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TrendSpotting Episode 1: Welcome to TrendSpotting

Episode Overview

What do Marketing Automation, Deep Learning, Globalization, Cryptocurrency and Millennials have in common? They are all macro and micro trends that are disrupting the digital marketing mix! Join us as we take a deeper dive into these top 5 trends to better understand the disruptions and what you as a marketing leader should do next.

The TrendSpotting Podcast arms executives with the insights they need to understand where to invest their marketing dollars. Driven by deep learning insights and extensive consultations with experts in your field, TrendSpotting discusses how to use data to navigate the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome to the first episode of the TrendSpotting Podcast by Searchmetrics. In this podcast, we’re going to do a deep dive into the ways innovative marketers use data to identify the macro trends that influence where you should be investing your marketing budget. This podcast is brought to you by Searchmetrics. At our core, the Searchmetrics team is a collection of SEO’s, content marketers and data scientists who help sophisticated organizations leverage search data to improve their organic traffic volume, maximize the visibility of their content, and gain insights into their business, competition, and industries performance.

Ben:                 Since this is the first episode of the TrendSpotting Podcast, we’re going to start off with a round of introductions so you, our listeners, understand who we are, and our rationale for creating this podcast.

Ben:                 For starters, I am your host, Benjamin Shapiro. I’ve worked with the Searchmetrics team in a variety of roles for roughly three years. Outside of being your host on this podcast, I’m a brand development and growth marketing consultant and the host of the MarTech Podcast. My career has led me to work for companies ranging from the earliest of early stage startups, to Fortune 100 companies like eBay. My core skill set is to help companies establish their authentic voice and validate what marketing channels work for their business. That’s part of what I do here at Searchmetrics. In other words, I’m both a mid-career marketer and the professional talking head here to help mine the brilliant team at Searchmetrics for insights that are useful to executive level marketers like you.

Ben:                 Joining me today is the brain trust of the Searchmetrics marketing team. Doug Bell is the CMO of Searchmetrics, Inc. Doug is both a B2B and SAAS marketing vet, so Doug, welcome to the first episode of the TrendSpotting Podcast.

Doug:               Hi, Ben. Thank you.

Ben:                 So instead of me reading a long recap of your career highlights, why don’t you just tell our listeners what’s your role at Searchmetrics and a little bit about your background.

Doug:               I am the Chief Marketing Officer of Searchmetrics, Inc. By heritage, I am a finance guy, believe it or not. I got my career start at GE Capital as an auditor way back when. I won’t say how far back then. But that’s led me to having very data-driven focus on how to make really a big difference for any organization I’ve been with. That led me to B2B marketing in 2000. I left Cisco to join a small software start up and I haven’t looked back since then.

Ben:                 So back when you were at GE Capital, when they were still using abacuses to close their books at the end of the month, it’s obviously been a long time since then. In your career, marketing sort of fell in your lap as it’s becoming more data-driven.

Doug:               Yeah, it was really perfect timing. There was this wave at that time where it went from this kind of brand, esoteric advertising to a very, if you will, digitally and data-focused profession. It was a natural transition to me. That’s also part of the reason I found myself at one of the more data-driven companies I’ve ever worked for, Searchmetrics.

Doug:               By the way, Ben, I didn’t miss your dig on the abacus. Those of you who don’t have the benefit of seeing me should know that not only do I look like Brad Pitt, but I have gray hair and might be slightly older than Ben. Ben, thank you for that. That was really nice. I’m going to go home and cry.

Ben:                 Let’s just say working at Searchmetrics and being the gray hair in the room allows you to work with the kids like me across the hall.

Doug:               You are a toddler in the digital world.

Ben:                 Thank you, Doug.

Doug:               You’re welcome.

Ben:                 Alright. Well now that we have out introductions out of the way, let’s get down to business and talk about the purpose of this podcast. So, we’ve basically defined the purpose of this podcast to help executive marketers make sense of some of the trends that they hear about, and we want to help you understand how those trends will both impact your current and your future marketing strategies.

Ben:                 So, Doug, why don’t you tell me a little about what you’re hoping to achieve with this podcast.

Doug:               So, I think everyone has sat in front of that spreadsheet, in front of that pivot table and felt like why this is ‘up’ trend or ‘down’ trend occurring. Quite often it’s a macro trend. Sometimes it’s a matter of how your paid, earned, owned media are balancing, but more often than not, as marketers, we’re often dealing with macro trends. I really want a place for marketers to hear from other marketers on the trends that are affecting them. I’m hoping to use the collective wisdom of my fellow marketing executives to point the way to what is that ‘moment’ and that ‘thing’ that’s causing that number to move up or down.

Doug:               Look, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders quite often, and I think we also know as marketing executives, our half-life is a year and a half, right? The typical tenure for a CMO at an organization is three years. More often than not, it’s not a lack of data, it’s not a lack of information. I think we lack that collective wisdom and we go to peer meetings, and we go to group meetings, and we spend time debating these things, and frankly, quite often, I don’t have time.

Doug:               So, the idea that I had, and when you and I were first talking about it was, is there a place where I can go and get this information from that kind of collective wisdom of my fellow marketing executives?

Ben:                 Let’s get on to what I consider to be the meat of the welcome episode. Now that we’ve done our introductions, we want to talk to you a little about what we think are the biggest trends that are going to impact your marketing strategies. Doug and I have put our heads together and come up with a list of topics that keep popping up on our radar. Honestly, they’re a little controversial for the two of us because we don’t necessarily see them from the same perspective, me being more operationally focused and Doug coming from the executive level.

Ben:                 So, we’re going to trade off here and we’re going to walk through some of the trends that we think you should be aware of and some of the topics that we’re going to be covering moving forward. Doug, why don’t you kick us off? What’s the biggest trend for you?

Doug:               The first thing I’m going to talk about is AI-enabled marketing technology. The things I’m going to refer to are things that we’re experiencing in the early stages as marketers. One is Chatbots. If you have not been on a consumer website lately, they’re everywhere. They’re using natural language processing and they’re frankly quite good at helping guiding users towards the results they need. So, I do think Chatbots are going to be something that supersedes search on a site, but ultimately, I think Chatbots will be the first thing you engage with on a site. That’s not necessarily a new trend, but that’s definitely being driven by AI.

Doug:               The other is, I don’t know, Ben, if you had a chance to see this video. It was kind of mind blowing, but it was the head of platforms for Google at the Google IO conference and he showcased what they’re calling an AI Assistant who made a live appointment with a hair salon, as I recall, and even actually talked about what kind of hair color the person wanted and what type of time they had on their calendar. This is notable because I think as marketers, I think we think in terms of, hey what’s our buyer persona? Imagine actually having to craft messaging positioning and assets for a digital persona, if you will.

Doug:               I think the thing that’s really meaningful and that’s we’re seeing most often here at Searchmetrics that’s important for our clients is, they’re starting to see that they can actually invest in earned media. We have something called content experience. That uses something on the AI spectrum called deep learning to help companies develop content meets user intent.

Doug:               Those are the things I would look at. I think absolutely the idea of digital assistants or AI assistants is going to become preeminent very shortly.

Ben:                 It’s funny, where you’re calling this first bullet one of the biggest trends, the sort of early adoption of artificial intelligence, I think it’s a trend of marketing automation. We see it in sales. There’s tools like where the sales team is creating these very personalized emails and they’re inserting variables and they’re able to change their messaging on the fly. We’re able to change messaging on our website using our AB testing tools like Optimizely. That trend, getting more sophisticated and using AI to more quickly understand what’s going to improve business performance, I put that in the marketing automation bucket, and that’s what you’re calling AI.

Ben:                 Personally, for me, the biggest trend that I think is going to affect marketers is the shift to marketing towards digitally native customers. I think that’s going to have a dramatic impact on how marketers are allocating their spend. I just think that there’s going to be a different channel mix because I think that people that are digitally native A, respond to different types of marketing. I think that they consume content in a different fashion and they don’t like to be advertised to. Content is going to be a much more powerful tool and that idea of something that feels authentic, without using the M word, millennial. You know, the millennial generation consumes marketing in a very different way. I think that the people that are able to master reaching those customers in the channels that they gravitate to is not only going to be important from an impression level, but also the method in which they display their content, or their message is also very important.

Doug:               I think that’s a good point. I think people think in terms of voice search right now on this side of things. When you think about digital natives, I will tell you I have a seven-year-old son at home who, frankly, is the interpreter between my wife and Alexa. I think we’re seeing this now. Digital natives are certainly older than seven, but I would agree.

Doug:               That also kind of point to another trend you and I talked about which is, let’s call it on demand content, right? The way that’s expressed from and SEO standpoint and the digital marketing world is that, examples we talk about voice search.

Doug:               The other thing is that we’ve got this ever shrinking SERP. SERP just means search engine results page, right? This is what Google or Yahoo, or Bing offer up to you when you enter a search phrase. Why the shrinking is so important is because Google is taking over and the other search engines are taking more and more space for their paid media, right? That’s the money maker. So, the competition there really comes down to are you able to offer up custom content for the person who’s searching? Is your content on demand, if you will? In other words, it specifically meets that user’s needs, so we call that user intense.

Ben:                 I think it’s a fast-paced moving world and it’s just getting faster. People are getting used to having a tremendous amount, an endless amount of information at their fingertips and so now people are less interested in searching for the right result and just want it fed to them. They have more trust with the sources that are giving them information, I think. People just assume whatever position zero is, or whatever their voice search results is the best result and they’ve just taken it for granted that Google and all of the other sort of verticalized search engines, YouTube, Amazon, they just take their suggestions and run in most occasions. The digital interfacing being stripped away is just the next generation of that.

Ben:                 I think that there’s another trend that stems out of that, where people are so centered on digital lifestyles. We’ve seen lots of problems in privacy. We’ve seen lots of security issues and to me, there’s a generation shift, and I don’t want to go into the like crypto currency bingo game, but I’m just going to say I’m all at once, blockchain, crypto, tokens …

Doug:               Elysium.

Ben:                 Elysium, sure. Like bingo, great, we win.

Doug:               Done and done.

Ben:                 That whole mechanism, which is not only affecting currency, which is the first and foremost, but a different way for doing security, authentication. The next wave of technology that I just sort of put into the blockchain bucket is not only going to impact marketers, B2B marketers from a contract perspective. It’s going to change the way that we process our payments. It’s going to improve security. I just think that if you look at Facebook alone, one of the biggest marketing companies in the world, they’ve had 50 million identities stolen in the last month and then they had the Cambridge Analytica data sharing problems.

Ben:                 If people can be more transparent with blockchain technology, I think that solves a lot of problems for marketers. I think that that’s one of the biggest trends and the people that understand what blockchain is, which I honestly don’t think most marketers do at this point.

Doug:               I don’t think they do.

Ben:                 And they understand how to actually apply it and adopt it. I think that those are going to be winners over the next five to ten years.

Doug:               I think this is interesting. Let’s stay on this for a moment then before we move on because I think this is the essential challenge for many marketers right now. This is the push and pull of needing more data and then honoring data privacy. I think if we can just apply blockchain for the moment, which is very buzzy, and I do think that you won the blockchain bingo. Ben, congratulations, you did miss bitcoin. I think I just won it.

Ben:                 I think I have bitcoin. I think I said.

Doug:               No, no, I think you missed bitcoin. But here’s the thing I’d say. Let’s take it to something that’s really meaningful and transactional and anybody who’s in B2B marketing knows that the bottom of the funnel is truly the contract, right? If you’re selling anything for more than can be purchased on a credit card, typically that involves a contract. Well all of that can be held in blockchain now. I would say look for, what’s the world’s largest employer, Ben? Quick, pop quiz.

Ben:                 It’s either Walmart or Amazon. I’m guessing it’s probably Walmart still.

Doug:               It’s Walmart. So, think about the purchasing power of Walmart. They have over a million employees and there will be a day when they’re going to say we’re going to codify all of our contracts in blockchain and so that suddenly changes transactions for every B2B marketer out there. The bottom of the funnel suddenly changes. To make that meaningful, what that means is if you’re not able to use blockchain to conduct the bottom of the funnel transactions and your competitor is, you’ve got a problem. Right? So, I think that’s where we make blockchain meaningful.

Doug:               Can I go for something a little more esoteric, Ben?

Ben:                 I think this is our fifth one, so let’s go for it.

Doug:               Okay, number five with a bullet, you heard it here folks first, is globalization. Let me help define that a bit more. The way I would express this is to say that there is not just one way of conducting free market economics, right? There’s multiple systems. I think the parallel here is, again, way back when, there were competing economic systems. There was the enfeebled Soviet machine, which was very planned. You had the robust Western machine that worked really well and ultimately won the Cold War, if you will.

Doug:               The parallel here is that I think India and China, and what’s really fascinating is what’s happening with both, is that they’re free market economies, but they’re using very different models. I would point to China who has said, you and I debated over whether GDPR is an example, Ben, with something we want to talk about today. We looked at each other quickly and said no, that’s already passed, right? That’s already something that’s kind of come and gone.

Doug:               Where that applies, and for any marketer, they’re suffering under GDPR right now, I apologize, but what happens is, if you look and see the way that China looks at the world, and the way that US companies are servicing China, there’s been a real sea change.

Doug:               The example I’d bring up is Google, who was not operating in the market (China) and recently Google is now re-entering China, and, what are they doing? They’re going to China. How are they doing that? Well they’re going to be changing their standards around filtering for search, right? That’s a big change and that says a lot about, really frankly, where the money is. But it also speaks to fact that there is no one system that’s preeminent right now, that I think the Chinese system, which ultimately says there is no privacy. Except privacy is dictated by the Chinese government. They’re creating their own competing system.

Doug:               I think we sit in our bubble in the US believing we have the superior tech companies. Guys, has anybody heard of Alibaba? They’re bigger than the Amazon, or they’re getting close to being bigger than Amazon who now has a trillion-dollar market cap. WeChat? If you haven’t heard about WeChat, and a great blog post on Searchmetrics blog recently, it talked about how WeChat is really changing how people think about social. You can talk to your doctor on WeChat and actually have an appointment or actually have face recognition to conduct a bank transaction on WeChat. By the way, all that information is held and stored in WeChat. A very big departure from data privacy in the US and in Europe.

Doug:               I’m not sure where you take that one, Ben, but that’s the thing I’m keeping my eye on. We’ve got enough competition as it stands in US and Europe, look out for China. Look out for India.

Ben:                 I think you and I being at different points in our career think about solving problems from a different perspective. You’re thinking about globalization in the sense of the competition coming out of global markets is just as sophisticated as some of the products that are being created that we sort of have held as the gold standard locally here in the United States.

Ben:                 To me, I think that there’s a regionalization of various services and products. The obvious one, China and manufacturing. But, for the things that I’m hacking together for my consulting business, right, I am going and building out a staff of contract workers and I need them to have great language skills and I need them to be inexpensive, so I can hire an army of them to send out lots of very specific messaging. I go to the Philippines for that. There’s a tech center that’s booming in India. There is eastern Europe with an incredible technology system. So, we’re seeing these different pockets of the world that are becoming more specialized.

Ben:                 Specifically, here in the United States, there’s a lot of the product development. It’s like even just on a macro level. You look at Apple, like developing a product design here in the US and then shipping all the production all the way around the world and maybe coming back here and putting it all together and handing it off to an end consumer.

Ben:                 But I do think that in terms of globalization, there’s an interesting trend to see where in the world people are specializing. I do see that as a trend, so I totally agree with you on this one.

Ben:                 So just to recap some of the trends that we talked about. First off there’s AI, right? Artificial Intelligence, marketing automation, natural language processing and how that’s affecting how marketers communicate. Who we’re marketing to. Number two. That’s totally different. It’s digitally native customers, so whether it’s content over paid advertising and the shift into content marketing or just being able to take different forms of marketing and get them into new channels.

Ben:                 The third thing that we talked about was sort of the on-demand nature of content, how the SERP is shrinking, voice search, how people are basically looking for answers, not doing as much research.

Ben:                 The fourth bullet that we talked about was blockchain or the use of blockchain technology that’s going to impact payment processing and it’s going to impact contracts. It’s going to impact security.

Ben:                 And lastly, we talked about sort of this free market globalization concept. So that’s Doug and my top five trends that matter to marketers. Doug, any last words before we move on?

Doug:               I think we need to hear from some others here, Ben, on what those are. We certainly exist in a world where we’re going to be very focused on this interesting combination of micro and macro trends. I think for Searchmetrics, we are ultimately a global company because we have to be. Search is global. But it would be interesting to hear from others in terms of what trends are popping up there. I look forward to hearing from other experts in the industry.

Ben:                 Yeah, so our plan for our next few episodes is to talk to a few marketing execs that are our friends in different industries and areas of expertise to get their perspective on macro and micro trends that are facing marketers today. So just to recap, we’ve got a podcast here that focuses on how marketing execs can use data and expertise to identify important macro and micro trends. The podcast is brought to you by a talking head, myself, and a savvy B2B marketing vet.

Doug:               That’s me.

Ben:                 Doug, I called you savvy. You have to be happy.

Doug:               Thank you, buddy.

Ben:                 And together, we’re going to help you, our marketing executive friends, get educated on the biggest trends that are most likely to affect your marketing strategies. So, lots to look forward to and that wraps up this episode of the TrendSpotting Podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about the TrendSpotting Podcast, about Searchmetrics, about Doug, about me, you can head over to We have a Contact Us form on the website where you can get in touch with us. You can reach out to us on Twitter. My handle is @Benjshap. Doug, what’s your handle on Twitter?

Doug:               Mine is @marketadvocate.

Ben:                 Okay. Doug’s handle is @marketadvocate. If you liked this podcast and you want a regular stream of data driven marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. If you have any questions or you’d like to be a guest on the TrendSpotting Podcast, feel free to fill out the Contact Us form on our website. Hit us up on Twitter and if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you want a regular stream of data driven marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. If you’re feeling generous, we would love for you to leave us a review if you’re in the Apple iTunes Store.

Ben:                 That’s it for today, but until next time, remember it’s a data driven world out there and the team at Searchmetrics is here to point you in the right direction.