The more you give the more you get. I believe it is a responsibility to give back and help your community thrive. I do my part by volunteering my time, donating money and sharing my expertise where it makes the most sense. I have given talks to local groups and schools about marketing and entrepreneurship and I have served on several boards including a local non profit that started an anti-bullying initiative that 65,000 middle schools aged kids have gone through for example. My parents and grandparents did the same things in their towns where they lived when they were alive. Everyone has skills and talents they can share and is able to help out whether it is at a soup kitchen, food bank, homeless shelter, etc. Non profits need volunteers and board members to help them achieve their mission. What might seem like a small gesture can have big impact. You meet great people and those contacts tend to lead to referrals and new business opportunities from like-minded organizations so it really is a win-win. In my experience, successful people are kind, they listen, take risks, they are humble and generous. When you hang out with good people who do work they care about, good things tend to happen.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paige Arnof-Fenn, Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, The New York Times Company, Colgate, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Paige is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a global business and be a Fortune 500 CEO. When I was a student I looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. I started Mavens & Moguls after beginning my career on Wall Street in the 80s and having a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and then working at 3 different startups as the head of marketing. All 3 startups had positive exits. I took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Running a global marketing business provides me a platform to do work I truly enjoy with and for people I respect. I get to set my priorities, I have time to travel and hang out with my inner circle, and work out every day. It has been a journey to get here but I am lucky to have found it. I love the autonomy, flexibility and the fact that I know every day the impact that I have on my business. When I worked at big companies I always felt the ball would roll with or without me, that if I got hit by a bus someone new would be in my office right away. Now my DNA is in everything we do and I can trace every decision and sale to something I did or a decision I made and that is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. Like most entrepreneurs, I am working harder and longer than ever and I have never been happier. Working for yourself and building a business you started is incredibly rewarding and gratifying. It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am the accidental entrepreneur.
For the first 5 years after I started my company I was scared to go on vacation for fear all my hard work would unravel. Then my in-laws, father, mom and stepdad all started to get sick and I wanted to be there for them. They all lived thousands of miles away so I started to work less. After years of decline they each died about 6 months apart and I became executrix which is like having another job at times. So I had to take very good care of myself or I would not have been helpful to anyone else. I started working out every day. I started planning me time on my calendar. I became more comfortable with white space in my day and stopped over scheduling myself. And guess what? My business did not suffer, in fact it has become stronger. We moved up the food chain and have better clients. I do not think I could ever go back. I am so much happier and more productive as an entrepreneur than I ever was working for others. It is all about controlling your calendar. I no longer try to squeeze in more meetings or hit multiple events at night. As an entrepreneur, I can be selective. Less really is more. I’ve chosen quality over quantity. It sounds trivial but it is true. I created a platform to do work I enjoy and feel energized by. I feel I have found my purpose because I used to work all the time and life was passing me by. I got raises and promotions but I was all work and no play and I did not feel fulfilled. Since starting my business I have joined boards and volunteered at several organizations. I am a mentor to the next generation of leaders and have helped build a very successful anti-bullying program that >65,000 middle school aged kids have gone through. As a marketing consultant I am able to write articles, contribute to books and speak at events to share my experience and lessons learned.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
In the first few years of my business I had pitched a CEO about a month before I ran into her at a networking event where she was the keynote speaker and her topic was about being a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated business. I had followed up after sending my proposal several times via e-mail and voice mail but the CEO never returned any of my messages or even acknowledged receipt of the proposal requested. You can imagine my shock when she announced at this event as part of her speech that she believes it is important to put your money where your mouth is and for women CEOs to support other respected & well-run women’s businesses and that is why she has hired my firm to handle all her company’s marketing & PR! Everyone congratulated me after, it was a better endorsement than the New York Times because she was very well known and had the reputation of being very tough with high standards so I got a LOT of business from people in the room that night because they thought if I was able to impress her I must be very good ;-)
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?
I give a lot of talks and speak at conferences regularly and many are booked months in advance. One week I had events scheduled where I was the keynote one evening then spoke at a breakfast the following morning, a lunch meeting with several people and had a big networking event where I was a panelist that night so the next morning when I showed up to meet a prospective client I was completely out of business cards. I was so embarrassed and my team laughed and gave it to me in the parking lot after since I always talk about the importance of networking and swapping cards to stay in touch. I took the cards of all the prospects in the meeting and sent them each hand written thank you notes telling them how much I appreciated their time and that I wanted to work with them and included my business card in the envelope. They were so impressed with the hand written notes we won the business! My lesson was not to get hung up on making mistakes, they happen. Just turn it into an opportunity to make a strong lasting impression and move on. I now carry a lot of extra cards just in case too ;-) but I have a plan B if I need it!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our name really sets us apart it think For my company when I started the firm I jokingly referred to the women as the Marketing Mavens & the guys as the Marketing Moguls & for short I called them Mavens & Moguls as a working name but never expected it would stick. I did research over e-mail with prospective clients, referrers, media, etc & tested ~100 names. Mavens & Moguls was one choice on the list & to my great delight & surprise it came out as a clear winner. It has helped us be memorable and stand out from the pack. Because I have a hyphenated last name half the battle is for clients to be able to find you when they need your help. I have had clients tell me they could not remember anything other than my first name & one word of my company so they googled Paige & Mavens and we popped right up. I was at an event one day and a venture capitalist started waving in my direction and shouted “hi Maven!” across the crowd, everyone looked my way and we ended up getting introduced to a portfolio company that hired us! Names contribute to your brand and in our case I think it has been a major plus. Maven is Yiddish for expert and a Mogul is someone of rank, power or distinction in a specified area. I like the alliteration and I think it sets us apart from other consulting firms. It shows a little personality & attitude and implies we do not take ourselves too seriously. Would you rather hire “Strategic Marketing Solutions” or Mavens & Moguls? We are the “not your father’s Oldsmobile” of marketing firms. If nothing else our name is a great conversation starter and getting into a conversation is all it takes to open a door.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Current projects include research in higher education, new websites for several B2B and B2C companies, creative development for an academic institution, public relations and marketing communications for several tech start ups. We do anything a marketing department, ad agency, market research shop or PR agency does on an outsourced basis. We have resources in 14 cities in the US and major metro areas overseas. Everyone in the group comes out of industry so our heads and hearts are much more aligned with our clients than a typical agency or consulting firm. We are not professional PowerPoint makers, we have actually done the job as marketing and communication leaders so our recommendations come from having been in our clients’ seats before. We are an extension of their team and spend their money the way they do, not as a vendor so I think that is a compelling angle when they hire us. We do not see marketing as a necessary evil, we believe in the power of great brands and think all organizations regardless of size or budget deserve great marketing advice. Our passion comes through in our tag line and everything we do.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
I fired a client in my first year of business and it was absolutely the right decision! On a personal level the guy was a jerk who never paid on time and was rude to my team who was doing great work for him. He was mean, unappreciative and had terrible manners. I am from the South and expect people to behave with common decency. He hired us to do PR for his firm and I realized if we could get great press for a guy like him then people who knew him & knew how difficult he was might want to hire us too to help them thinking “hey these PR people must be really good and I’m not as nasty as this guy so imagine what they could do for me!” I did not want to attract other bad clients so even though he signed a 1 year contract I ended it after 3 months. It sent a signal to my team that the money was not worth an unappreciative client who was a jerk and treated us poorly. We replaced the income and more within a month with a much better client. I have never looked back. Optics matter and culture counts, as the leader you have to set the tone for your group, you better walk the talk because all eyes are on you so your team is not just listening to what you say but also watching what you do and how you respond/react. When we say we have a no jerks policy we really mean it. Life is too short to work with or for jerks. When it is your business it is up to you. It attracts the right people as clients and colleagues for the ecosystem I am trying to build.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Marketing today is 24/7 with social media you are always on so when you do feel you are approaching your limits here are a few things I recommend adding to your to do list or calendar:
* Exercise — go to the gym, take a walk around the block, find an empty conference room to stretch out, a little fresh air and new stimuli can shake things up and help you see things in a new light
* Make plans to see friends & family — all work and no play limits your thinking and energy, you need fresh ideas and exposure to people away from work to get out of the bubble and back to reality, in touch with the real world
* Plan a vacation — buy tickets to lock in a date so you can start preparing, the mental escape knowing it is coming up will help you get through the tough times
* Switch gears — listen to music, read for an hour, do a crossword puzzle or video game anything to shake up your focus and energy that helps get out of the rut you are in, routine can breed boredom so get those synapses firing
How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?
Marketing includes all the activities and processes around promoting and selling a product or service, the strategy, thought around pricing, promotion, market research, everything that gets it from the concept to the end customer. It is part science and part art. Marketing is what helps brands become visible in an increasingly invisible world. Marketing helps products and services stand out from their competitors and own real estate in their customers’ minds so that when they have a need they will think of that business first. Some believe it is a necessary evil and waste time and money but as my tag line says, I think marketing matters!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have had great mentors and champions throughout my career. In my corporate life I had bosses, senior women or alums from my alma maters who took me under their wings to help me advance and show me the ropes As a small business owner mentors can also be invaluable sources of inspiration, advice, encouragement and can help you avoid rookie mistakes (with hiring, fundraising, etc.) when you are starting out. They can also make key introductions so that you avoid getting burned by service providers or potential investors who have mixed reputations. I have seen several situations where a lot of time and money could have been wasted but was not. Expectations have to be managed, for me I had mentors who I counted on for tough love and others to help me expand my footprint and elevate my profile in the community. Mentors have different strengths and connections that can help. I think everyone even established entrepreneurs can benefit from strong mentoring. The world is always changing and we can all learn new things along the way.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?
There are no silver bullets in marketing. Lots of things can and do work when they are done well. I have clients who have grown their business using online marketing, direct mail, PR and social media. You can call me old fashioned but for me it is e-mail and Skype. To be able to stay connected to my clients and keep my team moving seamlessly through the asynchronicity of e-mail on our projects and connect so easily via Skype anytime is amazing. Projects can be worked on over a 24 hour day with key deliverables communicated as one part of the world winds down and another ramps up. It is just so much easier now. You do not need to be a big multinational company to have the tools at your disposal anymore. It is fast, convenient, cheap and effective. For me you can’t beat it.
What are your “5 Non Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”?
1) Social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but you do not have to let it run your life! My advice is to pick a few things you enjoy doing and do them really well. You cannot be everywhere all the time so choose high impact activities that work for you and play to your strengths. For example, Thought Leadership is a great way to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients/customers. Activities like speaking at a conference, writing articles, building your following on social media all contribute increasing your awareness with potential customers and building your credibility with a larger community. Instead of trying to start your own blog or newsletter, try contributing regularly to existing well trafficked blogs in your industry or newsletters of likeminded organizations reaching the same target audience as you. Make sure you put your URL or contact info on it so they can find you and follow up. When your articles or talks become available online, make sure to send them out via social media to all your friends, followers and contacts. Don’t let social media drive you crazy, you do not need to be everywhere, it does not matter which platform you choose just pick one or 2 that are authentic to you. It should look and sound like you and the brand you have built. Whether yours is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through. Everyone is not going to like you or hire you but for the ones who would be a great fit for you make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that when they need your help they think of you first.
2) Networking may sound old fashioned in these high tech days but it still works. Whether your business is B2B or B2C everything is really P2P person to person. Most of my business comes from networking. My rule is that you should network in person during the business day and do it online after hours. People do business with people they know, like and trust so you have to get out there to build your reputation online and off. Prospective customers and jobs can come from anyone anywhere anytime so you should always be on your best behavior & make a great lasting impression. Be nice to everyone & make friends before you need them, you never know who is in or will be in a position to help! Learn to love it or find a buddy to go to events with and tag team, you have to get out there! I think what makes someone effective at networking happens to coincide with things that just come more naturally to them. I have been told I am good at networking. I grew up in the South so maybe it is both nature and nurture in my case. The traits that work in my favor include: being naturally curious so you ask a lot of question, people love talking about themselves; being a good listener so you can ask them more as follow up; being warm and friendly, smile, be the first to introduce yourself; sending a hand written thank you note or e-mail referencing something you discussed or including an article you think they might enjoy right after you first meet; and making an introduction for them to meet someone in your network who they would find interesting. When you stop trying to sell and just share what you know and love networking is fun! People put too much emphasis on trying to be interesting instead of being interested in the other person.
3) All work and no play leads to frustration and burnout so make sure you have fun and reward yourself and your team as you hit key milestones along the way which might seem counterintuitive but is actually great advice. The goal is for a sustainable long-term strategy so always make sure to leave time for some fun too. Life is short so enjoy something in every day. As a marketer and entrepreneur if you are not having fun your best ideas and creativity are probably not being cultivated or maximized. Fun is a multiplier than attracts great talent and energy.
4) The more you give the more you get. I believe it is a responsibility to give back and help your community thrive. I do my part by volunteering my time, donating money and sharing my expertise where it makes the most sense. I have given talks to local groups and schools about marketing and entrepreneurship and I have served on several boards including a local non profit that started an anti-bullying initiative that 65,000 middle schools aged kids have gone through for example. My parents and grandparents did the same things in their towns where they lived when they were alive. Everyone has skills and talents they can share and is able to help out whether it is at a soup kitchen, food bank, homeless shelter, etc. Non profits need volunteers and board members to help them achieve their mission. What might seem like a small gesture can have big impact. You meet great people and those contacts tend to lead to referrals and new business opportunities from like-minded organizations so it really is a win-win. In my experience, successful people are kind, they listen, take risks, they are humble and generous. When you hang out with good people who do work they care about, good things tend to happen.
5) Manners matter, minding your Ps and Qs really does make a difference in business these days. A client told me that he had spoken with a number of potential firms and that while every one of them could do the job, in the end, they picked us because our team had the best manners by far. He added, and I quote, “We always hire for manners because everything else can be learned on the job. It’s an interesting hiring strategy, to be sure. Wouldn’t your mother be thrilled? (I know mine was.) Who would have thought that the unique value proposition today could be manners? Although business protocol wasn’t actually taught in any business school I considered, maybe they should start. A little civility goes along way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’d try to start a kindness movement to counterbalance what we see in Washington and all over the media today. I grew up in the South and people were generally nice, respectful, kind, and friendly. I do not believe life or business is a zero sum game. We do not have to divide up the pie we can work together to bake more pies so there is enough to go around. I think the people around the world in the center want peace and we need find ways to bring the extremists back into the fold but it is going to take people from all walks of life to band together to make it happen. There really is more in common across cultures when you realize everyone wants the best for their family and community so we should all be putting our energy into building stronger foundations and ecosystems that will help us all.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This quote really resonates with me:
I am strong because I have been weak
I am fearless because I have been scared
I am wise because I have been foolish
It is an important reminder that stumbling is part of the journey to success. As an entrepreneur you just have to keep going and pick yourself up and be smarter every time you get up and try again. It was true for Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Sara Blakely and it is true for me too!
Another one I really like is “you have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t.” Again, making mistakes is just part of the process. Brilliant.
How can our readers follow you on social media? https://www.linkedin.com/in/paigearnoffenn
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.