JCK Talks: Ben Smithee, CEO, The Smithee Group

If you’ve yet to discover JCK Talks at JCK Las Vegas, make 2018 the year you become familiar with this amazing educational program. The show is proud to offer content on a range of timely topics, presented by some of the industry’s most knowledgeable and influential speakers.

One highly anticipated JCK Talks session this year is Sip and Learn Social, which focuses on mobile marketing, social media strategy and selling on social, and gamification. Featuring six experts from three different companies, it promises to be a fun, memorable event—and you’re sure to leave with a leg up on your next social move.

Among the contributors to the conversation is Ben Smithee, CEO of The Smithee Group. Smithee is a Millennial entrepreneur and an expert on digital marketing, retail, and the Millennial consumer. I can’t think of a better source to provide a sneak peek of what’s to come, both in the realm of social media and in his upcoming JCK Talks session.

Tell us a bit about your responsibilities as CEO of The Smithee Group.

Ben Smithee: We have a team of 20 at TSG, so in addition to managing the company’s vision and team alignment on that vision, I see my number one responsibility as being a leader. I am responsible for setting the course and empowering my operations lead, Alex, to bring it to life. I lead our growth and development efforts, and our outbound marketing and education efforts as well. Externally, my role is to represent TSG in our philanthropic and industry relations efforts, though more of our leadership team is also being asked to serve on boards and take community leadership roles.

Let’s talk Millennials. The generation has undoubtedly shaken things up when it comes to business, both in sales and marketing. What are the three most important things businesses should know about Millennials when considering digital strategy?

BS: 1) If you’re not a Millennial, you’re still starting to think like one. Think about things like Uber, Instagram, Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc. These are all part of the Millennial mindset of frictionless payment, on-demand content, seamless logistics, and the internet of everything.
2) People forget that Millennials aren’t kids anymore. Think late twenties to mid-thirties. They have purchasing power, and they spend money.
3) Millennials have different requirements of brands and expect different relationships with them. They think about brand advocacy more than brand “loyalty.” Brands aren’t very loyal today, either—it has to be a two-way street.

How do you envision things changing as Gen Z gains more spending power?

BS: Millennials were a pivot generation. They were the last generation to know an analog non-internet world. Gen Z doesn’t know what life without the web or social media is, so if a business isn’t absolutely fluent in the digital environment, then it is going to be grossly irrelevant in the next five to 10 years—no exaggeration or hyperbole.

If you could recommend only one social media platform for budding retailers to establish a presence on, what would it be, and why?

BS: Facebook/Instagram. You have to look at it as the same network with two different delivery channels. Think of it as NBC with two different programming channels. It’s still the largest network, its ad platform is very robust, and for the next one to two years, it is still grossly underpriced for obtaining massive ROI on your ad dollar. This will change very soon, so if you’re not investing your ad budgets there, you’re simply missing the boat. Just think of what your keywords would have cost if you had jumped on AdWords and purchased them back in the day compared to what they cost now.

What lessons do you hope attendees at JCK Las Vegas will learn by attending your session?

BS: How to actually use social media to grow their business. It’s not enough to simply post content out there and expect sales to happen anymore. The world of digital marketing is complex and so multi-faceted that it takes real strategy to win. We are going to give people the tools to take the next steps in doing that.

What do you plan to do for fun while you’re in Vegas this year?

BS: Always the big three: golf (with clients), drinks at Eye Candy with friends, and playing blackjack—and JCK Rocks the Bowl, of course!

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