Welcome back to the Drag & Drop Show!
This episode, we have an insightful conversation with Joe Savitch, who is the Director of Marketing at Altos, a full-service digital agency located in New Hampshire, US. Their services include web design, development, social media marketing, search engine optimization, mobile development, and branding.
As part of an industry where change is the only constant, Joe shares his experience about what it’s like to work for an agency where the main concern is to make the clients’ businesses thrive while paying attention to every major industry shift.
Hit play or keep on scrolling to discover what it takes for a digital agency to stay on top of their game.
Now, let’s drag and drop some ideas from this episode.
- For an agency, staying agile and researching everything on a regular basis is a requirement.
- When it comes to content marketing, blog posting is a fundamental component or the foundation of the house, if by the term “house” we are referring to the business itself. Blog posting can also be an effective way to acquire new customers.
- Creating Good quality content is one of the best ways to secure your position as an expert and an authoritative figure within the market.
- Virality is not an essential ingredient for success, it’s more like flash in the pan, and it’s also harder to quantify.
- Writers are still very valued in the marketing industry because they are able to deliver quality content from a creative perspective.
- In marketing, the only thing that is constant is change, so one should stay alert to all changes in order to adapt to the clients’ needs.
- Always stop and listen to the way that people talk about your product and how they use it.
John Biggs: Today we’re talking to Joe Savitch. He’s a Director of Marketing at Altos. Welcome, Joe.
Joe Savitch: Thank you. Good to be here, John.
John Biggs: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you do over at Altos? Describe your day for us.
Joe Savitch: As the director of marketing, I work with a four-person team. We handle a list of about 35 or 40 active clients, in all facets of digital marketing. From email, blog creation, contact creation, podcast creation, to working with all our other teams, especially our design team, on a lot of digital advertising, and our development team, writing content for all of our web projects.
John Biggs: I can imagine there’s a whole group of creatives out there who are looking to jump into this very business. How did you enter into all these various facets of marketing?
Joe Savitch: Altos was founded going on 16 plus years, now, and we started as a search consultancy. Over the years, we’ve evolved and grown as the internet has evolved and grown. About five years ago, I recognized a really strong need for a very well organized marketing department because there’s just so many facets of marketing that one can look into.
Over these past five years, I’ve really grown our team from just myself and one writer to now two staff writers, because the content is such an important part of the internet, and of the different facets of the things we do. A full-time PPC specialist, and then myself who oversees the team and handles most of the email automation and technical strategy of the agency.
We try to stay nimble. And we try to stay up on everything that all of our technology partners are doing for better, for worse. And then, use those strategies to grow our clients’ businesses.
John Biggs: Say we’re talking about startups, how do you describe the return on investment for content marketing? It feels like a lot of folks are dedicated to banner ads or they were dedicated to things on Facebook, Twitter, etc. How do you sell the ROI on a blog post?
Joe Savitch: On a blog post we’re looking at certain KPIs, key performance indicators. And what we’re really trying to prove, not how many widgets did you sell by the blog post, or how many page views did it get, per se, but that the blog post is really the foundation of the house. And it provides us the ability to answer a need, to fill a gap for a potential customer, and then to allow that entry point to the site. And so when we’re constructing funnels and we sort of tie everything together, it’s not necessarily that one blog post or two blog posts made you a million dollars. I’m sure there are growth hack marketing hackers out there that could do that kind of work.
But if we’re selling widgets, especially for a lot of our B to B customers, where you have very lengthy sale cycles, we’re trying to put content out on the market that we can then draw and make foundational pieces for these services pages, for the actual widgets that these clients sell. And we can get really rich backlinks. We can get really great quality traffic. We can bring people into the site through that blog. Many people would call this term inbound marketing, but we’re just calling it good demand generation.
Then we drive them to those services pages. We drive them to the unique product offerings that the client has. So we report on a variety of metrics. And sure, we love to talk about page views and impressions and all those top-of-the-funnel vanity metrics. But really, it’s about how we support and prop up the true evergreen content with these supporting content pieces that we’re putting out into the web.
And then, we construct models that flow back and say, “Look, all of these entry points from your blog, from these case studies, from these white papers, from all these infographics, look at all the great traffic they’re bringing in from these search engines. They are allowing us to position you within the market as this expert and this authoritative figure. We hear a lot about Google about E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust). And we’re doing this for you, through these content initiatives. And look, you’re getting more leads. You’re bringing in more quality traffic. That enables you to then let your sales team go to town on these good, qualified leads, for people who have discovered, ‘Hey, I have a problem. You have the solution. We just need to work together.'”
Because most people are doing 80% of the research before they ever hit that button to call or to convert on a form online. And we want our customers to be that trusted resource, that valued solution that validates that person’s research. So by the time they pick up the phone, it’s “Yeah, I already know you do what I want. Let’s work together.”
John Biggs: Interesting. That’s one of the things that I’ve always wondered about, too. Are you trying for virality, are you trying to get people’s attention or is it just a base layer, signal the noise?
Joe Savitch: Yeah, I mean, if my epitaph reads, “That I never made anything go viral,” I’ll be happy.
John Biggs: Sounds nice.
Joe Savitch: There’s no reason to be “viral.” But there is a really good reason to build since Google is one of our big partners here because we put a lot of content out there. We want the big G to find it and index it.
Going for quality, authoritative content that builds trust with the user, to me, is far more valuable than any cat video that brings that flash in the pan, because you can’t quantify that.
You just can’t. Scott Stratten tried to. That was his big piece when he first started his agency. But even he came around to realize that it’s more about authenticity.
It’s more about building that amazing trust with your users than it ever is about being the next Grumpy Cat when it comes to long-term business success.
John Biggs: Yep.
Joe Savitch: And I love Grumpy Cat, no disrespect.
John Biggs: All right, very cool. How do you guys use online tools? What are some of the online tools that you can’t live without?
Joe Savitch: We can’t live without Google Analytics. I personally can’t live without Google Tag Manager because that really does compliment the data collection process from analytics and it then gives a much deeper insight into what people are actually doing. I can’t live without Hotjar, we have good friends over there. And they built a really quality tool that allows us to go beyond the flat metrics that Analytics provides and gives us a real picture of what they do.
Obviously, we can’t live without Bannersnack, in this digital age, when putting ads out on so many different sizes and having so many different formats, especially mobile, (Bannersnack) is so important. The way that they’ve allowed us to add animation, so easily, with HTML5, and even AMP ads for Google, it’s just been a real time-saving tool that allows our designers to be just as creative as they want to be, but also allows marketing to go in and pivot a CTA, a headline, or something without needing to go back to the design team and pick up more resources to just iterate another set of ads based on an A/B test. So we’re big fans.
We’re agency partners with Unbounce, that’s another tool I really can’t live without, for all of our marketing landing pages. Our martech stack is very deep, but those are probably the ones we use on a daily basis.
John Biggs: Do marketers now have to use those tools or is there anything left over where you’re just doing some sort of organic efforts? Or are stats and analysis important?
Joe Savitch: We like to use the catchphrase, “We are a data-driven group.” That data drives all our key decisions in the design process, in the marketing process, in development, so we can’t live without the stats. We’re also platform and agnostic, we’re solutions-based, so we’re not an “X-company shop.”
We build custom integrations and custom tools that meet the customers’ needs. Because on a lot of platforms you’ll spend thousands of dollars a month and you’ll use 3% of the functionality. I’d rather give you five good tools that I can integrate, either with SAPI or through some other custom API connection, and give you a custom martech stack that meets your needs, without heavily taxing your bank account.
But, you know, in terms of an analytics thing, we just can’t live without Google Analytics and Hotjar. They’ve become the extensions of our personalities around here in some cases.
John Biggs: So there’s no way to build out a marketing team without those tools. It’s interesting that it’s all very codified and very quantitative now, right?
Joe Savitch: It is and one could argue that it’s taken some of the human element out of it. It’s taken a little bit of the fun out of it. But, I would disagree with that, all day long.
Writers are probably the most important artists of the digital age, and delivering quality content still comes from that unique, creative perspective.
It’s why we have two dedicated writers on staff that handle a lot of content generation. Words don’t leave the building without being proofread by someone who went to school for English or journalism, because language is so important.
And I personally put a really high value on it because that’s where the creativity comes from. You can use analytics to determine what sort of ideas and what direction your customer base is going. But it’s ultimately the words that you put on paper that deliver that unique and compelling argument and story, that I don’t think any computer will ever really take away from us.
John Biggs: Very interesting. How has this industry changed since you started in it?
Joe Savitch: How has it changed since this morning? Or yesterday?
John Biggs: How has it changed since this weekend?
Joe Savitch: The change is inevitable, it’s dramatic. Men typically don’t like change. We like things to stay the same, I have the same breakfast every morning, I have the same haircut for the last 25-years. But in marketing, you have to be willing to pivot on a daily or weekly basis. I spend a good portion of every day just checking the relevant search blogs, Twitter because you never know what Google’s gonna do and what they’re gonna put a value on today, tomorrow, yesterday. It’s all crazy.
So being adept at change and following the trends is important… And I say, “Google,” but it’s all search engines, and everyone just mimics what they do.
Staying current is probably the most important thing. And I tell my team that a minimum of two to three hours per week needs to be spent on research, reading trends.
Because the worst thing that can happen, in my opinion, is that the client can come to you and say, “So I read that Google did, X… You know, does this affect my business?” I’m the one that’s going to the client first, saying, “Hey, Google’s just made a change or they’re about to make the change. We gotta do something, quick.”
We want to be that trusted advisor that is coaching our clients to be ahead of the curve, not getting caught off guard by something that could have just been discovered if you read the “Papers,” but it’s all digital now, it’s not actually paper.
John Biggs: What are some minor things that a business could do to fix it’s marketing efforts? What are some of the real show stoppers that you’ve seen recently?
Joe Savitch: Listen to your customers. Talk to them, get feedback. One of the great functionalities in Hotjar is requesting user feedback, getting people to talk about your business. Even us, as an agency, we look at our own website. Is it a good website? Is it a good presence? Is it a good blog? Is this content good? We have our opinions, we’re in our businesses every day.
Sometimes, you just need to stop and listen to what other people are saying and how they’re using your website, your product, your service, whatever it is.
And you need to listen to what they’re saying, because behind every click, behind every impression, behind every data point that we look at, there are people. And these people may have the same motivations as you, and they may be different, but ultimately, they’re the ones using your product. They’re the ones using your service. And if you’re not listening to what your customer wants, you’re not going to be around for very long. We’ve seen a lot of businesses that try to fight that because they know what their people need. Ultimately, people will just go with the path of least resistance and find a solution that works best for them, and if it’s not you, it’s your competitor.
John Biggs: Very cool, Joe. Thank you for joining us. This has been an interesting insight.
Joe Savitch: Thank you, you’re very welcome!
John Biggs: All right. Thanks for listening to the Bannersnack podcast. We will see you next time with another fascinating deep dive into online marketing.
This concludes our episode for today, we hope that it inspires you to pay more attention to content marketing and to the ones who deliver it, as well as to the constant change that this industry is based on, and the way people are using your product or services.
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