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The Evolution of Digital Marketing | James Hipkin


Ann Kraus: Hello and welcome to TV, the web series and podcast for agencies, brands, marketers, and media buyers. I'm Ann Kraus. Our guest today is James Hipkin, the CEO of Inn8ly and Red8 Interactive that both support midsize agencies and web design firms with teams of developers and project managers. Since 2010, James has been working with business owners in every aspect of web design and content. His teams work with business owners who are serious about their web presence and want to work with a team that is accessible, experienced, and delivers what they promise. James, welcome to TV. James Hipkin: Ann, it's an absolute pleasure to be here. I'm so looking forward to this conversation. Ann Kraus: Great, great. Let's just get started then. So, how have you seen digital marketing change since you started your career in 2010? James Hipkin: Well, and I was involved digital marketing quite a bit before 2010, so basically from the very beginning. And the biggest shift I've seen over the years, when digital marketing was just getting going, quite understandably, it was an afterthought. It was kind of an experiment, and this is kind of cool and we can throw a little bit of money at this, but we're not going to take it too seriously. Compared to today, when digital marketing channels take an equal role and an equal part in the overall marketing strategy, they're much more sophisticated, they're much better understood, they're much more effective in terms of how they're being used within the entirety of the marketing mix. They're no longer an afterthought. Ann Kraus: Do you think it's more of a digital first now and everything else is coming secondary? James Hipkin: I hope not. I really, honestly believe it should be a customer first, and the media channels are there to serve the customer and to serve the business. Whatever media channel makes the most sense to reach the customer you're trying to reach is the one you should be using. So, to say something is digital first versus television versus PR or any of the other channels, I think that's a mistake. That's a significant flaw that I continue to see to this day is the absence of a customer first strategy in marketing programs. Ann Kraus: How do you see AI impacting the world of digital marketing because it seems like everybody is talking about it right now? James Hipkin: Yes, it is generating an awful lot of noise. There's no question about that. But in the early days of digital marketing, digital marketing if you listened to the noise and you looked about what people were talking about in the trades, you'd think that digital budgets were 60%, 70%, 80% of overall budgets when they were maybe 5%. What you're hearing about, and the notoriety doesn't necessarily reflect the actual usage. Now, I think AI is going to be a powerful tool. It's going to be very useful. We're using it, but it's just a tool and it still has to be run by people. And the best application of AI is when it's being used as I like to describe it as a smart, inexpensive intern. Ann Kraus: So, give it the jobs to do, but don't necessarily say you're on your own. James Hipkin: That's right. That would be a big mistake. Ann Kraus: I like that. I like the idea of calling it an intern. In your career, or at least since you started your companies in 2010, what is the biggest mistake you have seen marketers make? James Hipkin: I alluded to this a second ago. When I audit websites, the most common error I see is an absence of strategy. They think of the website and other digital channels as independent things, when the truth is from a customer perspective, they're just one of the many ways that they interact with the brand. So, the customer has a holistic view of the brand and the brand's communication activities, whereas the marketers, even to this day, have an isolationist view. I need a website, I call it checkboxism. I need a website, hire this firm, create a website, got a website, check the box. Whereas a more holistic customer-centered view would be how does the website support the journey that the buyers are on? How does it attract the right customers for the right reasons, and how does it repel the wrong customers? That's an application strategy to the website versus it's just a thing. I built, it's there, check the box. Ann Kraus: Is there a story you can tell in that vein of somebody who you worked with who made that mistake? James Hipkin: Oh, I see it all the time. Almost every website that I audit, I sometimes refer to it as inside out. The website tends to talk about the business and shout at customers about how awesome the business is when the reality is in the customer's world, the business is at best a spec on their horizon, and what they're looking for is a solution to a problem. I'll give you a tangible example of this. I'll ask a business owner, what's the primary objective of your website? And they will proudly say conversion. They're almost always wrong. When you think of it from the point of view of the customer and the journey the customer is on, when the customer arrives at your website, they've probably heard about you through some other means, through advertising, through social media. A friend has described you, and they have a problem that they're trying to solve. So when they arrive at the website, what they're looking for is confirmation that you understand their problem and that you have a solution that matches their needs. So, the primary objective of a website's not conversion, in most cases, it's confirmation. Ann Kraus: Confirmation. I like that you put a word to it because we're getting our information from so many different sources, so that's a great word to use. Do you have a podcast or a book or something that has been instrumental in your career? James Hipkin: Well, I'll tell you, it's an old book. I believe it's still in print. The book is called The Loyalty Effect. It's by a Boston Consulting consultant named Reichheld. It's a bit of a dense read, but it is one of the most thorough and complete descriptions of the power of customer loyalty to drive business success. Ann Kraus: The Loyalty Effect. Okay. So, we will all add that one to our library. So, if any of our viewers wanted to learn a little bit more about you or get a hold of you, what would you suggest? James Hipkin: Well, our website for smaller businesses is, that's I-N-N like the inn, we take care of you, the number eight, L-Y. And if you want to talk to me, just go to That's Ann Kraus: Perfect. Thank you so much, James, and thanks for being a guest today on TV. James Hipkin: It's been my pleasure Ann, looking forward to the next conversation. Ann Kraus: And thank you all for watching. TV is sponsored by, helping you you to maximize relevance and multiply results with our industry-leading media buying, and workflow solutions. For more information, visit Thanks for joining us today. I'm Ann Kraus, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

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