Marketing at the Speed of Underpants: Exclusive Q&A with Brian Thackston of WebMechanix

by Jenna Sindle

It’s no news that marketers today are being tasked with roles they’ve never before had to fill. And when working in a past-paced industry like marketing, it can be tough to keep up. And while there are a number of tools and resources available to modern marketers, a healthy ROI is always top of mind. So what can marketers do when attempting to meet their goals while still making smart spending investments?

Brian ThackstonIn our most recent conversation, we spoke with Brian Thackston of WebMechanix. In the following Q&A, Brian shares with us his expertise—and humor—in helping modern marketers succeed in their online marketing efforts while also ensuring a healthy ROI.

Tell us a little about your role at WebMechanix.
I’m the director of marketing at WebMechanix, an online marketing firm that emphasizes snowballing ROI through inbound strategies. Online marketing changes faster than underpants, but we believe one thing will always be true — clients want a return on their investment.

To help clients maximize ROI, I’ve worn many hats — whether it was consulting on SEO, email marketing, paid advertising, conversion optimization, or automation. You get the idea.

Despite the dynamic scope inbound strategies require, it all comes back to measurable results that convert into real revenue. I’m now working on this with a client that I hold near and dear to my heart — WebMechanix.

My job is to communicate with companies that would benefit from our services. Those conversations can take place in person or online and through a variety of channels. We match those efforts with revenue and focus on what’s working.

In fact, this interview is a great example. You can categorize it however you want — public relations, whatever — but it’s just another inbound effort that I’ll do my best to measure against the return. I have a hunch that this will be a very positive return, though.

What makes WebMechanix different from other marketing agencies?
I think there are two main things that separate us from other agencies.

One is the people that work here. We’re a young bunch of marketing geeks that aren’t afraid of breaking the mold. In fact, many of us were never even formally trained as marketers. That’s okay though. Our broad range of expertise allows us to operate very effectively as a full service marketing agency. We learn what we need to know and we will never stop adding new skills.

Our other differentiator is the way we approach marketing challenges — with a lot of skepticism. Every client is unique and we treat them accordingly. That might sound like we’re constantly reinventing the wheel, but we’re not. We’re just conscientious about what we trust (not too much) and what we test (a whole bunch). When you have data at your back, supporting your decisions, it’s always easier to look beyond best practices.

I think it’s important to highlight that data comes in all shapes and sizes, though. While we’re always thorough in what we collect through our online campaigns, we’re also adamant about collecting data on our clients. That data is used for all kinds of purposes. We’ll deconstruct their sales process to find out how to best assist with their efforts. We’ll analyze their team and what they’re truly passionate about. When you really know that kind of stuff, it’s much easier to align expectations and results.

Your agency stresses a “snowballing ROI” approach to inbound marketing. Tell us a little about this approach and why it’s beneficial to marketers.
Snowballing ROI is deeply ingrained in what we do. Our goal in all things is always to deliver results that grow exponentially. We always want to achieve that win-win.

The most obvious connection to snowballing ROI is with our clients. We want to see their leads and customers continually increasing. Their investment — the time, the money, everything — should always be improving at a pace far greater than what’s being put into these campaigns. This mindset drives the types of clients we want to work with. We choose companies that want to grow alongside us.

This belief extends beyond our client work though. We take a lot of pride in the culture at WebMechanix. We want to see our employees learn and grow. We try to encourage that as much as possible. That’s partially why so many of us aren’t formally trained marketers. We already know that new recruits are going to learn the ins and outs of inbound marketing. A desire to learn is one of the most important traits an online marketer can have. It’s an industry that changes faster than underpants so you need to have a desire to stay on top.

So yeah, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking clients, employees, campaigns, or anything else — we always want investments that’ll snowball over time.

In your opinion, what are one or two areas of digital marketing that corporate marketers should be focusing on more for increased success?
I think that the most important thing corporate marketers can focus on is context and the increasing cost of audience’s attention. That’s probably one of the most ambiguous, sweeping statements I could offer for the question so I’m going to have to qualify it a bit.

Over the past couple years there’s been a wealth of commentary on topics like content marketing, mobile, and personalization. Increased content consumption, the proliferation of internet-capable devices, and the decline of anonymity are the wellspring for this commentary. Most of it is pretty on-point too — if you understand what the context clues are telling you about your ideal audience then you can map a pretty potent digital strategy.

As marketers make better use of their context clues they’ll continue getting better and better at delivering more of the right content, at the right time, to the right channel. That means the amount of content consumed per channel will increase alongside the number of choices (AKA competition) grows.

Competing for your audience’s attention across channels will become increasingly costly — particularly if you don’t know how to value each channel. Cross-channel tracking mechanisms are currently pretty limited. There’s enough there already but it’s going to continue evolving quite rapidly.

So, if you’re not already exploring the way audience interacts with difference channels, then you need to start. Look for those context clues. Really get to know your ideal audience and grow with them. The attention auction is going to be fiercely competitive in the future. Understanding where to invest your limited time and resources is going to be critical.

What are you looking forward to most at the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit?
We’re definitely looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things. The Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit is a fantastic opportunity for this. As a younger company, learning from others is essential. We’re standing on the shoulders of giants, so getting to know some of those giants is critical for building something that will endure.

That idea goes for our continued development as marketers and as a business. We may not always be drawing from the deepest well, but we have wells all over the place, even in the most unlikely of spots. The Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit is one of our favorite places to draw from, so we’re excited to be coming back.