#015: Brand Storytelling: Why Baker Hughes is Eating Your Lunch with Joel Tarver

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Wowy zowy! We’ve got a great one for you as Joel Tarver from Baker Hughes joins us to talk brand storytelling, social media metrics, gameification, and a whole lot more. I hope you’re hungry because there’s no shortage of meat on the bone today! We’ve got takeaways left and right, along with the usual shenanigans.

Also, I want to hear YOUR Al Bundy “Four touchdowns in a single game” story. Hit up the comments so everyone can bask in the The Tribe’s collective high school sports glory!

Lastly, I was clearly a bit rusty on this interview because I neglected to ask Joel where he would send people to connect with him and learn more about Baker Hughes. Lest the Tribe Rocket brand be drawn into public controversy over my infraction, you can follow Joel on Twitter @joeltarver. You can learn more about Baker Hughes through any of the links below. I particularly recommend you check out their social media accounts and follow their lead!

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Interview Transcript: Brand Storytelling with Joel Tarver of Baker Hughes

Brand Storytelling with Baker Hughes

James Hahn II: Joining The Tribe on the podcast this week is Joel Tarver. Joel is the Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Baker Hughes, which is the 132nd largest company in America according to the Fortune 500. He oversees the creative direction of the company, which means he’s responsible for the company’s web presence, including social media marketing, product animations, brand strategy, mobile marketing, as well as traditional print and advertising. He holds a patent for wellbore visualization and another patent pending for a wearable smart helmet. He oversaw the construction and planning of a usability lab at Baker Hughes with one-way glass that introduced eye-tracking software so they could use data, instead of their gut feelings while developing their products. He’s also been featured in Business Week, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Connexus, which is Baker Hughes’ public facing print magazine. Joel Tarver, finally. Welcome to the show!

Joel Tarver: Thanks so much for having me, James. I appreciate it.

James Hahn II: Yeah, we met out at the Energy Digital Summit and we’ve been chasing each other down ever since. I guess that means both of us are busy, which is a good thing.

Joel Tarver: We were both up there together in the firing line at the end where we got peppered with the Q&A session, right?

James Hahn II: I always have to bite my tongue so I’m not talking ad nauseam because I have a tendency to do that sometimes, if you would believe it.

Joel Tarver: Well, it’s good stuff when you talk, so it didn’t seem that way.

James Hahn II: I appreciate that. I wanted to have you on because today because Baker Hughes is doing it right. That’s very rare. Just the fact that y’all have consistent branding across your web presence is like, “Wow!” That’s amazing in this industry. The look and the feel from your Facebook page to the Twitter, and the YouTube and all of these things are doing it right. Those are the little minutia of things, but as we were figuring out what we were going to talk about you said some interesting things about how thing even got started.

Traditionally, in the oil and gas industry everybody’s been about print, print, print, print, print, and all of these different directories and magazines and so forth, but you said something about a new strategy driving toward digital and away from print. Or, I don’t know if you’re say necessarily away from print, but can you fill us in on that?

Joel Tarver: It’s in addition to. Print’s never going to go away. There’s nothing that’s going to replace the tactile feel of a printed piece, or actually getting an invitation, or some kind of personal touch. Or a letter, the varnish on a pocket folder. The texture. To some people, that’s the way that they still like to read. But, much like how we did years ago. I don’t want to date myself, but when the web was new and the AOL disks were flowing like wine, everyone said “The death of print.” I guess you could say all the way back to Ghostbusters. Harold Ramis’ character talking about, “Print is dead.”

It’s not, but it’s in addition to. And the web became that, and now as we’re moving the emerging media with mobile, social media, etc., the advent of content marketing, we’re looking at the evolution of it. It’s something that’s in addition to. Last year around October is when I joined the team for a role they just created that was for digital marketing specifically. Our Chief Strategy Officer, Derek Mathieson, said this is the way things are going and we need to position ourselves to do that. I’ve had a background that was — I had my own agency at one time. Or, agency for doing traditional print collateral. Then I began adapting to the web and software, user interfaces, and user experience, which brought that in there.

When I came into this position I had experience in traditional and in, I guess we’d call it new media at this point.

James Hahn II: That’s an interesting point you say that print will never die because you really can’t. I think that’s what the great digital marketing hype machine tries to do sometimes. Which is to say that old media is worthless, just go 100% online. But Twitter or Facebook is never going to replace mass marketing en masse, if you will.

Joel Tarver: Correct. I think you’re going to see a reduction of it. Certainly you’ll start to se more brochures in a digital format. And that’s what we’re seeing in the evolution with the team we’re working with now. It’s not just taking a brochure and converting it to a PDF. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a fail. It doesn’t utilize the technology that’s available today to make a rich, interactive, engaging, immersive experience.

If you look at some of the online publications that are doing a really good job of that, to take something to a tablet device. If you look at something like Fast Company, or Wired, or Harvard Business Review, or some of the other ones. Spin was one that really led the way. You look at ways to present additional data. Additional information, and really try to increase the engagement. Which is something you’re trying to do with social media at the same time. It’s not just something that’s just this printed way it is. You’re looking, “I can add additional layers.” I can have an interview where I’m reading in an article, and then surface the audio that the reporter did the interview with. So I can hear more of the context. The inflection in the voice. I can have visualizations come to life. I can use animations to have things build. It makes a much richer experience.

You look at print, that’s it’s just one way. It’s a very flat 2-D world. With the other, if it’s been optimized right for the device, you’ve got touch, you can explore, you can zoom in, you can zoom out, and then you can continually dig deeper. That’s what we’re looking at for the challenge of digital marketing is, how do we make that transition? What is it going to take to do that, where is the technology now, and what is that approach? Because, as you mentioned before, in this industry it’s — and this maybe more opinion, and not necessarily representative of Baker Hughes — but, the industry has been slow to adapt. It’s, “Oh, well we’ve always done it this way.” And we decided we are not going to do it that way anymore. We’re going to go ahead and look at this other way because this is where it’s going, and we don’t want to be behind.

That’s what we’ve really been pushing toward since October of last year, roughly.

James Hahn II: I’m going to go ahead and say that that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. But with companies like Baker Hughes and so many others like Shell and Chevron; bigger, larger companies starting to adapt this new technology it’s just a matter of time. I think the next 18 months are going to be very, very interesting in this industry. Just going back to what you were saying about the PDF, that’s really interesting. Not just taking the traditional brochure that you have laying there right now, but truly making it an interactive experience. I always think about the different types of learners; visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I’m more visual and kinesthetic, but the auditory people are there, so it’s amazing that you’re able to use that technology to engage everyone with one piece of content.

Joel Tarver: If you master brand storytelling, you can tell a deeper story. We look at certain things too, like when people were first talking about websites, calling them brochure sites. They were literally taking the content that was in the brochure and putting it on the web page. But, we’ve learned now there are studies that show that’s not how people read on the web. We scan. That was a reduction. Make it punchy, get it quick, get your hit in there, make it sticky, and get your point across quickly. So that was a reduction, and now with social media we’re going to even a further reduction of 140 characters, for example with Twitter. I need to reduce that paragraph into a compelling sentence. And now maybe less than a sentence so I can include the hashtags that are going to get somebody engaged, then pull them in and get them to want to discover a deeper story. So that you can take it from there, to the website, to some other experience, and if they want the long detail then they can go into a typical printed piece. But it’s modifying that message for the delivery mechanism.

That’s something that makes it complicated also. You’re looking for a writer that can write for an ad, that’s going to be different for a brochure. I’d say a different type of writer because you’ve got a copywriter for an ad. And then for a brochure or magazine article, then conveying that to web and to social media that’s got the hook. It’s making it a lot more complex now, certainly.

James Hahn II: Even though it’s more complex, you have so many more touch points where you can engage. You used that word earlier. Engaging the user or the visitor. That’s one thing you mentioned also, brochure websites. I probably use that word 100 times a day because I’d say 99% of the websites in this industry are still brochure sites, instead of taking people down a very specific customer journey, and taking them to a conversion path that’s specific to them with the copy that’s tailored to what they’re doing. So it’s awesome to hear that y’all are doing that at scale.

Joel Tarver: Well, it’s a work in progress. But I take it from my background in user experience. It’s consideration for the consumer of the information. The consideration of their time. Everybody’s busy. Everybody’s in a hurry, and I’m looking for an answer. I’m looking for something quickly. What the web has taught me is that I can find that really quickly. I filter things. I process things very fast, and if you can’t get me the answer that I want, I’m done and I’m moving on. We need to be able to draw them in, and hopefully have them stay for longer than a few seconds. Also, make it easy for them to find that information. That’s the essence of content marketing is that you’re looking for something that’s useful. And in the long term I’ve built up that relationship with you where I’m not doing this hard sell. It’s a soft sell, I’m just lightly peppering in some information about us so that long term you have brand loyalty with me because you trust that I’m giving you good, useful information that’s not an overt hard sell. So that when it comes time for you to make a decision, ideally you would choose Baker Hughes because you’ve had this consistent experience with us. It’s not just a one-in, one out. It’s something that we’re always looking to keep giving you good information to keep you more informed. Not doing the, “We’re the best, best, leader, leader, blah, blah.”

James Hahn II: Right. Jargon, jaron. I’m vomiting inside.

Joel Tarver: Yes, because the consumer’s aware of that now. They see that. They know that. The new generation coming in, the millennials, they don’t have the patience for it. It’s a matter of adaptation. Your audience is changing and you need to be able to address the existing, but you also have to be able to be aware of what’s coming as well.

James Hahn II: You mentioned also before, “Stay for a while.” It also brought to mind the word sticky. Y’all are doing some pretty interesting things arounds gameification and making those sticky features. I was wondering how that ties back to answers. Or maybe it’s not about answers it’s more about engagement. Tell me about this gameification that I know y’all are up to.

Joel Tarver: You hit it there. It’s not about answers, it’s about about engagement. With engagement, then we can provide answers. We’re trying to have people look at our company in a different way. In a different way to present what it is that we do to an audience that’s not aware. We have a game that’s out on the public app store in iTunes and it’s called Bit-tacular. This was created…

James Hahn II: How do you spell that, by the way. I’m just going to jump in on there. How do you spell that?

Joel Tarver: Bit-tacular was a game that was a game that was created in conjunction with a sales enablement app that was being pushed out internally on a mobile device. A product called BitGenie that’s a bit selection tool. We did Bit-tacular as a game because we wanted to have something to give to employees so they could have a conversation with their family and friends about who they work for and what it is that they do. The game was modeled on another successful game, a tremendously successful game called Candy Crush. Candy Crush is based on another game called Bejeweled, and it’s a match-3.

The way we did it is we took a map that is the history and timeline of Baker Hughes, some of our founders and significant events. As you go through the map, you unlock certain areas. And as you unlock that area, you can see a little reference about Spindletop or about Howard Hughes, Jr., about the two-cone roller. Other things that are interesting little tidbits. But those don’t force you to read them. It’s after you’ve unlocked it, you can go back and touch around and it does it. So we didn’t want to do it to where you had to see it in order to go there. We wanted to make something that was fun. That would enable us to where you’re at a party or something, or some friends and you’re introducing yourself. “What do you do?” Ideally, they can know something about their company with a little bit of pride, and that we had the technical capabilities to do something like this too is to show them the way we want to engage is to take that different approach. We’re in a very serious business, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t have some fun.

That’s part of the culture that’s being driven now. We don’t want to look at business as usual anymore. We find this way that we’re looking at a long term relationship with customers and engagement. And our employees are just as important as our customers. We’re hoping that based on the employees this would get out to the rest of the industry, so we debuted it at OTC this past May. We had an actual gaming area within the booth that was really successful. We had an area too where you could take selfies. And then you would take and post the selfies. It was fun and we had a campaign that was running for the pink bit, and you could take a pictures and then post it. So we’re looking at different ways to look at that that would bring in this new audience and have an element of fun. Because at a trade show there’s a tremendous amount of information going on. But what is a way that helps us differentiate from the competition?

James Hahn II: We always come back to this simple, basic fact of “be more human” on this show. I just got back from the Texas Showdown in Grapevine by Roseland Publications. Since I jumped ship from Drillinginfo, in a good way! We’re still on great terms. It was my second show. And when I was out there at Winter NAPE out in February I was walking around introducing myself as James Hahn, Tribe Rocket, that kind of a thing. And, instead of doing that, I said, “Hey, my name is James Hahn. I have a weekly podcast I do called The Oil & Gas Digital Marketing Podcast. I come to these shows looking for guests, and y’all do X. I’d love to talk to you about it.” Next thing you know, we’re talking for 15 minutes and then they say something extremely fascinating, and I’m just, “I’ve got to get you on my show to talk about brand storytelling!” That’s where the real connections happen. Not necessarily in giving them a technical spec sheet at the booth and saying, “Here’s all these crazy things.” You’re asking, how can we really interact with people as human beings and build those relationships? So that’s hilarious that y’all were doing selfies in the booth. I love it.

Joel Tarver: We actually had some local news coverage from that too. Channel 2, the NBC affiliate down here came out and did a little piece as well. We were very pleased with that. You’re exactly right. It’s about creating a human face for a corporation, and showing a culture. Because the industry highly technological. I say we’re a technology company that specializes in oilfield services. And every company that’s doing this has great technology. They wouldn’t be in business if they didn’t. So, what is that? How do you separate from the competition? And how do we look at who is this next potential hire? Who is this next customer? What is that impression we are leaving with them? And what is it that we’re creating? As we look at it from a brand perspective, brand isn’t about what we’re telling you we are. It’s you saying what you think we are. That two-way communication I see isn’t something that is often successful with certain companies. That’s something that we are trying to actively pursue.

James Hahn II: I’m really looking for people to hear this and say, “Darnit, if Baker Hughes can do this, we can too.” Let’s then get into business results and drivers because that’s one of the biggest things. OK, we can have all of this gameification, we can have this fun, doing selfies, but at the end of the day what sort of results is this driving. Give me a little insight into how y’all measure things and what sort of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you’re looking for on what you’re doing across the digital marketing spectrum.

Joel Tarver: What’s nice about social media and email marketing is if we do an email campaign and a blast that’s trying to direct people to a new service we offer called ShopBakerHughes.com, for example. You can buy drill bits online now, or drilling fluids, or power chargers. We can taylor a campaign and we can send it out, and we can track and see how many clicks, how many opens, and then how many conversions. It is directly measurable from the moment it happens. We can track IP addresses, where they’re coming from, and if this was a successful campaign really quickly and without a lot of cost attached to it. With social media, we can tie that if we’re trying to promote a certain product or push them to a URL, we’ll call it a microsite for more of the story, we can see and measure that engagement through the Likes and that type of information.

The challenge of social media. In traditional marketing you’re looking for the immediate gratification. But social media is a long play because it’s about building a relationship. It’s about building trust and providing useful information. It takes a little longer. You’re not looking for short term goals. I think if you take that tactic, then you’re just going to run your ads in social media. And honestly, people who are in social media aren’t interested in looking at your ads. They can go to websites and get news feeds and see ads whether or not they want to choose it, so you’ve got to be more creative. You also have to help those to understand that are new to it that the strategy you come about is that it’s a long play. With that, the advantage is that it’s OK to fail fast and fail forward. If you try something quickly, what it costs you in social media as opposed to making an ad placement is you’re just paying for the time of the person that’s posting and scheduling. If you have an artist involved, then a graphic because you’ll need to have something that’s compelling for people to look at, to draw them in. You’re looking at that time, instead that time plus paying for an insertion to an ad, which can be upwards of $10,000.

You can try things and see if it worked or not really quickly. And if it didn’t work, you know what? Tomorrow no one’s going to remember. You keep trying the new. It’s very freeing in that way in that you’re not worried about making a mistake because you have this ability to keep trying things. That’s what’s going to make it interesting. To figure out, OK how do you use Instagram in this industry? How do you use Pinterest in this industry? Some people say, “Well, I can’t tie in my direct piece to that.” But someone’s going to have to blaze that trail. Someone’s going to have to figure it out because the one that does is what’s going to set them above the rest. And you’ve got to understand your investment is minimal, but the payoff can be big. But I’m going to have to stick with it. And it’s going to take time, and it’s going to take curation. That doesn’t mean you just go put all of your images up at one time, and then you just do that once a month. You’ve got to have a strategy about that. Once you have that, then you can start to look at, what are these objectives I’m looking at?

A big part for the industry is just start. Where do I start? Social media can be something that can be small enough if you picked a channel that you can start to develop. OK, what is it that I want to measure? What is the goal? Am I just trying to grow Likes? Am I trying to grow Shares? Is there information that I want to try to get out there? Can I put it through SlideShare? Is what I’m saying on LinkedIn … I don’t want to say that exactly the same way I do it on Facebook. Not the same way I do it on Twitter. And I have to understand these channels before I just shotgun it. So you’ve really got to step back and think about what it is you want to do, and set an achievable goal.

We had something just recently this past week that was about the gravel packer. We decided we’re going to post a picture of one of these tools and we’re going to ask people, “Hey, do you know what this does?” Then we’ll see if the audience wants to be the authority and come in and give their opinion. Well, we opened up to the forum and in a day or two we’re going to post what the answer was. So we take a quiz or game approach to that that is about educating. And not saying, “Buy the best gravel packing leading solution in the industry today.” You know? “Blah, blah, blah.” Then someone looks at that and asks, “What is that? … OK, alright. Gravel pack. Well, what would I use that for?”

It’s taking that kind of approach. What are we looking at in that case? The success was did people answer? Were there responses? Was it blank? And where’s the next step that we take that? Well, that little bit worked, now let’s try this. OK, that worked, now let’s try this. Then to think where it can go eventually to get the sales team to say, “Hey, where did this lead come from?” From marketing, because that’s our real goal is that we are about sales enablement. And to say, “That lead came from a campaign that came from this social media channel, which led to a microsite, which led to a phone number, which led to a call with a salesperson, which led to to their meeting, which then led to an eventual sale.” That’s really the long-term strategy, to get the sale. But how do we continuously find new and better ways to do that? The tracking of that is something that we’re looking at some other software solutions right now that are going to help us with that.

James Hahn II: That’s another thing I talk about dozens of times a day. Social media is a means to an end. A lot of people jump out front and say, “I’ve got to get a Facebook account, a Twitter account …” all of these different things. But their website is not ready to receive any traffic to convert it into leads and sales. We always have to take a step back and say, first we have to fix this issue right here. And once you have this amazing website that’s offering all of this really fantastic content, and the sales copy is written in such a way that it’s about me, not about you. Because I don’t care about you. I care about what you’re going to do for me. What I love about this approach, just like you said earlier, you can spend $10,000 on a print ad and not really know what just happened with that $10,000. But if you go and spend $10,000 on Facebook and Twitter ads, and Google Adwords, you can track those things. It reminds me of the old saying “What gets measured gets improved.” You’re able to actually tell. This is precisely what happened. I put this input in, and this is exactly how it came out. And then you’re able to tweak and course correct from there so that you’re constantly improving, and driving more traffic, more leads, and more sales. So, y’all are doing it right on that front too. That’s amazing.

Joel Tarver: Thank you. What we’re looking at is that it’s really that data is not subject to bias either. You’re going to see instantly, is this campaign successful or not? From those metrics. Did it lead to conversions? Did it have Likes? That’s the other part we want to consider as well. That when we’re looking at this channel vs. this channel vs. print, how often, recurring, scheduling, when you post, when you post again. There’s a lot of complexities to it. It was interesting when you talked about the web and brochure sites and trying to drive traffic to the web. The hub of digital marketing is still the web. For us, BakerHughes.com is a key point we want people to go to. So if we want to improve where we are in the page rankings, we need to have reciprocal links that go back to that get people always driving traffic. Because people, like you said, think, “Oh, I’ve got to have a Facebook account. I’ve got to have this.” It goes back to the field of dreams, you know “Build it and they will come.” It doesn’t work that way.

James Hahn II: No.

Joel Tarver: You’ve got to get people moving to the site. That’s what the social media channels want to push. Brand storytelling that gets people to want to find out more information, and get that longer story. The fuller story drives traffic to the website, and that’s where we’re really trying to take these channels to go to that. Like we were saying back when the web was young it was “I’ve got to have a website. I’ve got to have a website.” And then they get a website up and they don’t advertise the website. They don’t promote the website. They’re not driving traffic to the website. But just because you have it there doesn’t mean all of the sudden you’re going to make millions like it has in those ads you might see on TV where it’s got one of the companies and they open up and then the site crashes because everybody’s buying something right there. People have those kind of dreams, but it’s not really reality. It’s a lot of work and maintenance that’s involved in a strategy to continually drive traffic. And how that whole integrated approach from the ads to the microsites to the social media to the mobile; that they’re all driving to one place, to one common goal. That’s the big part of digital marketing now.

James Hahn II: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Looking down at my clock, there is so much more we could get into. Your future promotion to the Chief Technical Officer and everything like that. But we’re going to have to leave all of the other conversations for another time because we have run out of time. I probably could spend at least another few hours on the phone with you. I do thank you for taking some time out of your extremely busy day and kicking it with The Tribe for just a few minutes here.

Joel Tarver: I appreciate it, James. I look forward to coming back at some point.

James Hahn II: I definitely want to have some follow-up to hear how these KPIs work out, so let’s count on it.

Joel Tarver: Alright. Take care.

James Hahn II: Thanks.

The post #015: Brand Storytelling: Why Baker Hughes is Eating Your Lunch with Joel Tarver appeared first on Tribe Rocket Inc..

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