Interview With Benjamin Smithee, CEO of The Smithee Group
In episode #151 of the Joy Joya Jewelry Marketing Podcast, I share my interview with Benjamin Smithee. He’s the CEO of The Smithee Group, a Digital Growth Agency that’s been empowering entrepreneurs and businesses to dream bigger and achieve multi-generational integrity since 2015. He’s consulted some of the largest and most well-known companies around the globe including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Comcast, Disney, and hundreds of small businesses. You’ll definitely want to listen to or watch this episode all about digital marketing trends and opportunities for 2022 and beyond. Check out the transcript below.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 0:00
Hi, I’m your host Laryssa Wirstiuk. Through this podcast I aim to empower and inspire jewelry entrepreneurs and professionals so they can thrive while adding more beauty to the world. I’m passionate about digital marketing for jewelry brands, and I’m excited to share my passion with you. As we all know, jewelry is joy, so I’ll gladly seize any opportunity to talk about it.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 0:23
This is episode 151 and today I’m going to be sharing my interview with Benjamin Smithee. He’s the CEO of The Smithee Group, a digital growth agency that’s been empowering entrepreneurs and businesses to dream bigger and achieve multi generational integrity since 2015. He’s consulted some of the largest and most well known companies around the globe, including Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Comcast, Disney and hundreds of small businesses. Ben’s an advisor for the Black in Jewelry Coalition and sits on the board of directors for the Women’s Jewelry Association as well as Gem Legacy, which supports the artisanal mining communities in East Africa with education, training, childcare, health care and business opportunities.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 1:11
I first met Ben at this year’s JCK Las Vegas, but his glowing reputation definitely preceded him. Ben and I were on a panel together titled “The Fringe of Marketing” along with past podcast guests, Jen Cullen Williams, and Shayne McCoy Hollander. Ben has spoken to audiences around the world in more than 20 countries across six continents. And now he’s speaking on this podcast so you can imagine I’m very excited about it. And I just love his energy and hope that you love it too.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 1:44
But before we get to the solid gold of this episode, I’d like to take a moment to remind you that this podcast has both an audio and video component. So you can either listen on your favorite podcast platform or watch on YouTube by searching Joy Joya. I love creating this content as my act of service to you my awesome listeners. And you can support the podcast for free by taking the time not only to subscribe, but also to leave a rating and review on iTunes, which helps to other jewelry dream dreamers find it too.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 2:17
Also side note, I’m in the process of giving away six Amazon gift cards four $25 cards, one $50 one and one $100 one. To enter to win one of these six gift cards, visit joyjoya.com/survey. And please complete a 10 question survey about this podcast. That’s it. Just visit joyjoya.com/survey and tell me your thoughts about your listening or viewing experiences, then you’ll be in the running. I really appreciate your insights and feedback. And your answers to my questions will help me improve this podcast in 2022 and beyond so I can keep delivering great content to you.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 3:01
So let’s discuss some recent news related to jewelry or marketing. Each week I share my thoughts about three relevant articles. And you can get those links by visiting joyjoya.com/signup. Once you’re on that VIP list, you’ll receive our weekly digest filled with new episode announcements.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 3:23
So first, this comes from later.com. If you’re trying to get more reach on Instagram, then questions about hashtags have definitely crossed your mind. One question that I personally get a lot from clients and other people who are just looking for information about Instagram growth. How many hashtags should I use on Instagram? In a post? I get this question all the time. So earlier this year, Instagram allegedly told creators to aim for about eight to 15 hashtags on a post. But wait, a recent post from Instagram’s creators account said that users should use between three to five hashtags. So what is real? Who can we believe? Well, Instagram, on one hand is guiding users to experiment with fewer more relevant hashtags to help categorize and recommend posts in suggested content streams as opposed to spam like hashtag use. So what is it – eight to 15 hashtags? Three to five hashtags? Later actually did their own research so they analyzed 18 million Instagram feed posts to find the answer and clear it up for us all. So they actually found and this is in line with the advice that I give that using more hashtags typically yields the best results. Posts with 20 hashtags received the highest average reach rate, and those with 30 are close behind. Later found the average reach rate and engagement rate significantly increases as the number of hashtags increases beyond five per post. So I don’t know what Instagram is talking about. Maybe they’re just getting their users to kind of streamline the way they present their content. But Later, in their own research, found something totally different. That goes against Instagram’s recommendations. So Later suggests to go big or go home when it comes to hashtag strategy. There’s nothing wrong with using a few hashtags, but implementing 20 to 30 relevant and targeted hashtags seems to be the best bet for your overall reach and engagement rates. Every hashtag you use should obviously be relevant to your content, audience and business. And of course, a great hashtag strategy takes time so it’s important to experiment, monitor, use social media analytics tools, and find out over time, what works best for your brand and account.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 6:02
A new article from JCK Pro has the headline “Experts predict a happy and prosperous holiday”. Whoo hoo. Are you excited to hear that? Here’s a quote from the article: “Retail analysts and experts agree that holiday 2021 may be among the best the fine jewelry industry has ever had in terms of in store traffic, sales and revenue.” That is great news. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday sales between November and December have “the potential to shatter previous records”, growing between 8.5% and 10.5% to reach 843 point 4 billion to $859 billion. Without a doubt, at least according to this data and these predictions, holiday spending will increase and the jewelry sectors strong growth will continue throughout the season. While this is good news, retail analysts also urged the industry not to assume success will continue in 2022 and beyond. Using data about your customer behavior during these next two lucrative months of the year will help your brand understand what to do to keep that revenue rolling in the new year.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 7:23
And then finally, this is an announcement from YouTube. So as we know from listening to this podcast, livestreaming is becoming more and more popular as it helps businesses reach and interact with more people across the world. As I’ve mentioned, a number of times on this podcast before, livestream shopping is set to be the future of retail. It already is kind of the future of retail. Have you as a brand ever considered adding YouTube to your digital marketing mix? YouTube’s shopping team is working hard to build an organic live shopping experience on their platform in an effort to strengthen relationships between brands, and fans and viewers or even influencers and creators and their fans and viewers. On November 15, YouTube launched a new way for people to connect with their favorite creators. And this week, they have a week long YouTube holiday stream and shop, which is featuring a handful of creators along with exclusive access to new products, exciting giveaways, exclusive discounts. I think this is a really exciting way that YouTube is pairing the livestream shopping experience with a more curated hands on shopping experience. So YouTube created youtube.com/shopping as a temporary destination that allows customers to revisit these live streams, discover new ones, and browse products as they’re shown in the video categories. They built this shopping feature so that viewers can easily learn about products in the videos or discover new products they might love. And as a whole, the goal is to build a platform that allows anyone with a mobile device and a product to easily host a live shopping stream that is very exciting for brands that want to invest in this livestream shopping and providing a more immersive customer experience. So I would definitely pay attention to these developments with YouTube if that’s something that interests you, as a brand.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 9:32
As I mentioned, if you want to get the links to the articles I share in this segment of the podcast, you can become a Joy Joya VIP by visiting joyjoya.com/sign up without further delay. Let’s jump into my interview with Benjamin.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 9:47
Hey, Ben, thanks so much for coming on the podcast today. it’s really a pleasure to have you.
Benjamin Smithee 9:52
Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 9:54
So tell our listeners about The Smithee Group your company. What is like the origin story and how did you build it to the agency that it is today?
Benjamin Smithee 10:04
Um, well, I think to tell that story, there’s a couple preceding stories.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 10:09
Okay, let’s hear it.
Benjamin Smithee 10:11
Yeah. So it because it was never, it was never gonna be a group actually, it was just what I call it. Um, so my background. What it is today is a digital growth agency. And we focus a lot in the jewelry industry, but we do inside the jewelry industry outside, we have a digital growth agency, which is content, marketing, paid media, you name it. And then the other side of it is consumer insights and brand strategy. So we do qualitative research studies for corporations and enterprises. So the background is actually that my background is actually not in the jewelry industry. It’s not in the digital execution side. It’s actually in research. So I started my career doing consumer insights work. I started one of the first global qualitative research firms that was focused on the millennial market that was back when we were still deciding if we were Gen Y, or millennials. And then how you spelled millennials was a big thing to whether it was two or one “n’s”, and so I started that back in 2009, with my business partner at the time, and we grew that and we did a lot of fun stuff. We we did stuff for like General Mills, Coke, McDonald’s, you name it. Yeah, EA games, like a lot of the fun stuff that brands are really trying to understand next generation consumer. And that’s what we still do on the research side quite a bit today, too.
Benjamin Smithee 11:29
But I fell into the jewelry industry, actually, in 2011. I got a random call from a company I’d never heard of before, and it was Signet and that was the first company.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 11:39
Like the biggest jewelry company in the world.
Benjamin Smithee 11:42
Yeah. So that was that was interesting. We did a lot of their their Gen Y millennial research that was for the future product mix. We did a lot of secret shops. And that was really fun work on I have to say doing it at scale. And I learned the jewelry industry kind of like drinking from a firehose, right. Um, and then the connection story is from there. Actually, my second jewelry client was Rio Tinto. Shout out to my dear friend Rebecca Forrester, who was leading North America Rio Tinto at the time. And then WJA was my connection. So I actually just finished my sixth year on the board. And so finished my term, I termed out of the board for Women’s Jewelry Association. And that’s when I really really got connected in the jewelry industry and found a lot of mentorship and partnership. And so when I moved to New York from Dallas and 2014 2015, I started TSG. Again, it’s called The Smithee Group. But it was never going to be a group, it just LLCs started, I was just going to consult on my own and pay myself through there for my speaking engagements and things like that, but then met a lot of really great people and friends. And they were like, “Hey, I am working at this agency. I’d love some side work or whatever.” So I was like, “Oh, I can go sell stuff. So I sold work and pitch contract work.” And all sudden, I had all these like, friends working as contractors. And I met Alex who’s our VP of Operations, she came on board, she’s like, “No, no, okay, if we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna run, we’re gonna do this, right.” And so it became a company became all these things together. And that’s the growth of TSG. We really started in 2015 as a full fledged organization and taking this thing to growth and scale. So long answer to a short question. But that’s kind of how we got to where we’re at today.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 13:30
So I need to know, because I’m still sitting here waiting for the call, what is it like to have Signet call you to ask them to do their marketing?
Benjamin Smithee 13:37
It was for research, and it was it was interesting, right? Because it was for research there probably there’s only a handful of companies that do large scale, consumer insights, working in our industry that have the budgets for that type of stuff, but everyone should be doing it. I mean, it’s scaled out a lot now, right? You can do AB ad testing on Facebook instantly. Right? You couldn’t do that back then really? Um, it was awesome. It was. It was fun. I honestly, like they’re an easy target, because they’re a big company, right? The giant, but I had a great time I learned so much about the industry, the team there at the time, was was absolutely brilliant. The people that we worked with, were awesome. And we got to do a lot of fun stuff. And they did things. They did things right. They I never the one thing I was excited was I never saw them like, like, just play the like, Oh, we’re the major player in the field. So we don’t have to understand that they’re like, no, let’s take a deep understanding of consumers. That’s why we’re where we are, you know, so it’s interesting.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 14:38
That’s really refreshing to hear.
Benjamin Smithee 14:40
Yeah, and I know they face like struggles and things like that sense but um, I can only speak to when I worked with them and the experiences that I had personally.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 14:49
Great. So your company has a really big presence at like jewelry trade shows. Like for example we met at JCK so even though you don’t specialize in jewelry, I really feel you feel like you have kind of a passion for this industry especially serving on the board for WJA. What is it about jewelry, the industry that kind of like captivates you?
Benjamin Smithee 15:11
I think it is a couple things. I think it’s from a marketing, let’s just talk from a purely marketing perspective, because you’re from the same, you’re from this cut from the same cloth. From a marketing and advertising and content perspective, it’s a marketer’s dream. The industry is right. It’s built on image and aesthetic and value and created value and supply and demand and all the things that as a marketer, you’re like, “Oh, this is, this is where you get to shine, right?” That’s it is what differentiates products and brands and all those things. So I love the jewelry industry because of that, professionally. And then personally, I have a heart for for small and medium sized businesses, it’s largely small businesses. So you know, the vision for TSG. Our vision is to inspire and empower people to create generational success. Right. And we do that through integrity and impact. And I think that when we look at that small businesses are the future of I think it’s, it’s our growth economy. Here in the states, I think it’s the growth economy for a lot of things around the world, you know, and when you look at that, in small business impact paired with the marketing sort of playground that it is, and then you look at just the meaning and like, I love the the science behind jewelry, and diamonds and colored gemstones. And I love that stuff. So I think it’s all those things together. And it’s just we just, it’s a family, like I like knowing the like the tight knit family of people that run in make this industry what it is. So like, I’m glad we finally got to meet up at the tradeshow like all this type of stuff you hear and you run about in the same circles, but then you get the chance to meet and do life together and experience things together as a as really as a family industry. And that’s cool. I dig that.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 16:59
I like that. That’s amazing. So for someone who’s like a little jaded, and maybe thinks the market in this industry is too saturated, and how can anyone stand out? What would you say to that person?
Benjamin Smithee 17:12
That sounds like a personal problem. You know what I mean? Like? It’s, it’s, if you think about that, then you would really hate being in the beverage industry, you’d really hate being in the clothing industry, in fashion, you’d really hate being in the cereal industry, for sure. And the quick serve industry, man don’t get into canned goods. Or you know what I mean? Like there’s a million other industries that are that have a ton of competition and saturation. And then you have an industry that is locked up like the automobile industry. And for every person that’s in there, you have like an Elon Musk that comes around and just totally like, disrupts it. So everything is what you make of it, you know what I mean? So to the like, if people want to feel jaded, they’re going to feel jaded. If they want to feel inspired, they’re gonna feel find ways to be inspired and find inspiration and motivation. And if they want to be successful, they’re dang well gonna find ways to be successful. And so for our industry, like I, why not sell diamonds and gold and jewelry in fabulous things, because I find that a lot more exciting and differentiating than corrugated boxes. I’m sure there’s somebody out there totally geeking out about this new interior fold design that’s uses half the weight of, of corrugated boxes previously, but also twice the durability. You know what I mean? There’s I’m sure there’s something exciting about that, too.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 18:39
I love it. So that’s what you said is inspiring. I’m glad that I’m glad that you shared those thoughts. Awesome. So tell me some examples. I mean, you mentioned Signet, you mentioned Rio Tinto. Are there other examples of jewelry brands you’ve worked with? And what kind of results have you helped them achieve?
Benjamin Smithee 18:55
Yeah, for sure. So those were early days, and those are where I cut my teeth. I think since then, the I’ll tell you, the brands that people would recognize working with the manufacturers that launched like Enchanted Disney fine jewelry, got to help launch the Serena Williams jewelry line. Those have been notable brands that people know about and things like that. We’re one of the partner brands for De Beers Forevermark for a partner agencies that but I’ll be honest, and I love those and so no offense, the brands and everything like that. But I I love working with the like startups, startup designers that are just going and starting and then also with the retailers like I think the biggest opportunity in the market is with the retail, your local retail jeweler. There’s tons of ways that they can expand their market both in person and online. There is a sea of sameness that is out there right now. And so there’s opportunities for them and I’m sure we’ll get into that like opportunities for people and businesses and brands to grow and scale like never before. And I also just like, but I just like the small nature of it like I’m also on the board for Gem Legacy. And that’s you talk about the smallest of the smallest, it’s the artisanal mining communities in the color gemstone industry. But you take a niche of jewelry, colored gemstones, and then you take a niche of artisanal miners. And in I love that type of stuff. Because you can see the impact that one literally one person or one family can then trace and exponentially grow throughout a global economy. And to me those type of stories as marketers, those types of campaigns that we can create this type of brands that we can develop. Those are it that’s it for me, like that’s what gets me going. That’s what gets me excited and really amped up about this stuff.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 20:44
I love that. So let’s talk about trends. 2021 is pretty much done.
Benjamin Smithee 20:52
I was sitting in the office yesterday. And Alex, who many of you listening probably have had the chance to meet or have heard on podcasts and things like that. She’s our VP of operations, and she goes, “Hey, team, only three full work weeks left in the year.”
Laryssa Wirstiuk 21:09
Wow, I didn’t even think of it that way.
Benjamin Smithee 21:12
I was like, What the heck, they don’t say that. That’s. But yeah, so 2021 is in the books, let’s just call it that. And if you’re trying to plan for things now you’re just just cross your fingers and hope because like you got to be rolling at this point.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 21:28
So 2022, what can we anticipate? What are some of the trends coming down the pike? Let’s hear about it.
Benjamin Smithee 21:35
So I can speak from a marketing standpoint, from a digital standpoint, we’re focused, we already have, like, we’re already working on releasing release every year and annual Marketing Guide. And we already have our two points of focus. And we were trying to keep it very, very simple. And to not try to overwhelm people, but try to give them the two pieces of focus. So you’re gonna hear us talking about this all next year. It’s two core points. I think the only two things that people need to focus on next year. One is brand, so brand creative, things like that. And the second is intelligence data. And so we’re talking about impactful brands, like how do you make true brand impact? And then how do you use data intelligence for really smart media buys, advertising, things like that? So those are two areas are two core areas of focus. And it seems really simple. But it’s arguably the two most complex things that businesses and brands in our industry are getting wrong. So brand, and data intelligence.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 22:31
Is there something about 2022 that makes it different from other years? Why wasn’t brand important this year or last year? Like what is it about 2022? I mean, it was always important, but like, why is it really the central focus?
Benjamin Smithee 22:52
Because I think a lot of people in the business world and especially when you get into small businesses, they’re focused on everything because they have to be I get that, right. It’s easy to say, well, you need to focus on yada, yada, yada, but they’re also the their number one salesperson for they manage HR. They’re trying to hire people like crazy right now. Because the there’s a worksheet and a staff shortage. They’re managing insurance premium updates and health care. Like all the things right, making sure people aren’t saying, you know, crazy stuff about them online, like they’re up to a million things. And so my point in that is saying that most business owners and businesses only can focus on the thing that is their biggest area of liability. And so when we look at why now, I believe that this is one of the biggest areas of liability for future success in the to play off of each other because intelligent part of intelligent advertising and what we call like smart advertising, is not just the data intelligence to create and target and build audience personas. But it’s the contextualization of content that gets mapped to that data intelligence, right. This is where I geek out and the researcher in me really shows like that I love that type of stuff. But if you take that back now in order from a content creation and brand distribution, all that type of stuff, you have to have the solid foundation of brand. And I think arguably that is the number one biggest gap. And I’m interested in your thoughts on this too. Like, to me that’s the number one biggest gap that we see it for, quote unquote, I’ll use my air quotes for those of you listening, that brands in our industry in whether it’s a retailer or a manufacturer, that brands are missing, they think if you say brand, to people, most people think it’s a logo, a tagline, a trademark, and maybe some colors. And that’s like a visual identity, but that’s not a brand so we’re trying to get people like if I could at the end of the year say that I’ve gotten our industry to understand what the real definition what a real brand is. And then what do you do with that? That’s a win to me. I’m like mission accomplished for the year.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 24:56
Yeah, I think a lot of jewelry businesses lean into like product features, and they try to differentiate themselves on product. But as we know, there’s a lot of diamond jewelry, there’s a lot of gold jewelry, and a lot of it kind of looks the same. So the brand is the differentiating factor. And I think you’re right, a lot of people don’t realize that or lean into that.
Benjamin Smithee 25:16
Yeah. And so for us, like, brand is a big thing. And if you look at coming from the research standpoint, and where we really been in some of these brand developments and pieces, people pay millions of dollars, like corporations pay millions and 10s of millions, really understanding and developing this, like, elusive brand, right. And so to us, like the way I define brand, and there’s, you can look up a million different definitions. But I say that a brand is a promise that a business has the opportunity to fulfill. And to me, that’s what it is. So a brand is this like intangible thing, right? And if you ask me, the next question that I’m going to ask is like, Well, okay, well, what’s a good example of a brand than the brand promise? To me I use, I’ll use Red Bull, right? Most people think, you know, the tagline the brand for Red Bull is Red Bull gives you wings, and it’s an energy drink. But that’s not it. The energy drink is its product. The the Red Bull gives you wings is a brand promise or its statement, how they communicate that brand promise, but the brand. To me, the brand of Red Bull is about excitement. It’s about energy. It’s about adrenaline, and it’s about enthusiasm, right. And so they give you different ways to experience that brand, through its content through its everyday adventures, through its professional sports people through all these different things, there are ways to consume the brand. But the brand promise is still the thrill of, you know, flying the adrenaline rush of doing something that above that you’re what you’re trying to do, and the enthusiasm of seeing professionals do things that normal human beings could never dream of doing. Right? So all of that is brand new, and we tend to water it down to it’s a bowl with red and blue and silver. And it’s Red Bull gives you wings, and it’s an energy drink, and you totally miss out what the actual brand is, if you think of it that way.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 27:11
Sure. Do you think there are any really memorable or impactful jewelry brands? Yes, putting you on the spot?
Benjamin Smithee 27:22
Yes, I do. But they just haven’t done a great job of communicating. I think that your local jeweler has a great brand. And people feel it. Where the local jeweler tends to miss it is they don’t take full advantage and capitalize on cementing that brand. They let the consumers feel the brand. But we just haven’t done a great job in the industry of then recreating it and fulfilling that brand promise consistently over time repeatedly. Right? The consumers feel the brand, when they walk into a retail jeweler, they get the great service, all these other things. But that memory when they deliver your product, that’s really your brand. Right when they think of you helping them fulfill a promise that they’ve made to a loved one. That’s where your brand sits as a retail jeweler, right that moment that feeling that space is where your retail brand fits. And I think that’s what we have to do a better job of communicating. That’s how we have to identify, that’s what we have to put looks and feelings and colors and words to that feeling. And that emotion. That’s the promise that a jewelry store fulfills I think.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 28:33
Totally. I think for a lot of small businesses to the brand is kind of accidental, like it happens out of the great customer service that they offer, the way they merchandise their store, the way they present themselves. It’s not necessarily like planned or thought about. But then they’re so far in the weeds of that, that they can’t step back and say, “Oh, this is our brand.” Let’s capitalize on that, as you’re saying it just kind of like happens and becomes a thing.
Benjamin Smithee 28:59
Which is not scalable. Because it’s not plantable or, you know, you can’t strategize around, it just happens. So that’s intention is a great aspect of it. It’s like, you know, we talked about content creation and slight tangent, but we still are content creation model like blatantly from 11 Madison Park, and Daniel Hume the chef there, right? Three Michelin star restaurant, rated like best restaurant in the world many times. And his rule of thumb and I ripped it off a podcast interview that he did is that in order for anything to be on his menu, it has to be delicious, beautiful, creative and intentional. And that’s the that’s what brand and marketing and content should be right? Is it delicious? Do people want to consume it? Is it beautiful? Gosh, I hope so. Is it creative? Meaning does it take an innovative or a different approach? Or is it the same way? Is it just another beautiful piece of art that people put out there? Content and creative is different than art art is anything you want it to be content creative has Do something with a purpose, right? And then is it intentional? Like, did we choose this for a specific reason? Or is it just another post to put in our feet? Right? Um, but I forget where we’re going right before that, but that was the the intentionality pieces what you’re saying like, yes, rather than just falling into it the brand like, are you intentionally creating something for there? And that’s part of like the whole brand impact framework that we’re gonna be talking about next year, part of that is meaningful, like are is there meaning behind it?
Laryssa Wirstiuk 30:26
What can jewelry brands be doing to kind of prepare themselves for that? I mean, of course, working with you working with me working with another brand expert, is there anything else internally that they can kind of be working on to prepare themselves for these trends?
Benjamin Smithee 30:40
Yeah, I think part of it is just getting back to the roots of, you know, putting it down with pen and paper, like, thinking about it intentionality. And I think, excuse me, I think that’s where you were getting at with the intentional piece like, or the opposite is happenstance. But if you can put some intentionality behind it, and sit down and think about your brand is a much bigger thing, right? What promises are you trying to make? And what is your business really good at fulfilling? What promises? Is your business really good at delivering on time and time again? And if you answer those questions, and if you can go and put some intentionality behind answering those questions, that’s the only place to start. I think that is the place to start, if you will, right. And it doesn’t have to be anything more or less than that. But then you can dive into a whole big brand discovery, big brand development and distribution strategy, all of that, then that’s where you can work with a professional. But regardless if you if they work with you, me, anyone out there, they have to know that and have an idea of that. And then we can walk with them through okay, well, let’s do a big brain Discovery Program Development Program, all that type of stuff.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 31:49
So you mentioned before that you come from the research background and the consumer insights background. And I think that does play an important role in like the building the brand, making sure it’s effective for the target audience. Do you find there are ways that smaller businesses on a smaller scale can kind of conduct that kind of research or get those insights without paying, as you said, millions of dollars?
Benjamin Smithee 32:11
Yeah, yeah, absolutely like to do what you can do in real time. AB testing ads, today, in messaging today is ridiculous, right. But let’s say you wanted to AB test, an ad with the 21 to 34 year old market, household income, top 50% 50% males, 50% females, and three geographical regions, right, you would have had to figure out surveys, sample size, all that you could be paying up to, you know, 200 bucks to recruit each into this, like a focus group, you’re looking at incentives on top of that recruitment fee, you’re paying a moderator to moderate those focus groups and add, test it, and you got two hours a time. And you’re looking at about 30 to 60 days worth of research time. Right. And if you’re spending, if you’re about to launch a $10 million ad campaign, definitely do that. Please don’t just a be tested on Facebook Home. But if you’re a retail jeweler, and you’re trying to spend your $1,500 ad budget, right? Spend 10 bucks on each ad 20 bucks, 30 bucks on each ad variant, let’s test it. Because we can a B test the content, we can AV test the creative, we can a B test the call to action and do that in real time. And what is your real liability if people don’t like one of the ads that you put out there, you turn it off? People forget about it, it stops serving in now you throw it all your budget to the beat version instead of the A version, right? It’s easy when for ad testing. But a lot of people think that it’s just Oh, go boost your posts, and you’re done. Right. But that’s where I think that we’re going now it’s like, I think that social 2.0 was really like, Okay, let’s get people to run ads like that was our whole mission is like how do we get people to actually spend money on this platform that they think is just free, which is social media, in run real paid ad campaigns, Google Search, Display, paid social, all those types of things. But honestly, like, as much as that’s important, people have to now go one step further if you’re trying to win, because everybody’s doing that. And that’s where we think that data intelligence is really the next wave and where people need to be focused on.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 34:21
That makes a lot of sense. So I’m guessing that your agency manages social media advertising for clients as well.
Benjamin Smithee 34:28
Yeah, absolutely. So we do both content on the on the organic side, as well as paid media. So managing the budgets, creating campaigns, all that type of stuff. Yep.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 34:36
In the past year, with like changes to data privacy, iOS 14, etc. Do you find that social media advertising has changed a lot? Or do you still find that it’s effective for the brands that you manage ads for?
Benjamin Smithee 34:49
I think it can be super effective. And this is where you and I can geek out a little bit here. Yes, I think it can be super effective, but the old approach isn’t going to work. We’ve even broken down our old approach. Like we’ve basically blown up, like our old approach to ADS paid ads on social because of iOS, third party cookies, elimination, like iOS changes, elimination of third party cookies, what you see happening on like Google Chrome and just in browsers. And then also just what that means for pixel data and accuracy of pixel data and all of that. So we’ve seen a huge discrepancy in where we’ve seen that. So it all works. Still, it’s just not where you should be heading. So social ads as a platform work. But what we’re doing now in sort of like our smart approach to advertising is getting data pipelines. So we partnered through our data partners to get third party data that we can map to. So if you give us your email, so we take the client, email and nameless, right, that’s basically personally identifiable information for the web. We map that to on average 1300 different data points that we can match up to like 97%, on average, accuracy back map to that email list. And now you get 1300 points of data on each of those names and email addresses. And we customize those data points to build those audience personas. So rather than building audiences through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google, that’s what the building part has been what’s been misconstrued. Now, because of all the third party data, all that type of stuff, or third party pixels and all that. So building audiences is what we’re reconfiguring how we build audiences to target ads, then we build our custom audiences outside of Facebook, pull them into Facebook, and run our ads through Facebook, Instagram, etc. So that part is how we really started to rethink different things.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 36:39
I want. What Ben is saying right now to our listeners, I think the like mythology of Facebook is that they make it seem very easy for small business owners to take the power of advertising into their own hands. And it is way more complicated then Facebook kind of makes it out to be.
Benjamin Smithee 36:59
Yeah, well, yes. And no, it is super easy. You’re right. And I don’t want to misconstrue that it’s super easy, go and dive into it. But if you want to be competitive, and spend your money wisely, and actually be effective, it’s the hardest thing you’ll do for your business.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 37:14
I totally agree. I mean, and I just think it’s such a myth too. Another thing is this, like, if you don’t have someone in your corner, helping you manage that Facebook support is abysmal, like you’re not getting any help from them, you really need an expert to help you make sure that you’re like spending your money wisely. For sure.
Benjamin Smithee 37:32
I’d love for anybody that doesn’t have a personal relationship, right? I’ll give a free hour call to them if they can get someone from Facebook on the phone. I’ll be honest, even from a – and this is the to the downside, and it’s just because of scale. But even as an agency that helps put, the amount of capital that we put through their support that we get is relatively slim to none compared to other things that you would get support from, like, we get a ton of support from our payroll company and our benefits company, right. Um, but we get like, to the amount of money that we put through Facebook and Instagram and Google like the support there is relatively low for agencies even.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 38:15
It’s pretty ridiculous. I once had a ticket open for like over a month and I don’t even think it was ever resolved. I had to like hire someone on Fiverr to help me because I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Benjamin Smithee 38:27
Well look at people that get locked out of their accounts. You have 0 support. It really is a crapshoot on whether you will ever get back into your own verifiable, verifiable your own account like send them an EIN send them your tax number right send them your a photo of your Id send them all that type of stuff and you still got a 5050 chance 5050 shot of ever getting to that point and then 5050 Shot Have you ever get it resolved? It’s ridiculous.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 38:49
It’s a pretty embarrassing way to run a business anyone else that run a business like that they would be out of the game. But Facebook can get away with it. Yep. So at JCK this year where we met one we spoke on the panel together about fringe marketing, which I was kind of like, “Fringe? What the heck is that?”
Benjamin Smithee 39:10
A buzzword that I wrote in the title.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 39:17
Basically, it was about the platforms that are more like underutilized especially in the jewelry industry or lesser known. So what are some of your favorites that we touched upon on the panel or even have Are there any new ones that have emerged since August?
Benjamin Smithee 39:32
Yeah. So I think a sleeper fringe platform that caught a little bit of fire and then fizzled and people it didn’t really physical, just the public awareness and utilization of visitors Pinterest, I think that what they’re investing in, um, it kind of like how Snapchat people think it’s a social app, but Snapchat really is a camera company. Right? Snapchat really is trying to just revolutionize the the phone camera But I think for Pinterest, the visual search space that they’re in. If you haven’t tried the visual search function on Pinterest, it’s scary. Good. So I think that for what we’re in, in the jewelry industry, visual search is going to be a big thing, especially if we start pairing jewelry with fashion and those type of things. But the visual search feature of Pinterest is really scary. Good. That’s one of the platforms, I think, um, the other thing is less of the platform specific because the platform may win or die, but I think it’s what it represents, which is discord. So discord, like discussing communities, it’s kind of like Reddit in these threaded conversations and specialized conversations. But I think what it represents bigger picture, so I don’t know if it’s like Discord is gonna change the world. But what it represents as a trend is these niche communities forming again. And that’s really interesting to me, because I think we’re gonna see a shift in 2022, moving from audience to real community. And in that space, rather than people just listening, you have people participating, whether just people participating, you have people really engaging in making actions based on that. So you’re gonna start to see a proliferation of small niche communities forming around something that are actively engaged. And I think discord represents that and it gives people and brands a really good platform to create their own niche community and chat communities and things. But I think the bigger picture, like what it represents is huge, I believe.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 41:32
Do you think, can you maybe describe a specific way that a jewelry brand might use discord? Or is it more just like an abstract idea of a platform?
Benjamin Smithee 41:43
Yeah, I think we’re in the world of like expose, a tell all behind the scenes, everybody wants that stuff, right? You can’t like, we watch my wife, Nicole, and I watch Yellowstone, and we don’t just watch the episode of Yellowstone, you then watch the behind the scenes episode, then you watch the commentary of it, then you want, you know what it’s like. That’s the world that we live on when it comes to content consumption. So for discord and these niche communities, I think it’s sort of the behind the scenes where it becomes this own sort of open source, customer service, customer engagement platform, that a jeweler can sit there and when someone says, Hey, you know, I had this experience, I probably went to my local jeweler and someone switched out my diamond or something, another local jeweler can probably step in and be like, there’s a good chance that that didn’t happen, because jewelry stores are not going to stay in business doing that, you know what I mean? And that that type of stuff are also like, Hey, I’m a first time I’m getting engaged, I don’t know what to do, yada, yada, yada. And those people will jump in and have a long discussion. Educating that person about diamond jewelry, whether they’re in their market or not. But just because it builds equity in the industry as a whole. So I think education behind the scenes, those types of teletype things. That’s what these niche communities are really for. Then collectors engaging with collectors, like that.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 42:59
So what opportunities do you see for the jewelry industry moving forward? Where should brands be focusing their time and attention? beyond what we already talked about? Anything else you want to add?
Benjamin Smithee 43:09
I think it’s that blend of art and science. So creative. And then data. I think if they’re focused on those two things, they that that’s the only thing that makes them stand out in the future, like, how creative can your brand be? And then how smart Can you distribute it? That is that’s the future of business. I think that if you want I mean, that I could get real techy and say like VR and all of that, if you look at what meta is trying to do, and where Zuckerberg is focused with meta, the focus in the future is really going to be heavy Oculus and VR, because it’s just where things are going. Um, you know, I think that there’s a big thing that this like when you look at NF T’s and digital currency and digital assets, that’s a big area where our industry hasn’t played in yet, but has huge upside potential for our industry, because it’s adorning these virtual avatars, it’s adorning and creating virtual assets, digital assets to the physical assets, we are alive in a time where you and I will both for sure. If we have kids, our kids will live in a world where there’s this digital equilibrium or or digital parodied, where virtual assets and currency that we own are equal to our physical assets and currency. If you think about real currency, we already have that right. I don’t carry around as much cash. I’m a cash person, I still don’t carry around as much cash as I do in my digital currency, right? And 99.9% of people don’t, right. So it’s not unfathomable. But when you start looking at other digital currency, NF T’s crypto, other areas like that digital fashion is going to be something that surprises a lot of people because people are like, Oh, digital fashion, like what is that? But it’s a real thing. Trust me, it’s gonna happen. In FTS, I think that’s a big area of focus for people, but it’s all data. It’s all data.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 44:58
So interesting digital fashion, I don’t even know what the heck that is.
Benjamin Smithee 45:02
Well, if you think about more people spending time online, how we differentiate ourselves, we are no less going to want to create and stand out and represent ourselves virtually than we do physically with our fashion choices, you can, if you say you’re not into fashion, that still is a fashion choice, right? So online, the more time we invest in online platforms, the more we’re going to invest in our virtual avatars. And if you look at kids growing up today, they see no problem turning real currency into digital currency and buying things in the digital world with that. So whether it’s in fortnight, or Twitch, or apex, Apex leader, those type of things like, you’re going to be leveling up your characters and your avatars and skinning them with different clothing and jewelry and all of these different features. And what will happen then, is if you get access in you buy a line of let’s say, spring 2023 Chanel fashion virtual from their runway show. Well, now, if you’re an owner of that NFT, in that avatar clothing, you get private access to a livestream of their virtual Fashion Show New York Fashion Week 2024. Because you held that virtual asset. And so all of a sudden, that virtual asset that that virtual dress that you bought, yes, it helps you skin, your avatar, but it also creates meaning into this nice community of ownership that gets private access to these other things in the virtual world. Does that make sense?
Laryssa Wirstiuk 46:35
Yeah, it totally makes sense. And it sounds like we might be seeing digital jewelry and accessories as well, at some point.
Benjamin Smithee 46:41
I would hope so if we’re smart. We will.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 46:43
Very cool. Well, then it was so fun to have you. I love your energy. Super smart. It’s fun nerding out with you on marketing stuff. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
Benjamin Smithee 46:54
Thank you. Thanks for the invite. Thanks for having me on your rockstar. I appreciate getting to speak with other industry folks and leaders in the space. And I’m so happy that you do this and you continue to do this. It’s important for all of your listeners. So thank you so much for having me appreciate.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:08
Thank you, Ben.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:09
It was such a pleasure to be able to chat with Benjamin I’m sure you could like feel me nerd out and light up over some of the things that he was talking about. I love his energy, and I just think he’s so super smart. A really talented Mark marketer. If you’d like to learn more about Benjamin and his company, The Smithee Group, you can visit thesmitheegroup.com.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:38
What did you think of this episode? You can always email me Laryssa that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. If you loved this podcast, please share it with a friend who would appreciate it. And don’t forget to subscribe as well as leave a review on iTunes to purchase a signed copy of my book jewelry marketing joyjoya.com/book for all the information.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai