In this episode of The Digital Exec, we sit down with Douglas Karr, President/CEO of DK New Media, to discuss keeping up with marketing trends.
Marketing and technology are arguably two of the most fast-paced industries in the world, which is why it's super important to stay on top of their latest trends.
If you want to know more about keeping up with marketing and cutting through the noise, then this episode is for you. We cover topics ranging from how SEO has changed, how email is becoming sexy again, and how visual media is becomingly increasingly important. If you want to know how to make sense of it all, you'll want to listen!
If you're a visual person, you can watch the video of our Hangout. Or if you'd prefer the audio version, it's available here. You won't want to miss this opportunity to be entertained by two professionals while learning how to stay at the top of your marketing game.
Michael Reynolds: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Exec, a marketing and technology insight show for business leaders in the digital age. I’m Michael Reynolds, your host and President CEO of SpinWeb. You can find us online at Spinweb.net. We’re a digital agency. This show and podcast, of course, is over at Spinweb.tv. I’m thrilled to be here today with Doug Karr. Do you go by Douglas or Doug?
Doug Karr: It’s weird. I go Douglas online when it’s written, I go Doug when it’s in person.
Michael Reynolds: Okay. Well, we’ll call this in person then. Doug, thrilled to be with you today. You’re President CEO of DK New Media, also a digital agency here in Indianapolis. I personally know you as a great speaker, a great author, one of the smartest people I know when it comes to marketing and technology, so I'm thrilled to have you here. Doug, how are you today?
Doug Karr: Fantastic. You’re setting expectations way too high, Michael.
Michael Reynolds: I do my best. It’s all downhill from here, right?
Doug Karr: Yeah.
Michael Reynolds: If you wouldn’t mind, could you give us a quick 30-second intro on maybe your background, what you’re all about, what DK New Media is all about? Who is Doug Karr?
Doug Karr: Sure. I started in the newspaper industry way too long ago, then really saw the light that online media was the way to do. The first company that I ever worked with was actually here in town and then a cable company as well. We started to do a client analysis, and retention, and integrations, and things like that.
I was introduced then to sales force in ExactTarget, and did an integration between the two. That was the really days of ExactTarget, and that just took off. About the same time, I had a marketing technology blog that I was starting, so that was about over 10 years ago now, the MarketingTechBlog.com. Actually, it’s MarketingTechBlog.com, and just got mired. One of the great things was that in those early days, I was an integration consultant at ExactTarget, and just found that clients were really having a difficult time trying to put all the pieces together.
I worked for that company, and then I worked for an e-commerce company after that, and then I worked for a content platform after that; and saw the same problems over and over again, and that was marketers tended to be fantastic at one thing or couple of things, but right now, there’s 20 different mediums and 14 different strategies. By the time you do the matrix, there’s a million ways that you can market. Things were really getting out of control for marketers, and they needed help. They needed someone to guide them on what they were doing. At the end of my 10-year at the content platform that I was working at, we looked for agencies that could do that. It was hard.
It was hard to find an agency that said, “We are great at balancing and juggling all of these balls, and optimizing everything for the client,” and so I decided that maybe I should be that agency. I think everybody in Indy told me I was nuts. They told me that I should specialize, either you build websites, or you do design, or you do integration, or you do SEO. I felt really strongly that marketers really needed someone just to help them govern where their budgets were going. I guess thankfully, it’s getting more and more complicated every day, and it’s been very good for the agency.
Michael Reynolds: We’re wondering. You have a great agency. It’s been around for a while, and Marketing Tech Blog as well is a great resource. I’ve written a few posts for that website as well, and always a lot of good information there. I’m really thrilled about our topic because I was really excited to have you on the show because you embody this topic to me. The topic is the changing marketing landscape. The reason that I say that is because you were someone that I always admire as someone who is always on the bleeding edge of figuring out what’s next, what’s new, what’s changing, what to watch out for, or what’s coming down for the future.
I really love the fact that you are so innovative and so willing to take those risks, and help the rest of us out, and help your clients out with figuring out how to navigate the landscape of what’s new and shiny, and how to react or not react. There’s a lot of good stuff in here, but I do want to start with again the topic being the changing marketing landscape. There’s a few things that you pointed out when we talked prior to this, starting the show off. One of them was returning to true marketing. What does that mean to return to true marketing, and how is that applied today?
Doug Karr: Well, I think that what happened especially over the last five years is just this onslaught of technology, and so everybody has been wanting to gain the system somehow or use. We still have a problem in the marketing industry where a lot of people are focused on eyeballs, and more and more eyeballs. If they get more eyeballs at the top of the funnel, maybe they’ll get more at the bottom of the funnel that they convert. To do that, they started cheating. People start buying likes or buying follows, and buying this, and buying that, or buying rank with SEO which was a multibillion dollar industry until it came basically collapsed in front of everybody’s eyes.
I think everybody got distracted, and they started focusing on numbers, technology. Thankfully for us, folks like Google have slammed the mallet, and brought everything back to center. What is it now again? It’s building trust and authority online, promoting great content, providing value to your audience. We’re back to where we were before the internet was even live. I think it’s great to be back. It’s great to be back to where, if you’re a great marketing firm or a great marketer, you’re going to get attention now. It’s not going to be these guys that just have more money and can cheat their way to the top all the time.
Michael Reynolds: I’ve seen that as well. For some reason, I always assume the best in people which is always a mistake I find because I always assume that these are the marketing companies, or keeping up with the time, understanding that Google’s algorithm is changing to become more useful to the end-user, et cetera. It always shocks me when I see these link farms still out there. People still think SEO is keyword stuffing and things like that. It just blows my mind because we’re way past that. You’re right.
Google for example is becoming almost artificially intelligent to the point where it recognizes if you’re sincere in your marketing or not. If you’re sincere, you’ll be fine. I tell my clients, “Hey. Just forget about all the crazy tricks you can try with keywords. Just be sincere, and Google will figure it out.” Is that what you’re talking about as well?
Doug Karr: Yeah. Especially now, the algorithms now for a searcher is so nice that long-tail searches, larger combinations of keywords are being focused on longer copy and pages. If you have really great copy that has media. It has maybe video, and it has text, and bolded items, and maybe a few images. Google is paying attention to all of that now, and then they’re paying attention to who’s actually writing it. Authorship if anybody’s read about it that they’re actually focusing on who this person is on the internet and what they’re known for, and that’s something that a cheater can’t, he can’t create. Like for me, he can’t create 10 years of blog posts, and build that authority that I have. It’s awesome.
I think it’s so good that people are back. There’s still the “black hat” going on though. They call it “black hat” and “white hat” for good guy, bad buy marketing. We noticed that every time that Google does some kind of shift, those companies tend to shift as well. We see things like, “Oh, we’re fantastic at getting your articles placed online.” I asked those guys, “Oh, so you’re just placing an article. No link in the article?” “Well, yeah. There’s a link in the article. Well, yeah.” Well, so you’re doing the same thing. You’re just disguising it different. Maybe you’re calling it PR now instead of SEO or something.
The real problem that I have with it is it puts the client at risk long term because as Google … Let’s say you hired one of these guys, and you spent hundreds or thousands of dollars, and you basically get an article placed on every single website, and the topic is relevant, and it’s all pointing to you, and you ranked number one. When Google catches up with that, that’s all gone, and all that money that you invested is gone; but your client who sincerely wrote on their blog, and continued to have a presence on social media, and answered questions, and everything else, guess what, they’ll still be there, and they’ll still be building momentum. I should say it this way.
Michael Reynolds: Well, I can give you firsthand another anecdote. You don’t need anymore, but this really works because Hummingbird was very good to us. We have been plugging away for years and years solving clients’ problems, answering real questions, being genuine, being sincere. Every time Google changes this algorithm, we win more and more because we follow the same rules for years and years.
Doug Karr: Yeah, same here. Right.
Michael Reynolds: Now, Google is catching up to again being more artificially intelligent and acting more like a human like it’s benefiting us big time, but we’re just doing what we’ve been doing.
Doug Karr: Well, that’s back to marketing, right? You guys were always great marketers. That’s where you focused on, and that’s where you’re back to. Don’t get me wrong. I tried it like everybody else did. When there’s a large sum of money sitting out in front of you, and everybody is attacking it, and you’re left with breadcrumbs, you tend to try it. You go out there, and see if it works. I think the writing was on the wall early, and we backed out really early. We started to say, “You know what? This just doesn’t seem right. We’re definitely gaming the system, and if you’re gaming the system, you’re going to get clocked.”
Michael Reynolds: Well, also something in our preshow notes that you’re alluded to here. I want to make sure I get this right. You said something about a search in social dropping. I want to hear a little more about that because while everyone else is proclaiming, “Social media is the latest shiniest thing. If you’re not on social, you’re losing. Social campaigns are the big sexy thing nowadays.” Are you saying that search and social are on the decline?
Doug Karr: I would say from an important standpoint, yes, they are on the decline that their strategy is just as everything else’s strategy. To give you an example, and I think the specific of what we’re talking about was email had dropped as a priority below social media for at least a year, maybe even two because social media was the next big thing. It was funny because in the early days, I would talk to guys like you, and we would go, but nobody’s going on Facebook to buy a pair of sneakers. That’s not what they’re doing. I don’t understand how this business thing fits.
I think overtime, that’s been proven that the social mediums that started as incredible peer-to-peer networks. I went out there today, and I asked for … I think I requested a help with the whitepaper, and I probably got 10 people responding to me.
Michael Reynolds: That’s a lot.
Doug Karr: Yeah, and overwhelming response. We’re looking for a car for my daughter, and got a huge response. It’s this great peer-to-peer network, but I didn’t go there to buy a car. I didn’t go there to hire a copywriter. That comes secondary to the network.
Michael Reynolds: That’s a link in the chain.
Doug Karr: It’s a link in the chain. I was talking to someone yesterday about it that if you could picture, you have the consumer, and then you have the brand. In-between the two, you have a need. The consumer has to have a need to the brand; but as companies, we always think we’re the center of the universe, and we have consumers all around us. It’s totally the opposite. It’s that you have a consumer at the center of the universe, and then that consumer has needs, and then there’s a bunch of brands that they deal with every day. You’re not the center of the universe.
Let’s say DK New Media. I’m not going to DK New Media’s Facebook page to do business with them. I probably never will, but I am going to their website to do business with them. I am going to the events that they’re at. I am going to this. I feel that social media is a great echo chamber. When you get a good word out and you get a good notice, it spreads the word, but you have to bring those people back to your site. On your site, you’ve got to have some solid things emplaced. You’ve got to have a great website, a path to engagement where people can convert in to customers.
You’ve got to have an email subscription that keeps them coming back to the site over and over again, or is notifying them when they are ready to buy. Social media is a tool to echo, but it’s not the core of what we should be doing here. If you do everything right on your website, and you write brilliant copy, and you provide value, guess what, social media happens. It just goes. I think what happened is from a priority standpoint from marketers, SEO and social have dropped back, and providing value and important content on the website, distributing that content, syndicating it, providing an email to pull back, that circular activity has just blossomed.
You guys are an inbound marketing company. That’s exactly what we do with customers every day, show them how to make their website a salesperson instead of a brochure. That’s what I meant by that. Social is still big. We talk on it, we syndicate to, we promote on it, but I don’t actively, let’s say, spend half a day in my DK New Media trying to foster and nurture our relationship there. No. I do that with my website and with my content.
Michael Reynolds: I’m glad you mentioned that because we always tell people that content is fuel, and we have the fuel. Social media does ignites on its own easily. I think it was maybe Skittles where a few years ago, and social media was on the upswing in terms of sexiness factor, and everybody was all up the hike about social media. I think it was Skittles if I’m not mistaken, their entire website turned in to just a couple of links to their social profiles. They had no website at all. They had a link to their Facebook page, they had a link to a Twitter account. Everyone is like, “Ooh, Skittles. Look, there’s no more website necessary. It’s just all social.”
Apparently, obviously that fell flat because we’re noticing a lot more people that have neglected their websites for the past two or three years thinking social was the big thing. hey’re realizing they can’t make money on social media unless they have a platform. It’s over now. Finally, coming back to us saying, “Oops. Can you redesign our website in like three weeks?” We’re like, “Okay. Get in line. We’re happy to help you, but not in three weeks.” They’re realizing that you do have to have both components.
You have to have the satellite splash point components of social media to generate some additional exposure; but really, when it comes down to people, you have to come back to your home base to actually transact with you. That’s really where business still happens. When you put the two together, you’ve got a very powerful combination. You got the home base plus the amplifier so to speak of social media.
Doug Karr: Lucky, I’ve been long enough, and I’m an early adapter that I have a huge following on Facebook, and Twitter, and everything. I can tell you that it’s out of control. I can’t respond to every tweet. I can’t respond to every Facebook request. I can’t sit there, and talk, and just meet with every single person, and so it’s become unruly that I have this huge network up there. My job on a day-to-day basis, I have this boutique agency with finite resources is hand-selecting the tiny 1/100 or 1/1,000 of that to actually approach, and maybe do work with.
I’d say social media causes me now more problems. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s great that I’m known, but at the same time because I’m known, it’s a lot of time to take in, and figure out, “Is this someone that I’m going to do business with or not?” That’s a tough one. To the average person that doesn’t have following, like I love all the social media gurus. I love them, but when they say, “You want to go out there, and you want to build this face community, and …” Well, and what? How are you going to take care of them? How are you going to show them a return on investment? How do you measure whether that’s effective or not?
Michael Reynolds: We got to make money, right?
Doug Karr: Exactly. I’d much rather have people doing A/B testing on their website to see if they can increase conversions there. I’d much rather have people writing great content there, designing infographics there, putting up whitepapers there, than just chatting on social media.
Michael Reynolds: A couple of episodes ago, I talked with Chris Brogan. It was phenomenal. He and I talked a little bit about email. Email, when it first came out, obviously it was the new shiny thing, and it’s now very established as a de facto communications medium in business. Every so often, I notice people say, “Oh, email is dead. Email is on decline. Something else is replacing it …” When it comes down to it, email is so entrenched in everything we do, and I think a lot of people, you might agree, are noticing a resurgence in the effectiveness of email because of what you can do with it and how targeted it is.
When you get a hold of someone’s inbox, and you give them something a value, that gets a better or a lot of low times than all the social chatter in the world. Would you agree?
Doug Karr: Absolutely, because it’s a step more intimate than social media.
Michael Reynolds: It’s not sexy, right?
Doug Karr: Yeah. Well, it could be sexy if Outlook would update its standards. You know what I mean? The fact that we’re still working on a 10-year-old HTML, it stings. No, it is. I think what’s sexy about email nowadays is the companies that are popping up that are doing drip marketing, trigger, event-based marketing, heavy segmentation. I’ll mention a client of ours, Right On Interactive. What they’re doing with people to improve … A lot of system, even email, it’s all about acquisition. Go get a list of 100,000, and go blast them every single week.
Folks like ROI, that’s they’re acronym, think just the opposite. It’s now, how do we pair this down segment really tightly? How do we measure our prospect against our greatest customer? Not just a customer or not just a person that answers the ad, how do we measure them against that, and then how do we get a series of communications that provides a really unique path for them to come back to our channel? It’s not just action blast where it’s spam, it’s really this periodic timely event-driven thing that happens. Multi-touch with a client, it’s not intrusive. There’s something of value in that email, so they look forward to it, and they actually click to open it. When you’re doing that, it’s as sexy as ever.
Michael Reynolds: Yeah, I agree. We see a lot of clients that stood out with us getting really obsessed with how many Facebook likes can they get, how many Twitter interactions can they get. We said, “Hey. Hang on. Be patient. Let’s see how much we can grow your email database first, and let’s see how much we can get those people to react to something and convert to something. In a few months, you’re going to be a lot happier with that than with your Facebook likes.” Every time, it’s true. They are so blown away about the ROI they can get from a great database-driven email campaign.
The Facebook stuff takes care of itself, and the Twitter stuff takes care of itself because the content is there. I’m glad you agree. I think we’ve seen a lot more value in email these days.
Doug Karr: I was talking to a friend of mine right before this. His name is Jim Hart. He’s an old school marketer. He works in the newspaper industry and direct marketing. He said, he likened this that you walk into a bar, and you’re looking for a date. Everybody’s sitting at the bar. At the end of the day, someone hands you a slip and says, “Forty-two people liked you,” when you were sitting at the bar. Someone else hands you a napkin, and it says, “Here’s my phone number.” Which one is worth more to you?
Michael Reynolds: I love that. That’s a fantastic analogy. Can I use that?
Doug Karr: Yes. It’s a fantastic analogy.
Michael Reynolds: That’s a great story. Well, there’s one more thing I wanted to bring up because you mentioned this again our notes before this episode which was about visuals becoming increasingly important. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Doug Karr: Technology is helping as well. Bandwidth is cheap now, and most people have broadband, or they have really good connections even on their phones. Time is of the essence, even with email. Time is of the essence, so you have to start grabbing people’s attention immediately. Text doesn’t quite do that. It’s literally scientifically proven that when you see an image, your retention goes up significantly, exponentially. We do it on the Marketing Tech Blog. Every single blog post requires some kind of visual representation that captures that person’s attention.
From just a typical image that you include with a story or series of it, interactive visuals. What we’re getting is infographics which there’s probably more bad ones than good ones out there I think. Infographics, what they’re supposed to do is take a heaping load of a complex issue with a lot of complexity, but visually represented where you can understand it a lot easier It should paint a picture of some sort. It should be a story. By the time you finish reading an infographic, it should be great.
I just put one up on the site. I’m not knocking them, but E-consultancy and Responses did highlights of their marketing budget for 2014. It’s beautiful graphics, but there’s not a story there. There’s not a bite to it that says, “Okay. What should I do as a marketer?” It’s just vomiting data, and doing it beautifully. I think a typical infographic, we did one a little while ago for Meltwater. They did an article on top 10 things you do in a social media crisis. We built it, and it was Pitch Man, the superhero. It takes you through the steps that he actually takes, and what he thinks in this crisis until it’s resolved.
It’s an education. It’s a complex topic, but it’s simplified through the graphic. Its hard part of it is data, and it’s a story, and it’s graphic designed all mashed in to one. Take that another level, and now, people are doing interactive infographics where you actually play with the website. Maybe you enter in some terms, and something happens, or you scroll, and things move, and everything else. Again, it shouldn’t just be there to play and have cool HTML5 which we all love, it should be there to paint a clear picture that make something go off in your head, and then there’s videos which are really compelling.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth? It’s worth millions. Even then, it’s condensed. You want a minute-and-a-half video that explains your product. You want a 45-second video that flashes a feature or whatever. Visuals are just becoming ever important especially with bandwidth being as inexpensive as it is. The good thing too is on the technology side. We were just talking to a client yesterday. She said, “Well, we’re not going to host video because it’s too expensive for bandwidth.” I was like, “Oh, my god. You don’t have to do that.”
Michael Reynolds: Host a video. Who has video on their website anymore?
Doug Karr: Exactly. There is Vimeo, and Wistia, and all these fantastic … not to mention YouTube, all these fantastic things to host video for you. For companies, the step-in isn’t like it was … What was it five years ago is $25,000 to do a professional video for your company or something. Now, what is it? Pick up your iPhone, throw it in iMovie, and …
Michael Reynolds: Candidio.
Doug Karr: Yeah, anything. Put it in Candidio …
Michael Reynolds: Put it on for our 12-star media there, Candidio.com.
Doug Karr: That’s a perfect example that you don’t even have to be great at video. You’ve got a director and a producer at the other end that are going to make it look professional.
Michael Reynolds: Well, I agree. I see a lot more engagement when we have visuals emplaced. We’ve seen the same thing for us and our clients as well, so I wholeheartedly agree. We’re just about out of time, but do you want to wrap up with a little bit more about what you’re up to? I want to find out where you’d like to send people to find out more about you and DK New Media. Would you like them to go to your main website, DKNewMedia.com or Marketing Tech Blog? Tell us where our folks to go to find out more about you.
Doug Karr: If they’re enterprise customers, typically what we’re doing is we’re really helping large companies, educate them on that strategy internal, and get the pieces emplaced. If that’s the case, come on If not, Marketing Tech Blog is just this incredible resource where typically a client ask me a question, and I write a blog post about it, and then send them the link. We’re literally releasing information on new tools every single day on there that are just fantastic. Marketing Tech Blog is definitely the highlight.
From a DK New Media standpoint, we’re receding into the mist, and putting Marketing Tech Blog out there more and more. If you’re a marketing tech related company, we want you to sponsor obviously, and we want to grow that. We just have such an incredible audience there that listens to everything we say, and shares that it’s just been a beautiful platform.
Michael Reynolds: Fantastic. Well, we’ll definitely put a link to both of those websites in our show notes as well as everything else we referenced during the episode. It’s been a real pleasure having you on. I really appreciate the insight, great stuff.
Doug Karr: Always.
Michael Reynolds: I’m glad to hear we’re seeing the same trends in marketing, and I really appreciate it. Anything else you want to add?
Doug Karr: That’s it. Thanks a lot, Michael. This is fantastic.
Michael Reynolds: All right. Well, thank you. As always, Doug, I really appreciate it. Thanks everyone for joining. We’ll see you next time.
Tune in next time for our next installment of The Digital Exec, your source for becoming an expert in the latest and greatest technology.