Meet the Marketer: Jeff Ernst, CEO of Smync

It’s hard to keep good news to yourself.  When it comes to acquiring a desired smartphone, say, or receiving great service at a restaurant, customers choose to share their experiences with friends and family. These days that spread of good news is happening through different digital channels, be it a shared photo on Instagram or a text over the phone.  It’s all a form of word of mouth. And that word is powerful in influencing a sale.

Jeff Ernst believes in that power from the consumer’s voice, so much so that he co-founded Smync.  Ernst is co-founder, president, and CEO of Smync, a SaaS startup. Its hallmark offering is a social relationship platform that assists brands and agencies in identifying social word-of-mouth that potentially leads to sales or business growth.

Smync started with a small team with over 50 years combined of digital marketing, social media and application development experience. Today it serves a number of clients from 1871, a technology hub in the heart of downtown Chicago.

Before launching Smync, Ernst has been a marketing consultant and strategist for hundreds of brands, such as ConAgra and LodgeNet. Prior to Smync, Ernst was VP of Sales and Marketing at Netbriefings, as well as a Director at Minnesota West, where he won awards and spoke frequently on innovation in civic and private partnerships.

Word of mouth has become a valuable type of earned media.  Word of mouth can trigger a broad range of digital activity – live streaming at an expo through Persicope, for example, can lead to increased Twitter activity. Word of mouth can establish valuable links between offline events and online platforms.

The benefit of word of mouth rises when it occurs from a trusted source in a consumer’s personal circle rather than a paid influencer.  Consumers perceive word of mouth as a more personalized recommendation.  Marketers are starting to recognize how the personalized role of word of mouth benefits marketing strategy.

Word of mouth effort has lead to meaningful benefit in raising awareness.  “People trust 4 times more from a person that they do from the brand,” Ernst said in a recent webinar, “which leads to 8 – 24 times more sharing.” Ernst also conveyed several observations about word of mouth marketing, delving into a number of ideas in an interview I had with him recently. We talked about how word of mouth is impacting the benefits of analytic strategy.

“It is important to relate measurement in human terms.  Campaigns and targets do not fully relate to how people access media between devices.   This means questioning how strategy is executed.  Everyone loves to measure in a silo, viewing this many clicks or what happened on this channel.  But measuring for the sake of measurement is bad. Customer experience is not a point in time. Everything goes across a touch point. We have to learn what initiates the purchase.  Is it social media or a paid search ad? Do customers come into a physical store because of the social media or an ad?”

Ernst also expects surprises from IoT device usage in terms of understanding word of mouth attribution.  “When you consider a smartphone, you know what a phone is going to do.  IoT devices, however, introduces a new experience for people to talk and give brands a new way to learn how people feel about a product.  It is early in the game to know what devices are the biggest generators of word of mouth marketing.  But over two to three years we will learn more about the devices that truly stayed in people’s lives. Those will be the ones that people have adopted a being essential to their daily activities.”

Ernst said the Smync team will be introducing a new analytic solution that “blends social media with customer experience more accurately than what on the market today.”   The solution is expected to launch later this year.

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