Thinking about other people’s lives from their vantage point gives you a richer perspective on the world, theirs and yours.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Jonathan Young.
Jonathan Young is Marketing Services Director for Media Frenzy Global. A pioneer in integrated marketing with expertise in virtually every medium across a range of industries, his focus is on strategy, positioning, branding, and demand generation for B2B technology companies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m a writer at heart and by trade and believe that writers are like anthropologists, interested in people. I’ve always tried to immerse myself in every aspect of life and culture, and marketing is one of the disciplines that can touch on all of this. Marketing is about commerce, which is a big part of how people engage with one another. It reveals their value systems and reflects how they see themselves in their own lives. It’s also about the dreams people have for themselves and their world.
The college I attended was styled after Oxford. The curriculum included science, literature, the humanities, mathematics which allowed me to get a taste of the wider world before I got into the wider world. I wanted to work somewhere I could apply all of these aspects. I found it in marketing.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
I was so lucky. My first marketing job was in the mailroom of the largest ad agency west of the Mississippi. The company represented major brands, household names. I knew absolutely nothing about advertising, but I thought I could write. And, I’d worked one summer in the post office so they figured I was at least qualified to be a mail clerk.
Whenever I had the chance, I would seek out the most junior writer working on a project and ask if I could share my ideas with them. They were all so generous and kind and allowed me to try. My very first stab, I shared an idea for a commercial with the assigned writer. He read it, and told me, “You never named the product. You know we’re trying to sell stuff here, right?” It was an essential lesson.
What industry are you in? In your opinion, what makes the company you are marketing different than others in your space?
At the end of the day, my job is to convince people to acquire our clients’ products and services and perhaps pay a premium for them. The trick is winning folks over, showing them you understand their life and their business and their challenges. The client can tell you all about their product, however understanding and addressing the people in the market is where you add value.
At Media Frenzy Global, we serve a unique market: small to medium-sized businesses who are undergoing a transition of some kind. In other words, they have not fully connected with the market they’re trying to address. When I work with a client, I start with the end-user in mind. I’m always asking the question “What’s in it for them?” because that’s the question they’re asking themselves, looking at the client from the outside in. The most powerful marketing isn’t about a product, it’s about the user. We’ve done this time and time again for our clients and it has helped set us apart from our competitors.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Probably the most exciting thing I’m working on right now is marketing for our own agency. As I said, we serve a unique segment. We started life as a PR agency, and that’s still our bread-and-butter. But we also do social, including paid. That’s kind of related, but different. And we do content and email marketing, branding, positioning, and strategy. At first glance, that might look like an odd assortment. But they are all about getting our clients top-of-mind in their market and keeping them there. We’ve labeled this approach “The Funnel Above The Funnel.” It’s awareness, but it’s more closely woven into the fabric of people’s lives. It’s not as intrusive as advertising, but more effective over time.
As for how this helps people: every product and service exists because someone needs it or wants it. In the same way, our justice system tries to get at the truth through adversarial arguments, marketing is a competition between solutions to people’s needs. Every company doing marketing is serving people by helping inform buyers’ decision-making. Of course, you focus on your client’s strengths. But those strengths are what you’re bringing to the market. Ultimately, you’re respecting the buyer’s intelligence and judgment to make an informed decision.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Even though I lived most of my life in California, I’m not much of a “beach vacation” person. When I vacation, it’s about going places I’ve never been, seeing things I’ve never seen, and doing things I’ve never done. A lot of people say resting is “recharging your battery.” But I believe recharging is not laying around, but going out, finding fresh energy and taking it in. I find the most satisfaction in staying curious and taking in different points of view.
Burn-outs are cynics who stop caring. When you see the world through someone else’s eyes, you can see how important a client’s product can be to them. If you really embrace an audience’s concerns — and even a client’s, for that matter — you’ll never stop caring, never get cynical, and never burn out.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. As you know Google and other search engines constantly update their search algorithms. Today, do you believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still an important part of any long-term marketing plan?
Yes, it is. However not in the way most people think about it. Traditionally, SEO has been treated as a tool to “game” or second-guess the algorithm, going back to keyword packing and metatags, etc. New age SEO forces you to constantly articulate what your business is and what you have to offer the market in the way buyers are talking about those things. That means listening and testing. You know you’ve succeeded when your paid and earned rankings appear at the top of search results.
Can you share some basic Search Engine Optimization tips you have for less experienced marketers?
My number one rule is, “Don’t torture your website’s selling proposition purely for SEO reasons.” Some people will try to make their website super SEO-friendly for web crawlers. However, when an actual human visits your page there is no color or dimension to what’s being described so it loses resonance with your audience and how they will engage with the information.
What “3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies” have been most effective for you in your industry?
Changing The Value Equation — My first real assignment was writing television commercials for Clorox bleach, convincing people to pay a 25 cent premium for a brand name on a chemical commodity. They had very strict guidelines: real people, before-and-after, side-by-side comparisons. Clorox was marketed to “housewives” because that was the culture at the time. That was the first time I asked myself the all-important question: “What’s in it for them?” What if people showed appreciation for a thankless task? I had the family members — not the women who the brand was marketed to, but their husbands and children — notice the difference and express their appreciation. Life-changing? Maybe not, but it changed the equation. It became their highest-testing campaign ever and ran for the next 6 years.
Finding Meaning in The Differentiators — I helped launch the Nokia brand in the US. But it wasn’t the phones. When Nokia first entered the market, the phones were given away with activation. With no PR or advertising — and that name — people thought they were some no-name cheap electronics maker. We were tasked with selling their computer monitors. As you know, Nokia is a Finnish company. So the monitors had all kinds of features to address Scandinavian workplace safety regulations for electronic emissions. We positioned the monitors almost like high-end medical devices: “The finest example of European engineering to ever come without a hood ornament.” That got people’s attention. The fact was: They cost about the same as every other monitor. In just over a year, we drove a quarter billion in sales.
Connecting The Dots — I’m most proud of the work we’re just finishing up for Cirravox. They have a live voice answering service and a mobile app that lets the user route phone calls. Cirravox wanted to be able to cross-sell between the two products. The target for the service is owners of small businesses, and the target for the app is solopreneurs, consultants, basically individuals. But in both cases, the end-user feels like they have to do everything themselves. So we positioned the two — the service and the app — as tools for individual empowerment. For the service, it’s supported by having fractional employees under contract. For the app, it’s all the features. They were able to launch their cross-selling, which has helped them get acquired by a private equity company.
If you were only allowed to run paid ads on 1 platform (in your industry) over the next 12 months, what would it be and why?
Google Ads without a question. It’s the only place on Earth, (besides Bing and Yahoo! to a much lesser extent), where people tell you exactly what they’re looking for. Savvy marketers understand this and use this to inform their strategy and not just as a tactic for generating cost-effective leads.
As a professional marketer, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would encourage everyone to think like a good marketer. Thinking about other people’s lives from their vantage point gives you a richer perspective on the world, theirs and yours. And that doesn’t just apply to the market.
What quote would you say has inspired you the most in your life or career?
In life, “The bad news is that time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
In my career, “You know we’re trying to sell stuff here, right?”
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!