Q&A with Joel Goldstein, President of Goldstein Group Communications

Joel Goldstein founded Goldstein Group Communications in 1992 as a public relations agency. Today, Goldstein Group Communications provides high-impact branding and lead generation programs for technically focused, B2B clients that seek more powerful ways to find and keep customers. Goldstein’s team implements a “Measurably Better Marketing” process and works to “deliver awesome” for each client, even in the middle of a global pandemic.

Who is Goldstein Group Communications and what has the agency’s journey been since its founding as a PR agency?

We’ve actually pivoted the business twice. We started as a PR agency in 1992, always focused on B2B. Most of our clients have some degree of technical or engineered content. About nine years after we started, we saw an opportunity to expand beyond PR to become a full-service agency adding advertising, direct mail, trade shows and a fully integrated B2B platform to our mix of services.

About seven years ago, we recognized the opportunity to move beyond integrated marcom deeper into lead management and lead generation specifically. We became a HubSpot VAR and significantly invested in digital marketing lead generation and our web development capability, and today we have a full service offering in lead management and generation. So much of our services today require generating a lot of tutorial content, which we’ve always done going back to our beginning as a PR agency in 1992; it just wasn’t called content then! 

Three things make us different as an agency:

1.Focus on complex engineer-to-engineer content. While many other agencies talk about how they take complicated topics and convert them into something a layman can understand, we do the opposite. We take complicated topics and keep them at an engineer-to-engineer level, because that’s who we’re trying to reach. Not many agencies could do that without forcing clients to rewrite significantly or provide a first draft, which isn’t really much help to them as a client. We have a particular process that helps us generate complex topics that other agencies struggle to produce.

2. We follow a process we call “Measurably Better Marketing.” We can draw a straight line from marketing to sales to ROI. We’re not just reporting metrics to clients, we’re actually able to show that for every dollar spent with us, they generated $10, $20 back in sales. Not clicks, not impressions, but actual sales.

3. Our approach to staffing is different than other agencies, with a model that uses marketing managers (rather than account managers) who are then supported by hyper-specialists. Our marketing managers work on a peer-to-peer basis with our clients. When a client asks, “Should I invest in this aspect of marketing or that initiative?” they know the answer because they’ve been a marketing manager before and can provide strategic counsel. It’s frustrating to a client when an account manager answers, “I don’t know, but I’m going to go back to the office, and I’ll pull the team together.” That’s not really a strategic approach. Our marketing managers are more seasoned and experienced than an account manager and often have held that same position before joining us, so they are able to counsel their clients as if they were the client’s own marketing manager. Second, B2B and digital marketing today are complicated, complex and rapidly changing. The amount of technology in what we do is massive. It’s difficult to become an expert in everything. We have to provide the very best level of service in all categories and know exactly the right way to approach them… for all of these different categories of marketing specialization have to be at our core. We built up a staff of hyper-specialists so that, for example, nobody knows more than Britney about paid search, nobody knows more than Erin about user experience, nobody knows more than Rachel about B2B public relations, and so on. We ask our hyper-specialists to achieve a level of expertise of knowing “more than anybody else in the room” about their given specialty. That’s been very powerful for us. Clients expect us to stay ahead of things. They expect us to bring new ideas to them, and the way we can do that that is with this hyper-specialist approach. 

What are you encountering in B2B marketing communications right now? And how are you helping clients end 2020 strong and position themselves for success in 2021?

Many companies are struggling with salespeople having a tough time getting in the door. They’re struggling to find ways to generate opportunities, quote requests and keep their pipelines filled in a COVID environment. Companies have moved dollars that had been allocated for trade shows and travel into digital marketing, because they recognize that’s the beginning point for many B2B conversations that lead to an opportunity. We’re working with them to create tools that help them more effectively get in front of people and be more successful in a virtual selling environment. We’ve done a few things here:

–          We’re helping companies be successful with trade shows that have changed to be virtual only.

–          In addition, we’ve created our own virtual trade show product for our clients that that is permanent and doesn’t have to be rebuilt every time they participate in a new virtual show.

–          We’re helping them with more sophisticated ways to do digital marketing. For example, we’re using artificial intelligence in our paid search programs and using artificial intelligence in our advertising programs through programmatic advertising. 

–          We use video email tools, which have a much higher open rate and have a way of breaking through the clutter to get an 80-90% open rate.

–          We’re doing more webinars for clients. We recognize that people attending webinars are high-value prospects.

–          We’re doing quite a bit on LinkedIn with both paid and organic content and finding that’s tremendously successful. It’s leading to direct sales and creating a tremendous number of qualified opportunities, bringing them right to our client’s doors.

What should marketers focus on in technology now?

We actually published a list of top 10 strategies for 2021, but let me touch on two things to focus on right now: website user experiences and CRM/marketing automation platforms. If there was ever a time when your website had to perform and to do the very best job of converting anonymous visitors into leads – it’s now. Because you’re not going to have a lot of other opportunities to convert something into a lead or opportunity. 

Many clients are spending a lot of time digging into their websites – looking at the high-traffic pages and making sure those pages have compelling offers that engage and keep people on the page for a long time. Companies should dig into their websites to optimize that performance because it is such a central, focused way of selling.

The other thing that companies should be doing is looking at their CRMs and their marketing automation software platforms to make sure that they’re doing everything they can to move people through the funnel. Many companies are frustrated with their CRM tools, and that’s really just because the CRM wasn’t set up and optimized in a way that helps salespeople sell better. When we first get involved with a company and work with them on their CRM, they often don’t have list segmentation, automatic notifications or quoted follow-up routines. It’s not difficult to convert your CRM from a source of frustration to a salesperson’s best friend in terms of identifying, “Where can I go to sell more today?”

We’re spending a lot of time on installing and optimizing HubSpot, Pardot and other marketing automation platforms. It’s easy to generate leads that go into the top of the funnel, but for many companies, they just stay in that first stage and don’t move down through the funnel. Marketing automation workflows and content sequences move more people through that funnel in less time with greater cost efficiency. It’s a good time to fix those platforms and make sure that they’re working at peak performance.

How does technology fit into GGC’s approach to marketing?

Companies used to talk about their IT stack. But many organizations are spending as much today on their MarTech Stack as they are on IT tools. The amount of software and technology for marketing is tremendous. You must have your CRM integrated with your marketing. There must be full lead tracking and tracking for back deals and closed orders in the CRM. To put that in place requires a technology investment, building a fully automated lead machine. That’s how you get to that that straight line marketing to sales to ROI. You can’t do it without a MarTech Stack investment.

There’s no shortage of MarTech tools that can help. It’s difficult for a company to identify where to place their bets, and where they’re going to have the most impact. Our job is to understand those tools. We test them for some clients and then if they work, we roll them out to others. That’s the role of a good MarTech strategy, identify the things that are going to move you farther along the MarTech curve and make clients more relevant, important and indispensable to their customers, driving the whole sales, marketing and branding process.

When we do that effectively, we’ve not only generated more leads and making pipelines bigger, we become more efficient and have lowered the cost of marketing. That’s the role of a good integrated program – not just to do more activities or “stuff,” but to drive better outcomes in a more efficient manner.

What’s the role of PR in a fully integrated program?

Traditionally, people hear PR and think it stands for “press release” – it doesn’t. Public relations is a process of building mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. 

The primary role of PR in integrated programs is building relationships for our clients with their customers and prospects, as well as gaining awareness for their brands. PR works closely in step with content: good PR requires good content, and good content requires good PR. That relationship between earned media and content is important to integrated communications. Our approach to relationship building bleeds into everything else as well, from analyzing our audiences and building our personas for marketing and audience segmentation. That relates to defining our publics and the message we send to them and how we reach them best, as well as looking at messaging and doing the appropriate research for developing and implementing strategies that align with clients’ overall business objectives.

One of the most powerful tools for building relationships is social media. It offers direct one-to-one communication that we don’t necessarily have when relying upon an intermediary channel with other tactics. People have become more likely to send a tweet or Facebook message now than they are to call customer service. That’s because they’ve gotten faster and better responses from the PR person or community manager on the other side of social media than they have from a customer service representative who doesn’t have a reputation-management and relationship-first mentality.

We use PR as an approach to leapfrog competitors when it comes to thought leadership, specifically through earned media. We place that engineer-to-engineer level content we build for media through our proactive and positive relationships. That earned media automatically elevates our clients in the eyes of their customers and prospects, because it’s not a sales message. It’s educational, it helps solve the problem that they have right now or teaches the reader about the topic they’re interested in without interrupting them.

Building up a brand as a resource puts us ahead. As more content comes out with our clients’ names on them, they’ll be positioned in a positive light for when customers see our sales message. They’re going to be more receptive to our other marketing efforts, because they’ve already recognized the quality of information from the brand versus a competitor that is just pushing a self-promotional agenda.

You can learn more about Goldstein Group Communications at ggcomm.com.

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