Q: As a Digital Trailblazer, you're doing
outstanding work to further digital marketing. Why have you chosen
digital as the focus of your career or day-to-day job?
Ms. Hu: I started in traditional
marketing—direct mail and database marketing. Originally I
was more on the analytics side, then I migrated to the sales side,
then to the database/direct mail side. Somehow, database marketing
landed me in digital. I always say digital marketing is nothing but
smart marketing meeting technology. That's what I tell people new
to digital marketing: You know more than you think.
Q: Tell us about a moment in your career that
was pivotal and why it affected you so strongly.
Ms. Hu: When I was 9 or 10 years old, I began
cooking in my parents' Chinese restaurant. For me that experience
was all about learning that you had to prepare in
advance—that a lot of success is built on hard work and
preparation. As a chef, once you have your prep work
done—chopping all your vegetables, preparing all your
garnishes and ingredients—you can cook anything. You can
improvise. For me, that was a pivotal moment: learning that your
ability to improvise, to pivot and think critically, was based on
Q: You have received plaudits for H&R
Block's lead-generation program. How important is regularly growing
your customer base, and what role does data management play in
building and maintaining that base?
Ms. Hu: Customer acquisition is the most
important thing we do. We have 98% brand awareness. We are at the
point where our data allows us to be surgical. That is why I love
digital: Data meets technology meets personalization. We can be so
surgical now that we don't want to buy cookies—we want to buy
profiles. The convergence of all the data we have allows us to
learn and test quickly. We use technology in innovative ways so we
can be efficient, get conversions at the lowest cost and greatest
Q: Your media partners say you deserve applause
for paying attention to the small details of ad campaigns, such as
ad frequency and the online environment your ads appear in. How
important are these details in the overall success of an effort
and, most importantly, to your brand image?
Ms. Hu: The granular details are everything.
It's what makes or breaks our efforts. We can't be surgical unless
we are precise. Details equal precision. That allows us to execute
in the way we want to. Some people will take an old bridge and
spray paint it new. People don't know it's a spray-painted bridge
that can fall down. We architect. No one appreciates the
architecture and the rigor because they are driving smoothly over
the bridge. But we can calculate the exact payload it will handle,
the rate of decay, how deeply to drive the pillars. That rigor and
dramatic impact isn't often seen but often felt.
Q: If you had to offer one piece of advice to
someone new to digital marketing, what would you say?
Ms. Hu: The best thing you can do to build your
business plans is to learn to story tell with numbers. How do you
get them to care about [the numbers]? Tell a story.
Q: How do you stay on top of what's happening
in the digital world? Are there people or blogs or magazines and
newsletters that help you stay in the know?
Ms. Hu: Reading the Internet and consuming
information is the most important thing you can do. Not just trade
magazines, but being generally well-read—Mashable, Huff Post,
Buzzfeed, everything. Then second, you need to have a network of
smart people to bounce ideas off of. In my case, I have my
agencies, publishers I buy from and my own team, which is the
smartest team in the world. They are voracious consumers and
sharers of information.
Q: What new technology or apps are getting your
Ms. Hu: To me, smart TVs are the most
interesting things, from a professional perspective. I do also love
my photo apps and filters. They make my headshot look better!
Q: You like to watch TV in your spare time.
What are you looking forward to in the fall and winter programming
Ms. Hu: I am excited for the return of
"Homeland" on Showtime, and "The Walking Dead," of course. But now
I have to buy it. I cut the cord recently, and it was painful for
me. When I had linear TV I would endlessly watch HGTV and Food Network. I miss them a lot. But most of
the things I was watching were available online and much cheaper. I
have tried to use this experience to make my TV viewing more
Q: You also say you enjoy reading. Do you use
books, an e-reader or audiobooks—or a mix?
Ms. Hu: I was a classics and lit major. In
college, we read and read and read, serious stuff. Now I make up
for that and I read trash. I love Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger
Games." I love Harry Potter. I read like a teenage girl. But lately
I have been trying to elevate my game. The last books I read were
"The Martian" and "The Girl on the Train," which I enjoyed. I mix
it up between traditional books and e-books. I still like to crack
the spine of a book, and I like the way they smell. Reading for me
will always be meeting, on paper, the people you always wanted to
be your friends. I like to own my books. We live in a world where
reading is for pleasure. That is a privilege. I like to surround
myself with books to remind me of that.
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