creatis
In the Key Of D Podcast logo

episode 12

Making Easy Things Even Easier with Cole Ranzau

Knowing and anticipating what your customer needs from digital experiences is easier said than done. For business leaders first entering this evolving world of user experience strategy and the “tech stack,” it can feel like climbing an ominous mountain. Thankfully, Cole Ranzau, who leads an experience strategy team at Strategic Education, Inc. (SEI), joins the podcast to help us get our footing on how to use digital to create compelling experiences. Cole digs into using focused data and analytics to tell engaging stories, breaks down his “3-Headed Attack” for solving UX challenges, and explores why the “making easy things even easier” mindset is pivotal to building successful digital experiences for customers.

 

Our Guest

guest pict fpo 300x300

Cole Ranzau

Cole Ranzau is a passionate digital marketer who has spent the majority of his career working with the Minnesota Timberwolves and more recently in higher education at Strategic Education Inc. Over his 8 year career he has some great experience in many different areas of digital including paid search, SEO, conversion rate optimization, UX, and content strategy/ He has led multiple site redesigns and is currently leading a Testing Insights & Experience Strategy team at SEI.

Aside from his full-time gig, Cole also has a side hustle. He and his wife run a travel blog (look about lindsey) focused on redefining travel, exploring the hidden gems right here in Minnesota and beyond.

Show Notes

In this episode we cover:

  • [1:00] Cole Ranzau Introduction
  • [2:20] How does Cole define Digital Transformation as it relates to developing compelling customer experiences?
  • [3:15] Cole talks about managing his experience strategy team’s roles and responsibilities at Strategic Education, Inc. (SEI)
  • [4:00] Cole breaks down the brands of SEI, including his team’s focus on prospective students who use the Strayer University & Capella University digital properties.
  • [5:00] How can you transform a non-digital brand or company into the digital space? Cole offers his experience and mindset when it comes to using formal and informal UX research to bridge the physical and digital space.
  • [6:20] The COVID-19 crisis has revealed a lot about companies and digital, including which digital experiences fell flat and why, i.e. restaurants that didn’t leverage digital to do takeout meals successfully. It’s key to learn from these shortcomings to build a better digital future.
  • [7:50] We dive into a conversation about analytics: How do Cole and his team zero-in on and measure out the right data, rather than chasing distracting data? Cole talks about his “3-Headed Attack” for using data, analytics and testing to solve user problems.
  • [9:50] First getting into digital strategy and experience can be daunting; data and analytics feels like a BIG undertaking. How do small to midsize business leaders get started in this space? Cole offers practical insights on leveraging data, analytics and technology to better serve your customer and by starting with ONE pain point
  • [11:15] Cole defines what “Experience Strategy” means and how it factors into his role at SEI.
  • [13:15] Cole talks about the power of influence and storytelling for the purpose of gaining organizational buy-in and moving customers along on a journey.
  • [14:10] Cole discusses his customers, who are prospective students of Strayer & Capella Universities, and breaks down how his team creates an experience strategy.
  • [15:30] How has COVID affected the customer journeys that you’re trying to create for your audiences? Cole discusses customer journey maps and strategies for adapting to the times, including making how they re-engineered some online coursework to be like the “Netflix of Higher-Ed.”
  • [17:00] What processes ensure that customer handoffs are successful from team to team within the organization? Cole explains his team’s focus on prospective students through the application process, and how others in the organization engage in other part of the student journey.
  • [19:00] How does Cole keep his team engaged while working remotely? 
  • [20:00] Coles talks about his hiring strategies, digital marketers vs. tactical SMEs, what he looks for in candidates, and how to create a balanced and successful team through passion.
  • [22:50] Cole explains the process behind “testing” digital experiences and all the steps involved for his team at SEI.
  • [26:45] Cole has a side hustle: a travel blog with his wife Lindsey Ranzau, which he helps develop and maintain digitally. How have they had to pivot during COVID? What’s changed in their approach to creating relevant content?
  • [29:35] Rapid Fire - Fun Questions & Fast Answers with Cole 
  • [32:00] Wrap up Questions: How does Cole stay current in digital?
  • [33:30] What’s the next big thing we should look for in the future of digital? 
  • [36:10] Key Takeaways with Kathy & Gino

Links & Resources:

  • Email Cole: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Connect with Cole on LinkedIn
  • Visit Cole & his wife Lindsey’s Travel Blog: https://lookaboutlindsey.com/
  • Follow the travel blog & Lindsey Ranzau on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lindseyranzau/ 
  • View some of the digital properties Cole and his team work on: https://www.strayer.edu/, https://www.capella.edu/

"Key" Takeaways

  • Cole embodies and deploys a practical and personal approach to user experience. It’s best to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and have a passion for giving them a great and easy experience using your digital products. Direct your energy into getting it right. Try to look at your own needs as the customers’ needs.
  • Don’t try to “boil the ocean” or doing the most complicated aspect first when solving problems. Go after the biggest pain point first. Consider what solutions might also be “high impact, low burden.” This way of prioritizing can help ground your strategy and engage your team. Solve A problem first, not many. Make Easy Things Easier. Find a pain point and just make that one better.
  • “3 Headed Attack” of Using Data To Solve User Problems: Web Data, ‘what’ a customer is doing and ‘where’ they’re doing it; UX data & research, customer motivations & needs – the ‘why’; Testing, discover what experiences works best for customer
  • UX research can be formal or informal, just don’t let it become a joyless numbers game. There’s an element of humanity to user experience that can’t be overlooked. UX Research can even be as simple as going to talk to people within your organization, getting their input and trying to understand their challenges first.
  • Look beyond your competitive set. Instead of getting fixated on what you and your direct competitor is doing, be sure to stop and look around at what other big digital players are doing (like Amazon). Chances are your customer will base their response to your digital product off of their experience with the big brands.
  • For instance, Cole’s team looks beyond online universities and analyzes “best in class” digital experiences offered by Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix etc. to anticipate what their customers are accustomed to and might expect.
  • Communication and adaption during crises are important. Keep an open line of communication with people in your organization who touch that same customer touchpoints along the journey. SEI started offering a “Netflix for Higher-Ed” model for one of their Sophia Learning business in which they changed the pricing model and accessibility in response to the pandemic.
  • The power of influence and storytelling is more important now with so many digital channels available. Using stories helps to make numbers more human. Telling compelling stories trumps showing only quantitative data or graphs. Stories are emotionally engaging and help “level-set” within your organization, across teams and functionalities. These stories help get bu

Subscribe

Recent Episodes

  • How Understanding POEMs Drives Digital Integration with Adam Dince
    episode 14

    How Understanding POEMs Drives Digital Integration with Adam Dince

    Can you hear that? It’s your data speaking, and Adam Dince wants you to listen.
    From the early days of building websites to leading digital experience teams, Adam’s career spans over 20 years of digital marketing evolution, with a focus on using organic and paid search to reach the right person at the right time with the right content. Adam is a lifelong student of data who wants to know what can be learned about the customer through search behavior and history. Adam joins the podcast to discuss the necessity of an omnichannel digital marketing strategy, best practices for reaching customers online; the evolution of paid, owned and earned media; and his pivotal 80/20 social listening rule to help grow your audience.

    Listen

  • Episode 13: Giving Freedom Within the Guardrails—Featuring Kymm Bartlett Martinez
    episode 13

    Giving Freedom Within the Guardrails—Featuring Kymm Bartlett Martinez

    Every brand wants to go viral. But as a marketing or business leader, how do you know when your messaging is going off the road? Install guardrails, says executive Kymm Martinez. Staggering success has followed Kymm from her work with CPG giant General Mills to her current role as VP/Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at the University of St. Thomas. She understands that as digital evolves, trendsetting marketers must pay attention to cultural transitions, take risks on experimental channels, and understand brands as more than just products, but also as the people who use the brand. In this episode of In the Key of D, Kymm shares a wealth of insight on leadership and fostering creative freedom that stays between the rails.

    Listen

  • Episode 12: Making Easy Things Even Easier with Cole Ranzau
    episode 12

    Making Easy Things Even Easier with Cole Ranzau

    Knowing and anticipating what your customer needs from digital experiences is easier said than done. For business leaders first entering this evolving world of user experience strategy and the “tech stack,” it can feel like climbing an ominous mountain. Thankfully, Cole Ranzau, who leads an experience strategy team at Strategic Education, Inc. (SEI), joins the podcast to help us get our footing on how to use digital to create compelling experiences. Cole digs into using focused data and analytics to tell engaging stories, breaks down his “3-Headed Attack” for solving UX challenges, and explores why the “making easy things even easier” mindset is pivotal to building successful digital experiences for customers.

    Listen

  • Episode 11: Going Over-the-Top with Pete Harrison
    episode 11

    Going Over-the-Top with Pete Harrison

    Startups don’t have the luxury of being sluggish out of the gate. Analytics are more rigorous, budgets are more constrained, and investors are watching the clock. It’s not so much “less is more” as “do more with less and do it quickly" for these small to midsize businesses working to launch their company and products. Pete Harrison, seasoned startup advisor and digital marketing leader, joins the podcast to share his insights on leveraging digital channels and testing to get to market more quickly. He explains how OTT (over-the-top) TV Advertising (ads for streaming TV) compares to Linear TV Advertising (ads for broadcast TV), plus why and when to use these channels.

    Listen

  • Episode 10: How a 153-Year-Old Startup Goes Digital — Featuring Steve Yaeger
    episode 10

    How a 153-Year-Old Startup Goes Digital—Featuring Steve Yaeger

    For the Star Tribune, delivering quality journalism to the people of Minnesota for 153 years has made it the largest newsgathering force in the Midwest and one of the most touched newspaper brands in the US. But the advent of the digital age has brought the challenges of adapting to changing reader behavior, an accelerated news cycle and the prospect of a print-less future. How do they navigate these massive global shifts? Steve Yaeger, CMO at the Star Tribune, joins the podcast to talk about the award-winning media brand’s digital transformation journey, customer acquisition, and the company’s focus on long-term sustainability.

    Listen

  • Episode 9: If You Host It, Will Anyone Actually Come?—Featuring Wendy Blackshaw
    episode 9

    If You Host It, Will Anyone Actually Come?—Featuring Wendy Blackshaw

    When you’re a leader in uncharted territory—like trying to plan a mega-event during a pandemic—what do you do? Make your own map. Brand visionary and dynamic leader Wendy Blackshaw has been making her own map using digital tools throughout an adventurous career. Wendy joins the podcast to talk about how digital has changed what’s possible in marketing, her experience building mega-event brands (including Super Bowl LII & the upcoming NCAA Women’s Final Four 2022), and why trusting your team of experts is vital to successful outcomes.

    Listen

  • Episode 8: Bridging the Divide—Featuring Aaron Keller
    episode 8

    Bridging the Divide—Featuring Aaron Keller 

    We are living in an increasingly digitized world, but we'll always be physical beings. Good design is no longer either only digital or only physical—it must function in both spaces, harmoniously. Capsule co-founder & CMO, design philosopher and author Aaron Keller brings his thoughtfulness to the show to discuss digital design theory and practice, sustainable packaging, and why designers must see the consumer as a human being first.

    Listen

  • Episode 6: Keep the Talent, Lose the Fear
    episode 6

    Keep the Talent, Lose the Fear—Featuring Darin Lynch

    What’s the secret sauce for creating a digital culture that promotes company flexibility, talent retention, and fun? Hint: It’s not just a pint of Irish beer (although that can help). Award-winning business leader & Irish Titan CEO/Founder Darin Lynch joins to talk about how weaving digital and technology throughout your business practices can nurture a culture that keeps the best talent around, drives change, and promotes scalability for businesses, while also fully enjoying the journey.

    Listen

  • Episode 7: Evolution Not Revolution
    episode 7

    Evolution Not Revolution - Featuring Stuart Harris 

    “Go big or go home” doesn’t equal success for companies undertaking digital transformation. It’s so important to hit smaller, measurable goals before swinging for the fences. As Group President of Digital Transformation at Emerson Stuart Harris knows, companies must have a clear strategy before deploying new technologies. He joins the podcast to discuss the key aspects of driving digital change and how Emerson is helping their customers evolve dynamically.

    Listen

  • Episode 5: Welcome to the Sh*t Show
    episode 5

    Welcome to the Sh*t Show-Featuring Andrew Eklund

    Ciceron CEO Andrew Eklund has captained his crews through multiple major economic storms over the past 20 years, and has stayed afloat by being adaptive and innovative. He joins the podcast to discuss why “economic reinvention”—using digital channels—is key to business survival in times of crisis, how to empower a fast & nimble team, and most importantly: why he loves the band Phish.

    Listen

  • Episode 4: Small Bets Placed Often
    episode 4

    Small Bets Placed Often—Featuring Jen Swanson

    Digital transformation is not a toaster, you can’t just plug it in and expect it to work. It’s also not a big budget project that you wash your hands of after the end-date. So, what is it? One way to think of it is as a series of small bets, placed often. Founder and principal of her own highly-successful consulting business and former VP of Digital at Optum, Jen Swanson joins the podcast to discuss digital risk and reward, how she helps companies integrate digital into their business strategy, and why projects end but products endure.

    Listen

  • Episode 3: Measure Twice, Cut Once
    episode 3

    Measure Twice, Cut Once—Featuring Andrew Benson & John Dusek

    When Shakespeare wrote "To thine own self be true," he might have been talking about Andrew Benson and John Dusek, who together co-founded Straight Line Theory, a company focused solely on user experience (UX) research and design. Andrew and John join the podcast to help us understand what UX design is all about, the challenges of developing digital products that are easy to use, and why users should influence technology, not the other way around.

    Listen

  • Episode 2: Why Sears Could Have Been Amazon
    episode 2

    Why Sears Could Have Been Amazon—Featuring Craig Herkert 

    Dust from the Digital "big bang" is still settling. Global retail executive & Advisory Board member Craig Herkert knows the digital world is in its infancy and that change is just what business leaders and professionals sign up for. Craig joins the podcast to talk big picture: adapting to survive, the ethics of moving with—not in front of—your consumer, and why Sears failed to become Amazon.

    Listen

  • Episode 1: Let's Get Digital
    episode 1

    Let's Get Digital—Featuring Kathy Hollenhorst & Gino Giovannelli

    What is digital transformation and why does it matter to business leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals? In this pilot episode for "In the Key of D" host Kathy Hollenhorst and co-host Gino Giovannelli help frame-up the big questions around using digital, how to get started and preview the fascinating topics we'll dig into with our guests.

    Listen

    View All

    Find us:

    Creatis, Inc. Headquarters
    227 Colfax Ave. N.
    Suite 150
    Minneapolis, MN 55405

    Tel: 612-333-3233

    facebook btn whttwitter btn whtlinkedin btn whtblog btn wht

    Let us start helping you
    find the right solution today!

    Invalid Input
    Please type your full name.
    Invalid email address.
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input

    Let us start helping you
    find the right solution today!


    Staffing Team


    Please type your full name.
    Invalid email address.
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input

    Let us start helping you
    find the right solution today!


    Contact Paul, Managing Director of Studio Services


    Please type your full name.
    Invalid email address.
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input

    Let us start helping you
    find the right solution today!


    Contact Sandi, Director of New Business Development


    Please type your full name.
    Invalid email address.
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input

    Let us start helping you
    find the right solution today!


    Contact Kathy
    our President & CEO


    Please type your full name.
    Invalid email address.
    Invalid Input
    Invalid Input