With search and digital marketing chops that span two decades, Duane Forrester has built a career at the forefront of our industry. In his current role as VP of Industry Insights for Yext, he and the Yext team help companies gain better control of their brand across digital services, such as Apple Maps, Bing, Facebook, Google Maps, Instagram, Siri, Yelp and dozens of others.
Duane spends much of his time immersed in thought leadership through extensive writing, and conference speaking to help elevate the industry overall. As one of the keynote speakers for #Zenith2018, Duane will focus on the emerging technologies that will continue to transform a rapidly evolving industry.
We had a chance to catch Duane as he prepped for his Zenith keynote to understand what he sees as top opportunities for marketing pros and brands. The following Q&A digs into the tech evolution leading extraordinary change in our industry.
Aimclear (AC): Your bio says you have held several cool positions at Microsoft, Bruce Clay and other iconic places leading up to your current role as VP of Industry Insights for Yext. How would you describe your current day job?
Duane Forrester (DF): I help businesses be more successful online by helping them understand the changes new technology is bringing to the market. I examine how technology changes consumer behavior, and then educate the business about how to adapt. I also speak at many conferences and write a lot.
AC: Yext talks about “You. In Control. Everywhere” regarding the digital universe. How is it possible to be in control of a beast that is evolving faster than almost anything we’ve experienced in society?
DF: When you have a platform like Yext in play, you can control your data everywhere. In truth, most could be managed by hand, but for many businesses the scale simply doesn’t work. Many have perhaps a hundred locations across the web with their data, a dozen data points and weekly updates. Doing that work manually takes hours, or even days, of a person’s time. Due to the complexity of today’s search ecosystem, and the interconnectedness of mobile, secure, search, voice and so on, skipping all that work isn’t really an option either. Clean, accurate data breeds trust, so managing it everywhere is important. That’s what we empower.
AC: New tech and concepts are emerging at a freakish pace. What do you see as the big challenges and opportunities for marketers?
DF: Yeah, things move pretty fast. One of the biggest challenges is what to focus on. Let’s take a stab at putting some of these in order: Voice/visual search, augmented reality, chat bots, virtual reality, digital agents. That would be the order I’d say is important to consider, from today into the future. Each requires a foundational investment in today’s technical search aspects, as well as a clear customer-centric focus when creating content.
AC: How early are we in this rampant evolution? Are things like voice search going to rule the world – or will it be 2020’s “CB radio” – a fad that was cool but didn’t stick with audiences long term?
DF: Oh, if we were on a clock, I’d say we’re about 10 minutes into an event that’s several years long. We are very much at the beginning. Voice will develop into the dominant user interface for the foreseeable future. Voice is, in fact, the single biggest impact to our digital marketing space since mobile arrived. And since I still have several CB radios in my garage, I’m gonna state, for the record, they’re still cool!
AC: You will keynote at #Zenith2018 in Duluth. Can you give us a preview of what you’d like to cover with the audience?
DF: Oh yeah, that’s an easy one! I’m going to talk a lot about voice, obviously, but also about Digital Knowledge Management. DKM has two sides, both equally important. On one side we have the business, where DKM will be one of the biggest internal shifts of thinking about digital assets and deployment since blogs and video hit the web. On the other side of that coin is how DKM impacts opportunities for people. We’re talking about new job opportunities and seeing a path to growing your career, given the growth on the SEO side has slowed noticeably in the last several years.
AC: If you can impart one or two key things to the audience, what do you hope they leave with?
DF: Get past cliche sayings like “this or that is creepy.” The bottom line with today’s emerging technologies is they are being adopted at unheard of rates by consumers. People are more open with their data that fuels these systems, and it’s likely a person’s own bias will stop them from being successful today. If you don’t want an Alexa device in your home because you don’t like the feeling it’s listening to you, that’s fine. However, if your job is in online marketing, that approach will end your career and cause harm to the business you work for. It’s OK to be cautious of the future, but never fear it so much it causes inaction.
AC: We’ll have marketers of all experience levels in the room at Zenith, including some people just starting out – as well as some college students hoping to launch marketing careers. What advice do you have for people just getting into the game?
DF: Learn a diversity of skills. It’s okay to specialize, but those with successful career paths will also have multiple talents. This approach will also periodically test you and expose you to change. If you have SEO skills, a background in SEM, social media and programming, you’re a hot commodity. That experience will serve you well as your career grows. I’d say a year or two minimum is reasonable in each area. That might sound like a long time, but no employer is seeking senior people with less than a year of experience. This general approach will also help you adapt to new technologies when they arrive. Don’t miss the opportunity to grab the newest device and experience how it works first hand.
AC: Fun stuff: Tell us a little about yourself. What is your personal story, hidden talent, conversation starter or something you are deeply proud of?
DF: I’m originally from Canada, now living in the other CA, just outside Los Angeles. Fun fact, my home state has about the same population as my home country! We have two dogs, both rescues, both cute as all get out. I ride motorcycles, like photography and build guitars in what little down time I have.
Don’t miss Duane’s keynote session at Zenith 2018 on April 26. He kicks off the event at 8:30 am in Duluth’s famed Greysolon Ballroom.
Also, be sure to follow Duane on Twitter.