As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Nicole Weber.
Nicole is the founder of Spot Color and also the founder & CEO of Nug Digital Marketing. She has worked professionally as a graphic designer, art director, and creative director since 2001. Her passion is leading the studio in shaping effective and powerful experiences that focus on increasing our clients’ market share.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is not a funny story, but it was the biggest “almost” marketing mistake that I made close to 20 years ago: Our client was going on TV to pitch her new products, we had been working for months on the campaigns and most importantly, a new eCommerce website and special landing page with a discount for the TV launch. I was speaking with our client at 6am and finalizing some details, I mentioned that I was excited about tomorrow’s launch…and she said, “Tomorrow? Oh no…I’m going on TV this morning in two hours!!” ARRGH! Thank goodness the site was done, but we never worked so fast and furious turning it on…talk about stress! Lots of lessons there…double, triple check deadlines! My motto since then is “being early is being on time”.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I went through the dot com boom and bust. During the “bust”, my title was Web Graphic Designer, which basically meant that I did all the graphic design for print and for the web. However, when 70 people got let go from the company in one day, including our website developer, I got to keep my job with four others because they thought I could build websites! The exec team requested a brand new website to be delivered in four days. I stayed up for three nights straight learning HTML and I pulled it off! From the next two years, I was the company web developer. I learned a new skill but also learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. When I started my own business a few years later, website design and development was and still is, a key focus.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a small and nimble agency. About five years ago I didn’t renew our big office lease in downtown Portland. Instead, we bought everyone laptops and the team started working from home. This move allowed us to cut overhead immensely and bring in some really high-end talent. We have been able to keep our costs down as well, which our clients appreciate. And our team has been able to truly enjoy an amazing work-life balance.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We saw a need for digital marketing and advertising in the cannabis/CBD space four years ago. We created a separate brand to help those clients. Its been quite the ride with rules and regs changing daily, but we have done some amazing campaigns in that space to help our clients. We work growers, cultivators, distributors, dispensaries as well as ancillary businesses that want to get into the industry. We have been doing digital marketing in the space that most agencies haven’t figured out how to do yet. We’ve also been curating an email list of two million cannabis/hemp consumers that our clients can use for their email marketing. Exciting stuff!
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Work/Life balance is crucial. It’s often repeated, but since we need to be responsive to clients/co-workers it can be especially hard to unplug. With the “away” messages on your phone and email pointing to colleagues who can handle client or company needs, avoid the temptation to keep looking at your phone or device. Put your ego aside that says you’re the only one who can handle things. And it’s not enough to be physically away — you need to be mentally away as well to recharge. Especially in a creative field — this type of recharging is essential in order for you to stay mentally alert. You may also be surprised by the organic ideas you generate just by being in a new environment.
This is so important…as a business owner you have a bazillion other things to worry about and keep you up at night too! I discovered early on that in order for our business to succeed, I needed to hire creative talent that was on par or better than me…letting the ego go for sure! Having junior folks meant that I constantly had to check their work and often redo it to meet my standards. It was a huge time suck, not efficient, and really stressful.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are?
Growing up, I was known as the “artist of the class”. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in art, but I didn’t want to be the typical starving artist…trying to hock my wares. My uncle, Estin, was a “commercial artist”…this was in the late 80’s. I had no idea what that meant, or what he did, but I knew he did something creative, and he always drove a nice car, had nice clothes, and a great house! He mentored me, helped me select a college, and gave me a list of agencies to call once I graduated. If it weren’t for him, I have no idea what direction I would have gone. Creating design and campaigns to help others grow their businesses is extremely satisfying and fun.
That is wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history?
Allstate’s “You’re in good hands” was created in the 1950s and has really stood the test of time. To their credit, the company has stayed with it and kept it contemporary. Don’t change something because you’re bored with it — it’s probably just starting to sink in with the public. Consistency and repetition are still cornerstones of good marketing.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like?
1.Start at the end and work your way backward.
Find out what the end goal is — it may surprise you. A new company may have positioned themselves to be sold, not to have a primary focus on sales. You can’t know the right steps to take until you know where they want to go.
2. Ask about a budget but recommend one as well.
The company or client may be working on an arbitrary figure or percentage without taking into account what stage they’re at. Starting out — you’ll need more. Established — enough to maintain momentum. Understand the budget will change as the company matures.
3. Thoroughly understand the target audience.
One size definitely does not fit all and don’t let your company or client tell you “everyone” because that is never the case. Drill in and find their avatar and ideal customer.
4. Choose the right media for the audience.
You love Instagram but the target audience of 60+ isn’t on it as much. Make sure your own preferences and that of your client are not influencing your media/outlet choices. And don’t forget traditional media. Just because you can’t measure billboard conversions like you can with digital ads, it doesn’t mean they might not be an important component of your strategy.
5. Make sure your messaging is on point.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Come up with a snappy headline with a clever pun? If members of your target audience won’t get it, throw it away. Messaging doesn’t always have to be clever — it just has to invoke an emotion to be memorable. What do you want them to feel and what action do you want them to take? And never assume the public knows who a company is and what they do because unless you’re a major brand like Coca-Cola or Nike or Starbucks, that’s not the case.
6. Be willing to be nimble.
If you can work in some A/B testing online be willing to shift to the more successful messaging. Understand all the implications and analytics down the line of your marketing strategy. Lots of impressions but few conversions. Dive deeper and see if you can find fewer impressions with a bigger percentage of conversions to sales. The most obvious isn’t always the final solution.
Thank you for breaking that down! Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
We are already seeing more organic integration of brands into experiences. I thought the Taco Bell pop up hotel in Palm Springs was a great example of this. They really brought the brand to life with a real-world experience and got a lot of free press and exposure for it as well.
What 6 things do you wish someone told you before you started?
- Pressure to perform: In school we had 3 weeks to complete a project, in the agency world sometimes we have three hours and it better be good and make the client lots of money too!
- Servant mentality, always having a client to answer to. If you don’t have thick skin, you won’t last in the agency world. Put the ego away, it’s all about your client’s target audience, marketing to them, and still making the client happy too. We are here to serve.
- Personal obligation. As an agency owner, the buck stops at you. Most of our clients turn into friends, which is great, but it also increases that personal obligation to do 100% all the time.
- Take some business classes: It would have been nice if I had taken some business classes in school. I have had to take classes and learn a lot on my own throughout the years….you don’t just wake up and know how to run a business!
- Ideas waking you up in the middle of the night: This is a funny one…the creative mind never stops!
- Having employees is like teaching kindergarten without the nap! Over 20 years running an agency, I have seen it all when it comes to employees and contractors…oh my, I could write a book!
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?
- Email marketing/CRM system like Active Campaign, MailChimp, SalesForce, etc.
- Social media scheduling software like HootSuite, Sprout.
- Competitive analysis tools like SpyFu.
- Calendly calendar scheduling. Love this one.
- Grasshopper phone service — this is a huge time saver and super important now that we are remote.
One more question: What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
- Marketing Groups in LinkedIn
- Neil Patel
- Mike Michalowicz
This list could be a mile long, I am an avid learner and take several classes each month, I hire coaches, belong to marketing groups, masterminds, and read all things marketing, business, and leadership related.
Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights!
All credit to Kage Spatz | Authority Magazine. Find original posting here.