With COVID-19 upending our work and home lives, how does user experience need to change to reflect the "new normal?"
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, I dig into this question with guest Bob Berry, a virtual operations and user experience expert who is a principal at AnswerLab and founder of ItsTheUsers.
Bob has helped some of the world's largest companies, including Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook to create new, optimal online experiences in the age of coronavirus and in this interview, he explains why companies must relearn what their customers and prospects ant and expect as their lives are transformed by the pandemic.
Bob says that to not only survive, but compete and win in the future, businesses need to create optimal online experiences now. Check out the podcast to get his advance on how to go about doing that.
Highlights from my conversation with Bob include:
The sudden shift to working from home during the coronavirus has put digital, virtual and online experiences front and center in a way that they have not been before.
This makes it imperative that companies develop a deep understanding of what their customers' lives look like now in this new normal so that they can craft experiences that match that.
Bob believes that virtually everything that happens in business is a set of individual choices or decisions by real people and the sum total of those choices is what drives the global economy. This is why user experience design is so critical.
Because of changes related to the pandemic, we're going to have to determine, as marketers, whether the assumptions we've made about how people buy are still valid. And if they're not, we're going to have to learn what the new patterns are.
One area that Bob believes will change is how people think about data and privacy. He predicts we'll have a quicker movement to more stringent privacy rules, prompted in part by the need to do more contact tracing related to coronavirus.
Changing user experience require that you look holistically at a business. Bob gave the example of his work with Deluxe Corporation, where he undertook an omni-channel business assessment that looked at the entire lifecycle of a customer's experience with the company. The result of that assessment and the changes the company made drove an additional $3 million to the company's bottom line.
Bob says the best way to get started is by doing an inventory of every touchpoint that a customer has with your business. From there, you can use that data to develop a new narrative around what the buying journey looks like today.
Understanding customer buying journeys is not an event, according to Bob, but rather a process that must be undertaken on an ongoing basis.
One way to accomplish this is through survey tools and diaries that require your customers to document their interactions with your business. Bob has used a tool called dscout to do this in the past.
For now, the two things that businesses can focus on are how they will stay in touch with and maintain relationships with their customers in the future, and what their products/services need to look like going forward.
Listen to the podcast to learn how the keys to business success have shifted, and what companies need to know — and do — right now to create user experiences that will position them for success in the future.
I'm your host Kathleen Booth. And this week my guest is Bob Barry who is the founder and principal of it's the users. Welcome to the podcast, Bob.
Bob Berry (Guest): Thanks Kathleen. Glad to be here. Looking forward to this.
Bob and Kathleen recording this episode.
Kathleen: I am really looking forward to this because this is an interesting time and as we're recording this we're I don't even know how many weeks — seven, eight weeks, what have you — into pandemic quarantine.
I guess it depends on where you live and et cetera, but it feels like forever and the world has undeniably changed quite a bit in that time.
I think many people are just starting to kind of find their footing in what may or may not become the new normal. So we're going to talk a little bit about that and what that means for user experience.
About Bob Berry and ItsTheUsers
Kathleen: But before we do that, could you please tell my audience a little bit about what ItsTheUsers is and your background, and how you came to be doing what you're doing today?
Bob: Certainly. So, my history goes actually back quite a ways.
I originally got my degree in computer science and out of college, I actually worked for Hewlett Packard back in the day when bill and Dave were still alive.
It was a very different company back then and I was one of their early eCommerce business managers when the internet and the web came along.
And that's where I first started getting involved in this whole idea of experience and how experiences can really influence what we do in business.
Back in those days, we developed some of the early social media, online learning, e-commerce and cloud based services before a lot of those terms even existed.
I actually left HP to get involved in a number of startups during the dot com boom, and started a company that did a lot of training and learning and curriculum for youth.
We actually embedded some pretty interesting experiences for young people to help them get ready for life.
We were pretty far into that as we approached the great recession when a lot of the spending was starting to dry up and entrepreneurs like myself were struggling.
My wife sat me down. We had five kids, four cats, and a dog at that time. And we were surviving on her teacher, principal income. She worked in public education.
She sat me down and said, Hey, this isn't working. We need to find a way to have my income be more stable and more predictable.
So I actually made a big shift at that point, that was around 2007, 2008 and actually became full time involved in user experience and really understanding what impact that has on business, what impact that has on people.
And I've been doing user experience in one form or another since then, both as an independent and working in a corporate environment. Now I'm working for a company called AnswerLab. I do that in addition to ItsTheUsers.com.
AnswerLab is really focused on working with a lot of major companies. We work with Google, Facebook, Amazon, and doing projects for all of those companies right now around user experience and helping them to figure out how to adapt what they're doing and shift their online presence and their digital strategies into this new world we're about to enter.
ItsTheUsers.com is focused on bringing new people into the world of user experience and really understanding how to do that.
So it's focused on a lot of people that may not have a tremendous amount of money to spend who can't pay the big ticket research studies that some of those big brands can.
So it's a really interesting mix. I get to work with those big companies, you know, they invent a lot of cool new stuff and I get to work with them and put those out in the public and learn how real people react to things that those companies are inventing.
And then with ItsTheUsers.com I get to work with a lot of small businesses, professionals, entrepreneurs and help introduce them to this whole world as well. And of course now we're entering this whole new phase.
Like you say, we've only been a few weeks into this and we're all very interested to see how this is going to unfold and what's going to happen as we try to go back to work as we try to get our businesses restarted.
I think we all have a lot to learn about how this new world is going to function.
Kathleen: Absolutely. Boy, listening to you tell your story, I just have to share that it really hit close to home because when that recession hit in 2008/9, my husband and I owned a digital marketing agency together and we had four kids and two dogs.
I'm listening to you tell the story and we looked at each other and we were like, Oh God, we're in the same company. We're totally in this boat together. It's either gonna sink or it's gonna float. You know, it was, those were some crazy times.
I guess for that reason, my heart goes out to people who own businesses right now because I've been through that experience and I just remember so clearly the stress that that put us under at the time.
So that could be a whole other podcast that we talk about, but we won't, it would probably be very stressful.
It could be several podcasts, but you know, focusing on the situation that the world is in right now, it's such a unique situation, but it's also, in some very interesting ways, at least to me, it's presenting us with a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity because it's really speeding up some things that I think were going to happen anyway as far as movements to remote work and the acceleration of companies really doing more business online and all of these things that we were sort of creeping towards over time.
But that process has accelerated dramatically as a result of what's happened, and I know a lot of companies are kind of scrambling to figure out what it means for them.
It's a big topic. So, you know, where do we start with this?
How is COVID-19 changing user experience?
Bob: Yeah, it's a big question and there are a lot of challenges wrapped up in this. I think one of the major effects that's happening right now is because of the need to quarantine, the social distance, all the lockdowns that are happening, you know, not just here in this country, but really all over the world.
It's putting digital, virtual, online in the center of what we're all going to need to adapt to in a much bigger way.
Fortunately, we've been working on this for a long time with the internet and the web and a lot of these virtual tools and platforms have been around long enough that all of us, or most of us, are pretty familiar with them.
But as we drive that massive shift to digital and virtual, if you look at all the industries out there — look at education, finance, entertainment, sports — the ways we interact socially, you know? Medicine, commerce...
So many things now are being transformed by this and digital and virtual really becomes the centerpiece of how we're going to have to conduct business and interact with one another.
In the midst of that, there are going to be a lot of new innovations. Things are gonna change. So some of the old ways of doing things are going to go away and there are going to be a lot of new technologies.
We're already seeing some of these now. A lot of new innovations are coming out just dealing with the virus. We're coming out with a lot of new technologies and new ways and, of course, people, as they're working remotely or living and socializing remotely, we're inventing a lot of new ways to apply this technology.
So to cope with all of that and deal with all of this change, the experience really is the centerpiece of all that.
And so Kathleen, I kind of have this crazy idea that I promote, you know, both in my role with ItsTheUsers.com and then in my research role with AnswerLab, and the premise is that virtually everything that happens in business is a set of individual choices or decisions by real people.
So certainly in inbound marketing, if somebody is going to respond to some content marketing, if they're going to react to a paid ad, if they're going to click on anything online, it's all about individual people making individual choices and decisions.
And all of those decisions happen within whatever experience we put out there for them to encounter.
And in fact, the other part of this theory for me is that the sum total of all of those choices is really what drives the global economy.
So if that's really true, if experience is that centerpiece, if that's truly what happens, then all of it is being transformed right now.
When I talk about user experience, it's more than just sort of the traditional usability. It's really about understanding people. Who are they? What are their lives like? What are their challenges? What's their personal narrative?
So understanding that whole journey that they're on and therefore how do they accomplish what they need to — that's a key part of the experience as well.
So, those trends that the personal and business people that were going through this massive pivot to digital and all of the new innovations that are going to occur as a result of this, they all intersect in the experience.
So we have to figure out how to invent better and new experiences so people can function, so business can function, so we can continue to run and do what we do.
And we're going to have to find new ways of building, deploying and verifying all that, because now we have to do it all remotely.
Kathleen: Yeah, it's so true. It's very interesting as I listen to you talk about it, I thought of a personal thing that happened in the last couple of days that I think for me at least illustrates part of what's changed.
Everybody's talking about how the whole world is all of a sudden using Zoom.
I've used them for years. I've worked remotely for a long time and sometimes I feel like I spend more time with Zoom than I do with my husband. So for me, Zoom has always felt very easy to use and very intuitive.
I think it was designed for a person like me who is relatively, you know, technologically fluent, spends a lot of time on their computer, working remotely, et cetera.
But in the last two months, the number of users of zoom has mushroomed and it includes a lot of people who are not as technologically fluent, who don't spend as much time on computers.
And for me, the way this has really come to light is, I joke that my unpaid second job is that I'm now a Zoom tutor and I have taught my sister in law, my parents and my mother-in-law all how to use Zoom so that we could do these family calls.
My mother in law in particular just is really reticent about it and you know, she's a little older. It was really interesting because I got her to the point where she could get on and join a call.
But the other day she called me and said, I want to be able to start a call. And we went onto that little, the Zoom screen. I'm sure most people are familiar with it by now, where it says like, join, start, schedule, et cetera.
And she didn't understand the difference between schedule and start and join.
So I was listening to you talk. It got me thinking that Zoom is a great example, it has this new audience that doesn't just intuitively understand the differences in those meanings and it's almost like they need to change that little screen.
Just say I want to start a meeting, schedule one for later, join someone else's meeting. It needs to be even more explicit now for those people who aren't as much digital natives as maybe it's prior user base wise.
So I just wanted to share that story because it's so fresh in my mind and it's nothing that I ever would have thought of. To me, the interface of zoom just seems so easy and simple. But then when I was walking through it with her, I was able to see it through a different lens.
Bob: Yeah. I have to laugh because I'm sure you've heard the Zoom story yesterday with the Supreme court. So the Supreme court is trying to hear cases and make decisions using Zoom and similar kind of situation, there are probably a lot of them in the same age group as your mom.
Well, apparently somebody used the bathroom and there was the sound of a flushing toilet. That's now referred to as the flush heard round the world. And I haven't heard yet who exactly was.
So here's these most distinguished members of our society and they're struggling with something as simple as remembering to hit mute when they do something personal or they're on zoom.
So that's a really good example.
Another really important dimension of this that I wanted to bring up and kind of get your perspective on as well, because we're so early in this process, speaking of inbound and I've been, you know, been around the internet and the web since the very beginning and I've seen so many changes and one of the major changes that of course has occurred is our access to data.
In such a big way, data drives what so many inbound programs and capabilities do. I think we're in the beginning of a major shift in data. I've also done a lot of research around data privacy and personal data on how individuals deal with this.
As we try to deal with this pandemic, I think one of the things that's coming is we have to increase our ability to test, trace and track who's got the virus, who's had the virus, et cetera.
We're in the middle of this big experiment where big parts of the country are trying to go back to work, but we don't have that capability yet.
Google and Apple have announced that their devices can communicate, and we hear about new apps now being launched that are supposed to provide this capability.
Well, I suspect that people, in order to trust this process of gathering all this data to manage the virus, are going to have to be very confident that that data is protected in a whole different kind of way.
If that happens, does that mean new regulations are going to come into effect, new practices, new principles around how we gather and use data and are those practices and principles now and probably going to be a lot more strict, are they going to apply to the data that we acquire for marketing purposes, for inbound marketing purposes? And so what does that future look like?
And so it's really difficult to predict where that's going to go, but that's something I'm really keeping a close eye on to see what kind of data requirements are going to be needed. What influence is it going to have on all the other data that we have out there right now?
And, you know, then I think it also begs the question of is the data that we have now on our customers that we use so widely in inbound marketing, is that data still valid?
Is the world changing enough that we're going to have to relearn some of that because people's buying patterns or their preferences or their economics have changed?
So there's some big issues at work that we're looking at.
Kathleen: Oh, I, I totally agree with you. I think there's absolutely a heightened awareness around data now, especially health data as you pointed out.
Interestingly, I think businesses and marketers in particular are having to rethink the whole notion of personalization and tracking because so much of it was done based on IP addresses, corporate IP addresses, which, with everybody working from home, you lose the ability to track that way.
Not to mention then the whole topic of accessibility. You know, when you have people who are visually or hearing impaired, who might have been able to physically come into a business in the past more easily now really can't.
There's always been this requirement that websites be built in a way that's accessible. But so few businesses have really done it.
I just think it's going to happen on so many fronts that we have no idea the tidal wave of change that's going to hit us.
Bob: Yeah, I agree. And I think one of the key aspects of this that we're trying to implement and that's really a lot of what we're trying to stay on the forefront of is to figure out ways to track all of this, to stay in touch with these people, to learn, you know, individuals in businesses.
There are so many ways that individual businesses are trying to adapt. Now businesses are coming up with some very creative ways of reacting to this.
And then, you know, how our individual lives are changing and you know, how are we going to keep our fingers on the pulse of everything that's going on.
And there's, again, so many dimensions to this. So from a research standpoint, there's a lot that we need to pay attention to, and a lot of new tools and methods and approaches that we have to put in place in order to continue this relearning process.
And again, it's what kind of new experiences are going to be required to help people that maybe have never used Zoom before that are now going to have to deal with new apps on their phones because they're going to be tracking health data or you know, they're not working in an office anymore.
They're working at home and what does that mean about their whole set of digital experiences that they have to deal with?
So being able to relearn it, retrack it, gather all the data that's required, create all the new experiences — that's what we're trying to stay in front of and trying to help other companies and individuals figure out how to do that as well.
How are companies changing user experience in response to the coronavirus?
Kathleen: Well, there's no doubt that the changes, it's not just coming, it's already started. So I'm curious to dive into some specifics.
What are some, some specific things that you have seen or worked with? I know you probably can't talk about specific clients and what you're doing for them, but, in generalized terms, can you share any specific examples of things that have had to change already in order to adjust user experiences to the new environment?
Bob: Yeah, so there's a lot going on out there right now.
So again, being able to understand, first of all, who is your audience and how is that changing? So who are these individuals? What kind of things are they dealing with?
I think it's important to make the distinction between whether you're talking to B2B or B2C, because those are different types of dynamics. There's a lot of business and instructional and operational changes that organizations have to deal with as far as how to go remote.
So in this process of staying in touch with your customers and learning what they're up to, how are you going to manage your workforce? How are you going to manage whoever your teams are as you go through that process?
I think there's also a tendency to want to stay in touch with the larger trends out there. So what's happening, you know, socially and politically, economically?
There's money available from the government and how are you going to get access to that and how are your customers and your clients getting access to that and how does that change what you might be doing with them?
An example that I can name, where we actually did a pretty massive business transformation process, maybe it's helpful in this context to give you an example of the kinds of things that we've done that will need to evolve but that are still very sound practices.
So a few years ago I did a study for Deluxe Corporation.This was actually in the midst of the great recession.
So they were in the process of doing a pretty major business transformation and their business is very much about financial documents and checks and related types of products.
We did what was called an omni-channel business assessment, and this was something that took place over a couple of years. We looked at a number of different touch points.
The reason it's called Omni channel is because we look at a variety of different ways that they interact with customers. So we looked at email, we looked at web, we looked at their call center, we looked at all of their print programs and we also assessed their direct sales force.
This was a combination of both B2B and B2C. The problem with just looking at any one of those is, any one customer can touch multiple aspects of their business.
Somebody can pick up a catalog and interact with that and then they may find a phone number and then dial the number and talk to somebody in the call center. They may get an email message with that, which then sends them to a website.
So there's all sorts of aspects of inbound marketing involved with this. There's probably a few outbound aspects as well.
And so long story short, over a couple of years, we assessed all of those different touch points and made sure that the overall experience was effective, that people could find their way around that, the pathways from one aspect of it to another were smooth, that the messaging was consistent, and that the people that different aspects of that you could hand a customer off effectively from one, one part to another.
At the end of the day we were able to drive over $3 million of new business to their top line by optimizing all that. And this was in the midst of the great recession when things were financially very challenging.
So that type of approach I think is going to be a really important, that sort of omni-channel, multi touchpoint approach is going to be really useful, really important as we enter this new world.
Because in a lot of ways, all of those different touch points are going to be changing and evolving for businesses.
And if you don't pay attention to all of them, you won't have the big picture of what's really going on and the different journeys and pathways that customers might be taking in interacting with your business.
How to get started
Kathleen: So where can companies get started? How do they begin? You know, if somebody is listening to this right now and they're thinking, okay, things are going to need to change. We don't maybe know how much permanent change that it's going to be, but obviously things need to change.
How do they begin to wrap their heads around this and, and begin to figure out what's the right approach?
Bob: I think you have to start, I think a lot of cases with where you are.
So what do you know now about who your buyers, your prospects, your customers, your users? You have to start with them. If you haven't already, it's important to begin to develop some sense of their story, their narrative, and again, who they are, what they're challenged with, where do they live and work? Are they still in an office? Are they still in their store? Is that whole work environment now changing? How they make buying decisions — is that still the same or how is that evolving?
So you have to start by understanding what are those stories, those narratives, those journeys that people are going through. And there's a variety of ways to do that.
There are a lot of a very effective tools out there right now because the demand for doing a lot of this remotely is increasing pretty rapidly as you can imagine.
So you know, if you go out there and look, there's a lot of different ways that you can interact with these customers and gather a lot of information and survey them or really understand who they are and what type of interactions that they're dealing with.
So once you have a sense of who they are, those journeys, those personas, those narratives about who they are, then it's a process of understanding.
Again, what experiences do you need to put in front of them? Are those web experiences or those phone experiences? Are they mobile? Are they on an app? What are all the ways that you need to interact with them so that they can understand your business and what you offer?
Do an inventory of all of your touch points, and certainly inbound marketing is a key part of that as well, and begin to measure how much business you're getting through those different channels and begin to put in place ways to actually understand and observe how they interact with those experiences.
You're going to want to do this on an ongoing basis. This is a process and not an event. You want to make sure that over time you can start to identify what are some trends that are going on and begin to track those trends.
Again, there are a lot of different ways and approaches to evaluate mobile experiences and a lot of different ways to evaluate in person or desktop or web based experiences.
So there's a lot of different approaches and tools that are available to do that.
Tools for doing audience research
Kathleen: So you mentioned starting by learning more about your audience and your customers. Are there any particular tools that you've worked with that are favorites of yours?
I imagine there are some that probably are better for larger companies with bigger budgets and some that are better for smaller guys with smaller budgets.
Any, you know, sort of list of your favorite tools?
Bob: Yeah, so there are various tools out there that can do a variety of what we consider like diaries.
So we actually have tools that allow people to keep track over time of how different apps or devices or interfaces work within their lives.
So, understanding a day in the life or a week in the life of somebody based on having them create a diary of how they interact with your business or your apps or your website gives you a good sense of putting those things into context of who they are and what they're dealing with.
So diary tools are really important.
One that we use is called Dscout and we have some of our own internal tools that we use as well.
Kathleen: How do you get somebody to follow through on it though? Because obviously you're asking them to spend time for you documenting how they interact with your business or your product.
And I know just from experience myself and from working with other marketers that very often even just getting customers to agree to doing a 15 minute phone call or filling out a survey can sometimes be a battle.
How have you found is the best way to get people to comply and follow through on keeping those kinds of records?
Bob: We usually provide some kind of incentive. So in many cases we, they get paid for their time. Some companies, when they do this kind of research, they may provide some kind of in kind reward.
So if it's a restaurant chain that's doing this kind of study, they might offer vouchers for food or something like that. It might include something simple like an Amazon gift card.
And so usually we try and incentivize people, give them some kind of reward for whatever time they invest. And that can vary based on how much time you want them to participate, and how involved you want them to be. But that seems to be the best way.
Kathleen: Any particular approaches that work well for B2B companies?
Bob: We put quite a bit of effort into locating and recruiting the right people. So a lot of times in the recruiting phase, we have questionnaires that we put together, and we ask people about what they do and you can kind of gauge their level of interest or their level of willingness to participate in something like this.
We have a lot of third party companies that we've worked with that have databases of people and companies that they've worked with.
So we also have individuals that might be more inclined to want to be involved, make a contribution there and are willing to follow through on this kind of thing.
How are companies adapting to the new normal?
Kathleen: Got it. So I'm curious if you have any examples of specific changes that you've seen companies need to make as a result of coronavirus and this new environment that we're living in?
Bob: Yeah, so it varies a lot.
So just in my own neighborhood here, I'm seeing companies become very creative. We have what used to be a cafe down the street. Because people can't go in and congregate there anymore, they've made the shift to providing produce.
They obviously had suppliers that they used for doing whatever they were doing to serve their cafe. And so now they've evolved to actually using those food suppliers to providing fresh meat and cheese and produce to people in the neighborhood. And they restrict how many people can be in the store.
So being able to adapt, looking at your available resources, supply chains, customer base, and being able to think of new ways, and doing a lot of this online. So now if you want something, you go online, you can order everything that you need.
And the only time you need to spend physically in the store is just to go in and pick up your bag and leave. So all the ordering and payment and everything happens online.
Another example is a local construction company. I have a videographer partner that I work with and he's doing work with them to take everything that they do and turn it into video. So if you want to do a remodel or if you want to do various types of home improvements, then you can go online and you can look at a lot of examples of things that they do with video.
You can also take your phone and do a video walkthrough of your house and show the areas that you want to have remodeled.
And then they will take that and turn it around and they'll provide another video that will describe to the homeowner exactly the steps that they're going to take and where they're going to be in the house or what they're going to do.
And so the amount of time that they have to spend face to face is really minimal. There's so many examples of this, of companies figuring out how to adapt, and how to do things better, how to do things differently.
Kathleen: That's really smart. Having now spent so much time in my house for the last several weeks, I would love to just have them come in and tell me what I should change in my house.
Because I have found that being stuck at home through the coronavirus, you start to see like every little maintenance project that you've ignored for so long becomes that much more in your face and annoying because you're spending so much time with it.
So I imagine they're getting a lot of traction with that offer.
Bob: Yeah, they are. And they'll even give you a video of when the work is actually going to occur. They'll kind of stage it out for you and say, you know, we need to be in your home on these days to do these steps. And obviously all the products and all the materials and colors and all that kind of stuff, they provide all that to make that available as well.
So those are just a couple of examples of figuring out how to adapt and certainly digital and online creating those new kinds of experiences again, are going to be a critical part of how companies can do this.
You know, at AnswerLab, we have offices in New York and San Francisco and in early March, like a lot of companies, we had to turn on a dime and figure out how to be remote.
And so that's another aspect of this too. Depending on what your business is, you're going to have to get creative in building and managing and maintaining a remote workforce.
Now obviously for some companies, this is going to be easy. Other companies, this is going to be a lot more challenging. So it varies a lot in how you might approach this and how you might go about doing that.
If it would be helpful, I can share with you what we went through in this whole process of making our whole operation remote. And it's actually going quite well right now. And fortunately a lot of the companies that we work with have gone remote as well. So we've created a whole virtual culture and whole virtual operation that, right now is, is running quite smoothly.
Kathleen: Oh, that's great. I think there are a lot of companies struggling with that, that weren't used to working remotely before. I've worked in places that have been almost entirely remote and there are definitely playbooks out there for how to do this and how to do it well.
You just have to be willing to embrace them. It's things like being on video when you talk to other people and not everybody's ready for that, but, but it can really make a difference.
Bob: Yeah. And we have what I like to say is a MacGyver kind of culture, which is, there's all these technical challenges and everybody's willing to jump in and just figure things out, trying out new tools, trying to figure out new ways of interacting with our clients.
How do we share information? How do we conduct research? How do we do a lot of in person workshops and brainstorming sessions and, you know, how do you replicate that kind of team spirit and that kind collaboration interaction when you have to do it all through a computer screen?
There are actually a lot of really creative ways to do it.
So figuring it out, just jumping in with both feet, getting everybody involved, creating a culture of making it happen, is really important.
Kathleen: Yeah. I think the same challenge is really facing the events industry. I've been parts of lots of calls with people who've been talking about how they used to hold in person events, conferences, et cetera, and now we're going to try to do them virtually.
Let's not just make it into one long webinar. Let's try and capture some of that same feeling you get when you're there in person in a new way online. It's a similar challenge
Bob: Yeah. And that's, that's another example of it. Entirely new excited experiences that we're going to have to figure out. I mean, there's so many large events.
You know, before I got into podcasting, I used to do a lot of teaching and speaking at conferences and, you know, we have to completely rethink that now. And those are a whole new set of experiences that we're all going to have to figure out how to create.
How to validate that they work and people are getting what they want out of them? And then we're gonna have to figure out how to participate in them and, and make them successful.
What are some things you can do now to prepare your business for the future?
Kathleen: Yeah. Well if there's a marketer or a business owner listening and they're thinking, okay, I need to focus on this for myself. Do you have like two or three key pieces of advice for them that they should really focus on in the next couple of weeks?
Bob: So are you thinking about the whole process of going remote or the whole process of figuring out what this new digital world is gonna look like?
Kathleen: The latter.
Bob: I think a couple of things that people need to do is they need to figure out what are the ways that they're going to stay in touch with their customers.
Who are your buyers, your purchasers, your prospects? How are you going to develop longterm connections with them as they evolve, as they adapt to what their new world is going to look like?
And then to figure out how to put your business, whatever product or service you're offering, how are you going to evolve that along with them to stay relevant, to make sure that you're still something that they're going to need and be willing to pay for?
Whatever those businesses and those individuals are going through, whatever is changing in their lives, that's going to determine how your business needs to evolve to stay with them.
So number one, you need to figure out how you're going to maintain those connections and do that relearning that's necessary.
And then the second part of it is, what kinds of experiences are going to be required?
And of course a lot of those experiences are going to be virtual, digital, online.
Does that mean you're going to need a new kind of app in order to communicate with them? Does that mean you're going to have to now, like with the example of the construction company or you're going to have to start developing new types of media, like video or audio, are you going to have to create new ways of selecting and ordering your products? Does that mean a new eCommerce system?
So figure out who they are, where they're going, what they're up to, what they're experiencing, and then decide how you're going to create the right kind of virtual digital experiences that are going to be relevant and important to them and how you're going to make sure all that plays together.
That's probably the most important thing right now because it's changing rapidly and now's the time to start relearning.
Kathleen's two questions
Kathleen: Good advice. Well, shifting gears, I have two questions I ask all of my guests and I'm curious to know your thoughts on these. The first is, is there a particular company or individual that you think sets the standard for inbound marketing?
Bob: Yeah, I actually, I thought about that quite a while. As I mentioned, we work with a lot of the big brands, you know, Facebook and Amazon and Google and FedEx and they have obviously some great examples there.
But another company that I worked with for a long time is actually a fairly small operation.
They're based here in Colorado, and the leader is called Jeff Walker and he's in charge of something called Product Launch Formula and years ago, he developed an inbound system that allows you to go out and find a target audience and interact with them and provide them a lot of valuable content and draw them into your product or service through really effective content marketing.
He does a lot of books and courses and affiliate programs and video and email and stuff like that.
He does a lot of the things that work well.
I think the number one thing that stands out for me though is so many organizations and companies that I see online are using his system, which to me is the greatest testimony.
So you can tell your story through PR or marketing programs, but nothing speaks like success and the number of organizations and people and platforms out there that have adopted his model.
I think if you look at a lot of the inbound programs now, they actually use a lot of the principles that he developed probably decades ago. So he's one that I pointed to it because he's had such, such a big influence on the whole digital and virtual marketing world.
Kathleen: That's a great example. I'll definitely have to check that one out.
Second question, marketers always talk about how difficult it is to stay abreast of the rapidly changing digital landscape. I think the conversation we just had is a perfect example of that. How do you personally stay up to date and keep yourself educated?
Bob: Well, podcasts is certainly a big one. I listened to a lot of them. I listen to them pretty constantly. I do a lot of reading. LinkedIn is a big source for me as well.
I do a lot in networking, so I learn from people and I get a lot of great information off of LinkedIn just from what's posted there in the form of learning and articles and also, another way is just really through my colleagues.
I work with a lot of very talented people and they're constantly presenting new challenges and new technical things to solve. And so that, to me, is probably one of the best ways I learn is just sort of on the ground, you know, with my fingers in it and trying to figure out how to make it all work.
That's probably a big one for me.
Kathleen: Any particular podcasts that you really love?
Bob: So I actually listen to a lot of historical podcasts.
Right now I've been listening to a lot of podcasts on LinkedIn about LinkedIn to figure out how to do better as we now have to do a lot more things virtually. And we don't have to do as much face to face and really trying to get geared up for LinkedIn.
I actually listened to a very interesting historical podcast yesterday about pandemics and putting all of this into context. It was very interesting to kind of see the big picture over history.
Probably one of the big takeaways there is that there are a lot of people who hope we can get back to normal and I think they're thinking of the old normal, but we have to let go of the old normal because it's gone. We're looking at a new one and we have to figure out what that means.
Kathleen: Yeah. It's amazing how quickly things can change, isn't it?
How to connect with Bob
Kathleen: Well this has been so fascinating and I think you're doing really interesting work with a lot of really interesting companies.
If somebody is listening to this and they want to connect with you online or learn more, ask a question, what's the best way for them to do that?
Bob: Certainly LinkedIn. So look up Bob Barry. That's B E R R Y on LinkedIn. And again, I'm associated with AnswerLab and with ItsTheUsers also.