Vista chief: Campaigns must engage with 'me as an individual'

Vista MD: 'The minute a campaign doesn’t feel it’s engaging with me as an individual, I turn off'

Emily Shirley is general manager of Vista UK and Ireland, formerly Vistaprint, and answers our questions in the latest of Press Gazette’s Marketing Maestro interviews. This series is produced in association with Lead Monitor, New Statesman Media Group’s content-driven marketing arm.

What has been your proudest achievement in your current role?
As with many companies that have weathered the pandemic and Brexit, I’m lucky to have seen lots of proud moments over the past few years. At Vista, we expanded our consumer offering early in the pandemic; we launched masks and face shields in record time and shifted our B2B products to support small businesses that were adapting to the new restrictions as quickly as possible. I’m so proud of how the whole team came together and collaborated to make it happen, it was truly awe-inspiring.

During my time at Vista so far, we have made lots of changes to the company, driven by customer feedback: These include adapting our site UX, product selection and pricing strategies. It’s been invigorating to drive so much change!

Which media channels do you see as most important and best value when it comes to marketing spend and activity?
Each media channel has its own part to play, and best value can be realised when they all work cohesively together. For example, search is great for reach, but doesn’t deliver the storytelling PR does, or the personalisation or relationship growth offered by email or social media. The secret is finding ways to play on each channel’s strength and using them together to achieve your business goals.

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What is the best way to improve your social media output?
Social media changes at a very fast pace. Improving our social output comes from staying on top of where customer segments are migrating to when we see changes in usage across platforms. It’s important to continually test and measure social content too, as the way content is received by consumers also evolves – we can’t assume that what worked two months ago is going to have the same impact now.

While the long-overdue tightening of privacy on these platforms is a hurdle, it is one which will create a healthier ecosystem in the long run and improve outputs. What’s left after all those changes is quality. The content shared on social media must be valuable to our users to remain relevant, and this is how brands can build lasting relationships on social, even with all of these changes.

What are the key differences between B2C and B2B marketing?
B2B campaigns have a more complex conversion cycle than B2C, so touch points need to be personalised deeper into your flow, ensuring that they are aligned with the upper funnel messaging.

However, B2C and B2B marketing are increasingly more similar than ever. As marketing becomes steadily more personalised, B2B is now more about the individual than the company itself – instead of targeting companies, campaigns should be personalised for individuals within these companies. Slick consumer campaigns which B2B customers are being inundated with from the likes of Apple and Amazon mean that in 2022, B2B campaigns need to be just as well designed and executed as B2C.

What for you is the key to any successful marketing campaign – what actually makes a ‘good lead’?
Engagement is a key factor to any successful marketing campaign. It’s important to build a dialogue even at the programmatic stages of the campaign to ensure that when a lead lands, the cold contact stage has passed and we’ve started to build reasons for why the potential customer should remain engaged.

I’m continually surprised by how many campaigns are still rolled out in perfectly targetable channels without taking the customer’s basic needs into account. With so much fatigue from being continually inundated with B2B and B2C campaigns, it takes relatively little time for the consumer to make a decision about whether they’re interested or not. Personally, the minute that a campaign doesn’t feel it’s engaging with me as an individual, I turn off.

How important is technology in modern marketing?
Technology is an amazing tool for modern marketing. It allows us to have a reach that would’ve been unachievable 20 years ago, allowing personalisation without compromise and a deeper insight into our customers’ needs in ways we couldn’t before.

Using technology in marketing gives a small business the same opportunity to run impactful campaigns as companies many times their size. That being said, there’s still a huge opportunity for good, honest basic marketing. Sending a personalised gift or samples to a customer still works wonders, and there’s still value in sharing leaflets at a trade show or event. The tech is here to stay, but marketers shouldn’t forget the other tools available to us.

What are the biggest pain points in a marketing campaign?
So many campaigns now have significant parts which are programmatically run. Once executed, these campaigns have, to some extent, a life of their own. Using so much technical automation in marketing presents the opportunity for human error take a much bigger form, as a small error in the campaign design or set up can result in much bigger implications than we’ve seen previously. Marketing quality assurance is my new favourite function for 2022 and beyond.

And finally, if you could ask your peers for one piece of advice or help, what would it be?
I’d ask: ‘How are you changing your creative processes in a personalised world?’ There’s a fascinating discussion around mixing personalised elements with overarching campaign elements and the processes around making both as impactful and cohesive as possible, without demanding too much of your creative teams.

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