Interview with Collin Holmes, Founder and CEO, Chatmeter

Collin Holmes
Collin Holmes

Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to start a local SEO analytics platform?

I currently serve as the founder and CEO of Chatmeter, the first local reputation platform that aims to help retail brands and agencies improve their online reputation and increase foot traffic and revenue to each of their storefront locations. Prior to Chatmeter, I served as VP of Product Management and Marketing at V-Enable (now GroundTruth), and worked in leadership roles at several other startup companies and held other notable positions in product and marketing roles at Akamai Technologies and AT&T Wireless.

I’ve been in Mobile Local Search for about 15 years now, and recognized a big opportunity to start a company when smartphones were first emerging. At that time, mobile local search had less than a 10 percent adoption with consumers, but I knew that would change and companies needed a solution to better tackle this new marketing channel. In addition, I forecasted that reviews were going to play a big part in driving the need for a marketing tool. Until that point, all monitoring tools were national and I wanted to build the first platform to tag content and trends at the store level.

Like most entrepreneurs, I faced many challenges when starting Chatmeter. I have memories of working 90 hours a week for four years straight, often dead broke, rejected by investors and burning through funding a few times trying to find the right product-market fit. We started off as an SMB platform initially, but after pivoting to mid-market and enterprise in 2013 and rebuilding our platform in 2014 for that target market, the company found that invaluable product to market fit. Chatmeter has skyrocketed ever since then.

How do you see the technology evolving around omnichannel analytics experience and customer data management in the coming years?

It’s likely going to get tougher before easier. The simple definition of omnichannel can mean so many different things.

Buy online/deliver or pick up in-store?  Buy in-store and ship it to me, pick up at a different store? And it’s not just about customer management fulfillment – how do you keep your marketing message and customer experience consistent across all the marketing channels out there? And how do you deliver a great experience with your regulars if you are tracking every touchpoint in a database, which could be in itself, buried with noise? There are still many problems and challenges to solve here.

How should B2B marketers leverage local listings management and location data intelligence for better audience reach and targeting?

Think about it, no matter which industry, the path a customer takes from online to offline is relatively the same: they recognize a need, enter a quick search on sites like Google, Yelp, or Facebook, then compare the ratings, reviews, and photos for the top results. After about a minute or two they have made their decision and are off to a business.

Google recognizes this and has essentially built its local search algorithm around it. Their goal is to connect consumers with the best local businesses, so they use a ton of data signals to do that, listings being the most important. Google and others believe that if you are managing your listings, you are trustworthy and you are also providing consumers with detailed information about what experience they should expect to receive if they go to your business location.

That means, at the very least, having accurate store listing information, raving reviews, frequent review responses and some great photos posted by previous customers. These are essential to getting on page 1 of local search results in Google and Google Maps. Companies that utilize every aspect of a local SEO strategy to its fullest potential are the ones that will see the most foot traffic and sales, and win the most customers.

What are the pain points for marketers in leveraging website analytics for a refined content management?

For local search, consumers are not even going to your website anymore. They are making quick decisions with search or their preferred application such as Tripadvisor, Foursquare or Yelp.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can give up on website optimization and content.  This is still required to help your business listings show up in search results.  You need to have a great store locator that has dynamic content (photos, reviews, service descriptions, hours of operation) and it must have the proper schema/markups that tell Google, Bing what that content is. In addition, all that data must match what is on your Google listing for that store/location.  A significant portion of Google’s local search engine algorithm are all the signals that impact traditional search results.  (Traditional SEO).

How do you see customer experience management platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML technologies?

With tech and AI advancements happening at an exponential pace, the sky is the limit when it comes to the impact customer experience management platforms can have on today’s marketers and brands.

One improvement that we are already seeing is AI’s influence on operations. With customer demands at an all-time high, businesses – especially those with multiple locations, need to be aware of every single detail of what’s going on in their stores. Someone with a few hundred stores is getting thousands of reviews each month.  Nobody has the time to read them all,  AI can help these executives know of every praise or complaint received from a given customer in any store location, without leaving their office chair or even picking up a phone. This is just one of many examples, and I’m very excited by the opportunities that we will see come with AI’s advancements over the next few years.

What startups in the martech ecosystem are you watching/keen on right now?

When running a startup, it’s hard to keep an eye on others, especially those that are not your competition.  Not necessarily a startup, but Foursquare is up to some interesting things with their location data. They are opening up access to all that consumer behavior and persona identification from where their users are going. This allows you to see trend data in the offline world, which is typically only available to mobile phone carriers or the retailers themselves.   I’d love to see that becoming available from a much bigger player like Google or Facebook.  That would allow us to further achieve our mission in completing the last mile attribution problem that local search faces. Consumers search on their phone and then go into stores and make offline transactions.  We want to solve that from search to purchase.

I’m also always blown away by Salesforce and their continued domination of winning in the CRM space and keeping an edge on many, many competitors that have tried to take them down

What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

We offer a wide variety of solutions that help multi-location brands pinpoint areas of successes and improvements, and provide a better understanding of the audiences they are and should be targeting. Some of our capabilities include competitor monitoring, local listings management, local SEO rank tracking, media tracking, review management, social media management, workflow management, geo-location targeting and tracking – all in one dashboard and largely powered by AI and search algorithms.

Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?)

We’re not an agency, so we don’t really do campaigns for our clients.  However, one of our most successful internal digital marketing campaigns has to be our blog optimization. After numerous hours of sales calls, having the same conversations and answering the same questions from potential customers, we realized that there was a huge educational gap in the market. This gap provided Chatmeter the opportunity to lead the charge and create an educational hub where everyone’s questions were answered and found all in one, comprehensive place.

After months of research and analysis using tools such as BuzzSumo and Feedly, we made sure the content and our messaging for the blog answered the challenges and questions industry leaders were having in the space. Once we made the commitment to serve as the industry’s most educational resource in January 2017, we immediately began to see success.

Our subscriber list has grown by 10,233 percent. Our average open rate is 35 percent, while the industry standard for B2B marketing emails is 15-17 percent, and our click through rate is 4.7 percent, nearly four times the rate of the industry standard’s 0.7-1 percent.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

The explosion in AI and voice search will require more careful strategies from business leaders, as these advancements will turn digital marketing as we know it upside down. People speak and ask questions in natural language, not keyword-based searches, which means your content will either have to include FAQs or be peppered with questions and answers. Additionally, consumers are tired of pre-fab marketing messages and are turning to each other as sources of what to do and buy. This has tremendous value from a marketer’s perspective but will rely on new tech like AI, to provide detailed and actionable insights on massive amounts of consumer behavior data.

One word that best describes how you work.

Efficient.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Lately, Google Inbox.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Snooze/reminder settings in email.  Google inbox has these built in.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

My email.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Time is the killer of all deals.

Thank you Collin! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Resourceful, goal-oriented product manager with proven performance in product development from concept to launch; including market analysis, requirements gathering, marketing/promotions, and product introduction. A creative individual with technical training and solid communication skills who has contributed significantly to several fast-paced and growing organizations.

chatmeter
Chatmeter is a local SEO platform that helps enterprise retail brands and agencies managing multiple locations increase their revenue. Since being the first Local Reputation platform in 2009, we now analyze and improve over 1,500,000 storefronts for their reviews, rankings, listings and social media presence. We help retailers make a distinct impact in their revenue by identifying several areas in their online presence that drives customers to choose their stores over competitors. We take this a step further by offering the only integrated local visibility rank tracker. This makes it easy for you to measure ROI using the most complete local presence management platform in the world. The benefit for our clients is complete online presence management simplified into a single dashboard. We also power a white-label reputation management dashboard for many agencies across the U.S.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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