MarTech Interview with Rick Kelly, CPO at Fuel Cycle

Rick Kelly, CPO at Fuel Cycle shares a few digital ad optimization tips in this chat with MarTech Series:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Rick, tell us about your time in the B2B Tech marketplace and more about your role at Fuel Cycle?

My time in the B2B tech industry has been unconventional and it was very much an accident how I ended up in this space. I received my master’s degree in political science, but after I graduated, the recession hit, and I couldn’t find any jobs in my field. That’s when a professor connected me with my first market research technology company. Even after landing that role, I went on to pursue other aspirations like teaching statistics for a year and getting my MBA. During that time, I realized I missed the private sector and eventually transitioned back into tech by joining a medical startup in India. That was short-lived because I needed to move my family back to the U.S. due to my son’s health. Upon returning, I reached out to a friend who worked at Fuel Cycle, who helped me secure my first role there. Now, I’ve been at Fuel Cycle for over seven and a half years.

Despite my background in political science, I constantly found myself returning to B2B tech because I had this relentless desire to be a part of a bigger growth story. At Fuel Cycle, part of my role is using tech to learn how the world works, how to influence it and how to improve it — because we know the impact tech has on changing the world for the better.

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In today’s crowded marketplace, how in your view can brands build better end to end customer experiences through digital channels?

Because online customer experiences are in high demand, brands have to find ways to stand out from their competitors who are trying to do the same thing. To do this, brands need to prioritize a great user experience by eliminating as much friction as possible from digital channels. This means having expedited purchasing processes, one-click sign-ups and pre-filled forms. Qualitative research methods, like online focus groups, are also important for gathering customer sentiment and firsthand knowledge on what they value in an experience, helping to build a better one. 

Brands should also integrate trends that can impact digital experiences, like predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). Predictive analytics, which gathers insight from customers via market research, can be used by brands to improve their digital experiences according to what customers want and value. AI is growing in popularity due to the move towards automation. Elevated digital experiences require timely insights and streamlined processes, which AI provides. 

For marketers-advertisers looking to optimize their reach and conversions, how can brand surveys be a useful part of most campaigns at some stage of the customer cadence? Can you talk about some exceptional brand experiences built by leaders using automated surveys?

Brand surveys are important for gauging sentiments during customer interactions, like after a purchase, a customer service encounter or when a product was used. Hearing from customers is how brands can make the necessary adjustments to curate products or experiences tailored to their needs and tastes.  

Trusted Media Brands, Inc., a media and publishing company we work with, wanted to capture consumer insight to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive digital landscape. Automated surveys helped them build an online community where customers could easily and quickly provide feedback, which, in turn, informed content’s direction. Trusted Media Brands, Inc. could leverage the community to hear what customers wanted from the Reader’s Digest (which it publishes) series of interviews with presidential candidates — more personal, less political. This allowed Trusted Media Brands, Inc. to pivot and provide its customers with the exact experience they wanted.              

How will the importance of real-time surveys grow in the market and what can brands do in 2022 and beyond to improve how they plan surveys and collect customer insights through it?

There’s growing interest in real-time surveys because trends and customer insights quickly change in today’s fast-paced world, so market research data needs to move quickly with it. That way, brands can provide timely products that align with customer needs and current market trends.

In 2022, brands need to plan and curate surveys that are simple, customized by a singular goal and optimized for mobile. Keeping surveys simple and straightforward helps participation rates, customizing by one goal at a time helps get a clear customer opinion and mobile optimization gives more customers access. Utilizing these three methods ensures real-time surveys will get responses.     

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What are some predictions that come to mind for B2B marketing and martech in 2022 and beyond?

I anticipate we’ll see a convergence between market research and user research, which typically exists as two separate entities. With user research growing in importance due to the emergence of digital channels as the primary storefronts, it will need support from market research tactics to facilitate more maturity into the space. User research and market research use a common set of tools, frameworks and methodology, giving them similarities and allowing both to share solutions with little friction.     

A few adtech tools that you feel should be a part of every digital advertiser’s radar?

Tracking brand health should be integrated into a digital advertisers’ strategy to assess how a brand is performing and where improvements need to happen. To facilitate this, brand health tracking methods, like social listening and net promoter scores, should be in every digital advertiser’s arsenal. Social listening measures how a brand is perceived through social media mentions, while net promoter scores gauge how likely a customer would recommend a product or service to their family or friends. 

Digital advertisers also need tools that support the creation of memorable campaigns, helping differentiate them from competitors. Some tools they should consider are concept testing, which measures the potential viability of products and concepts before investing in development efforts and going to market; ad/message testing, which ensures that the ads being invested in will resonate with customers; and media and content evaluation, which gathers customer feedback on whether content is hitting the mark or needs improvement.  

Some last thoughts, takeaways, digital marketing and martech tips and best practices before we wrap up!

Keeping customers at the forefront of digital marketing is how any brand will succeed. This means embracing change even amidst political, social and technological upheavals. Use these changes to your advantage by prioritizing customers as a source of truth. Additionally, staying focused on understanding and meeting customer needs is the only long-term, sustainable strategy for success. 

Thanks to technology, the world is rapidly changing, and the demand for brands to deliver exceptional customer experiences continues to be more essential than ever. As long as digital marketing continues to meet consumer expectations, brands will position themselves for growth in the years to come.

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Fuel Cycle - Insight PlatformsFuel Cycle’s award-winning Market Research Cloud is a comprehensive intelligence gathering ecosystem that enables decision makers to maintain constant connections with their customers, prospects, and users to uncover real-world actionable intelligence.

Rick Kelly is the CPO at Fuel Cycle

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