On the Road: What's on Top of Marketers' Minds in 2022?


In this podcast, Lori talks with NaviStone's Business Development team members, Chris Slomka and Herb Yost, on the topics that are top of mind for Marketers in 2022. Listen in as they discuss what they've been learning on the road on topics ranging from zero and first party data to staffing shortages among marketers. 

Podcast transcript:

Lori: Hi, everybody. Welcome to this episode of Two Gals and Some Data. Today, I've got two guys joining me from NaviStone's business development team, Herb Yost and Chris Slomka who are here to not only talk data with me but talk about how you can use data to make more money. Thanks and welcome, Herb and Chris.

Chris Slomka: Hi, thanks for having us.

Lori: I asked you to join me today and I feel lucky that I actually got you two pinned down on the same day because you've been on the road tirelessly back in front of brands and attending industry conferences and events. That's actually the reason why I wanted to get you two today, with all of the activity over the past quarter, I thought it would be really interesting to talk about some of the themes and key takeaways from the events that you've attended. I'll start it off with the question to both of you. How was it being back in person at conferences after so long of having virtual events? Chris, why don't you start us off?

Chris Slomka: Well, first of all, it's amazing to be back in front of people after being virtual for so long. We all had to do that necessary thing of using Teams and utilizing those tools that we had to for the pandemic, there's no doubt about it. But for me, there's nothing that beats being in person with those like-minded professionals, both brand and solutions providers, who are there with the common goal of solving challenges and continuing their education on how to ultimately be better. Doing that in person? Nothing beats it.

Lori: Yeah. Herb, what about you?

Herb Yost: Yeah. Thanks, Lori. I absolutely agree with Chris and the events that I was at, there was probably a thousand people there so it was really amazing. I always knew this but I learned that 3D is better than 2D. Being in front of someone and thankfully, we did have Zoom to use, like Chris said, over the last couple years, it was great but nothing beats being in front of someone so it was wonderful.

Lori: Yeah. I think a lot of what you've both talked about was maybe how I would categorize it as that human connection. Yeah, there were great tools during COVID times that helped us get through it but it really is hard to replicate that human connection or the human experience. I don't mean to make this conversation self-serving and about NaviStone, at least not this early in the podcast, but we know that direct mail has made a strong comeback, and in large part, it's because of that connection, that physical, tangible, and personalized piece of advertising really enables brands to connect with those consumers and I think that's really all about that part of that human experience. I think there might have been a session about the human experience at CRMC as well that I'm curious about.

Herb Yost: Yes. There was a wonderful workshop on customer experience becoming the human experience. The human experience was defined as the total experience a consumer has with a brand or service in the digital and physical space. So a couple headlines, Lori, were that you need to love your customers more than ever if you're a business. About 80% of people have changed their shopping habits with a human experience since the pandemic and consumers are looking for a frictionless symmetry or synergy between online and offline and really looking for a personalization and being authentic and again, helping them and looking at the best experience. There was a really great quote that I saw. You know I love quotes and one of my mentors shared this with me, "If you're a business and you're working with your customers in the human experience, think this, how can I serve you as a human being and not just sell you something?" so really, the golden rule. It was all about that. By the way, 75% of business is still done in retail stores versus online so there's still a lot of human engagement there.

Lori: Chris, you were at CRMC as well. Any key takeaways from your time there?

Chris Slomka: The one thing I loved about CRMC is it gave clients and partners both a chance to share their successes in front of other marketers and partners. And so, while you're there at this event, there are several workshops throughout the event where both clients and marketers will share out specific examples of they had a problem and they implemented X and they got X results.

Chris Slomka: The thing that I think I like most about CRMC was the speakers. They retain these world class speakers. One example was, a young lady, her name is Jenny Lim and Jenny is an author. She's written several books and she had co-founded an organization called Delivering Happiness. She co-founded this with the late co-founder/CEO of Zappo Shoes, Anthony Hsieh. They were friends and when she wrote this book, it turned into a bestselling book which then turned into a business consultancy which then turned into a global movement.

Chris Slomka: What she does is she will go into these organizations with the focus on how to teach them to create happier workplaces that are led ultimately with happiness and humanity. When you do that, your profit gets larger because you're able to have happier customers and happier employees. And so when she spoke, she exuded this happiness and this piece. When you go to these conferences, you see these speakers on stage but seeing her live it and exude it, it was truly refreshing. I would say those are my two takeaways. Two top takeaways were speakers and the overall transparency at CRMC.

Lori: I know you also attended GRMA. I know it's been a favorite of attendees and so, I'd love for you to share a little bit about that event as well.

Chris Slomka: GRMA is one of the best conferences I think I've attended. I think my favorite part there was the speakers. They touch base on several different topics through the world. For example, this gentleman had a background that was not only as an economist but he worked in DC politics. He worked with all of the politicians on the world level, he consulted with them. So his inside view into the global economy, the global supply chain, all of those variables that we've talked about, it felt like a college class more than a presentation. It was truly, truly so thought provoking. It led to the best conversation that you can really have at these conferences that are really thoughtful, that form those relationships that create great follow ups for after the conference as well.

Lori: Yeah. Chris, I'm definitely going to get back to that because I do think that is a big benefit of attending conferences, that hallway chatter that happens after. But I want to just spend another couple of minutes on the global economist that you were talking about. When he was talking about some of those real life, day to day challenges that we're dealing with today, what specifically was he talking about? Did he share any insights around future and what we can be expecting or potential solves for some of those challenges?

Chris Slomka: This conference took place back in early May so let's go back about a month and a half. Before it made headlines, he came out and you said, "I just want to tell you right now, there's going to be a famine Q4 2022." Reasoning was, the war in Ukraine and Russia, there are specific things that Russia is doing to close certain ports in Ukraine and Ukraine happens to be one of the largest exporters of grain and Russia happens to be the producer of 80% of the world's fertilizer.

Chris Slomka: That fertilizer, in all likelihood, will not be delivered for certain crops and with Ukraine's ports being shut, they most likely will not be able to grow and export the grains that feed so many people around the world. And so, he had predicted that and weeks after, here we are, they're already starting to experience that. So Lori, at all of those challenges, he would say something like that and then he would roll into another topic. Famine was one of them and then he also started talking about the supply chain and which catapulted off that but both were equally as eye poking.

Lori: Yeah. Well, I think your point about supply chain is actually a really interesting one. I don't, at all, mean to diminish any predictions around famine. I'm just curious if that theme around supply chain challenges was one that had surfaced.

Chris Slomka: The marketers there, as well as some of the speakers, this one in particular, everybody has their own viewpoint. I think that the viewpoint overall was it just has to get better. I was very surprised that some of the marketers I spoke with though, Lori, said supply chain, absolutely an issue but more importantly or equally as important, is our staffing shortages because we can't fulfill all of our marketing strategies that we want to because we can't hire the right people. That was an eye poke for me. So we want to do this but we can't because we just don't have the people to do it.

Lori: Yeah. I think that's actually one of the things that does worry me when you just think about the cycles of supply and demand. So we're challenged right now with supply and so we're pulling back on some of the programs that would be driving demand either because we don't have the inventory or because we don't have the staff to manage those type of programs. But the supply challenges are going to correct themselves and when they do, we will not have been continuing with the efforts around creating that demand. That is definitely something that I think about, keeps me up at night sometimes, how we balance both of those challenges so that we don't find ourselves overcompensating for one by creating a challenge with the other.

Herb Yost: Lori, a couple things that I heard similar to what Chris was saying at detail in terms of the staffing. I had dinner with several folks one night and they were saying they're having a hard time hiring people just because they require them to be in the office three days a week so that was one thing. Actually, I think you were with me on this, we had another where we were talking to a gentleman about some business ideas and he was looking at a product and he couldn't get zippers for the product, if you remember that. He said that's a two to three month delay. So yeah, there the rubber hits the road, he's ready to do something with marketing but he didn't have a component to the product so yes.

Lori: Yeah. It definitely is a delicate balance between the issues of supply and demand. Herb, what else... You mentioned eTail, tell me a little bit about eTail and what other topics or themes surfaced at that event.

Herb Yost: This was in Fort Lauderdale and it was in early May and it's an invite only group of 75 senior level executives in retail brand and they collaborate together to look at their digital strategy and how they can have eCommerce growth. There was three main topics over the days and I'll mention them and I'll really talk to basically two of them. One was, what are some of the current eCommerce trends and how retail is evolving and then another one is acquiring and retaining customers in today's world. And then, the last was putting DEI sustainability and CSR at the heart of your work culture. So a couple things that rang true to me on current eCommerce trends, zero and first party data are crucial.

Lori: If I could just interrupt you for a second, I did hear a lot about zero and first party data as well. And so, I just want to paint that differentiation for maybe some who don't know. So first party data is that data that a company is collecting directly from its customers. Zero party data is that data that consumers are intentionally sharing. Both of which are very different from third party data which is collected by an external source and really, first party and zero party data is absolutely the way the industry is trending and the way that marketers need to be thinking about data collection and data usage so I heard the same thing.

Herb Yost: Exactly. Actually, Chris knows this also. The zero party data came up in that human experience workshop as well at CRMC. So yeah, very good. But despite all the changes, businesses still need to create a relationship with the customer in the market and it's all about sending the right message at the right time so important. Personalization is more important than ever. Again, with moving toward a potential cookie-less environment, one of the speakers, the topic was about referring to their customers somebody that I used to know because of the cookies going away so yeah, that's shaking up the industry. And then obviously, acquiring and retaining customers and that's always been a passion of mine. Getting a customer's wonderful then developing into a lifelong customer.

Herb Yost: But a couple things here, there was a gentleman that spoke that worked for Nordstrom and he was talking about that in today's world, digital and physical retail touchpoints are colliding so the consumer needs a seamless experience. Like we mentioned, a frictionless synergy from the human experience workshop. So he was talking in detail about a drugstore chain and he was talking about Nordstroms and the old story of somebody buys online and they pick up in store and how they changed the design and some of the things they did at Nordstroms. Lo and behold, as I'm hearing this, I'm like, "Wait a minute. I just bought something at Nordstroms." Sure enough, I ordered it online, went to the King of Prussia Mall, and there on one end of the store was a great area set up, people will come in, pick up items, the line went quickly, the shelves were back there, they could get the items very fast as well so it was a wonderful seamless experience for me. Guess what? I will absolutely order there again.

Herb Yost: He touched on that. It was something, again, the store design, I never thought that much about it in terms of the customer experience. And then, there was another headline on it's great to look at adding channels but let's look at optimizing channels themselves. This speaker said, "We should have a thought of not going from impressions but focusing on profitability and looking at ROAS and CPM per channel," so eliminate the channels that aren't productive and aren't profitable and focus on your best customers. Even if you hit them 6, 7, 8 times, that's okay. Really work on optimizing the channel. That was a couple of the headlines. And then finally, on the diversity equity, inclusion, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility, great speakers on that. The headline was progress not perfection.

Lori: Yeah. I love that. There was something that you had shared when you were talking about the Nordstrom story that just made me think about the importance of bridging the gap between online and offline. I know that we've talked about this for years. Organizations that have really operated in silos where they think about the online channel one way and the offline channel another way and the importance of really bridging that gap. I think the experience that you shared about Nordstrom is a great one where that gap is really being closed and I think that can carry through to our marketing programs as well. We really need to be conscious of those programs that can help bridge that gap because it is all about that one customer and leveraging data from one channel to create a positive experience overall so I think that was a great example.

Lori: Let me just go back real quickly. We talked about the different conferences and the speakers but I want to talk about that hallway chatter. I know you had both touched upon that. I had mentioned that I wanted to get back to it. Chris, I loved how you said that the presentations that you attended really led to that thought provoking informal conversations that were able to be had later on. I know I experienced that at some of the events that I went to as well. But question for both of you, what was some of the informal discussions, that hallway chatter that you heard after the sessions? Those tend to be the things that really are front of mind for marketers so I'm curious what those conversations were like.

Chris Slomka: At GRMA, they have group activities. One of the activities I participated in was a dolphin cruise. And so, it was a day after some of those speakers I referenced and so we all had a night to sleep on it. The next day, we were talking about it and I was in front of the VP of marketing for one of our... They provide tax services, they're a pretty large company that provides tax services to people. So Herb and I had this really informal conversation overall about staff shortages, what they're experiencing, as well as what it means for them when there is a paper shortage. Because sometimes we forget that, yes, we are marketers and there are several of us in this space that rely on paper for direct mail, for whatever. But there are also clients who rely on paper for inserts with credit card statements, credit card statements themselves. So when paper supply is low and we, marketers, have that challenge, it also affects our clients in various ways not just from a marketing standpoint.

Chris Slomka: So those were really, really, really good conversations to have because, again, the guard is put down and when I'm hearing exactly what they're going through from their perspective, next time I call that person, I will reference that not because I'm trying to sell because I truly care. I truly care what she's going through and I would never have had that experience if I wasn't there.

Lori: Yeah. Great. Herb, how about you?

Herb Yost: Yeah, a couple things. I've heard this through my career and it was emphasized at the conferences. It's all about growing comp sales and a lot of people's comp sales have been flat. I had someone in my career tell me, "Herb, if you can help a senior executive grow their comp sales, they'll let you babysit their grandkids," which is probably true. And so, again, with comp sales being flat and a lot of sales were shifting to online versus in store, they're trying to balance that out. Three or four people I were talking to said they're concerned that they have one time buyers. What can they do to drive frequency of buying? How can they stay in front of a previous buyer that's not been part of their loyalty program? They were some of the ones that-

Chris Slomka: Can I say something else, Lori?

Lori: Of course.

Chris Slomka: Thank you. What's interesting too, is as Herb was detailing, I was at GRMA and then we both went to CRMC. The interesting part is we start seeing the same people, right? So you start seeing some of the similar faces as you start doing the conference tour and what starts off at the first conference of being this hallway chatter, like you just mentioned and we elaborated on, then the next conference is, "Well, let's get a little more personal now." And so, there are many of those hallway chatters where it wasn't about business, it was about your family and your kids and where they go to college or high school or whatever that is. Truly refreshing because marketers are human beings. When we go to these conferences sometimes or not sometimes, but you see that firsthand that, "Hey, this is a real person not just a voice or a face on a screen when we're trying to do business," so that part of it, to me, was equally as important.

Lori: Chris, I had a couple of other questions that I wanted to ask but that is a perfect way to end this podcast. I think that is a great reminder for all of us so thank you for that. I truly could go on talking with you both for hours but we're at the end of our time and I really appreciate you sharing insights with the hope that some of our listeners benefited from some of the learnings you had as if they were at the events themselves.

Lori: That will do it for this episode of Two Gals and Some Data. Until next time, if you want to read more from us, check us out at navistone.com/blog and if you enjoyed today's show, head over to iTunes and leave us a five star review. Thank you for listening and thanks Herb and Chris.