Marketing Misperceptions, Where Marketing Is Headed Next, and the Power of Segmentation

Real Moments with Marketers

July 29, 2016

Real Moments with Marketers

Editor's Note: This post is part of our Customer Blog Series — Real Moments with Marketers—where we interview leading marketers about how they got their start in this field, their biggest successes and challenges at work and in life, and what gets them up in the morning.

Recently, we sat down with Sam Sharpe, Marketing Operations Manager at HelloGbye, where they use LinkedIn as a platform to reach business travelers. He is passionate about marketing’s potential for making complex concepts understandable, changing people’s minds so we can change the world. Today, we’ll discuss the transformation of marketing, our increasing awareness of bad advertising, and how he uses LinkedIn to segment and target a niche audience.

Why don’t we start off by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your company.

I’m Sam Sharpe, Marketing Operations Manager of HelloGbye, which is a digital travel assistant designed to help frequent travelers — and particularly buisnes travelers — create complex itineraries easily by just explaining what they need in their own words.

In one word, how would you describe yourself as a marketer?

Highly-targeted. (Hyphenated words count, right?)

Why did you get into marketing?

What an existential question!

I got into marketing because I like that’s it all about communicating to people how something can make their life easier or better or less stressful. I like the challenge of translating a new technology or advancement, so that anyone can understand, “Hey, what value does this offer me?” Marketing brings all these amazing discoveries to light and makes them both understandable and relatable to consumers.

When did your marketing light bulb first switch on for you?

At university, I was doing a program in media studies, which is about understanding the effect of different forms of media on communications and culture. And although I enjoyed thinking about those things on a theoretical basis, I found myself even more curious to work on applying the things we were discussing.

Specifically, I wanted to work in tech, with companies that were doing things that weren’t easily understandable to a layperson — you know, someone like my parents — and help them with that translation. Like with HelloGbye, for instance, and how we needed to communicate a story about “natural language.” It feels huge to able to take something abstract like that and help people understand how it can change how they relate to machines, how they relate to each other, and how their whole lives can be affected.

What book is on your nightstand right now?

Most recently I’ve been reading No Logo by Naomi Klein.

What excites you about your job?

I love that I never know what’s going to happen the next day.

What's the biggest misperception about marketing?

I think the biggest misconception about marketing is that it's only about selling.

I know a lot of younger marketers who really hate being marketed to, having grown up with a lot of really bad advertising. As a result, I think there’s now a ton of awareness of bad advertising, and I think people have been doing a lot of good work to correct for that, making advertising more contextually aware. You see that especially in in terms of in-bound marketing.

I think that’s probably the biggest move the industry has made as far as getting away from just shouting your message from the rooftops: Actually getting people to come to you and identify their interest in you by offering them up content they can actually use.

Where do you think traditional advertising is heading?

On the whole? I think the traditional side of advertising is going to shrink.

Television advertising is not going away — a TV ad is still hugely valuable. The Super Bowl is the example everyone holds up, but even with small events, TV ads still have a certain power and a sort of “stamp of authority” that the product is real and is not going anywhere.

That said, in the next few years, we’re going to see an unbundling of TV services, where people will be able to buy channels a la carte or bypass the networks altogether and just get content – you know, the Netflix model of things. As a result, television advertising is going to have some sort of massive change.

I’m not sure if it’s going to be in terms of more branded content – like short-form videos – or whether the traditional 30-second spot will survive on Apple TV and the like, but there will definitely still be a place for what we call traditional advertising.

How are you reaching your audience?

HelloGbye is a travel app, and travel of course is a very crowded space and a tricky one to gain awareness in. Fortunately, one of our major points of differentiation is that we’re targeting business travelers in particular.

LinkedIn allows us to target this business-focused audience in a way other networks couldn’t – suddenly we have a network of 300 million professionals we can reach out to. We ended up using LinkedIn Sponsored InMail to communicate directly, one-on-one, with this audience in a very personal way – it felt much more real than a display ad or other typical online advertising messages.

On top of that, InMail has incredible segmentation that’s so much more powerful than anything else out there. You can reach people by role, company type, location, seniority. It really lets us make sure we’re talking to the right people, in a space where they’re already thinking about work and work relationships and new vendors.

We actually got a 40% conversion rate with InMail, which blew everything else out of the water – it wasn’t even comparable to digital. As far as we’re concerned, if you are going to target business professionals, LinkedIn is a great approach to reaching them.

What's been your biggest marketing win?

For me, it was definitely the speed and enthusiasm people pre-registered for HelloGBye. We knew it was sort of a weird ask of them, because we weren’t offering a promotion or a discount – we weren’t even offering a product yet! Instead, we were just saying, “OK, here’s this thing we’re working on, and the kind of things it’ll allow you to do. Are you interested?”

Honestly, when we began our initial customer acquisition campaign, I didn’t think we were going to get anywhere close to the number of users we set as our goal, and then we far exceeded it.

When you’re working on something like HelloGBye, you’re looking at something that’s going to be a very large and time-consuming and costly software application. But then, all these things we had spent all this time thinking about and talking over and planning, long before we were communicating with the public – the pain points, the need for better business travel tools – those were the same things that our audience started identifying back to us! After all of those years of effort from all the people on our team, seeing that response from people, and the fact that they were willing to wait for our product, it was hugely gratifying.

It turns out we’ve actually been doing something right this whole time – we identified the problem correctly, and came up with a solution that people wanted. That’s a great feeling.

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