Q&A: Pete Gombert, CEO, Balihoo

Pete Gombert, CEO of the local marketing operations company Balihoo, discusses the need for digital and social marketing to be properly targeted.

Direct Marketing New (DMN): What does a company like Balihoo do for its clients exactly?

Pete Gombert (Gombert): We’re a software company and we do marketing on a local level. For example, Kohler sells through 850 distributors and dealers throughout the country. They use our value platform to load up templatized marketing, email templates, direct mail—there are 18 different media channels we support. Then a local affiliate can interact with the Balihoo platform. We can take a template, a local website, and instead of having to gather data from local distributors, we can pull data from various systems and marry that up with the template. The big problem that we’re solving is that national brands struggle to execute marketing with local effectiveness in a brand-consistent way. It’s about trying to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.

DMN: Who are some of your clients?

Gombert: Kohler, Geico, Pearl Vision, Aflac, and we have several clients in the healthcare space. There are 30 brands now on the platform.

DMN: What are most important trends in marketing that your clients need to be aware of?

Gombert: Digital is definitely the push forward. Traditional or analog tactics are not as effective as they once were. Local businesses struggle to adopt digital tactics. What our brands are looking for us to help them with is really a couple different things [including] managing a local presence—being found when someone’s looking for you. Those things are really important. Managing the online reviews and what’s being said about your brand at the local level is really important. There’s also a confused question around social. National brands want to have social, but are playing around with the concept of whether to make it local or not. How do we make sure the social, local element is genuine, is monitored, is engaged?

DMN: Does every brand really need social?

Gombert: I think you’ve got to quantify social in smaller buckets. It’s hard to argue that any brand shouldn’t have some kind of national social presence, monitoring and responding to reviews, or [have] customer support like a platform like [on] Twitter. In almost every case, a brand will have a use for social media where they will be engaged. Social is by nature an engaged participatory medium. If the local affiliate isn’t going to participate and engage with their social network, you’re going to end up doing more harm than good. I think it goes back to knowing what your objectives are, and knowing you can’t control the medium … social is by nature a scary beast. Make sure you’re using the right channel and are prepared to deal with what you’re uncomfortable with.