Interview with Vice President of Client Services, SmartBug Media – Amber Kemmis


“Customers are just more conversational today and chat gives every company the ability to engage on that level”

1. Tell us about your role at SmartBug Media.
As VP of Client Services, I’m responsible for overseeing our more than 40 marketing consultants and client services team members. This means I play a key role in ensuring our clients’ success and that they have unparalleled experiences working with us.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
My journey is pretty unconventional for most marketers. While I was studying psychology and pursuing a career to help people through counseling, I stumbled into a role that introduced me to SEO, inbound marketing, HubSpot, and the martech world. After spending a few years as an in-house marketing director, I jumped into agency life. Since I was first introduced to martech over 10 years ago, a lot has changed, but the data and a digitally driven world that’s changing how humans interact is still intact. That’s what I love about marketing—the interface between people and technology.

3. How do you think technology is upgrading the marketing sector?
Just 10 years ago, it was exciting to finally, as marketers, have data about what people were searching online, how they were finding you, and the ability to see how well a company’s website stacked up to those search trends. That’s still a really valuable tool, but technology has gone a step further to help us spy on competitors and do things like gauge engagement from prospects, even when they aren’t directly on your website. AI, chat, and the need-it-now behaviors that technology has caused in people means marketers have to rethink how they interact, but it also gives them so much more data than they once had.

4. How has digital marketing empowered marketing professionals?
At one point, marketers had very little data to back their investments and marketing campaigns, but with digital, they are much more equipped when defending ROI and focusing their efforts on those initiatives that are most effective.

5. How do you think video marketing has optimized the method of targeting potential customers?
As people adapt to a more digital world, our modes of communication and preferences are diversifying. Things like video, chat, and interactive content help you create an experience that your customers crave.

6. Can you explain how your paid search and social services help marketers?
Marketers don’t always have the luxury of taking the time and effort to grow their reach organically. In those cases and when multi-channel touchpoints are important, marketers can lean on paid search and social to create another engagement point with customers—and in an accelerated fashion.

7. What features of your sales enablement solution make it a perfect tool for sales professionals?
Sales professionals are equipped with some really cool tools that make them productive, as well as tools that help marketing and sales collaborate to create more effective campaigns. These include things like Salesforce, SalesLoft, and Outreach. At the same time, however, I think one of the biggest ways we help our clients is through teaching sales professionals how to use these tools effectively, ultimately driving up adoption.

8. What advice would you like to give to technology startups?
Don’t over-invest in marketing too early. This sounds counterintuitive coming from a marketer, but I see so many tech startups make the mistake of thinking investing in marketing is a magic pill for success and then they find themselves with diminishing returns. Getting all the foundational messaging, strategy, and some core pieces of martech in place is important before you go all in with a huge tech stack or high digital paid budgets. In short, proceed with caution when investing in digital marketing. .

9. What digital innovation in the martech space do you think will make its mark in 2020?
Chat and chatbots will definitely make their mark, and for many businesses, become the new go-to for lead conversion over web forms.

Customers are just more conversational today and chat gives every company the ability to engage on that level.

Companies that have a conversational marketing strategy will definitely outperform others.

10. How do you prepare for an AI-centric world?
I think we’re a long way from an AI-centric world, but there are certain areas of marketing that need to start preparing for AI. One of the biggest steps toward a data-centric world is to start properly tracking data. Without clean and reliable data, AI will not be possible. While I’m hopeful for the future, I see too many companies struggle with their data management, and that has to be resolved before AI makes sense.

11. What major developments are you planning in terms of enhancing your capabilities?
In a customer-centric world, a seamless experience from the point marketers first interact with a customer to building support systems, marketing plays a critical role in the entire customer journey. In the next year, we’ll be focusing a lot of our efforts on enhancing the customer experience through chat, service support, and an overall seamless customer experience. This means we have to increase our capabilities in areas like conversational marketing, support portals, and managing customer content.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
Our client services team is organized into several pods. While they aren’t organized around a vertical or area of expertise, we do have experts in certain areas of marketing throughout those pods. Having a team that is eager to learn and stay on the cutting edge of marketing means I always have someone around me who can help solve a client problem or find an untapped opportunity. Whether it’s SEO, PR, or a website development issue, there is someone there to support our clients.

13. What movie inspires you the most?
That’s a hard one. Outside of Disney classics and watching Toy Story 4 on repeat with my boys, my free time is mostly spent reading or listening to podcasts where I get most of my inspiration. Recently, Jay Acunzo and Malcolm Gladwell have really gotten me feeling motivated and creative. If I must pick a movie, though, I’d actually go back to the Disney movies because they often have strong, female characters in them and nothing is more inspiring to my life and career than women who lead and are defying the times by making their way into showbiz, business, and politics.

14. We would love to catch some glimpses of your much-talked-about chic and fabulous work culture.
It’s been interesting to see our culture transform over the years as someone who has been a part of the SmartBug team for more than six years and since the days when our culture was made up of just a few people doing client work and hopping on the phone weekly. We now have around 80 employees, but it feels very much the same as it did half a decade ago. With more people comes more personality, complexity, and systems, so we certainly have to put more into maintaining a great culture than we did back then. Because we’re 100-percent remote, we make a lot of effort to bring people together and organize their days around that aspect. We have virtual happy hours, marketing labs, and chat channels organized around shared interests. We also believe it’s important to continuously gather feedback from teams to gauge the pulse of the organization, and when needed, make any course corrections.

15. Can you give us a glance at the applications you use on your phone?
I’m a bit of an anti-app person. I’m a minimalist who has vowed to not store apps that I don’t need when browser versions usually do the trick, without adding distraction, and draining productivity. You won’t find much on my phone except Zoom chat, which we use for internal communication, Gmail, and a few social platforms such as LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Instagram, which I rarely use. If I do have an app, it’s to help with productivity and growth, which include apps like Audible, Podcasts, and Down Dog (a yoga app).

Amber Kemmis is the Vice President of Client Services for SmartBug Media™. Growing up on a dairy farm in North Dakota, Amber has always valued hard work, the power of a community, and people who genuinely care about helping others.

Before helping to scale SmartBug™ to more than 75 full-time employees, she aspired to help people as a psychologist. Life threw her into the world of digital marketing at a sales training and recruiting firm, where she worked as the Director of Marketing and learned a lot about sales methodologies, selecting the right sales talent, and aligning sales to marketing. It wasn’t long after being introduced to marketing automation and technology and all things digital marketing that Amber couldn’t help but pivot her focus from using psychology clinically to using it digitally through inbound marketing and sales strategies and training.

When Amber isn’t busy helping rock the client experience at SmartBug, she loves to write about psychology and marketing, spend time with family, and enjoy the solitude, beauty, and fishing that North Dakota has to offer.

SmartBug Media® is a globally recognized Intelligent Inbound® marketing agency assisting businesses in growing revenue by generating leads, increasing brand awareness, and building customer loyalty through content marketing, sales enablement, web development, marketing automation, and public relations.

As HubSpot’s 2018 Global Partner of the Year, SmartBug® is the highest-rated HubSpot partner in the world. The company has not only been named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies three years in a row, but it has also been named to the Adweek 100: Fastest Growing Agencies List and has won a number of Great Place to Work® and Comparably awards. With hundreds of awards for client work—and a team holding a combined 550 marketing certifications—SmartBug is fully dedicated to delivering client success and an unparalleled agency experience.

For more information please visit our Website.

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