What will happen to marketing in 2023?
I had the opportunity to sit down with Zontee Hou, President and Chief Strategist at Media Volery, to talk about what she sees as the future of marketing in 2023 and beyond.
Zontee Hou is a passionate marketing advisor and speaker. She’s the founder of digital marketing agency Media Volery and Director of Strategy for Convince & Convert, founded by industry leader Jay Baer.
“What is so striking about Zontee Hou and her work is that she lives the premise that the measure of great content is results. Content has to serve the customer before it serves the company, and Zontee is truly one of the best in the world at making this happen,” offers Jay Baer, bestselling author of six marketing books.
Hou brings over 15 years of experience in the marketing industry to her work with brands ranging from the IMF to Fidelity to Caesars Entertainment. She was one of LinkedIn’s 16 Marketers to Follow in 2021 and she’s consistently named one of TopRank’s most influential content marketers and top B2B marketers.
“Zontee Hou guides our clients to content marketing excellence through expertise and precision. She takes a customer-centric approach which allows clients to be future-looking and confident in the strategic direction,” suggests Kelly Santina, President at Convince & Convert.
Hou has been a faculty lecturer at Columbia University and adjunct lecturer at the City College of New York. And in a previous life, Zontee was also a podcaster, a crafts and hobbies personality, and has been seen on PBS and the Martha Stewart Show.
She shares how content consumption is converging, how brands can use content to achieve their goals, and the most important thing to remember about an audience.
Goldie Chan: You are immersed in the marketing world every single day. So I’d love to hear what you think will be the trend for the next year for 2023 or maybe even 2024.
Zontee Hou: It’s no secret that AI is changing the way we not only create content, but also how we parse and digest information at scale. We are at a moment when it’s possible for even small companies to access big data with relative ease and truly learn about their audiences. For example, you could go on ChatGPT and ask what’s most important to nurses when choosing the right shoes to buy or what Millennial pet owners value most in their pet insurance. The tool will summarize some of the most common considerations for you and give you context for each.
That fact, combined with the fact that customers rate personalization and emotional connection as vital to their customer experience expectations, means that content marketers must create messaging, content and resources that speak to our audiences’ specific needs and considerations. If your messaging and content don’t speak to particular psychographics, consideration stages, or past customer interactions, you’re missing out. That’s what my talk at this month’s MarketingProfs’ Shakeup B2B Virtual Conference will be about.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, personalization and emotional resonance based on your audience’s unique situation has to be at the center of your marketing and your customer experience.
Chan: What made you interested in getting into marketing?
hou: My first job out of college, I worked in the marketing department for one of the biggest craft companies in the US, So I was in first wave podcasting, I had a top 10 crafts and hobbies podcast on iTunes from 2007 to 2013. I mean like really early podcasting. We were doing influencer marketing before there was a term for influencer marketing. We pioneered online virtual “make-along” events. It was a real opportunity to become grassroots in the world of content marketing before it was really a discipline—that shaped the way I look at content marketing now.
Because even though most of the work that I do is as an agency owner and a consultant, I’m really knowledgeable about how to actually create that content on the fly, with not much of a budget. So when I work with companies, I’m always talking to them about how we can really get the most out of that content to achieve their business goals. The reason that I really enjoy content marketing is that it’s about speaking to people in a way that’s truly valuable to them and focusing on their motivations, their behaviors, their needs.
Chan: How do you like to think about storytelling and how does it fit in with the content and the customer journey?
hou: What’s absolutely essential is that our content and our storytelling have to be audience-centric. If we’re not making the audience the hero of the story and then positioning the brand as a trusted advisor or a resource to the audience, then we’re really doing our audience a disservice because they don’t want to hear a story where the brand is the hero. That’s not interesting to them. That’s an advertisement. There is no value in content that does that.
There are so many brands that still don’t get that, and that drives me absolutely crazy because that content will never be something that people would share and pass along to someone else. People want to share and pass on information that serves them, that they relate to, that they identify with, that they see themselves in, that helps them to achieve something.
In addition to telling an audience-centric story, I also think it’s important for companies to think about how to measure their storytelling and customer journey. Data helps us tell a stronger story internally about what works and what doesn’t. It also helps us connect the dots about what resonates with our audience. If you’re not thinking about how the audience behaves based on what they’ve seen, heard, and touched, then you’re missing an opportunity to help them get more out of the brand relationship. Again, it goes back to this idea of personalization—customers want to engage with brands that understand where they’ve been and where they’re going next.