The Marketing Mentor
Every once in a while, a teacher recognizes one student in a classroom that has special talents and skills which will be put to good use in the future. A student that is not just book smart and receives good grades but one who will go on and excel in their chosen profession and become a community leader.
I was very fortunate to have had such a student when I met Jennifer Korfiatis in my basic economic development course in Ellensburg Washington. She combined her knowledge of being an economic developer, entrepreneur and educator with her quick wit, critical thinking and alternative perspectives. I have seen her take risks and challenge the status quo. She has proven her worth as a community leader in North Central Washington and Washington State and I am pleased to have her add value to mauryforum.com. I am sure she will provide some excellent insight to assist those professionals who want to make their businesses and community grow. So it is my pleasure to say…. here’s Jennifer.
I’ve placed myself on a self-imposed social media detox. Well, that’s not entirely true; I do manage several social media accounts for various clients, so I do continue to log in and post, comment, and manage their platforms. But personally? I’m on a bit of a sabbatical. And frankly, I don’t miss it.
Prior to The Great Purge of 2018, I would estimate that I easily spent an hour a day on various social mediums. I would check in, see what’s new with folks, post, and enjoy the comments/discussion/feedback. But frankly, I found that it was getting a bit toxic. I was becoming wrapped up in the number of “likes,” the comments people were leaving, and it honestly felt like everyone was living a shinier version of life. Because I’m a “marketing nerd” I thankfully had the wherewithal to quickly recognize this as one of the primary trappings of social media, and so I stopped. Cold turkey.
In fact, most of the research points to the following ways that social media is impacting our health:
- It’s addictive
- It triggers more sadness and less well-being
- We begin to compare our lives to the lives of others, and that’s not healthy
- It can create jealousy
- We fall into the trap of thinking it will help
- We assume that more followers means greater social status
I found myself guilty on all counts. And, I didn’t like it. As a marketing person, one sound strategy that can bring success is social media messaging. It works, it’s affordable, and it’s measurable. I like all of those things, and for these reasons it’s become common practice. But personally, I didn’t like who I was becoming when I was on it.
So I stopped.
At first, I literally had to keep my phone in the other room. I sat on my hands. I kept myself busy. I made more phone calls to friends I missed. I found myself becoming a more engaged wife and mother. I somehow felt lighter.
My only regret to date is that I’ve missed all those fantastic graduation photos. I have several friends with kids who graduated, and I do miss seeing the photos from those milestones because it allows me to somehow feel part of it.
But other than that, I’m kind of “meh.” Will I go back? Probably. Will I dip my toe in the waters of social media with more discretion and awareness? Maybe. Do I enjoy spending those extra 60 minutes I’ve now found in each day in meaningful and productive ways? Absolutely.
I realize this may seem to be an odd perspective coming from “The Marketing Mentor.” But I guess at the end of the day, I’m just a human being. With an extra hour in each day.
Where are the ladies?
About a month ago, I had a very odd thing happen. A (male) client was called to a meeting, but couldn’t make it, so he sent me in his stead. I let the organizer know that I’d be about 10 minutes late due to a prior commitment. When I walked into the room of about 60 attendees, I was shocked to find out that I was… wait for it… The. Only. Woman.
I spent the rest of the meeting distracted at best, frustrated at worst. How in the world could I be the only woman in a meeting of approximately 60 people? And, it’s worth noting, I wasn’t even technically invited. A man was. I asked the organizer how the attendees were selected, and the answer was legitimate and valid and had nothing to do with gender. I decided to chalk it up to a super bizarre coincidence and carried on. Until…
…Not 24 hours later I walked into a Board meeting for a budding non-profit with which I serve and immediately realized that not only was I, again, the only woman in the room, but was, in fact, the only woman on the Board. I came home totally fixated on this issue. Poor Jason. He is a sympathetic man and good listener. He is supportive, encouraging, and thoughtful. He has good advice. He also has the patience of Job because I could not stop talking about this. If I were a chain smoker, this would have been a personal best.
So, I did the only thing I could think to do: I contacted two female colleagues whom I respect very much to share this strange sequence of events, only to find that they too have experienced this. Alarming.
Here’s my disclaimer: I am fully comfortable being at a table full of men. I have never felt held back, discouraged, overlooked, or as though I’m somehow less equal based on my gender. Perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t think this is what’s happening. The truth is that I don’t know what’s happening. I just know that in 2018 it’s happening. And that needs to change.
I did a bit of research to see if there was any merit to this, or if I just happened to walk into the wrong room (twice). I analyzed private, public, and government sector leaders in the Wenatchee Valley. I included C-level management, Board members, and leadership positions in each of the three categories across sectors, longevity, and size of operation to examine the composition based only on gender. Here’s what I found:
Private sector leadership: 19.2% female
Public sector leadership: 49.8% female
Government leadership: 24.7% female
This is not scientific or exhaustive. But, it is alarming and rather interesting. I’m not sure what to do, or how to do it, but I feel like this is grossly out-of-balance for 2018. Have ideas? I’m open. Think this needs to change? Let’s do it. I don’t know what we’ll do, or how we’ll do it, but I do feel compelled to do something. Perhaps it’s as simple as reaching down with a helping hand to lift other women up. Perhaps it’s mentorship. Perhaps it’s education. Perhaps it’s as simple as awareness.
But, in my (not-very-humble) opinion, we need to do something.
Achieving sustainable growth.
Recently, I was interviewed by the Wenatchee Business World for an article that explored sustainable business growth. I thought many of the readers of the Maury Forum would find the posted article of interest.
WENATCHEE — Almost every business can grow in some way. But not every business grows in the same way.
That’s the overarching advice of local advisers to business owners and managers hoping to expand their enterprises by adding products or services, boosting their customer base or increasing public awareness of what their company does and how it does it.
“Get clear,” said Bert Holeton, founder and CEO of consulting firm The Mastermind Group. “Formulate your vision, assess your strengths and weaknesses, gauge the gap between your current reality and your vision.”
The gap “between current reality and your vision is filled with critical issues that need to be resolved,” he said. “Resolving the critical issues will tell you if you should grow and how you can best do it. But keep in mind, growth strategies for your own business will likely be very different from the business down the street.”
John McQuaig, Wenatchee business author and consultant, also warned that it’s great when profit margins suggest it’s time to grow — but don’t immediately jump on the expansion wagon without taking a good hard look at staff, finances, customers’ needs and wants and where your particular industry is headed.
“Take a breather,” said McQuaig. “Step back and reassess that your business ticks the boxes — or at least most of them — that signal you’re ready for growth. Expansion can be a tough process to navigate.”
Is expansion the right strategy?
Holeton and consulting partner Joel Frank of the Equilus Financial Group recommends that business owners use online assessment tools (questionnaires and surveys) to gauge if they’re ready personally and the business strategically for the rigors of growth and expansion.
“For example, a business owner could figure out that their vision is to withdraw from certain markets that are not as profitable — in effect, shrink the business — to have more focus on core customers, boost profitability and prepare the business for eventual sale or succession,” said Frank. “That kind of sale or succession strategy takes place frequently in North Central Washington, when longtime family businesses have hit some kind of succession barrier, and they feel it is time to put it on the market.”
But if expansion is the obvious path, said Holeton, owners need to consider five critical areas that could either thwart or fuel eventual growth — finances (how is your cash flow?), staff (do you have the right, competent people?), systems and process (how does the business function optimally?), IT (do you have the right, effective system for expansion?) and marketing and sales (are you satisfying the customers’ needs and must-haves?).
Staffing could be one of the most important aspects of a business’ growth strategy, said Frank. “When you get down to it,” he said, “business is all about people. Those businesses that grow successfully usually have the right people in the right places.”
McQuaig agreed. “When assessing, start with your business’ most important asset — your team,” he said. “Is your team the best it can be? Are you nurturing a team of dedicated, long-term team members invested in seeing the business flourish?”
A dedicated, well-trained staff is “the base of the pyramid of growth,” said McQuaig. “Your team must be solid before you stack on another layer.”
Where are you headed?
Author Jim Collins, who wrote the classic business book “Good to Great,” suggested that business leaders always “get the right people on the bus” when establishing or expanding their business.
“But unlike Collins’ quote” said Holeton, “I think the first step for a leader is to figure out where your bus is going, and why you’re going there — this is your vision.”
He recommended that business owners identify their “uniqueness” — those qualities that set them apart from competitors in their industry — and determine if those strengths (or weaknesses) fit with company’s core values and, in the end, dovetail with its vision for expansion.
In other words, “analyze your core differentiator in the current market,” said McQuaig. “This may now be different from when you started thinking about expanding last month or last year.”
McQuaig advised that owners and managers “stay ahead of the industry curve” by learning all they can about recent innovation and trends. “Attend seminars and workshops, watch webinars, scout the web for new trends and be the first in your industry to implement them.” Keeping up may keep staff on track as they determine the right growth strategies.
Jennifer Korfiatis, owner of the Wenatchee consulting firm Jennifer Korfiatis Marketing and a business teacher at Wenatchee Valley College, said the first question she asks clients before designing a new marketing campaign is if they can take on more work.
“Do you have the right team in place? Do you have the office space? Do you have the right technology?” she said. “You want more customers, but can you handle more customers? The worst thing is to take on all this new business and not be able to do the work.”
She also insists on a thorough review of current and target markets — who they are, what they’re buying, where they live, how much money they make. Before a client invests in expansion, said Korfiatis, “we want to determine if they could sell something else to their existing customer base. Those people are already good customers, and they’re already fans of the product or service.”
Among new groups of customers, Korfiatis guides clients towards portions of the population that are unaware the business exists. “These are people who will have their eyes opened to the service you provide,” she said. “An introduction through marketing may be all they need to give you a call or place an order.”
Korfiatis said she warns clients about the commitment needed to keep an online presence fresh and immediate. “I tell them that they’ve created this living, breathing thing, and now it takes work,” she said, “with attention given to it everyday, maybe several times a day.”
Nowadays, she said, “when it comes to marketing, there is no one surefire way to reach everyone with your message. The golden egg is a blend of everything — newspapers, radio, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, you name it. It depends on your own preferences, what you can give time to, what you can afford, who you’re targeting with your message.”
Want some practical advice?
Holeton, Frank, McQuaig and Korfiatis offered some more practical points for moving ahead with expansion plans:
- Keep an eye on overhead. During a growth spurt, it’s easy to lose focus on ensuring that the overhead costs are in hand.
- Track profits. While an increase in sales is desirable, it can also come with unanticipated costs. Borrow money for long-term investment, not short-term cash flow.
- Retain your best customers. In reaching for new customers, businesses often forget about their longtime clients. “Remember that it is more profitable to sell to an existing client than to acquire a new one,” said McQuaig.
- Reward employees. Developing relationships with new clients will demand more time and support. Encourage and reward employees for their additional efforts.
In the end, said McQuaig, “consider growth to be like opening a second business — you will once again be strapped for cash and time, and you will once again need to put your nose to the grindstone.” He added, “Be ready, take those measured risks and prepare for yet another exciting ride!”
Irwin, M. “How does your business grow? Advisers and owners talk about the roots of success.” Wenatchee Business World, June, 2017.
The First to Go
I love the start of a new year. It’s a clean slate and an opportunity to regroup. And business owners are often filled with enthusiasm, gusto, and goals. It is the time of year when my phone rings the loudest. The careful planning and analysis that came with the end of the previous year often usher in new directions, areas of focus, and goals for the coming year. And naturally, marketing is a big part of that effort.
But as the pages of the calendar fall away, sometimes the unexpected happens. The economy can shift, the well-planned strategy may not execute as anticipated, the budget may change. If this happens, naturally a business owner looks at their budget and when hard choices need to be made, one of the expenses that is easiest to cut is marketing. I get it.
But, I would argue that this is exactly the worst time to cut marketing. If customers don’t know about you, or aren’t thinking about you, they are less likely to use your business. It’s that simple.
So, as 2018 kicks off and your marketing strategy is firmly in place, commit to seeing it through. There is a natural rhythm to business that results in ups and downs. It’s one of the best- and worst- things about being an entrepreneur. While the ups are amazing and will have you on top of the world, the downs can be equally as low. Hold the line. Don’t cut your marketing. Putting your business’s megaphone down means your customers stop hearing all the wonderful reasons they should choose your business. And I’m willing to bet that just a few weeks into the new year, that is not part of your strategy.
The Lonely Road
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. Often you alone hold the crystal clear vision for your company. Others may enthusiastically support your vision, but you are the navigator.
Marketing can also be a lonely road. Searching for ways to be heard, to be better than the rest, and to be innovative can be mentally exhausting. And while others are focused on doing the specific tasks associated with their jobs, your work is to shout it from the rooftops. And sometimes your throat can become hoarse.
Both entreprneurship and marketing can cause burn out at a faster rate than other career options. Both can be incredibly rewarding, but packed with long days filled with mental gymnastics. I have come to find that the best way to steer clear of burnout is to surround myself with creative, innovative peers who understand the journey. I have had tremendous success doing this exact thing. I’m part of a few informal professional groups that have formed solely to keep members inspired, innovative, and to provide a safe and confidential place to share ideas. This network has saved me more than once- from making a poor decision and throwing in the towel.
If you do one thing for yourself, do this. In fact, just today I met with one of my peer groups. We shared ideas, worked through challenges, offered advice, and laughed. At the end of our time together, one of the members asked the group how we avoid career fatigue. We were all quick to share ideas, tricks, and listen. Because despite the loneliness that we can sometimes feel, it does take a village.
The Gig Economy
I’ve been hearing and reading a lot lately about the “Gig Economy.” This is loosely defined as an employment structure filled with people who hold specific skills and talents stringing together contractual or part-time work to cobble together a full-time position. In my day (and I realize how old that makes me sound) we called this “freelance.” This is a growing form of entrepreneurship.
This is how I’ve operated for most of my career, and I love it. For years, possibly decades, it was considered to be outside the norm. I have been asked why I “don’t have a job” and had people I know, some of whom I work with, say things like “Man, you just can’t hold down a job.” I guess that’s because, in my mind, when I’m working on behalf of someone, I believe I’m working FOR them. So, I introduce myself as “Jennifer representing X.” I guess I can see how there may be confusion.
I have long believed this employment structure is genius. It does not commit me to any one client, which means I work for a variety of businesses. It keeps me sharp. And I’m often struck by how strategies that work in one industry prove to be successful and innovative in another.
I have been told that this structure presents a significant cost savings to the business. No benefits. Often no long-term commitment. I’m in. And I’m out. (Author’s note: I get bored easily, so I’m definitely A-OK with all of this.)
If you’re considering starting a business, but not quite sure exactly what it should look like, I suggest you consider joining the Gig Economy. What are you good at? What marketable talents do you have that others value? Can you create a business around that? If so, welcome to the club.
So I say “Long Live The Gig Economy!” It’s nice to see it getting the recognition it deserves.
It won't be easy. But it will be worth it.
Each fall, I have the privilege of teaching a class on entrepreneurship at Wenatchee Valley College. I spend 10 weeks with 30ish aspiring entrepreneurs and we learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship while they work through a business plan for a venture they intend to start. Some of them are more serious about this than others, but they are invariably all mentally invested and tired by the end of the quarter.
I spend the first few days of each quarter giving them what I consider to be a reality check. Most of them are ambitious, determined, and eager. But entering the world of self-employment is not for the faint of heart. And so, we talk about the realities they can expect to face, and many of them aren’t pretty, including:
- There are no guarantees. Period. No guarantees that it will work, that you will make money, that you won’t lose your real and sweat equity.
- Plan to work (very) long days. Especially for the first few years. As you launch, you will see less of your friends, less of your family, and less of your bed.
- No one will care about your business as much as you do.
- It’s hard. Very hard. Actually, incredibly hard.
- You will learn very quickly what you don’t know, and those lessons can sometimes be costly.
- Expect to pay (what feels like) exorbitant taxes quarterly, and once per year. This will send you into a fit of rage and once you’ve run through all your standard cuss words, you’ll begin to invent new ones.
But, for every downside, there is an upshot. And for those still sitting in my class at this point, I share some of my favorites:
- It’s incredibly rewarding. This is one of those instances in life where all your blood, sweat and tears can actually translate to something meaningful. And sometimes profitable.
- Eventually, things will even out; the workload, revenue, and stress will all settle into a natural rhythm. And sometimes you have control over this rhythm.
- It’s pretty awesome to build something from scratch. It’s even more awesome to be able to take credit for it.
- You will be directly responsible for growing and diversifying your local and national economy. That is an important outcome, and one that is often overlooked.
- You get to do what you want to do. If you want to take a day off, you don’t (usually) need to ask permission. However, you also don’t (usually) get paid for it.
- You get to do this. (see photo).
This photo was taken last week. After a very long day, I came back into work after dinner to wrap some projects and brought with me a bottle of wine and a fresh perspective.
And really, does it get any better than that?
Who is Jennifer Korfiatis and why did Maury say those nice things about me?
I craft laser-focused marketing, communications and public relations strategies and tactics for a wide range of clients from little ol’ Wenatchee, Washington.
Why Wenatchee? Well, because I fancy myself an outdoor enthusiast and Wenatchee, in my not-so-humble opinion, is outdoor nirvana.
I’ll be sharing information, ideas, and inspiration here with you on a regular basis. Why should you read what I write? It’s a logical question.
I’ve been working in this arena for 22 years. I live and breathe strategy, and love to help businesses tell their story in creative ways that deliver results. Sometimes I work with Fortune 250 companies, and sometimes I work with the little salon around the corner. My work is diverse, and my experience deep.
I also teach entrepreneurship, marketing, and business classes at the community college level. This is one of my great joys, and I am impressed by the creativity and innovation of my students every day.
Maury loves numbered lists, and so I’ll conclude this introduction with a list of 5 things you might want to know about me:
- I compete in long distance open water swimming races.
- I am a proud wife and mother.
- I love my dog more than is socially acceptable.
- I feel incredibly blessed to be able to keep my lights on by doing what I love.
- I am Maury’s biggest fan. There are a lot of Maury Fan Club members, but I am the most zealous. By far.
Want to learn more? Visit www.jenniferkorfiatis.com