Digital Transformation and Digital Marketing – Jenna Chouinard

The customer journey has gone online, and so your business needs to be there, too. Discover what goes into a digital transformation and how to develop a digital marketing strategy that will generate leads and business for your company. 

Rich: My guest today is the owner of JC Marketing Group, and has an established record of success in creating and executing customized marketing programs for small businesses across a variety of industries. Through her experience she’s been able to identify what a well-oiled marketing machine not only looks like, but also how it should be properly executed. With so many moving parts in marketing, she simplifies it and boils it down to the key areas that need to be focused on to see results.  

If you’re a business owner that currently wants to ramp up all your marketing efforts, is seeking lead generation to support future growth, and wants a greater reputation as a thought leader in your industry, she can help. There’s never been a better time to leverage digital marketing in all the right ways.  

So today we’re going to be diving into digital marketing with Jenna Chouinard. Jenna, welcome to the program.  

Jenna: Awesome. Thanks for having me, Rich.  

Rich: So how did you get into marketing? Was this something that you studied in college? 

Jenna: So I went to college here, St. Joseph’s College of Maine. And I actually studied business administration and I took a minor in marketing, and I always just had a knack for really just the marketing space in general. And what I ended up doing was I actually had an internship for a small business here in Maine, and they’re actually a global IT reseller, and I was that sole marketing person for like 50 employees. And so I immediately got my hands on just a bunch of different marketing tasks got to work with a bunch of different people, really just familiarized myself with marketing and then just pretty much grew to love it after that.  

Rich: So I believe that you kind of are positioned as a fractional CMO. What does that mean? What does that look like?  

Jenna: Yeah. So typically the businesses that I work with don’t have a marketing person in place. So what that means is I come in and I actually build that well-oiled marketing machine for them. And so my experience really has given me kind of that insight into what really goes into that machine to really make it run on all cylinders. 

And so to do that, I’ve really figured out, you know, you need some key elements, which we can go into. But a lot of people don’t have these elements in place when I come into play. And so when I meet the owners and I talked to the business and I wonder about their goals and visions, they’ll tell me, you know, we don’t have any social media, we don’t have any email campaigns, we don’t have any website blogs. They’re really not doing any of the digital tactics that you really need to be visible in the space today.  

And so typically I come in there and I create the full creation and execution of that well-oiled marketing machine. So I’ve really figured out over the years, you know, maybe that secret recipe – I guess, not so secret anymore – but really what needs to kind of come together in order to make things work and really get lead generation for them. 

And so I’ll come in and I’ll do the complete, like I said, creation, execution side of the marketing. But I’ll also work with the leadership team. Which I think is the most important factor. So you have to make sure your marketing aligns with your business vision. And if it doesn’t, it really just isn’t going to work being blind. 

So what I do is I come in and meet with the leadership team, the president, anyone else that really wants to be involved in executing the marketing alongside me, just to make sure that it aligns with the business goals.  

Rich: All right. So a lot of stuff there to unpack. Before we dive into all the different elements you just mentioned, there’s a phrase out there that we’re hearing a lot of called ‘digital transformation’. So when you’re working with companies, is it that they’ve really never done much in marketing, or just at all their marketing is more traditional marketing and you’re trying to take them into the so-called 21st century? What does that look like? 

Jenna: Exactly. So obviously the past year has just caused a lot of challenges to businesses. And what we’ve realized is the digital transformation is kind of in full blown sprint mode at this time. So a lot of people are doing the traditional methods where they were – so before last year, I would – say direct mail efforts, cold calling, all those different traditional methods. But now what they’re realizing is to reach the audience, a lot of people are just remote these days, it’s a hybrid workforce now. So you’ve got to cater to the people that are in office and the people that are remote. And so to reach those people, of course, you have to have all these different digital tactics. And a lot of people just weren’t doing it before. It’s kind of like a digital bandwagon, I like to say. People are jumping on it now. And the people that are jumping on it, especially the past year, are definitely reaping the benefits.  

Rich: So when the owners call you, what problems are they specifically struggling with? What are they identifying where they’re like, I need an agency, I need a fractional CMO, I need some outside help.  

Jenna: Typically it’s two things. Definitely the first thing is they’re saying lead generation, they don’t have any leads coming in. The second thing is that they say brand awareness. Like they don’t feel like they’re really visible to their audience, to their target market audience specifically. And so what I do is I come in and really explain to them that marketing is not a sprint, but when it’s done right, it really guarantees along the way that your network is going to grow. That people’s trust in you is going to build your reputation as a reliable source, will attract more people to your content, and then in turn your business will grow. 

And so I try to really make that message clear and tell them marketing isn’t medicine, it’s an ongoing strategy. It’s an ongoing, healthy diet. And the more I stress that with the owner, they start to realize that we need to start brand awareness. Like that’s of course, number one. And so to do that, you know, we really hone in on the message, we figure out exactly what they’re good at, what are they the best at in their industry.  

And then we start dripping that message, really authentic content is the key. Content is king, which a lot of people say, but it is the most true statement in marketing. You want people to resonate with the content. And so we start there. And then the lead generation comes. So I always like to say that marketing journey, it has to start with the goals, like we talked about. Really being in line with the leadership and the goals of the business. We want to start that execution of all these different tactics digitally. And then we really start to see the lead generation trickle in after we have that brand awareness successful.  

Rich: I’m glad to hear you putting strategy before tactics. Because I think a lot of people who call up for outside help, the first thing they want to do is be running Facebook ads, or they want to be really big on Instagram and that’s not necessarily what’s in their best interest. So when you come into a company, what are some of the first questions you ask?  

Jenna: So typically what I ask is, what is your target market and what do you guys think you do best? And sometimes you’ll be surprised, a lot of them haven’t thought about it in that sense. They’ve just been kind of going through the motions, of course executing on their day-to-day operations what they do best. But they’ve never thought about how someone who doesn’t know them looks at that. 

And so what I typically do, and I actually operate off mindset entrepreneurial operating system, and what I love to do there is it really focuses on the marketing strategy section. So it kind of breaks it down. Like, how unique are you? What are your top three uniques? Like what are those factors that make you unique? And it dives into exactly your demographics, your geographics, your psychographics, the type of people you’re trying to reach. And then I kind of eat, sleep, and breathe that kind of vision and that target market for them.  

And then I execute it through all the different tactics. So I just have to find, I guess, the building blocks, the concrete in the very beginning stages, and it’s all around the target market. 

Rich: You mentioned some key elements right at the beginning of our conversation. So what are the key elements or the basics when you’re developing a digital marketing strategy? Once you’ve kind of figured out what the unique selling proposition is, who you’re going to try and go after, maybe what the competition looks like, what then? 

Jenna: Yeah. So typically what I recommend starting with is, you know, brand collateral. After you have all the target markets, you get their social media created, you have these email campaigns, these different tools, the marketing tools in place that you need to have. Which is a whole other conversation. There’s so many great leading tools that you need to leverage, to kind of really expand your reach in these areas. But once you have that, it’s just about having an active presence.  

So I always say like, there’s some people that will try social media and they’ll post a couple of times a month or here and there. And it’s kind of like throwing something to the wall hoping it sticks, and they’re just not seeing any traction or engagement with it. And so I always say in each of these tactics, like for social media, you want to be posting three times a week at optimal times. You want to be posting Monday, Wednesday, Fridays, typically between 10 and 12 in the morning seems to get the best engagement when people are kind of on their phones. And this varies across industries. I work with a lot of different clients, but I see these engagements and these best practices kind of across the board in terms of social media these days. But marketing is always changing, so that’s another thing that we have to always be looking at. While we want to keep this momentum, we have to be aware that things are going to continuously be changing. And so the social media is a key element to make sure you’re actively posting content, that we talked about, that is really relevant to your target market and actionable too. Because everyone has a website these days, but it’s really important to drive people to that website and make sure they’re actually staying. 

And then we have the email campaigns component, which really is that chance to just deliver targeted messages to your target market. Like a lot of people get bombarded with emails, but when you’re strategic about and you’re not touching them too many times per month, and you’re really just going in there and you’re showing them an appealing visual, how you can help your business save time and money, simple message with your services and your brand. You’ll be surprised how many responses you can actually get with that. 

Rich: I want to dive into some of the messaging in the different channels, but I guess one concern or one challenge that people might face is just like, especially if they’re starting at square one and they’ve never done any social. Or like you said, they’ve done it a couple times here and there but it’s never really kind of gotten any traction. What are the challenges that they face, either in terms of time or staying on message, when we’re talking about so many different potential social media channels, plus email, plus their website, plus who knows what else? 

Jenna: Yeah, so personally what I’ve noticed, is a lot of people put marketing on the back burner because they don’t have the time to do it. Because it really is an effort that you have to be extremely active and really just be paying attention to trends and all these different things. And so that’s one thing that I always try to do with my consultancy, is come in there and take the weight off their shoulders and say that I am the person overseeing all of these different things. So to make sure we streamline and have one voice throughout all of these tactics. I will be that voice to really execute on all of these different things. 

And a lot of times people are really happy to have weekly calls, monthly check-ins, different things to make sure that we’re on track and we keep pulse on results and traction that we’re moving in the right direction. I typically like to have, you know, there’s a lot of metrics that come into market. So there’s a lot of things in terms of a scorecard that I provide, just to make sure we’re seeing that increase in web traffic and we’re going in the right direction, basically. And we’re looking at what are the most engaged posts? Are we seeing more engagement on Instagram compared to LinkedIn? And then we’ll cater our tactics kind of going forward depending on the most engagements that we’re seeing for the business. 

Rich: So when you’re first, I mean that’s great, once you’ve got some regular posts going up there. But how are you starting right at the beginning? Are you just saying, okay, well here’s the top 3, 5, 7 platforms, we’re just going to put the same message across all of them and see what the results are, or is it more nuanced than that? 

Jenna: Yeah, exactly. That’s a great question. So typically what I do is the big players are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. So I say, let’s just start with that right off the bat. Let’s put all the same content out there. Let’s see what’s resonating, and then cater from there. Same thing with email campaigns. We’ll start with the leading tools. We’ll start with specific messaging. We’ll see what’s getting the most engagements, open and click rates, and then we’ll go from there.  

So what I do is I pull kind of from of course my experience and knowing kind of the best subject lines to use or the best platforms of hashtags to use. And then we see, you know, from there at that point forward what we need to kind of customize.  

Rich: And how do you get your clients on board with your messaging? Because sometimes if a company hasn’t done any marketing in the past, they really haven’t positioned themselves, and suddenly you’re coming in and you said you’re the voice of the company as far as marketing goes now, do you get pushback? And then how do you deal with that pushback when somebody says, well, I would never say it like that, or that’s not how we think about ourselves? 

Jenna: Yeah. So that’s been an interesting part of the journey because, so I’m a writer. I actually also went for writing and publishing in college, and I’ve actually authored a couple of different books, and I really, really enjoy writing. And so that’s one thing that drew me to marketing. And so when I meet with these owners of course I always show them something. I want to make sure I have their approval before it goes live. And so I’ll show them the email campaign, the blog, whatever it might be, and I want their feedback. I actually tell them to push back, because the more I’m going to learn when they say, “Hey, we don’t typically say ‘free assessment’” or, “Hey, we don’t actually offer this” or whatever it might be. I’ll say, okay so we can cater that message and make sure that we’re really honing in on exactly what you want to say. And so it’s kind of like that onboarding learning phase. Nothing will go live without of course full approval, but it really quickly I can customize and learn exactly what their voice sounds like. And every business is different. That’s the thing. So it’s really kind of in that onboarding stage, I am taking the time to research their target market, really read the voice that they’ve kind of had on their website and in the past. And try to match that to the best of my ability and then give my expert marketing advice on how we want to kind of transition the voice. 

Rich: Jenna, I’m onboard with you when you talk about the importance of email marketing. I’m just curious, do you find that people already have an email list that you’re just sending out to, or is this about building an email list from scratch? And if so, what are some of the tactics that you found to get people to opt into an email newsletter? Because I assume we’re obviously not talking about spamming people who aren’t looking for this, we’re talking about opt-in email newsletter or perhaps auto responders. I’m just curious what you found works for you.  

Jenna: Yeah, absolutely. So email campaign is actually my favorite tactic, because it generates the most marketing qualified leads, in my experience. So typically what I do once we have kind of the leading platforms out there, a lot of them are My Matrix, Constant Contact, MailChimp, some are familiar with those. What we want to do is, in the email itself we want to have a really good visual header. We want to have less than 200 words in the text, and then we want to have actionable links all throughout it, inbound, outbound, linking to the website, additional resources, whatever that might be. A really appealing subject line about how we can save your business time and money or something similar. But a lot of people see results in terms of the response rates, the email campaigns. 

So typically they say the average open click rate is like 10%, 5%, but really with the email campaigns that my clients are sending, because we have all these other best practice features into it, they’re seeing like a 30% open and click rate. And then these people that are reaching out as far as consultation or saying they want to learn more, I am directly sending those leads over to the sales team for them to follow up with them. And that’s just been a really healthy process to kind of shoot out a couple touch points per month. 

In terms of the lists, what we typically do is I always say get a list of your active clients. You want to get a newsletter on a monthly basis going out to your active clients for company updates, trending news, maybe some trivia, something fun to really show the work culture of your business. And then do two targeted prospect email approaches. So if you want a solution set, sell something, or you’re doing a giveaway, or whatever it might be to try to get those appointments set, I always say to do two targeted prospect emails.  

And typically to get those lists, some people will have some warm prospects in their system already from the sales team or just from their database. But there’s also tools out there, like Lead411Seamless.AI. There’s a bunch out there that people can actually scrape the internet for, put in your target market demographics, all those factors, and then be able to pull brand new lists that we can work with as well. So it’s kind of the active client list for upsell, cross sell opportunities, company updates. It’s the warm prospects that you already had that we want to continue to nurture. And then it’s those kinds of cold leads that we want to try to start in the funnel.  

Rich: So we’ve talked a lot about email and social, two popular platforms today. But I’m just wondering, where does SEO fit in, search engine optimization? Where does paid search fit in? Where does paid social fit in? Are these things you work with as well with your clients, or is the focus primarily on email?  

Jenna: Yeah. So the focus of course in the beginning, is to kind of build that well-oiled machine since no one when I come in, they don’t have that at all, is to do it organically. So at first we start organically with those things that we mentioned. But I always, always recommend a paid ad strategy in terms of social media and Google ads specifically. And the website blog is, another key tactic that we do and think that really helps with SEO. If you’re posting to your website blog at least twice a month, over a thousand words, you have a lot of linking going on. If you’re using the right keywords, that’s going to help you organically.  

But when we can put paid ad dollars towards Google ads, and we really get specific and hone in on your competitors there. There are so many factors that a lot of people don’t realize about Google and paid ads. If you don’t use it correctly, it’s kind of, for lack of better term, really throwing your money down the drain because you’re just not using it properly. 

You have to know exactly how to use the paid features to really be able to take it to the next level. So while I start organically, I still always lead into a paid ad strategy on a monthly basis as well.  

Rich: So talking about throwing money down the drain, talking about paid, you’re working with a lot of – I’m guessing – small to medium sized businesses, and budget must come into play. Do you find that most businesses are severely underfunding their marketing, and do you help them come up with a reasonable budget? And maybe what does that look like?  

Jenna: Yeah, exactly. So that’s one of the things that I do first is I really figure out what is your budget and what have you spent on marketing in the past? In terms of ROI, how are we going to track that? Like, those are all big conversations, of course, in the beginning. And so a lot of people, as I said, they put marketing on the back burner, and they really haven’t put the money towards it or put enough time towards it to make sure that it works is what I see the most frequent.  

But what I like to do is kind of go in there, show them the different packages that I offer, and I really customize it based on what their needs currently are. Some people, while they won’t have a marketing person, they might have someone that they want to kind of work side by side with me like a sales director, for example. And I might be able to allocate some of the tasks to him to kind of really get his boots on the ground perspective and sales perspective to help drive the marketing. Because a lot of times I always joke that I become a sales expert more than I ever realized because marketing and sales have to go hand in hand. And so that’s something that some people will do is they’ll just kind of make sure that they outsource a lot of their marketing to me for the full creation, execution, make sure we have that streamlined voice that we talked about. But they will have some internal help as well, which helps with the costs. 

And then in terms of the ROI, it’s really what you do with these marketing qualified leads. So if you think about the customer lifetime value, one of these leads can kind of payoff for all the outsource marketing itself if it’s converted. So a lot of people see that value right off the bat, especially when they start seeing these leads come into the system. 

Rich: You bring up an interesting point about the internal sales team or the director of sales, In this day it almost feels like the lines between sales and marketing have blurred so much. When you are working with somebody, how do you qualify that lead? How do you know when it’s time to hand off the lead to a sales person? 

Jenna: Yeah, that’s a great question. So marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, MQL, SQL. There’s a lot of acronyms out there and a lot of people define them differently. And so one thing that I’ve always tried to do from the start with my consultancy, and I’ve really seen success with this, is defining an MQL as someone who really shows interest.  

So if someone just follows you on social media, you’re not going to follow up with them. It’s kind of like walking down the road and giving a wave to someone, they’re not ready to buy yet. And so what I like to do is after we start seeing engagement through social media, email, whatever it might be, if someone’s downloading a form, for example, or a resource, or they’re filling out a form rather, I will send that directly to the salesperson and they’ll follow those breadcrumbs and they’ll just reach out and say, “Hey, are you all set, or can I help you? Do you want additional information?” And you’ll be surprised how often that starts into a conversation. So it’s almost like marketing gives you that visibility. 

And then you give that visibility to the sales team, and they can kind of work their magic, because that sales and marketing alignment is key. That’s what I’ve noticed, is the most successful thing is when those two teams are aligned at all times. And so I’ll send leads on a weekly basis to my clients. And then of course to enable the sales team, I’ll give them any brand collateral they need, or kind of anything to assist a follow-up. Even if it’s just messaging templates or touch tracks, or kind of suggestions that just to help them along with their journey on the SQL side of things.  

Rich: You touched on this a little bit earlier, talking about reporting. What are the KPIs that you’re usually setting up for your clients? How are you proving the ROI of marketing? Sometimes numbers seem very obvious. Sometimes they seem a little bit tricky. Do you work with your clients to define them? And then how are you reporting back to them whether you’re succeeding or that more work needs to be done? 

Jenna: Yeah. So what I do is I actually have a weekly and a monthly scorecard with my teams. So on the weekly scorecard, we’re looking at the total MQLs that are coming in per week. And typically the way to put your finger on that is look at your total website visitors. And it’s roughly like 2% to 5% of your website visitors, because that’s the audience that you have. The more you grow your audience and brand awareness, the more leads and traffic that you’re going to have. And so that’s typically what I look at, so that depends on your website traffic. Some people are seeing 40 MQLs per month.  

And then in terms of the conversion rate of those, typically it’s like a 15% to 30% conversion rate. They industry average that you’re kind of looking for. And all my clients definitely see that, it’s very dependent on the sales role and kind of how they’re following and aligning with we talked about earlier. But really just getting those leads in the system. We want to make sure that’s kind of always happen and we’re not getting stagnant in terms of the leads. So that’s typically the focus on the scorecard side.  

And then for the monthly metrics, I’m just always looking at more of the minuscule things that I think are important for a marketer to look at. Like we talked about session duration, the total website visitors, the bounce rate, the increase in followers, just to make sure that we were continuing to build that audience. And so I’ll have all these metrics and a big Excel spreadsheet to show them at the end of the month to make sure we’re looking at all those things.  

But I would say the most important things are those first interaction MQLs and increasing the website traffic. And statistically you should be increasing your website traffic roughly like 15% per month to really know that your marketing is working, because that means it’s pulling from your social, all these different tactics, to make sure you’re increasing your traffic. 

Rich: We’ve talked all about digital and digital transformation. Is there a role for traditional marketing in this hopefully post-COVID world?  

Jenna: Yeah. I like to say that I think traditional marketing is always here to stay in some forms. Because I actually recently just did a couple of direct mail campaigns with some clients, just kind of curious, because a lot of people went digital and I was curious to see kind of if we could reach those people directly. And we saw, well, it’s like people are getting phone calls.  

I actually worked with a furniture company in Boston and they were just getting phone calls several times a day, which is amazing to see. Just because you start to wonder like, does traditional work, does digital work? I think digital is definitely the way to go right now in this hybrid workplace. But I do think that the traditional methods are definitely here.  

Rich: Especially because traditional methods are a little bit more challenging and a little bit more difficult. But at the same time, there’s less people seemingly doing it. So sometimes your message just stands out because you’re the only one sending postcards or whatever the case might be.  

Jenna: Exactly. And there’s different generations that are maybe on Facebook, but instead they’d rather prefer like a direct mail piece. So it’s all about your audience.  

Rich: So we ask all of our experts here on the podcast this question, what one thing would you change if you could to improve the business ecosystem here in Maine?  

Jenna: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. So a couple of factors come to mind for me, especially those that have affected my personal experience as a young entrepreneur in Maine. So the first is the support of internship programs to really help nurture growth and gain that real world exposure. I believe companies willing to have an intern are really only helping to build a better ecosystem. And there’s so many great businesses across the state. So I encourage college students to seek an internship in their area of interest, and advisors and leaders to encourage the younger generations to do so as well. And the way I see it is it’s just extra help for the business, and it’s building better workers for our future. So it really benefits everyone.  

And internships not only open our eyes to experience, and I guess sharpening skills, but also building a network. And I can’t stress enough the benefits to having a strong network. And the sooner you start building that, the better in terms of that.  

But one thing I’ve noticed, and I love about Maine, is there are so many business resources out there if you’re willing to look and act on them. MaineBiz events, the Maine Woman’s Network, just a couple that come to mind that I’ve been involved in. But resources of those sorts are all things that we should support. And I just hope they continue to be available and expand as time goes on.  

And then secondly, my husband and I actually opened a nonprofit back in 2017 called Everlasting Escape, with a mission to bring awareness to recreational land and donates the land for Maine’s future coalition, along with other coalitions that really just have a mission to help preserve the precious land. And so through that, I guess I see myself as a member of the natural community as well as the business community, in the sense that in order to be successful, we have to take care of the state itself, too. And so I think there just needs to be a bigger push for community theme days or weekends dedicated to cleaning up parks, riverways, school yards, sidewalks, parking lots, and so forth. Like those community themes really bring together exactly that, the people and the business owners of our community. In the same way there should be more small business Saturdays, to celebrate our locals and raise awareness.  

So I guess as a marketer, I’m just a big advocate for brand awareness. But when it comes to this it’s brand awareness focused on what Mainers care about. It’s nurturing career opportunities for the youth, and the nurturing the physical parts of where we live. So when these factors I think are continuously pushed and they’re heard, I think that could be a really powerful tool to improve the economy.  

Rich:  Awesome, thank you, Jenna. For people who want to learn more, get in touch with you, where can we send them online?  

Jenna: You can go to my website, JCMarketinggroup.com. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. My email is jchouinard@jcmarketinggroup.com as well. 

Rich: AwesomeJenna, thank you so much for stopping by today.  

Jenna: Thank you so much for having me, I appreciate it.