The view from over there:
A conversation with Oana York

The view from over there:
A conversation with Oana York

At B2B marketing events and conferences, we can often be found shooting the breeze with our industry peers.

“One of the struggles is that B2B marketers think they need to appeal to the logical part of the buyer and they forget about the feeling part.”

Typically, we hear all about data, intent, sales & marketing alignment, ABM, tech stacks, content, programmatic, and personalization. But do you know what rarely gets a mention? Good creative.

And when you stop to consider just how vital good creative is to almost every aspect of successful marketing, that’s pretty strange.

That’s why we’re getting the conversation going by inviting ambitious marketing leaders to tell us all about their own creative processes, what they see as the role of creativity, and how they’ve seen creative tackle huge business challenges.

We made the acquaintance of Oana York at MarketingProfs 2019. Oana leads on retention and customer marketing at VSP – the U.S.’s largest vision insurer – and we suspected there might be a longer conversation to be had, which is why we sat down with her for our inaugural ‘The view from over there’

Oana York

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Jeff Matteuzzi (SVP Strategy, Earnezt)
Okay, let’s talk a little bit about brands. Are there any B2B or B2C brands that you feel are absolutely doing it right?

Oana York (Market Manager, B2B Vision Care Marketing)
The brands doing it right are switching their focus from just their advertising to their overall experience. I was looking for an event app recently, and we ended up going with Attendify because of their overall experience. They had so much information on their website, including a demo and access to their product, and that just made it very easy to see how it would feel to use their product versus some of the other competitors that had very clunky experiences. For example, with one of their competitors, I was asked to call a salesperson at too premature a moment.

In many instances, the front end has beautiful things and the back end doesn’t, but the provider we selected had thought about the whole experience. Experience is definitely the key to good marketing now.

Jeff
You’re tapping into what really should have become part of marketing a long time ago, and that is the presale, consideration, selection, and post-sale experience – the full funnel. How about on the B2C side?

Oana
I’m very inspired by some of these smaller brands that are mostly Instagram brands. They get me because they get their customers in general, and they, again, design something or create a product that really meets the needs of their customers. Even though that might be a niche product they’re still creating something with the customer in mind.

For example, I’m a big tea drinker and I kept getting these tea ads – because I shop for tea of course – but one brand developed a subscription service for tea, called ‘Sips by’ and they’re starting to position it to small businesses as well as individual consumers. They understand the person who appreciates a good cup of tea and created a whole experience around it so, again, we’re still talking about dollars flowing to good overall experiences.

I’m very disenchanted with large advertisers, because they’re so disconnected from their customers and it’s a struggle. A lot of the ads that I see, they’re either talking too much about themselves or they fail to realize what customer needs they should be meeting.

Jeff
Is that more of a problem in B2B or B2C?

Oana
I think it’s both. When I do see it done right though, it’s typically not a larger company. It’s not that the ads that I see for large companies like car manufacturers or the like are not well made, but it’s that they’re too generic, they’re not speaking to the individual. It’s like they’re aiming for reach alone and haven’t finessed who that top customer is.

Jeff
Some of that could be the channel. Linear TV, for example, offers little personalization, despite what the cable operators tell you in terms of their addressable capabilities, but digital has a data component built-in and you see far more personalization as a result.

Oana
And it goes beyond just the advertising and personalization. The product you’re selling and what you’re creating: is it created with the needs of the customer in mind or are you understanding who your target customer is? Are you creating something that will really resonate with them?

Jeff
I was curious to know about your own historic creative process and what that looks like. It sounds like it starts with looking at the customer and looking at their challenges and their needs.

Oana
It’s funny that you mention the ‘historic creative process’ because I’ve been in this career for 20 years and I do remember times when it was just more of a process of asking, ‘okay, what is this product we’re selling, what does it do?’ Usually it was someone else who decided what it does, not us the marketing team. So it was really just us coming in to uncover the benefits and how we could get to a value proposition? Rarely did we ask how we could go about understanding the customer better? So again, whatever the product was, it was created because the company wanted to go into this market or that.

It was then on marketing to find the positives and to connect it to the customer and that drastically contrasts with how we do things today, which is definitely more of a human-centered design experience, where you really try to understand what’s happening in the life of a customer. And what are the gaps in their needs and their challenges and how you can connect them to that? And only then should you start to look at features and benefits. And then you can start to create the product.

The process of developing marketing or brand is now no longer just marketing – it’s marketing working alongside a number of different functional areas of the company so we’re moving into the funnel earlier than we were before.

Jeff
We’re seeing that a lot too, with CMOs and CIOs/CTOs collaborating more and marketing departments owning the customer experience – which they hadn’t, historically. Are there any particular B2B campaigns that you’ve seen lately that you were impressed by?

Oana
The B2B space I think is still challenged with doing this type of consumer connected marketing that I’m talking about. One of the struggles, and I think it was very evident in the MarketingProfs conference, is that B2B marketers think they only need to appeal to the logical part of the buyer and they forget all about the feeling part.

In B2B, I haven’t necessarily seen the kind of earth-shattering campaign that might bring humor or the like, where I could see the creativity of a message where you say to yourself, “Oh, wow, you totally get it” or “you just kind of touched me”.

Jeff
How did you pull that off?

Oana
The campaign had multiple components, it had email, it had an education element. Again, it was thinking about the customer experience; how do you move from an old system to a new system? How do we help you? How do we support you in what you’re making? We went above and beyond to make billing a part of our customers’ daily routine. Because in reality billing is a part of a customers’ daily life because they have to keep paying their bills. So, for us, that was a use of creativity in an unexpected place. For example, we launched a 10 tips over email education stream that they could sign up for that facilitated that learning and it helped with continued engagement. We actually had unique open rates that were like 60%, which is just unheard of.

That was creativity that went beyond just how it looks, into what you could with it and what was around it and that proved to be very useful for us.

Jeff
Speaking of content, what role do you believe creativity should play in a world chock full of technical content, such as white papers, eBooks, etc.?

Oana
A huge role. The content should give the customer knowledge and value versus talking about why my company is better than my competitor’s company. And many of the white papers or eBooks I see, are still very centered on what the sponsoring company does. And that’s great, you just told me what you do best, but you haven’t helped me be a better professional.

I think the content world needs more journalists because journalists really look at all the angles and look at who they are talking to, what piece of information they’re presenting, and what perspective they’re giving. It’s just a different approach and I haven’t seen that done very well in B2B.

Jeff
When you think about customer acquisition, what is more important: great creative/content or a great distribution strategy of the content?

Oana
Neither – it’s the strategy and what that strategy is centered on that’s most important. Both creative/content and distribution are both very tactical. You could have great content, you could have a good distribution strategy, but if neither of them truly connect with what the customer wants and creates a path to achieving business goals, neither of them will matter.

Jeff
Final question: what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Oana
Go where you’re celebrated. You perform so much better when you’re celebrated versus just tolerated or accepted.

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As you can tell, it was a delight to sit down with Oana and we’re glad she was able to fit us into her very busy day. We have more talks on the way, and if you’d like to be one of them, please do let us know.