John Barnes is the CMO/Vice President of Marketing at Sunburst Shutters & Window Fashions. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Sunburst sells custom window treatments through a premier shop-at-home program. John orchestrates strategic branding and the total customer experience for all of Sunburst’s 75 US markets. He has developed new products for Sunburst and manages partnership programs with retailers and other merchants. John started his career working for a full-service ad agency and has been a marketing executive at a number of high-tech companies before starting his own marketing strategy firm.
Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit this May 24-25 in San Francisco, we talked marketing with John, from social media to personalization techniques.
Marketing leaders have had to adapt time and time again in recent years, for you, what has been the biggest change?
The biggest change is the resources of information available to a customer. Twenty years ago, it was easy to get in front of a customer. They had few choices. Now, there are thousands of ways to touch a customer: from traditional advertising to websites, reviews to product comparisons, social media sites, video, email campaigns, impact advertising, endorsements, trade shows, and more. The biggest change is that information is available from so many sources and you need to stay on top of the sources that your customers use most often.
What approach have you taken to social media and how are you measuring your success? (brand awareness, clicks, shares etc.)
Sunburst Shutters has a very targeted approach to social media that focuses on providing solutions to problems customers often ask about—controlling light and temperature, adding privacy, etc. Customers buy for different reasons and our content varies accordingly. We use a variety of posts and video to get the message across. We also offer exclusive offers and discounts via individual social media outlets. We measure success through growth in followers, click-throughs to links, and sales from coupons and special offers.
How are you successfully managing (and optimizing) a multichannel brand presence?
Sunburst has many different channels, each one with different audiences and in some cases, some channels compete. We modify our brand to the channel. That does not mean we change our story or approach to the customer. It means we have a unique look that tells customers in that channel that they get something exclusive for them. We customize our message for that channel. A DIY customer on the internet is given different information than a shop @ home customer who wants our team to do everything for them. Customization is the key. There is not a '1 size fits all' method to managing a multichannel brand strategy.
How crucial is the role that data plays in your decision-making?
Data is everything. Your opinions may not always be right, but data will be. It should direct your efforts in everything you do.
How are you tracking your customers journey and have you seen a change in browsing behaviors? (e.g. move to mobile, two-screens, etc.)
Sunburst is big on analytics and has a team that monitors the customer’s sales path. We look at click-throughs, page timing, customer behavior, the primary pages customers visit and more. Our websites are dynamic in that we test new content and new pages over time and make changes based on browsing behavior. Everything is mobile based because that’s the most popular way customers access our content.
What measures are you taking to personalize your outreach? (localization, customer profiling etc.)
Sunburst developed a strategy of local store websites, each with localized content, photos and information. Content is customized for each store’s site, and varies by geography. We also implement local email campaigns and social media. Localization requires a lot of management, but it’s critical to our success. The personalization effort has resulted in more traffic, better SEO performance, and most importantly: more leads and sales.
What strategies are you using to increase your customer lifetime values?
To Sunburst, increasing lifetime values means giving customers the best possible product and providing the best warranty in the business to build peace of mind. Our customers buy our products every time they move into a new home. When they love us initially, they become lifetime customers. The product quality and warranty make up most of that, but the customer experience is also a crucial part. That customer experience needs to be friendly, knowledgeable and memorable. In a digital format, that’s done with attractive/modern designs with content that does not over-promise or over-sell. The human element of that is done with sales reps trained to make any homeowner feel comfortable to let them in their home. Customers refer us to their friends and neighbors because of that.
New technology adoption and transforming staff practices can be a tricky process - what tips do you have to make this a success?
Walk before you run. Test whenever you can. But also, don’t wait for all your competition to get on board before you do. There are always ways to ease into a technology without damaging your image or brand.
How do you maintain brand loyalty and meaningful engagement in the over-crowded digital space?
Sunburst positions itself as knowledgeable and sophisticated. Brand loyalty comes from trust, so the more advice and education we can provide customers, the more they trust our company over the competition. We also make sure all communications (web, social media, even sales staff) provides facts, does not stretch the truth, and does not bad-mouth the competition. It is critical that our sales force buys into the strategy for digital so the message is cohesive and consistent with the customer. Positioning Sunburst Shutters as a sophisticated brand is natural to customers looking to “keep up with the Jones’.” The more our brand makes a statement with customers, the more loyal they will be to it.
What do you foresee to be the biggest area of growth in marketing through 2017?
We see a major shift in the way customers go through the purchasing process. It isn’t enough to tell a customer why they should buy your product on your website. You need that, plus a great social media following, testimonials, and reviews. You need 3rd party endorsements. You need a company brand that is reputable and responsible. You need to provide helpful information—not sales information—to assist customers in making an educated decision. This is due to customers doing their research about your product and company before they buy. Usually, all of that effort is done without you—at home, usually after work. This requires a multi-impact approach to be in front of customers wherever they will search for you. And now there are more avenues for customers to research your product than ever before.
You can hear more from John, along with other industry-leading marketing executives, at the Chief Marketing Officer Summit this May 24-25 in San Francisco. To see the full schedule, click here.