You Never Stop Learning: An Interview With Hanna Gnann, Digital Marketing Manager at Global Knowledge
Hanna Gnann is Digital Marketing Manager at Global Knowledge. She is responsible for elevating the company’s digital presence in the U.S. to drive new sales and retention. Hanna has a wealth of previous experience in digital advertising, most recently at WRAL.com. Hanna earned her BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; a MA in English with a concentration in Technical and Professional Communication from East Carolina University; as well as a graduate certificate in marketing from ECU. You can follow her on Twitter @HannaGnann.
GG: Can you describe your work as a digital marketing manager? What are you mostly responsible for within your organization?
HG: In one word: juggling. I always have several balls in the air and I never have time to touch any of them for very long. I’m never, ever bored; that’s for sure.
I’m responsible for managing our digital advertising (PPC, display), social media (both organic and paid), content marketing, SEO, and our website content in general. Luckily, we have an awesome team of editors and writers, social media and customer engagement coordinators, and graphic & UX designers who all work together to keep the content machine turning. I also rely on some of our vendors and tools to help me measure, plan, and react based on analytics.
GG: What’s it been like working for a leading firm like Global Knowledge? How would you describe your experiences there?
It’s been challenging and incredibly rewarding. Challenging because coming from a media background, I had to learn a whole new industry (information technology) and you can’t effectively manage digital marketing unless you understand your business and your audience. Also, both the IT industry and digital marketing field are transforming rapidly due to big data, cloud computing, and mobile, so keeping up with the changing marketplace means you can never stop learning and trying new things. Our leadership is totally supportive and expects a lot from our digital marketing efforts. Digital will, and already does, have a huge impact on our business, and I get to be right in the middle of it.
GG: What role do you see digital marketing playing in the broader fields of UX and marketing? What is the relationship between digital marketing, UX, and traditional marketing, in your mind?
HG: It’s really impossible for me to think about digital marketing and UX as independent of each other. There’s an element of UX in designing emails and landing pages to make sure they’re mobile optimized both from both a layout and copy perspective. On the other hand, no matter how great the user experience is on a landing page, if you’re not doing the acquisition part of digital marketing correctly there won’t be anyone coming to the landing page to convert into a customer.
As far as traditional marketing promotion goes, even though print, television, radio, billboards, etc. are still relevant (I’ll get to that controversial statement in a second), they’re often integrated into digital marketing by driving people to a website. Why do I think traditional marketing is still relevant? Take Canada’s anti-spam legislation from 2014, for example. Companies in Canada can no longer continue marketing to their email lists without opt-ins (and pre-checked boxes are not allowed). Guess what’s still allowed? Direct mail. Also, consider what would happen if the U.S. Congress decided to ban cookies. A law like that would bring down the $10 billion programmatic ad industry. So, although digital is undeniably where the focus and funds are shifting to from traditional marketing, I would never discount the power of integrated marketing efforts using various channels. And let’s not forget the other three P’s of marketing besides promotion (product, price, and place). UX plays a role from the very beginning in product design.
GG: What would you identify as some of the key elements of developing a digital marketing strategy for an organization?
- User experience (UX): I consider a website to be the storefront of a business, whether or not it has a physical location. When your customer comes to your store, think about whether she wants to see a well-organized, inviting space with a directory or clear signage to help her find what she’s looking for. Or would she rather read endless paragraphs of copy posted to the front door that talks about what your store has to offer. Perhaps a salesperson could pop up right in her face and ask if she’d like to subscribe to the newsletter right as she steps in the store. So yes, your website experience can make or break all the other efforts you make in digital marketing.
- Conversion rate optimization (CRO): This is closely tied to UX, but I think it deserves its own mention. The ultimate goal of CRO is to get your site visitors to convert into customers. CRO simply means increasing the percentage of your website visitors who take an action on your site (make a purchase, fill out a lead form, etc.) Your goal is to make sure that the landing page your visitor ends up on has the best possible headline, graphics, and overall experience for guiding user to take the desired action. A/B and multivariate testing are used to determine the highest converting placement, color, and copy of the call to action button and other elements on the page.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Website copy should be written for humans, not search engines. Keywords, backlinks, meta descriptions, H1 tags etc. still matter, but first and foremost: write relevant content that answers questions people are searching for.
- Content marketing: When I started at my new job, I read (and still do) a lot of blogs that educated me on the various functions of my job. Wordstream became one of my favorite blogs because it provided useful content about PPC. Although I kept seeing their free trial offer, I wasn’t ready to take action until about six months after discovering their blog. By then I was convinced they knew what they were talking about when it came to PPC (my Google AdWords rep sent me to them for an infographic, true story). That’s how content marketing is supposed to work: you build trust and credibility with your audience and ask for the sale only when they’re ready to buy. Best explanation for content marketing I’ve seen is from Rand Fishkin at Moz.
- Social Media: I think social media is much like traditional media except with interaction. Social media is used to distribute content teasers (not advertisements) out to an audience, who can then choose to visit the content hub (aka your website or blog) to read or watch the full content. Users can also share and interact with your brand should they find the content compelling or funny enough. Social media is also used as a customer support channel and marketing research tool.
- Paid advertising: In order to reach new customers and to support SEO, I’m a big believer in advertising. Digital analytics and tools that are available today allow for really precise targeting, which eliminates wasted ad dollars that were inevitable in the traditional mass media spray and pray method.
- Email: Obviously another great vehicle for distributing content besides social media. I’ve talked about customer acquisition and conversion, but I think email is an integral part of customer retention.
GG: Is there anything you’ve learned over the years that you’d like to share with people who are new to digital marketing? Lessons learned?
HG: I think one of the most difficult parts of being a digital marketer is the fact that you almost have to be a jack of all trades, and a master of all of them. I hope you paid attention in your English, statistics, business, marketing, and computer classes in college, because you need the skills from each discipline. You have to be able to write clear and concise copy without fluff and “marketese.” You need to verbally communicate digital tactics to your company stakeholders or clients in plain English, while being on top of the vernacular when negotiating with vendors. I rely on analytics to measure performance on a daily basis, so understanding statistics and knowing your way around Excel and Google Analytics is a must. You should also know at least basic HTML. One skill I wish I had a better grasp on is graphic design, and it’s something I plan to learn in the future. But I think that’s the lesson: you never stop learning and you learn the best by doing.