MarTech Interview with Monica Ho, Chief Marketing Officer at SOCi

In this catch-up with MarTech Series, Monica Ho, CMO at SOCi shares a few thoughts on the importance of localized marketing and what marketers can do more of to drive better engagement with the right martech and marketing tactics:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Monica, tell us more about yourself and your journey through the years? Take us through your role as CMO at SOCi…

Throughout my professional journey I have found myself drawn to opportunities where I could help marketers keep pace with shifts in customer demand and advancements in technology. I started as a marketing analyst and later got into digital sales with an agency where I was able to work hand in hand with brands making the difficult move to digital marketing and advertising. Later I served as Global CMO at GroundTruth (formerly xAd, Inc.), where I helped grow the business from an early stage start-up to an award-winning global brand.

In 2018, I joined SOCi as our first CMO. During my tenure, the company has quadrupled and so have the demands on our marketing and sales teams. We’ve had several major shifts that ultimately boil down to better serving our customers and putting them first in our own planning and strategy. I’ve worked to maximize the collaboration and symbiotic relationship between marketing and sales. One area that we’ve found great success is in programs to better educate and inform our clients and potential customers through research, thought leadership, events, playbooks, and more. By arming our customers with the technology and knowledge they need to be successful, we are able to be a true marketing partner rather than just another vendor.

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We’d love to hear about SOCi’s latest innovations and how the platform has changed and grown over the years?

SOCi was born out of the need for sophisticated social media and review management capabilities that could be easily deployed at the national and local level, and has grown into an all-in-one digital marketing platform built specifically to address the needs of multi-location brands. Today, our platform offers marketers the ability to manage local search, reviews, social, ads, user-generated content and more – from one centralized dashboard.

In just the past year, SOCi has developed an AI-powered chatbot, SOCi SmartBot™. The first of its kind, SOCi SmartBot™ enables multi-location marketers to instantly deploy conversational chatbots across hundreds, or even thousands, of individual business pages, Facebook and/or Google My Business accounts, or enable SMS text functionality. We also recently launched our Community Calendar, which enables corporate to suggest weeks or months worth of content and ad promotions that local managers can easily opt into with just a click of a button. 

Earlier this year, SOCi acquired Brandify to become the largest localized marketing platform globally, with over 3 million locations under management. As we continue to integrate Brandify’s technology, we are looking forward to providing even stronger services in listings and local search, and stronger relationships with key tech providers and platforms. 

SOCi’s latest acquisition of Brandify is an exciting announcement, can you take us through the highlights and the impacts?

We are extremely excited to enter into a new era with the acquisition of Brandify. Brandify and SOCi both share a strong customer orientation and vision for creating technologies that empower multi-location brands through localized marketing. Brandify joins SOCi with 25 years of experience supporting brands through its suite of search solutions. Brandify’s powerful capabilities in listings management, local pages, and locator sites, along with its incredibly talented pool of local marketing and search experts, make it the perfect complement to the SOCi business. Additionally, Brandify brings even deeper relationships with key networks like Google, Facebook, Apple, Yelp, and more. 

Surprisingly, we did not see much overlap in our customer base. So, while enhancing the power and capabilities of our platform, we also increased our client list to more than 700 multi-location brands with more than three million locations under management. We were able to retain all of the Brandify team and have seen a really successful integration of our people in the short time since we announced the deal. As we move into the next year, we can expect to see a lot of innovation and investment in expanding capabilities to provide the most innovative solutions designed to better serve and address the growing needs of our clients.

What are some of the top challenges facing multi-location marketing teams today? What are some best practices you’d share here?

At this point, most marketers understand that digital marketing has shifted to a local focus. The pandemic has only amplified the need to reach real local consumers through high-value engagements. According to Forrester, 60 percent of businesses still believe that physical locations drive the majority of business – even despite the challenges of lockdowns and the shift to online purchasing. The disconnect between what is happening at the corporate level and local level can cost companies dearly. 

Companies have been putting greater emphasis and focus into local search and local social. While this is a great step, there is still a wide gap in maturity of these efforts and the digital sophistication marketing programs between market leaders and those just starting their digital journey. We’ve seen programs that are either strong in search or in social, but not always in both. Marketers must find balance between the two in order to unlock real growth potential. Research from the 2021 Localized Marketing Benchmark Report, shows that companies farther along in their maturity that are well optimized across both local search and social grew three times faster than those still struggling in these areas. 

Given that social has now become the #1 place for new product and service discovery, marketers cannot afford to be invisible in this critical channel. The same goes for search. Given that non-branded search is growing 5x faster than branded search, and the “Local 3-Pack” has a prominent spot at the top of search results, optimizing your business information for inclusion in local search results is a must. Brands must equip themselves with the required training, technology, and resources necessary to capture the potential rewards localized marketing has to offer.

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To maintain a strong digital presence for 100s and 1000s of locations/stores also requires a strong process that ensures centralized theme and communication/messaging – what top factors can help build a more ROI driven format here?

The majority of marketers struggle with challenges related to scale, balancing local and corporate needs, and reaching the right audiences. And the common theme is a lack of resources and expertise. According to a recent study from Forrester, while 77 percent of marketers find executing a localized marketing strategy across all of their locations challenging, 71 percent of those who have a solution that can aggregate and manage all localized needs across locations and sites report a positive impact on their localized marketing efforts as a result. 

The era of using multiple solutions independently or stitched together through unreliable APIs is over. Multi-location brands have quickly outgrown many technologies and are looking to centralize their tools and along with it, their data and insights. At the same time the demand for locally-relevant content and information requires marketers to have a real connection to local audiences. To drive ROI, businesses have to engage with local audiences in a more efficient and effective way. New technologies, like SOCi, have lowered barriers to scale and execute an effective localized marketing strategy.

Additionally, it is important to approach digital marketing programs through a holistic lens so that there is balance and attention spent to both search and social marketing. We know that companies that do this see a threefold increase in ROI via revenue growth.

As a marketer yourself, what are some of the martech platforms/tools you’ve always relied on to drive marketing ROI? 

For social media, we utilize SOCi to consolidate all of our social media platforms into one dashboard, organize our content calendars, schedule posts, and monitor performance. 

For email, our sales team utilizes SalesLoft, and our marketing team utilizes Pardot. 

For contacts and automation, SOCi uses SalesForce.

To power our ABM strategies, we use B2B intent data from 6Sense and Alyce as our gifting platform.

For customer success, we have our SOCi Customer Success Portal – the go-to source for customer training, support, and updates.

A few martech best practices that have helped you optimize use of your martech stack over the years?

We reorganized our teams and pulled operations out of demand generation to be a stand-alone team that services both demand generation and our brand needs. As its own unit – marketing operations also owns the ongoing management and optimization of our technology stack.  

A few thoughts on the future of martech and B2B marketing? Some top skills you feel marketing leaders need to strengthen in today’s environment?

The landscape is constantly changing, so being adaptable is key. We’ve seen a large consolidation of martech and adtech companies recently. With that, I’d expect there to be less one-off providers and more vendors that provide a wider breadth of martech capabilities. As technologies improve, so does demand. 

The first thing any marketer should tackle is having a good understanding of his or her customer’s business and their unique buying process. I think B2B marketers can learn a lot from what we’ve seen shifting over the years in consumer marketing. The customer journey is no longer linear, meaning there is no clear starting and ending point. There are multiple channels brands must now be visible in to ensure they can be found wherever the consumer may be searching. Just like B2C, B2B sales and marketing folks must leverage data, content, and high-value engagements to deliver personalized product offerings and customer journeys that match their prospects’ needs. 

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SOCi is a leading all-in-one marketing platform built specifically for multi-location marketers. SOCi enables top multi-location brands, agencies, franchises, and property management groups to strengthen and scale their digital presence across hundreds or thousands of search, social, and review pages. With a dual focus on protecting brands at the corporate level while empowering local teams, SOCi’s is the Central CommandTM for marketers. Its sophisticated marketing tools, multi-layered permission systems, and flexible workflows allow both national and local teams to succeed in localized social media, search, and reputation.

As CMO, Monica is responsible for developing and leading SOCi’s marketing and communications functions, as well as ensuring the company is uniquely positioned in the highly competitive localized marketing space. Monica’s tenure in the industry includes over 20 years of marketing, advertising, and research experience, including a solid foundation in sales, strategy, and data analytics. Monica is well regarded in the industry with seats on advisory boards of several tech startups and accolades that include a three-time ranking on the list of The Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising by Business Insider. 

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