Interview: Birgit Pauli-Haack on How to Win the Marketing Game

6 min read

Birgit Pauli-Haack is co-founder of Relevanza, a cutting-edge digital marketing agency and consultants for online advocacy with offices in Naples, Florida and Asheville, North Carolina.

What you think is the biggest asset in digital marketing for companies?

A company’s single most valuable asset for digital marketing is its website. It’s the only digital space over which a company has control, ownership; it’s where the corporation’s history lives and where consumers can connect all the time directly. On the website, companies can publish as much content in text, photos, audio and video as it seems appropriate to fit the needs of its audience, community, customer base. The visitor’s journey around the website can be tracked, and with the data in hand, companies can style messages and landing pages to be most productive. The website is also a company’s archive and the most trusted source of information for customers. All other digital assets are outside a company’s control. Use them, of course, but relying on them more than a website is like building a home on rented land.

Based on your experience, what are the most effective tricks to boost digital marketing efforts?

Have a plan for all different stages of engagement. Design the interaction for each phase of the sales funnel. Have content for visitors who arrive via social media, gauge intent from those arriving via Google Search, be a bit more targeted with e-newsletters and offer exclusive content for repeat customers, In short: Be helpful. Be generous. Be grateful. Create content that helps other people succeed. And create lots of great content. And when kudos, information, retweets, sharings and hearts are received, make sure they are acknowledged and return the favors. Thank people for their props. The ultimate goal is to have other people recommend a company and its services and be its ambassadors on the social webs. Connect with the most active customers and influencers, and over time a company will grow its community organically and sustainably

As it is vital branch, we need to be up-to-date with every news that comes. Which one you find the most promising in 2017?

The most promising news – or advances in digital marketing – is about improved ways for consumers and businesses to have direct interaction with a brand. The interaction doesn’t have to be Live Video; it will, however, take a prominent role. It could be in Facebook Messenger or via Twitter direct messaging. Although I am a little worried about the massive number of chatbots set to come online, the market will weed out the bad ones fairly quickly. The chatbots which are intelligent, helpful and provide a fabulous experience will win. So will implementations of Augmented Reality as well as Virtual Reality content: walking a store with a headset, visiting a museum via Google DayDream

What is social media role in digital marketing?

The social media help companies keep in touch with people its digital managers already know, stay top of mind, develop relationships and with whom they connect on a personal level. The second role is building pathways to increased audience via evangelists, third agents or just friends who connect with their friends and friends of friends organically and via influencers. As organic reach has been getting harder and harder, social media advertising will play a larger part in the overall digital marketing budget and, after Facebook fixes its reporting, it will be a crucial part of digital marketing.

More and more consumers use social media for research and expect brands to make themselves available and approachable via social media. Some brands actively use Facebook Messenger for customer service or provide assistance via Twitter Direct Messages. Nearly 40 percent of all internet users turn to the social channels now to research products before making a purchase, according to GlobalWebIndex, a well-regarded, global research firm.

How important is to track what people say about us for whole marketing strategy?

Of course, it’s very important to stay on top of the conversation, not only about one’s brand but also to be part of the industry’s conversation, or a segment of the society with which one tries to connect. Investing in social media monitoring tools that go beyond our own social media assets is very important, helpful in understanding shifts in the conversations. Sometimes we are not in the room when the best conversations happen. And to be honest, what can be worse than one of your fans sharing piece of content not being there to acknowledge it? Not everyone uses the ‘proper’ tagging or one’s own social sharing buttons. When consumers share content about companies they expect the company to know about it and acknowledge it. If they feel neglected they will stop sharing.

Can you share one professional challenge that you had to face and how did you solve it?

One big challenge is staying on top of the many and constant changes on the digital marketing landscape, separating the wheat from the chaff, the hyped-up tools from the useful ones.

One of the most frustrating challenges is web developers who do not understand the changing role of a website in digital marketing. The website is one of the most critical pieces of a digital marketing strategy. On a technical level it needs to support all content marketing efforts, be they as simple as good sharing buttons or, on a more sophisticated design, integrated with a series of tools which share content over many different social networks and show the content in the best possible light according to the individual social network culture. Some IT people, who are not communicators, have a hard time grasping the multitude of technical details necessary to do this right.

Another challenge is helping clients conceptually understand that social media are not broadcast media, they are not advertising media by another name. They are called social media for a reason. Many companies define audiences too broadly to be successful. The general public is not a target audience. It doesn’t have an email address. Way too many companies don’t have processes in place to connect with customers outside transactional emails, to be social with their clients on the social media. They don’t take the time and effort to build communities.

What is the main purpose of using Brand24 in your company (where do you find it most useful)?

We use Brand24 to listen to the Internet beyond our daily presence on the social webs for our clients. Many people talk about a topic, about a brand or about a destination without using hashtags, without tagging people, without knowing about an individual conversation. We use it to listen to the undercurrent — the less obvious. A simple example: for our brand we listen to “Relevanza,” and with Brand24 we find the people reading our website and sharing our content on Social Networks — people we didn’t know before and we get an opportunity to get them to know now. Or someone adds a link to one of our stories and quotes it in a blog post. Brand24 finds this for us, and we get an opportunity to express our gratitude and share it with our audience.

How do you deal with positive and negative mentions about your company or service?

Any mentions we view as an opportunity to engage; sometimes we acknowledge with a Like, a “thank you,” or sometimes we get deeper into the conversation to learn more about the person or brand behind the profile. We are most grateful for negative remarks. Of course, it may be awkward to hear/read criticism, but we view negativity as opportunity! My father taught me that no one wants to talk about negative things. It’s awkward; it’s confrontational, it puts us in a bad mood. So, he said, if someone goes through the trouble, despite how it makes him feel, he cares, and he has hope that you are capable of changing things for the better.

In a previous life, I trained leaders in the hospitality industry, where I approached negativity in a similar fashion. Almost all of them dreaded dealing with reclamations. Back then Marketing Industry surveys suggested that when we were unsuccessful providing an extraordinary dining experience to our customers, only 4% took the time and bothered to let us know; 96% would just leave the restaurant and wouldn’t come back. So when we had a chance to engage with a person while he is still in the restaurant, we can turn around this one experience. And if it’s a systematic faux-pas, we got the opportunity to fix our errors for the other 96 people, who otherwise might have had a negative experience because of it. If you are lucky and find the person who cares enough to tell you what you did wrong, embrace it, learn from it and improve. Become better at what you do.

However, the Internet has also given rise to the species of trolls. It’s important to recognize them and refrain from engaging more than twice. Don’t feed the Troll! Click here for some illustrations you can tape to your screen as a reminder.

Can you share any example when Brand24 was exceptionally helpful with your communication/marketing efforts?

When we take on new clients, we are looking for the low-hanging fruits around their specific topic, industry or region to find people to engage. Add keywords to the project that will allow us to find who is also talking in the field. It gives us a good indication of how crowded the field is, how high the signal vs. noise ratio is and how big the push needs to be for our team to rise above the noise for our clients.

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