Elizabeth Brockey, Chief Customer Officer at Simpli.fi, joins SalesTechStar in this Q&A to share a few of the biggest customer-facing challenges in marketing and sales today while also talking about some best practices that can help users optimize their programmatic advertising to create better user experiences.
Hi Elizabeth, welcome to SalesTechStar! We’d love to hear about your journey in tech and your biggest learnings so far?
I found Simpli.fi in its infancy – the company was only 15 months old when I was hired. At that time, programmatic advertising was so new I was learning as the technology was growing. Inventory was transitioning to top-tier and we were modernizing the business as new innovations hit the market.
Now, I am working towards my master’s degree in digital marketing, adding an educational background and theories to my 15-year professional career. In going back to school, I’ve learned an understanding of change management and the fact that as businesses grow, its people grow. We always need to consider the impacts that the team has on the business and vice versa. It is important to realize and remember that all decisions affect the business and its people, the company’s biggest asset. If you don’t have great people taking care of your clients, at all levels, and delivering as a group then you are missing out on a key component of success. A “people first” mentality is what makes Simpli.fi great and makes the company succeed.
What’s a typical day at work like for you and your team at Simpli.fi – rather what was a typical day at work like pre-Covid-19 and how is it now in the new normal?
Prior to COVID-19, our team always worked together in our office in Fort Worth, Texas. We had various face-to-face meetings per day and individual teams within the group would meet in-person as well. It was very easy to interact and gauge how a person’s day was going based on their tone of voice and body language. We could quickly bounce ideas off each other and interact in real time – we weren’t waiting for a response on Slack or scheduling time to chat.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our goal was to keep to our normal schedules and continue to uphold our strong company culture – even from afar. None of us expected to be working from home this long and had thought we would quickly get back to our daily day-to-day practices like normal. It took time to get used to meeting “face-to-face” via Zoom and interacting online through Slack. In fact, we conducted an internal survey and our team members said they felt they were not getting the same level of feedback since they weren’t sitting together, every day, and having small impromptu conversations.
Now, our one-on-one meetings and client meetings are conducted via video. We think it is very important to keep the lines of communication open, and still have the opportunities and time to talk about professional growth, challenges our clients and employees are experiencing in their roles, and celebrate successes. Technology has made it easy for us to stay in touch and even have weekly “events” like virtual happy hours and trivia.
What are some of the biggest problem areas you are seeing in customer facing teams in tech today, as a result of the pandemic?
The lack of face-to-face interactions have caused challenges for sure. From a client perspective, there is a lot of turmoil in the advertising industry because people are unsure about their job stability and professional growth. We work with our team members to identify if our clients seem overly stressed and how to offer ways to help that might be above and beyond our typical scope. We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help our clients be the best at their jobs and hopefully avoid furloughs and layoffs. While we have always had this mentality, it has definitely heightened because of the pandemic.
What are some of the most common sales and marketing or other supporting technologies you’ve used in your sales / customer-facing roles to help new initiatives and plans?
Zoom has been a major communication tool for us. Zendesk is another platform that has made our team more successful after making some augmentations to our processes.
We’d love a change of pace and like to dive into your thoughts on programmatic platforms today – how are you seeing brands change their behavior towards online digital campaigns and what are some of the top tips you’d share with it comes to better optimization?
Over the past eight months, we have seen a lot of companies invest in digital that weren’t there before. They may have leveraged print or OOH, but digital was a big move. Many have moved to digital because consumers are working from home and spending more time watching and streaming tv, or they have been laid off and are spending more time on their phones while at home. We are seeing a lot of marketing budgets go to digital, to OTT/CTV advertising in particular, because there is more inventory available with the rise of streaming offerings.
Additionally, Simpli.fi alone saw a 40% growth in the number of advertisers including OTT/CTV campaigns in their advertising strategies at the end of October, totaling over 8,000 OTT/CTV advertisers year-to-date.
When considering investing in digital, it is important to make sure that the branding is evident and there is a clear call to action for the audience. For example, a brand might run an awareness campaign, but from the sales perspective there needs to be an obvious “click here to learn more” so that audiences are led through the funnel. However, standard marketing principles still apply. Be sure that you provide a good online and offline experience. For example, the landing page you direct audiences to has the same messaging that is in the ad and the in-store messaging must match what the consumer saw online. The disconnect can be costly of a sale and even worse, long-term customer loyalty.
Can you share some of your thoughts on the future of programmatic platforms?
We will continue to see growth in OTT/CTV advertising. Looking at Simpli.fi’s platform, at the end of October, OTT/CTV ad spend grew over 218% since the start of 2020, and over 183% YoY. As more companies make the move to digital, or perhaps invest more in digital (like expanding past geofencing), we will see more attribution capabilities that make it so advertisers can clearly point to their return on ad spend.
Additionally, companies will continue to invest in omnichannel offerings as consumers expect a seamless experience across all channels, digital and in-store. We will continue to see smaller teams at brands and agencies service these capabilities as companies continue to optimize efficiencies and focus on ROI. And then of course, there will continue to be lots of changes in the SSP space because of privacy regulations coming into play over the next couple of years. If brands are not preparing for those changes now, they will find themselves way behind the competition when the regulations are implemented.
A few top tips you’d share with new sales reps and sales executives moving up the ladder in the time of a pandemic?
Make sure that you know your product or service inside and out. Spend a considerable amount of time researching the product or service so that you can quickly summarize the offering and the challenges that it can solve for the prospect. Listen to any recordings of colleagues verbally explaining how the product or service meets needs, or even better be a silent participant on a live call. It is important to speak the same language of the prospect’s industry. For example, if they are in healthcare, make sure you know and understand how regulations affect their business and how your solution can help. Take a consultative approach versus a hard sales pitch and make sure you keep the human element in every conversation.
A parting thought on your biggest goof-up and the learning that came from it!
My most memorable “oops” experience taught me that it is incredibly important to make sure that there are safeguards within a process to make sure that costly mistakes are avoided. Early in my career, I ended up activating a campaign that basically owned the internet for a couple of minutes. While the team quickly caught and rectified the issue, the damage had been done. I always keep that experience in the back of my mind and make sure that each project I work on has a documented process within our software and that the program can identify potential issues and apply a fix before it is too late.