Selling Out With Erik Gensler

ErikGenslerErik Gensler is the president of Capacity Interactive, a digital marketing consulting firm for the arts with clients including The Goodman Theater, The Kennedy Center and New York City Ballet. He also founded Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts, an annual conference in NYC focused on digital marketing for cultural organizations. Since “mobile first” is now more true than ever, we’ve asked Gensler to share some tips about his field of expertise. Here, he dispels one big myth about digital marketing, shares the biggest challenge facing digital marketers right now and explains why email best practices in 2015 will be a hot topic at next year’s conference.

Selling Out: What are three things every digital marketer should know?

Erik Gensler: 1. We like to say, “If it’s digital, measure something.” Take the time to define how you’re going to measure the success of each of your digital campaigns, and the indicators you will use to track that success. Digital has grown not only because it’s so effective at reaching people, but because you can measure almost everything.

2. You must become a media company. No longer can you rely on interrupting people with ads while they are consuming media like newspaper, radio and print. Instead, all organizations must adopt the business model of a media company and create compelling content and use it to develop leads. Leads mean social follows, email addresses and visitors to your website who you can remarket to. If you invest in creating compelling video, powerful images and using storytelling on social, email and your website, prospects will want to subscribe to get more content. Seventy percent of your efforts should go into creating sticky content whose sole purpose is to grow your leads. Then, when you are ready to share a sales message, you have a large list of engaged prospects.

3. Consumers are spending more time on digital devices but ad spending is out of sync with these trends. According to eMarketer, consumers spend 46% of time on digital, but only 28% of ad budget is allocated towards digital. Most of the imbalance is around print, where consumers spend 3.5% of their time but it eats 18% of ad spend. This is even more common with arts organizations. We surveyed more than 65 arts organizations and learned that 66% of organizations spend under 20% of their budgets on digital. Forty-two percent spend under 15%! Some large companies, like Pepsi, are already allocating 75% of their budgets towards digital. In a study conducted by Accenture, 37% of Fortune 500 CMOs said they will be allocating 75% of their budgets to digital in the next five years. Smart marketers invest where the eyes and ears are, and that’s on digital media.

SO: Are there any myths you like to dispel about digital marketing?

EG: Google Analytics (GA) is NOT a good way to measure your paid digital media. Google Analytics is a fantastic tool to measure how users behave on your website. But many organizations share that they’re using GA as the primary tool to track their digital advertising. The problem here is that GA can only provide metrics if a user visits your website. Most of the action of a digital advertising campaign happens off of your site. It happens on Facebook, Google or on publisher sites. In these places, people see and interact with your ads and content but Google Analytics has no way to measure that. So you really need to set up conversion tracking for each separate channel in your campaign or use an ad serving tool like MediaMind or Double Click. Here you can measure view-through conversions. This measures users who see (but don’t click) your content and then go on to purchase in the future. Banners, for example are a view-through vehicle. Most people do not click banners, but many see them while browsing the web and make a purchase at a later date.

SO: What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing digital marketers right now?

EG: Lack of good configuration is the biggest. We see so many organizations that have very poor configurations of their Google Analytics accounts. They’re often collecting inaccurate data. Many are not collecting enough data. And many are not properly measuring conversions. In order to maximize the value of digital platforms, you need to set up a tracking solution that measures ALL user behaviors and ties purchasing data with marketing initiatives. By improving both the quality and quantity of data being collected, you can make sure you’re positioned to answer key questions about site and media performance.

SO: Any trends you see in the future that you can share?

EG: We have been saying “mobile first” for years, but now it’s more true than ever. Mobile has taken the lead as the primary platform for social and sharing, and usage continues to rise. Sixty percent of social time is spent on mobile. On average, U.S. adults spend three hours per day on smartphones. Eighteen to 34-year-olds spend close to five hours. This is only going to grow. Social content cannot spread if it isn’t viewable and shareable on mobile. And it’s no longer acceptable to not have a mobile-friendly website for ecommerce.

SO: We had a blast at Digital Marketing Boot Camp. What are some of the topics and things you are thinking about for next year’s event?

DIgitalMarketingBootcampEG: We try to cover new topics each year because we have many people who come back year after year. It’s funny that each year we don’t do a session on email we get feedback that it was missing and people want it back. So, it will be next year. Email is very powerful for arts organizations because it’s one of the primary ways to communicate with their nearest and dearest. In general, I think marketers have ruined email, and it’s harder to break through due to the clutter and things like the Gmail promotions folder. These challenges require marketers to be smarter about email and to supplement email with social content targeted to email lists. In October 2014, Facebook and Salesforce Marketing Cloud published the results of a study examining the effectiveness of email outreach alone versus email outreach combined with exposure to a Facebook ad. This study involved an undisclosed leading U.S. retailer that sent an offer to 565,000 recipients. Email subscribers who both opened their email AND were exposed to the Facebook ad were 22% more likely to make a purchase. So, we will be talking about this and other email best practices in 2015.

SO: Anything else you want to share with our readers?

EG: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I’ve encountered so many organizations that spread themselves too thin because they’re trying to be everywhere. You don’t need to be on Pinterest and Instagram if your Facebook presence is not rocking it. Over 70% of U.S. adults have Facebook accounts. Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest each have closer to 20% of U.S. internet users. Invest your efforts where you’ll have the most impact. And use data to inform these investments.

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