Reputation.com Influencers 2 - Q&A with Michael Norris: The Philosophy of Marketing WellMichael Norris is the Chief Marketing Officer of Chicago-based youtech, where he works to market a company devoted to helping other companies market theirs. You can follow Michael on LinkedIn or check out youtech here.

As the Chief Marketing Officer of youtech, how would you describe what it’s like to market a marketing company?

With any company today, the brand is so important, and it is a major emphasis for youtech, as well. We work strategically on finding the best channels to get ourselves out there and communicate what we know about marketing to those who need help. A big part of our brand is being people you’d like to work with. We have a fun, energetic office culture; we are motivated but we’re also looking to bring out humor in appropriate situations. When we meet clients in the office, we try to put some of that flavor into everything we do.

Your LinkedIn page says your degree is in Philosophy. How does that degree help to inform your work?

You always have to be looking at everything from different perspectives — the consumers’ perspective, the client’s perspective and the big-picture perspective.

How much of youtech’s marketing business revolves around online reputation and why?

We’re a full-service marketing agency, but we started out building websites and evolved into also doing SEO, social media and other aspects of a complete marketing campaign. As we started adding services, we dealt more with reputation because SEO and social media both deal with reviews and cultivating a generally positive online presence.

We found that responding to negative reviews and doing what is possible to turn them around was really important to successful marketing overall. Bad reviews that are left to stand without a response don’t just impact your reputation; they also hurt organic search rankings and other marketing efforts. It trickles into everything: hiring, referrals and morale, or even retention of current employees.

What are the main keys to a positive online reputation?

It all starts with your product or service. You want to have a quality product or service, and you want to deliver on your promise at the end of the day.

It’s true that there are always going to be customer experience issues such as a misunderstanding about what your product or service will do, an employee that doesn’t deliver in the way that they should have or that makes a mistake with a customer.

Those problems need to be addressed in the proper way, with good customer service and communication. Putting the right people in place to deal with negative (or positive) feedback and do what they can to make the situation right is important to maintaining a positive reputation — online and otherwise.

You seem to have a strong focus on content marketing. How does this focus help to improve customer experience?

Anyone can throw up a budget and run ads, but what really sets your brand apart is the ability to create content. It showcases who your brand is. It could be video, blog posts or a podcast, but it’s an avenue to show people who you are, answer their questions, and guide them. It’s all about educating your customers so that when they are ready to make a decision, they already know you and they come to you first.

The concept of inbound marketing as popularized by Hubspot is almost old-hat now, but if you give your prospective customers some of your best content for free, it meets them where they are in the purchasing cycle and builds name recognition for a future time when they are ready to purchase. It also builds reputation generally, even for those who never purchase but may tell others about your brand.

How do you get feedback and input from your customers (and their customers)? Do customer surveys play a role?

We do surveys. So often, brands talk but don’t listen. Even when they’re putting content out there and monitoring how many likes it gets, how many backlinks, etc., that’s really more looking at numbers than actually listening to what people are saying about the product or service. Surveys provide an opportunity to get genuine feedback that goes beyond numbers. That’s very valuable. It’s how we get better.

What is one thing every company can do to market more effectively?

Create realistic, smart, time-bound goals for their business. That’s the place to start in a marketing campaign, no matter if your marketing budget is a thousand dollars or $100,000. Success needs to be defined.

Then you look at how you are going to achieve that goal. There are different channels like marketing, customer retention, adjusting your costs, or adding on to your sales team.

Has your business seen any impacts from the current coronavirus outbreak, and how can marketers respond effectively to the current threat and the shutdowns it has caused?

Essentially, we’re seeing that advertising is cheaper right now. Businesses are seeing lower CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) as competitors pull back budgets and consumers spend more time online. That combination means there are more impressions overall, with fewer people bidding on them. This is normally great news, but in some industries, even this hasn’t been enough to stave off consumers’ unwillingness to spend. Overall, it’s a mixed bag. Some industries are shut down completely. Some are taking things online and having some success. Some are rolling stronger than ever.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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