prestige from it. They want to curate the information to their audience so that their audience grows.
And you’re playing into – your best amplification plays a little into that ego. So, you got the secrecy, you got these amplifiers, temporary audiences. Then, you got joiners and this is really kind of the holy grail because joiners give you the direct ability to communicate with them. The ultimate joiner is going to be a consumer, a customer, somebody who actually joins with their wallet and through all my remarks, the one thing that I always like to make clear is I understand the primary objective of marketing is to make the sale. All right, we have to feed mouths – if we’re going to stay in business.
However sure to that, I sure as heck would love the sale and an email subscriber or the sale and a Facebook fan, and I find a lot of brands aren’t always connecting that up and making it easy for consumers to opt-in and to make communication in a relevant timely fashion about the things that are of interests to them. So, the joiners are those ones we should aspire to, subscribers, fans, followers. The reason is it is a direct audience. It’s permission-base so the audience members control whether it’s on or off that relationship, but it is a lower cost to reach them and we can personalize our messages in a lot of these channels and ways that are highly beneficial. We can control the cadence and the timing in ways that we can’t necessarily in paid media. So, a lot of my message is really about diversification of a portfolio and marketers beginning to think more like asset managers, and one of those key assets is audience. What are you building in terms of your direct audiences that give you a greater soapbox if you will than what your competitors have.
James: Yeah. And so, is it safe to say now – while you’re talking, I’m trying to relate everything back. I almost saw like the purchase fund or the funnel being those particular you grab attention, you get interest, you get the prospect, you get the lead, you get the sale, almost taking the same graduation towards the holy grail if you would. And how – if you would to my audience of entrepreneurs or wantrepreneurs’ coaches, consultants, wanting to do business with folks online boiling it down to how they could best put their best foot forward in capturing or actually recognizing first and knowing who their audience is and then capturing them, what would be your first guess to or your advice I should say to for these guys to start?
Jeff: Well, first and foremost is think like your target consumer. I see this mistake all the time where people market to people like themselves because they think that the audience they’re trying to reach is just like them. And that inevitably leads to all sorts of, kind of mistaken identity and some bad investments because most – especially as the brand gets larger, most consumers are just simply not exactly like you. They might use different devices. They might use different channels. So, you want to know where are your consumers, what is your target market live online, on what devices, in what channels. Then, you can begin to find what audiences are most important for you.
Nine times out of 10, if not even more than that, one of the most important audiences you can build is going to be an email audience and as you know kind of a weathered and old school as the email channel is, it is still the work horse and kind of the top performer for marketers across the full spectrum of the industries. It is the revenue driver for retail. It is the thing that gets butts in seats in theaters. It is this connective tissue that everybody including the social networks themselves rely on. Because the email inbox has become a place that everybody checks and that has been reinforced in the mobile era by the smartphone. The email, it used to be the email icon was one of just five or 10 that was a default installed app on all smartphones.
Now, it’s a little bit broader than that but email continues to be kind of that bell ringing that is conditioned as like a Pavlovian dog to go and check it on a regular basis. So, when you can get the email address, now you’re starting to form the foundation of the very strong CRM opportunity. And one of the things, as I was writing the book I was thinking a lot about because in the midst of writing the book, the company I work for, ExactTarget, was acquired by Sales Force and it really got me thinking about CRM and CRM used to think about it just a B2B kind of fashion. Now, what I’m seeing is in all companies and B2C is probably where it’s the hardest are thinking about truly what that means customer relationship management. And why do we have to build that around? Why do we have to build it around some sort of channel that we can communicate to those folks through and email becomes their foundational channel and then you layer in additional social channels or text messaging or YouTube subscriptions or other things overtime to deepen the relationship, and the more touches you get, the deeper the relationship, the greater share of wallet in theory.
And so, thinking about your audience, the folks who are listening right now identify where your consumers live and don’t feel like you have to boil the ocean and that you have to use every single channel out there. Focus on the ones that have the highest return for you, allow you to speak directly, honoring permission, honoring the cadence that the consumer wants and giving them relevant information. That can be email, that can be text for you like if you’re an event-driven type of entity, text messaging often can be great because it’s something that people are willing to opt into in kind of short term situations. So, thinking like a two-day festival, right? Text messaging is the best way to communicate with everybody quite possibly.
Jeff: Because you’re still going to have half the attendees not to be on smartphones. So, text is the thing that cuts across smartphone and the old dumb phone if you will. So, you begin to think like your audience now, you can begin to understand okay, the channels and the devices and where I need to build them.
James: Yeah, that’s great. So, I just – I took it note because I got to go back to the old school marketing and the money is still in the list. Is that safe to say?
Jeff: Well, I always avoid using the word list. I make a…
Jeff: Yeah. And that’s a good conversation point because it was interesting coming of age during the first wave of the internet because the direct mail folks and I just wrote a piece for Forbes on this. In fact today, we’re recording this on May 6, this is the 20th anniversary of the release or I’m sorry, the 15th anniversary of the release of Seth Godin’s permission market. And I was writing about the fact that when that book came out, the DMA just hated it because the direct marketing folks could not get their heads around the fact they didn’t own the list and that these people who subscribe to email could opt out. No, they can’t. They’re on my list. It was the sense of ownership that old school direct marketing and custom publishing had. Now, 15 years own, it’s really fascinating.
The concepts in permission marketing are the things that drive not just email but also Twitter and Facebook and I mean, does anybody think they own their fans on Facebook or they own their followers? Those are individual decisions whether to opt in, opt out, unsubscribe, unfan, unfollow all the time.
So, I think putting it in terms of relationships and understanding the intent of the subscriber versus the fan versus the follow, why do they subscribe or like you or follow you through those specific channels? It indicates different levels of permission, different levels of intent that you need to honor and not treat all those channels like the same thing. And it may sound like a bad thing, it may sound like it complicates matters but it actually frees you up to use the channels for some of their highest value.
Like Facebook, it’s still a wonderful face to really engage brands to stir the pot around product development, product feedback, global or geographic expansion and Twitter remains a great amplification source and a great source for kind of breaking news to spread. So, it’s interesting, I forgotten because I’d written the article about a week and a half ago that today was fortuitous days that we’re taping this on, their 15th anniversary.
James: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love Seth Godin. I think you do too. So, you make reference to him Harvey Keitel and Jack Black.
Jeff: You got it. That’s my DNA mixer.
James: I love it. Yeah. And you touched on something as well; well it struck with me about email being like the core or the hub. Obviously, we can reach our folks and folks that hang out in other places. But I think it behooves us too because we don’t own the other channels or the other – the Facebooks or the Twitters. That’s not our proprietary or our property.
Jeff: You build up their sand.
James: Right, exactly. Exactly.
Jeff: And Facebook, Facebook brands are active on Facebook if we’re in that quite a bit recently because of the changes in the newsfeed algorithm and what gets distributed and shared. That didn’t come as any surprise to myself or a lot of other folks who’ve been following social media for a while because Facebooks got to monetize. They got shareholders they have to answer to. But that also points to kind of the whole diversification strategy that I talked about in the book, is that you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. You want to diversify. This was a lesson that the search engine marketers learned years ago when Google started tweaking their algorithm and wiped out entire industries. So, my book Audiences is really a message of diversifying the available audiences for your brand.
You’re always going to be able to go out and buy attention in the form of paid media and paid advertising. But the predicament you have there is you’re dependent on the market state to define the price. So, if your competitors, everybody wants to buy inventory at the same time. The price is going to spike which means they’re going to get less return for that purchase. So, if you begin to think of your direct audiences as assets just as you would pay for advertising, you begin to talk in a language of your C-Suite and they can begin to understand, “Oh, marketing isn’t always costs center. It’s an asset generator. It can help us drive direct audiences and reduce our dependency on paid media. Not so that we get out of them entirely but so that our spend is much more pinpointed and productive.”
James: Yeah. You’re able to sell it upstairs.
Jeff: I mean, as you well know that’s a big part of the battle.
Jeff: I mean, it can make up a ton of sense to folks on the frontlines but if you can’t sell that internally, you got a big problem on your hands.
James: Yeah. I work – my day job is an agency so I felt they hear you. I totally hear you.
James: Awesome. So, tell me of what’s going on with you now with the book. Are you still touring around? I’ve seen you internationally or things kind of come down. What’s the next step for you, Jeff?
Jeff: Well, I did about hundred thousand miles in a year through middle of April, of course, came home for what I felt would be a nice restful four-week period and immediately got sick which is I think what you do when you travel that much. Now, I’m kind of on the recovery of that and I’m heading back out on the road, going to be speaking at a client event, pardon me, next week and then speaking at the Atlanta in AMA, Social Media Arizona. It’s going to be a fun one at the end of May and then we got our own ExactTarget future marketing tours. So, I’m going to be keynoting some events in San Francisco, LA, New York and Chicago. So, a lot of domestic stuff, a lot of kind of coast to coast, but it’s been fun because I literally kind of circumnavigated in the globe twice at the beginning of the year. And so, to see what I was talking about resonate with people in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Munich, London and the States, was very satisfying. It also lets me know that marketers’ challenges are the same the world around. And one of the most common things I get after I speak is I get somebody coming up and say, “You know, I’m sorry. We’re so far behind in what we’re doing.” And I always stop and I’m going to say, “Listen, you are not far behind. Everybody feels that about some part of the program even the biggest brands in the world that I have had conversations with have huge achilles’ heels in the marketing program.”
Jeff: There is one – a CBG company I spoke to a couple of years ago and they were so hot and heavy on social media that they had effectively let their email program atrophy to the point it was being outsourced through an agency. Who was kind of sending email maybe once a month. I mean, they weren’t doing any acquisition program or anything else and after my presentation, their eyes lit up and they’re like, “Oh, my God. We got to double down on that. We got to get back and engage with it.” So, if there’s one little bit of advice I can give to your listeners is don’t beat yourself up. Focus on constant improvement. Nobody can stay on top of all of this stuff. But if you focus on the things that are lasting, then you’re going to get the highest return on value and I believe certainly our goal is to make the sale, that’s job number one. Job number two, build amazing, lasting brand because if you have a brand that resonates, it makes job number one easier. Job three out of this is serve the customer passionately because that is now form of marketing. A satisfied customer becomes an amplifier and then three and four or I should say four and five in my list are great content and great audiences. It goes with the assets that you’re building. And if you have a great structure in that regard, it’s an incredible platform for you to work on. But if you have holes in that, go repair those and build in an iterative fashion. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once.
James: Yeah. It will boil the ocean. I love that you said that. That’s absolutely. It’s good to know, it’s refreshing to hear that even the biggest brands are having challenges and just keeping up with trend technology. But I think you hit it on the head with how you boil things down with building the brands, serving the customer and a great content and great audience and great audience engagement.
That is perfect. You really put that, drove that home. All right, so, tell us where we can find you, Jeff.
James: Give us your contact, your Twitter, your website.
Jeff: Folks who want to reach out to me on Twitter, I’m @JKRohrs, JKRORHS, made that a very tough dramatic spell for all of you and for the book, AudiencePro.com is the website for the book. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Finer Booksellers everywhere online.
James: Nice. Well, listen Jeff you’ve been a gentleman and I appreciate all the information you brought to us. It’s been a pleasure talking to you today.
Jeff: Likewise, thank you very much.
James: You’re very welcome, sir. We’ll talk again real soon.
Jeff: Okay, have a great one.
James: You too. Take care now.