We’ve been designing and developing websites and print materials for clients for 17+ years now. Lots of technology and trends have come and gone over the years, but marketing has always been about one thing – meaningful connections with your target audience. What you do with those connections is where the nuances lie.

We’re based in the Washington, DC, Baltimore metro area so we’ve worked with lots of government agencies and contractors as well as our fair share of non-profits and associations. Of course, being in business for almost two decades means that we’ve also had the chance to work with lots of other types of companies and organizations.

Our clients range from manufacturers and construction companies to IT service providers and accounting firms to biotech firms and bar-be-que restaurants.

We’ve seen it all. So, we decided to tap into the knowledge base of some of our more forward-thinking clients and our super smart partners to see what marketing is to them today and into the future. Enjoy!

Let’s Meet Our Marketing Expert at Exponent Philanthropy

Serenity Greenfield, Director of Marketing and Membership at Exponent Philanthropy. Marketing geek to the core, data enthusiast, and Association rat; fueled by caffeine, awkwardness and junk food.

Exponent Philanthropy is the “country’s largest association of funders and the only one dedicated to serving foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors.”

Now, the Interview: The Pulse of Marketing

Question One: Marketing Best Practices

Wood Street – Marketing tools and best practices are always changing to the point where there are no hard and fast best practices. How do you keep up? Do you have your own “best practices” or are you just rolling with the punches? What advice would you give a business starting out?

Serenity – Figure out your priorities and where you need to start/focus. I use a classic sales funnel model to think about our audiences and processes. If the bottom of your funnel (engaging current customers via email and your website) is broken or ineffective, then spending effort at the top of the funnel (lead gen and content marketing) won’t provide much ROI.

I’ve found success in building processes from the bottom of the funnel up. Assess what you’re doing to engage, nurture, and generate leads or current customers at each stage of your customer journey to see where adjustments can lead to better outcomes. Then when you get to the top of the funnel, go back to the bottom again and start making improvements all over again.

Once I know where to focus our energy, I rely heavily on experts to make recommendations on how to improve our processes. Experts might exist in the walls of your building, within your customer base, or with paid consultants.

Some of the most valuable best practices and expertise I’ve found are from networking with other marketing professionals. Whether they have 30 years of experience or are just entering the workforce, these people offer a fresh perspective, new ideas, and systems suggestions I never would have known about.

Sometimes, just framing the problem for someone else to understand reveals a solution that was hiding in plain sight. My advice is don’t try to tackle everything on your own. Reach out to experts, crowdsource solutions, and read about what best practices others are using.

Question Two: Marketing Challenges

Wood Street – As stated in question one, it’s tough to keep up with our constantly changing marketing landscape. As you work through the year, what are some of the biggest challenges you face as a marketer? And how do you overcome these challenges? Or do you?

Serenity – It’s really tough not to get distracted by the shiny new thing in the marketing world. Often, results are driven from repeated messaging through tried and true methods, which isn’t very exciting.

That’s why when marketers start talking about AI or predictive modeling, many of us perk up and want to rush to learn more, implement right away, and see what kind of an impact we can have with these fun new tools. However, this can distract us from what the core of our work is and can be.

I live by the 80-15-5 rule in almost everything I do. In this case, it means I spend 80 percent of my team’s time and resources on marketing methods that we know work, then 15 percent on those that need improvement, and 5 percent on the new. This keeps us from getting distracted by what’s new but also keeps us from getting stuck in a rut.

Question Three: Marketing Assets

Wood Street – We have so many tools at our disposal. We can market using our website, blog, social channels, email, print, marketing automation, and so on. Can you describe some successes you’ve had with some of these? And maybe any failures you’d like to share?

Serenity – Everyone’s idea of success is so different. Recently, implementing a simple direct mail campaign has been one of the biggest successes we’ve had. Most of that is because we set up clear measures of ROI before we ever put a piece of paper in the mail. We’ve been able to accurately track our conversions and costs to see that our campaigns are really taking off.

As for failures, I don’t know if we really have those in marketing. We have risks and then we learn lessons and adjust, but I don’t think we’ve failed unless the organization is closing down. One thing we learned in the last few years is that we honestly don’t have the time and resources to really increase our reach on social media.

We focus on three channels (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and after creating and testing a strategy for each and measuring outcomes over a year, we decided that the ROI of pouring more time and resources into that strategy didn’t make sense for us.

Question Four: Your Marketing People

Wood Street – We work with lots of companies and organizations. Some have a large in-house team and others rely solely on contractors and/or vendor companies for their marketing needs. Can you paint a picture for us of what your team looks like? Any successes or challenges stemming from your marketing team that you would care to share?

Serenity – If you’ve seen the Breakfast Club, you might have a good idea of our team. Not because of the cliché stereotypes each actor portrays but because our team is made up of 6 very different individuals.

We joke about how different we all are, and how, yet, we all work together well, have fun, trust each other, set goals together, leverage each other’s strengths, and hold one another accountable. We work incredibly hard to achieve some awesomely ambitious goals, but then we have fun together, find creative activities to give our brains space, go get froyo on hot afternoons, talk about our families over coffee in the morning, then crank out awesomely demanding work in-between.

We have spent a lot of time understanding each other. We have completed the DiSC assessment, open every team meeting with a “get to know you” exercise, assessed our change styles, and acknowledge and own each of our individual strengths and weaknesses.

I will go toe-to-toe with anyone who thinks they have a better team than I do. We are a band of misfits that have nothing in common on paper, but we buckle down to get things done, come up for air, make sure we’re all refreshed, then dive back in to start it all again.

Question Five: The Future of Marketing

Wood Street – And finally, we ask you to look into your crystal ball. What trends do you anticipate in the future? How will these change your strategies, budget, team, assets, etc? Are you ready? If not, what do you need? If so, can you tell us how you came to be ready?

Serenity – Relationships are more important than ever. That and being true to your brand. People can see-through fake and aren’t afraid to call companies out on their contradictions.

If you claim to be high-touch, you better get on the phone and talk to your customers. If you say you care about the environment, don’t send people tons of direct mail. Brands will need to…

  1. Define who they are, why they exist, and what their values are,
  2. build relationships with those customers based on those values, and
  3. ensure the actions, products, leaders, and language are all in synch with what it means to be “your brand.”

We Want Your Input

If you’re reading this then you are thinking about your marketing efforts and what to do next. You might be considering a website redesign, or maybe a rebrand. Or you’re thinking about your email newsletter and what to do next. Maybe you have a trade show coming soon and need to prepare.

We want to know what’s going on with all the marketers out there. So, what are your thoughts on any of these questions? Let us know in the comments section below.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

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