MarTech Interview with Monica Ho, CMO at SOCi

MarTech Interview with Monica Ho, CMO, SOCi

“I am a firm believer that Marketing and Sales should hold hands as one without the other is not very good at all.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start at SOCi?

I started my career at a time when a major transformation was happening. Marketers at that time were moving from traditional media to digital, and I was lucky enough to get a Marketing Analyst job at an agency that had an established traditional advertising base and a burgeoning opportunity in digital via an acquisition of an online job board called Although I cut my teeth the first year in traditional media, I quickly transitioned into a digital selling role which allowed me to work hand in hand with brands making the difficult (and rather painful) move to Digital Marketing and Advertising.

After a few years in digital sales, I was addicted to the fast-paced and dynamic nature of AdTech/MarTech and intrigued by the fact that so many marketers – despite the clear consumer shift – were still lagging behind. What I discovered in this role was marketer’s hesitancy to make the shift was not due to lack of resources or willingness, but one of knowledge. At that time the market lacked credible data and insight on the specific areas of Marketing that were most impacted by the shift from traditional to digital combined with actionable data that would help marketers know where to start their Digital Marketing journey in the vast abyss of the “World Wide Web.”

Based on this insight, I launched “The Local Search Study” in partnership with comScore in early 2000. This research study ran annually for over six years and was widely referenced by agencies and marketers alike and became a guidebook on where marketers needed to focus next as consumer usage in digital hit mass adoptions and new technologies and sites entered the market.

After spending more than 10 years agency side (during that time – not only launching the above mentioned study but a digital arm of the agency called 15miles that focused on local search, website creation and SEO), I then moved on to a start-up that was leveraging mobile-location data in an effort to make mobile devices and digital marketing even smarter. I was again in a place where marketers were struggling to understand and keep pace with the consumer shift from desktop to mobile. Once again, I saw the opportunity to help evangelize the opportunity in mobile marketing by educating marketers on the shift that was occurring and how to effectively transition. This time the study was called “Mobile Path to Purchase” and studied how the shift was happening by specific industry vs. the shift from desktop to mobile in general. This study ran annually from 2012-2016.

In 2018, I made the decision to join SOCi – the leading social media and reputation management platform built for multi-location marketers as I saw a very similar shift and opportunity happening in local – social. Once again, brands were lagging consumer usage and not fully taking advantage of social media’s ability to not only reach their customers but build powerful connections with these audiences through local conversations and community.

It took nearly a year but I am proud to say we finally launched our first research study in partnership with the Local Search Association, the 2019 Localized Social Marketing Benchmark Report, which fully defines the localized social marketing opportunity – complete with tangible data that shows how this area of marketing can drive real-world results (in the form of increased revenue) to businesses with actionable data or benchmarks to guide practicing marketers on how to take advantage of this largely untapped opportunity in digital marketing. Like prior studies, our goal is to conduct this research with the LSA annually to track the ongoing increase in consumer usage of these powerful platforms and the engagement that occurs between businesses and consumers at the national and local levels.

As a woman CMO in a tech company, what’s the biggest challenge you face from within the organization and outside? What message you have for other CMOs in the community?

My biggest challenge is not at all related to gender but the dynamic and ever-changing nature of technology in general. The truth is I don’t always have the right experience or the right answers to address the dynamic nature of our clients’ businesses. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned through my years in Marketing and Sales is the importance of having a network.

In an ever-changing marketplace, a good network can provide you with answers and insights needed to move your business forward, without wasting time trying to figure things out on your own and getting frustrated. The reality is that others have been there before (male and female); why not learn from their trials and tribulations. There is no shame in not knowing and asking for help. At the end of the day, we are all students and teachers, and it is important to remember that.

How much has SOCi’s Marketing strategy evolved in the last 2-3 years? What platforms are you currently focusing on to drive Customer Loyalty Sales and Revenue?

Although I have only been with SOCi just shy of 2 years, we have made major shifts in our Marketing strategy. Ultimately this shift boils down to the customer being first – above anything else. As a result, we moved from a transactional sales model to more of a consultancy model – where our goal is to really uncover and understand the pain points in our client’s business and then help educate (and sometimes build via our platform) ways these issues can be resolved. At the tip of the spear of this strategy is our research and insights which include weekly articles on our blog, Playbooks, Quarterly State of the Market reports (which highlight key shifts and trends QoQ) and now our annual LSM Benchmark research.

Combined with this we have also adopted Account-Based Marketing – which allows us to be very thoughtful about the brands that we engage with (quality vs. quantity) to ensure that every touchpoint we make is one of value for the end customer.

Finally, we have made major investments in our Customer Success (CS) team. To start, we brought on a Chief Customer Success (CS), David Marler who has made it a company priority to handle our customers with golden gloves, and hopefully, turn our users into brand evangelists. So far, I think it is working as we are proud to be rated 4+ stars on all of the top B2B Review sites including Trust Pilot, G2, and Capterra. But our work has only just begun here.

Tell us about your Marketing and Sales family? What does the configuration look like and how it will change at SOCi in the next 2-3 years around AI, Data Science, and remote workforce capabilities?

I am the first CMO for SOCi, so when I came on board over a year ago, I made the move to Austin, TX, where a good part of our Sales team is located. I am a firm believer that Marketing and Sales should hold hands as one without the other is not very good at all. I can say this honestly as I have been in both roles. In order for Marketing to be effective, we need to truly understand the voice of the customer – and our front line to this insight is Sales. On the Sales side – it is really hard trying to scale Sales when you are the only one knocking on doors, and no one has ever heard of your company. We each have our part to play, and when Sales and Marketing both understand their role and build a symbiotic relationship – that is a beautiful thing that great companies are built on.

Today my Marketing team sits in both Austin, TX as well as in our HQ in San Diego, CA. I am a firm believer in my team having a balance between their work and their life and to each person that balance is unique and personal. As a result, I manage my team to clear performance metrics – not time in office. If one of my team members needs to work from home – fine. If they need to take a week off – take it. All I ask is that their responsibilities and deadlines are covered while they are out.

In this day in age of digital communication – no one should be tethered to an office.

Which group of customers are the fastest to the adoption of SOCi’s various Products and Solutions? How do you measure the performance of your Products?

At SOCi, we are built to scale localized Social Marketing for multi-location businesses, and we serve two key verticals with product offerings – brands and franchises, and property management companies. By limiting our focus to key verticals, we are better able to focus our resources on solving the ongoing challenges of these businesses versus spreading our resources too thin. In terms of performance, we base this purely on ongoing consumer usage and adoption of our different offerings and on an ongoing CSAT score as maintained and tracked by our Customer Success team after every customer touchpoint.

What is the relation between Social Media, Influencing and Brand Loyalty? How does SOCi drive Brand Loyalty using Digital Marketing tools?

The majority of consumers conduct online research prior to making a purchase. In this online research, the primary deciding factor on whether or not a consumer selects your business, or another option is your online brand reputation. The two areas that influence consumer decisions the most are online ratings and reviews and comments and conversations happening within social media. If this was not important enough, we also know that a brand’s local ratings and reviews – both their average star rating and their volume of reviews are now top-ranking factors in local SEO and can make the determination of your brand even being visible in consumer search results. The importance of this area of Marketing cannot be understated. In fact, in our LSM Benchmark research, we found that brands/businesses that are managing these areas well – are growing three times faster in terms of revenue – than brands that are not taking online reputation and social media marketing seriously.

SOCi was built to empower multi-location brands to take advantage of these areas of Marketing not only at the national level – but at the local level – where over 85% of consumer engagement is happening. Through SOCi, brands can aggregate all of their conversations and ratings and reviews happening across various sites and markets into one dashboard – allowing for easy visibility and management of these important conversations.

Tell us about your technology integrations with other Marketing, Sales and HR Technology platforms such as Contacts, Social Media, Automation, Contracts, Email and Customer Service.

  • 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.
  • For customer service, earlier this year, we launched our SOCi Customer Success Portal – the go-to source for customer training, support, and updates.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

Salesforce, Pardot, Bizible, SalesLoft, Drift

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Video Conferencing, Webinars and Social Media Intelligence for 2019-2020? How do all these converge with SOCi Marketing?

Digital Marketing has gone local. As a result, marketers need to make sure they are communicating at the local level. Consumers can see through Marketing fluff and national brand messages and content that lack authenticity and relevance – two things that are key to engaging and activating your local audiences. For multi-location marketers to compete they will need to invest in technologies that allow them to localize their messaging at scale while enabling their local locations, agents, retailers, etc. to take part in the conversation.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

We are looking into some new AI data models that allow us to understand who our customers are and when they are in-market prior to actually visiting our website or one of our landing pages. The goal of this type of data/tech is to get more insight from the “dark funnel” and take advantage of key opportunities to reach and engage our core audience before anyone else does.

In addition – we are looking into messaging bots as we see them as a way to meet our customer expectation on response rates to messages/questions being sent through social media. However, we need a better way to make these more conversational and not so cookie cutter in their responses. This is an area we are testing and watching closely.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Marketing Leader?

You engage early and continually test and learn.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Dan Silver – VP of Marketing at GroundTruth

David Spitz – CMO of mParticle

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

Monica Ho, CMO of SOCi, Inc., has had nearly 20 years of Digital Marketing, Advertising and Research experience, including a solid foundation in Sales, Strategy and Data Analytics. Prior to SOCi, Monica served as Global CMO at GroundTruth (formerly xAd, Inc), where she helped grow the business from an early stage start-up to an award-winning global brand.

In addition to her role at SOCi, Monica serves on the board of the Advanced Digital Marketing and Media Community of Austin (AUSAM), as well as serves on the advisory boards of several Digital Marketing and Technology start-ups within NY, TX and CA.

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SOCi is the leading social media and reputation management platform built to address the complex needs of highly visible Multi-Location businesses. An award-winning leader in the industry, SOCi has pioneered more than a dozen unique Marketing tools to help multi-location brands oversee, maintain, and protect their brand at the national level, while simultaneously scaling presence across hundreds, sometimes thousands, of local pages.

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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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