Driving Innovation and Establishing an Internal Influencer Program
Stephanie Cox: Welcome to Real Marketers, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat and there's absolutely no bullsh*t allowed here. I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola, have exceptionally high standards, and surround myself with people who get sh*t done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truth about marketing and empower you to become a real marketer. Innovation, exceptional brand experiences. We all talk about them as marketers, but how often do we really spend time figuring out how we innovate, especially if we're in companies that maybe are more conservative or traditional. How often do you spend time thinking about creating an exceptional brand experience and not just thinking about it, but mapping out a plan to do it. That's exactly what today's guest has done. She has really taken a manufacturing company that's fairly traditional or has been in the past and really layered that with an innovative marketing approach that involves social selling with their sales team, creating an influencer program internally and so much more. In this episode, we chat with Laura Rose, a global marketing director at Stanley Security. She has more than 10 years of marketing experience and previously worked at Koorsen Fire and Security, Target 20 CRM, The Bottom Line and Digital Knowledge. We're talking about how to create an exceptional brand experience, the benefits of an internal influencer program, getting the sales team on board with social, selling, the importance of celebrating everyone, even the small ones and so much more. Before we dive into all things marketing, let's start with my typical first question, which is what is something that few people know about you?
Laura Rose: Hmm. It's a funny question. I knew it was coming and it's one that I always struggle with, but I was thinking about it and I asked my husband last night. He said, "You love to be spontaneous, but I think most people would be shocked with that response." I think in my professional life, I'm pretty buttoned up and very organized person, but I just love to be spontaneous. I don't get to be spontaneous very often, but it's my dream or my husband to wake me up one morning and say," Pack your bags. You have 20 minutes. We're going somewhere and it's a surprise."
Stephanie Cox: I would say that's so funny that you say that. A lot of people would tell you I'm not spontaneous either because I am a planner and I'm typically pretty buttoned up on a lot of things professionally, but I am also, I love being spontaneous and my husband and I have done exactly what you just said, which was on a Wednesday, we decided we wanted to go on a vacation and then literally less than 48 hours later, we flew out to Hawaii for four days.
Laura Rose: Oh my God, I'm so jealous.
Stephanie Cox: It was great. It was my dream. Normally, I probably would have planned that if we were... It was the first time we ever went to Hawaii even, and we just said, okay, we could go one of these two places with airline points and hotel points." Do you want to go to somewhere in the Caribbean or Hawaii?"" We're like, well, let's go to Hawaii for four days. Why not?" We just did.
Laura Rose: That is so amazing. I love everything about that.
We're not here to talk about spontaneity or trips or anything like that, but talk about marketing and what you're doing at Stanley Security. I would love to know a little bit about... What I think of Stanley, my experience has been, it's more of a traditional business. You're really helping move it towards more of a technology-focused business centered around the customer. I would love to know, in your role, how are you helping move the company forward and what are you struggling with to make that happen?
Laura Rose: Yeah. I always say that this is my favorite time to be a marketer. The reason behind that is because the tools that we have available to us now. It used to be marketing was really considered the trade shows or especially in the B2B space, the trade shows, the sales enablement, the sales, flyers, and literature, but it's so much more than that. Now, especially as we're looking to become more technology forward and moving into more of SaaS model, it is so important that the business has really exceptional customer experiences. To me, that's the role that marketers play now. We're not just here for new product launches or to throw some sales collateral together or to do a trade show. Instead we're here about building experiences that drive strangers to become customers and brand advocates. I really think as more and more companies, because so many of the companies are doing this now. Everyone's trying to go through digital transformation. I think those companies that are embracing marketing for what it can be and what it should be, and really looking at the experiences that they're building for their customers. Those are going to be the companies that are going to succeed.
Stephanie Cox: When you think about creating this customer experience that turns strangers into brand advocates, what does that look like for you? Or what are the things, the emotions that you're trying to create out of that?
Laura Rose: Yeah. That's it good question. For us, I mean, even just thinking about how do we generate a lead? It used to be, you go to trade shows, you put some sales material together, you're out in the field with the sales team while we still do some of that. Although COVID put a big branch in that strategy, it's really more about how are our customers behaving online. How can we make sure that our business is capturing our customers where they are when they are with a message that resonates to them and then bringing them into a website experience that serves their needs and helps them get the information that they need better. Then once they kind of get over that and they're a marketing qualified lead, now, how can we keep them engaged? How can we stay top of mind for them and create a really enjoyable experience? An example would be like, if you think about actually one of our colleagues in the UK had his car serviced. I think it was a BMW, but he captured this experience. He's like, "Oh my gosh, this was the best experience I've had. I know it's a B2C experience, but I think our customers across the board, it doesn't matter if they're now working in a B2B experience, their expectations are going to be the best experience that they had in any area." The experience he had was as soon as the technician was on his way, he got the text, he knew what the technician was going to look like. The technician arrived on site, took pictures of what happened and what he fixed. Some that back through a text. It was just this really great experience where the customer always knew what was happening, what had happened, what was the next step and had an active line or open line of communication.
Stephanie Cox: That example you just gave right there, I think is, once you see that as a consumer, and that's an exceptional brand experience, you now have that same expectation for all the other brands that you really see and use on a daily basis. If that is kind of your ideal goal, how do you think about getting your brand to that level and where does digital transformation fit in, because like you said, a lot of companies are trying to do it and it's really hard?
Laura Rose: Yeah. It is so hard. It's hard because we have different datasets and as a marketer, we may not have access to everything, but I think what's been really just awesome to see is the power of marketing automation. We can start to solve for some of the pain points that our customers have. We're looking at, we work across our different departments. We bring key influencers across our business together to map out these customer journeys. We identify where are the pain points that we can use marketing automation to really improve? That's where it gets so exciting. It's just a really cool time to see where marketing can come in and actually help to solve some business problems and create a better experience for the customer.
Stephanie Cox: I know we talked about really everything that's happened with COVID, the share and the impact it's had on marketers. You mentioned that, but when you think about your digital transformation happening within Stanley, was that starting before COVID happened? did COVID accelerate that? What impact have you seen? Then, a lot of the channels that you mentioned that a lot of marketers used to do like trade shows as an example, or traveling with the sales team, with those being unavailable today, has that helped or hurt your case for wanting to really shift more digitally?
Laura Rose: Yeah. Yes and yes, to your first two questions. We did start on this transformation before COVID happened, but COVID certainly accelerated the path. As a marketing team, I've been with Stanley for about a year and a half, and I'd say last year, we really looked at our strategy and started to say like, "Why are we doing it this way?" That's when we were spending a ton of money in trade shows and we were starting to focus on our website, but it's pretty dated. We're currently about to launch a new updated site here in the next couple of months. Last year we started looking at how can we start to be more customer centric in our marketing efforts and less about a new product launch or a trade show that's coming up and really focus on our customers. For us, that came in the form of really looking at our content strategy and focusing on becoming thought leaders in this space using really timely and relevant content. I think one of the best things that we did last year, and I'm just so thankful, I had no idea how important this was going to be until COVID hit. We developed an influencer program and I think this is one of the things that's really hard for marketers too, because you come in and if you want to create really timely, good, relevant content, all of a sudden you have to be an expert in all things of your business and that's hard. That takes time, especially with a business like Stanley, where we have, literally, we could integrate hundreds of different solutions and products and we can't become experts on all of those things. As marketers, it's not going to happen and we don't have the time. What we did is we looked at well, let's leverage the brain power of these experts within our business. We developed this influencer program where we have, I think we have 23 individuals in North America now, and they span all different functions. We have some from sales, some from operations, you name it. We have influencers from all areas of business, but we get with them on a quarterly basis. We talk through what are you hearing with your customers? What's going on in the industry? We help to use that, to inform our content roadmap. Then they also actually help us develop the content. It was a really a great program that we established in 2019 and it was helpful. We established a blog as well. We saw SEO really start to improve that, that content strategy and influencer program then powered our PR efforts. What was interesting is what happened when COVID hit. Starting in January, we had it a totally different marketing strategy for 2020. We were really excited. We had done all of this research, looking at all of the different branches we have across North America. We have quite a few. We had a relatively small budget for the size of business we were. We had a really scrappy plan of looking at each one of our markets, understanding the current search volume for key solutions. Also, pairing that with what is the competition in that market? What's our cost per lead? What would our cost per lead there be? Then we prioritize the markets with that information and paired it with what's our sales readiness in each market to turn those leads into real opportunities and with our operational readiness to actually deliver exceptional customer experience, because at the end of the day, we had a limited number of dollars and we wanted to make sure that every dollar we spent had a good chance of becoming actual revenue for the business.
Stephanie Cox: I'll stop you right there. That is so important that I feel like so many people in marketing don't get, is that you can generate leads all day if you wanted to. If you don't have someone that can follow up with them and provide an exceptional experience, like it doesn't really matter.
Laura Rose: Absolutely. I spent my entire career in B2B service industries. It's always been a challenge for me to secure the marketing dollars to spend in a digital format, because the owners and leadership were just so used to thinking about marketing and trade shows. This has been a strategy of truly looking at it at a micro level of where can we truly drive revenue and it's in a service industry. It's so important that you're working in lock step with not just your sales, but your operations team to make sure and understand what's their current backlog? If I generate a hundred new leads for this branch this month, what's the likelihood that they can even deliver on that? It's a really important concept. One that's, I think even more important or more challenging in a service industry, but it was definitely... We got to a really good point at the beginning of the year, we were so excited. We went through that whole process, had identified or key geographies of focus. We knew what solutions we were most likely to win in that market as well. If you think about, in a certain market, you might have a competitor do really well with video, but they don't do access control. We knew we were going to lead with access control in this market, this message. We would win when COVID hit, and we had this really robust, very strategic geography approach, our leadership team started meeting on a daily basis in the mornings to talk about what's going on with COVID. We started to see city after city go into lockdown and quickly, my entire marketing strategy was just going out the window, like, "Well, this is not going to work. If every day a new city is going on lockdown, it just didn't feel right." It also didn't feel right to be advertising our solutions in that current environment either, even though we are, we are an essential business, we were still doing business. It just didn't feel right to be trying to capitalize on the current environment back when COVID hit.
Stephanie Cox: I see a lot of marketers felt that way. It's just odd. The part that was so hard, I think for me too, was this idea of like, no one's been there before. Who do you go to? Or what book do you read to help you figure this out?
Laura Rose: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. When that started happening, that is when we realized the power of the influencer program. As soon as we started to see these different markets close, I actually think we had one of our campaigns live for 45 minutes. Then we decided to just shut off the campaign. It's that we just scrapped that plan. We got all of our influencers together in an emergency meeting and we just sat down and as a team, not just marketers, but we had marketers, product sales, sales, operations, and operations all together, thinking through how can we best serve our customers during this time. We actually built a customer COVID journey. Thinking through what are they going through in this moment? What's running through their mind? What were the actions that they are going to need to take and how can we better support them with timely relevant content? We created an entirely new strategy almost overnight, but with the help of our business and all of these experts within our business. Then those individuals helped us to start writing some of this content. An example would be, how do you use your existing security systems to help offset COVID restrictions or whatever? We started developing really good content that was timely and relevant. We didn't try to sell anything. Our only goal was to help our customers through their time of need. When we did that, we saw an increase of organic traffic by 53%. It was just incredible. Yeah. It was a really good reminder for me of like, "Holy cow. When we just put our customers literally at the center of our strategy and we're not trying to sell them anything, holy cow, we can make an impact." It was a really cool experience. Then shortly after that, we started to think through, we went through the same exercise, but for our sales team, because I think marketers have, we have our external audience and then you have your internal audience and a business. We thought through," Okay, what is our sales team going through? How can we, as marketers, better support them and how can they support us? We developed a social toolkit and really thought, if we don't have any paid behind our campaigns right now, or behind our content, how do we make sure that it gets the most exposure possible? We decided we were really going to be heavy social media, but relying on our sales organization. We have roughly 300 sales consultants across North America that we engage. When we started to focus on our customer and then our sales team empowerment, we saw an increase of 63% in leads. It was a really, really cool experience. One that I think I'm sure I'll look back on and use as a guide for many years to come.
Stephanie Cox: First thing, when you talk about influencers, I think sometimes marketers get these ideas of like, okay, TikTok or Twitter that have hundreds of thousands of followers. When you think about influencers for your brand, how did you define that? How did you figure out what an influencer should look like?
Laura Rose: That's a really good question. I'm glad that you said that. Our influencer program, those were individuals within our business who had influence on our business. They're subject matter experts. They are leaders in the business. They're visionaries to understand where do they think that the industry is going? They're not influencers with our... They're not external influencers that you would see like, as marketers, we think of the Instagram influencers or whomever. These were individuals within our business who were subject matter experts. We created the program in a way we really wanted, I mean, we're asking a lot of them. We meet with them on a quarterly basis and we ask them to develop content and everyone, especially now everyone is already way over capacity. For us to be asking as a marketing team, "Hey, can you write a blog? Can you write a case study or something?" We had to give them something else in return. That's where we developed this influencer program because we wanted them to be an influencer within our organization. We wanted to help them build their personal brand as well. If you go to our website, you can see each blog shows which influencer helped to create or curate that content. We also actually found it was a great way to get our internal teams to share our content out with their networks. If Stanley Security publishes something, you're going to a lot less engagement than if a specific person within the organization wrote something, their name is on it. Now, that person wants to share it with their networks. Their colleagues want to share it with their networks. That person's family wants to share it with their networks, because it has the person's face on it and it's personal. A really good distinction. You're right. What we call an influencer is very different than what a traditional marketer would call an influencer.
Stephanie Cox: It's probably also more effective, because I think sometimes, when you think about influencers, like you mentioned Instagram, social media is where we go, but when you're more of a business like yours, the influencers are really your subject matter experts within your own company. They're an untapped resource. Especially when you're talking about sharing on social, because I want to get to how you got your sales team on board with social selling. We can talk about that in a second, but was there a lot of convincing that you need to do internally to start this influencer program, to get buy- in from both the people you wanted to participate and also just overall within leadership, because these are people who are likely, as you mentioned, at capacity, very busy, but also they're the best people to do it. How did you get buy- in from all those groups?
Laura Rose: Yeah, great question. We actually have a really good relationship and have some extraordinary talent and in our sales leadership organization as well. Our sales leaders are also a part of the influencer program. Now, I will say COVID really accelerated the social selling aspect. We actually tried a social selling pilot program in January, and it was a little lackluster. It didn't have nearly the impact that we wanted it to. Man, when you have 300 sales consultants who are used to being out in the field and knocking on doors, and now they're stuck at home, you have a much, much more open. That audience was really looking for something and some help. We were able to satisfy that with our social selling content and that COVID customer journey content.
Stephanie Cox: When hopefully we're able to be around other people again, and whatever this new world looks like, and you can go back to having trade shows, you can go back to visiting customers and traveling with the sales team. What do you think stays with everyone? Does your sales team, you think, continue with social selling? Is this changing their behavior longterm or are they seeing this as kind of like an interim solution for the they're facing?
Laura Rose: Yeah. I think about that a lot. The social selling engagement that we had back in May and June is... We peaked then. We had by far the most engagement from our sales organization, and that's pittered off a little bit in the past couple of months. I certainly think as people are able to go out and start seeing their customers, some of our organization and we'll go back to kind of their old ways of selling, but I think that's where the customer journey piece comes in. We were able to help our sales org in their time of need, just the same way that we were able to help our customers in their time of need with really timely, relevant content. Then making that content available for our teams to share with their networks when they were sitting at home behind a computer. As we plan for 2021 and what the future looks like when we all, if life is back to normal, I think that the business is still in a transformation. Stanley Security has been in a transformation for about two years and we're really looking at the power of data and we have all of these different security systems across 700,000 customers globally. The data that we have available to us is exceptional. What we can do with that data to become more predictive for our customers is really exciting. We'll continue to see this digital transformation really drive us forward, not just in marketing. It'll look different than what it did in May and June. It won't be all about social selling. It'll be about creating that really exceptional customer journey so we can start to, so we can start to create experiences that frankly are our consumers are used to having in their daily lives.
Stephanie Cox: You've talked a lot about big transformational transformational changes within the organization. How did you help make that shift from a culture perspective, because when I thought of Stanley before, I've really thought of it more as a traditional manufacturing company in terms of product marketing, et cetera, that tends to be more slow moving and conservative. You're really, like you said, in the very beginning. Shifting to be more technology focused, fast paced, less reactive, more proactive, really thinking about the customer experience. That has to be a big culture change for everyone that's been there a long time. How do you help change culture?
Laura Rose: Yeah. I can't take credit for the culture at Stanley. It was honestly one of the things that truly drove me to join the team. I had the same concern when I started interviewing of, "Gosh, is this going to be a really tired old company that moves super slow," and it's not. Stanley's been in this transformation for about a couple years now. One thing that just excites me every day is we have a culture around innovation. You never hear someone say, "Well, we've always done it this way." It was already a part of the culture to challenge the status quo, which was really enticing to me as a marketer coming into a security company and the security industry as a whole. Up until recently, it seemed pretty tired and not exciting to me a year and a half ago when I was interviewing. It was the culture of, "Holy cow. They're serious about innovation and challenging the status quo anyone with a good idea of how we could do something different or better, that idea is heard." That is something that I really strive to create within my team as well. A couple of ways that I just try to take that culture and make sure that I'm instilling it within my teams is certainly really advocate for celebrating the wins. Even the really small lens. It's so important that you get to celebrate each milestone that you have and all of the little wins in between. Then certainly challenging the status quo. The way we do things today is so vastly different than how we approach marketing even just a year ago. Part of that is because of COVID, but most of it is because we just continue to ask, "Why are we doing that? Could we do it better?" Having the courage to try new things is really important. I also always talk about let's fail fast and fail often. We can't be afraid to try new things.
Stephanie Cox: I don't know about you, but I absolutely love what Laura did with her internal influencer program. I think a lot of times when marketers think about influencers, we assume they have to be these big names on Instagram, TIKTOK, Twitter, you name it, but they don't. Laura proves that, especially when you think about the true experts for your industry, work at your company. This concept really provides low- hanging fruit. I know that's a cliche word that some of us hate to hear, but it's true. It's a low- hanging fruit option, for you as a marketer, to create an internal influencer program. It can really help your brand in 2021. You've been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. Don't forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness, shouldn't be kept a secret.