At the 2015 NTC Awards, Golden Spiral CEO John Farkas was named “Marketing Innovator of the Year.” I was so proud of my friend and colleague! John is one of most creative thinkers I’ve ever known, and he pushes me daily as a seasoned marketer to look at everything through new lenses. He truly has that “sixth sense” about people and projects, and is able to articulate fresh ideas in remarkable ways. “Innovative” is definitely a word that describes the way John thinks and works, but I wanted to pick his brain about this in more detail. Here’s our dialogue.
John, congrats on the award! What does it mean for Golden Spiral?
Thanks! But it wasn’t really my award; it was our team’s award. We are great at understanding our clients' unique value in the market and framing a empathetic, market-focused narrative that pulls people in. The fact that our team is smart enough to do that in the B2B tech space is what makes us successful there. We are very accustomed to working with companies who have never felt understood by an agency before. The ability to understand and execute in the space is Golden Spiral’s value proposition and is strong fuel for our growth.
From your perspective, what does "marketing innovation” mean?
Innovation is an interesting word when it comes to marketing. Marketing at it’s essence is the same now as it has been for years. The channels have multiplied, the tactics are many and varied, but ultimately marketing is about telling a compelling story that connects to an audience and moves them to act. Many people in marketing today have missed that memo, chasing vogue tactics and throwing money to the wind in the process.
There are lots of new tactics but in the end, it’s all about the process you have in place. No matter what tools you have, if the story is not on point and we don’t understand the problems the market is trying to solve, then even the most robust lead generation strategy will fall short. Our secret to innovation is listening to our clients, as well as their target customers, and working to bring the two together with great synergy.
How does that translate into the technology space?
Tech companies are notorious for leading into the market discussion by asserting the virtues of their technology. They are proud of it and think everyone wants to know about what they have done under the hood. However, the truth is, the customer is just looking for a solution to their problem. They don’t necessarily care how the solution works, but how the solution works for them. The art in my job is helping the eager leaders of tech companies understand that, and then working with them to reframe how they can interact with the market.
Once we have that framework established, we have what we need to help companies assert thought leadership in their space. Then it is just a matter of finding the right channels to target as we amplify that message to the market. That understanding is at the core of everything we do, and it’s largely responsible for the success we have seen in helping companies find their way in the crowded marketplace.
As Nashville has changed and its exposure has increased over the last few years, how has this affected the way you do business and your approach to your future?
Nashville’s growth has had a profound effect on how we have patterned our business—in fact, it has defined our business. The numbers are hard to deny: between 2001 and 2013, tech industry employment growth is up 65.8% and STEM occupation growth is up 12.3%. There are plenty of other statistics to support the fact that Nashville is quickly on it’s way to becoming an important tech center.
These numbers represent some of the most impressive growth in the nation. The best opportunity for an agency like ours is stand out and realize the kind of growth and success we are aiming for requires gaining expertise in a defined arena. Our decision to dial our expertise toward working with business-to-business tech companies is in large part due to our recognition of the need and opportunity right here at home.
I hear you almost daily pushing us toward the horizon on several fronts. Talk about where the innovation is happening now and how we can capitalize on it.
The increasingly easy access to advanced analytics technology will do more to improve marketing effectiveness and generate more revenue per ad dollar spent than any other innovation. Already, large companies with well-formed analysis initiatives are realizing tens, and sometimes even hundreds of millions of “found” dollars on their bottom lines. Short of developing a revolutionary new product or service offering, it is the most dramatic way for a CMO to affect change.
Currently scale is clearly an issue, but as technology improves and the ability to apply meaningful analytical measurements affordably in smaller scenarios becomes approachable, more and more companies will adopt the discipline. The rewards are just too great to ignore.
The models being built today to optimize and allocate marketing resources don’t just analyze historical information; they show the relationships between multiple market factors. They account for all paid, earned and owned influences, and analyze customer behavior across a full range of activities on and offline that ultimately lead to purchase. Our ability to observe, analyze, understand and respond to human behavioral trends rapidly will be the common denominator of the consumer marketing innovation in the next five years.
What’s the #1 thing you’re most proud of regarding your career—besides hiring me :-) ?
I am proud of starting a company that has the opportunity to employ a great group of people in a cultural environment where they enjoy coming to work in the morning. The fact that we are helping other teams be successful is an added plus.