3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies with Rosa Lee Timm of Communication Service for the Deaf

Kage Spatz
May 27, 2020 · 7 min read
Rosa Lee Timm

What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?

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 Rosa Lee Timm.

Born deaf in a small country town in California, Rosa Lee Timm grew up in a very close-knit, religious, bi-racial, a deaf family whose first language was American Sign Language (ASL). With the constant support of her family and the deaf community around her, her childhood was one without communication or social barriers. Currently, Rosa Lee Timm is the Chief Marketing Officer of Communication Service for the Deaf, the world’s largest deaf-led social impact organization. She also is a performance artist and widely known for her YouTube ASL music videos as a solo performer of The Rosa Lee Show and as a lead actress in ASL Films’ feature film Versa Effect.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My journey into the marketing field has not been straightforward, but in all of my previous career experiences, there is a common denominator. I find that throughout my career, my interest has always been to engage people, and to be a spark or to inspire peoples’ personal growth. I did that through counseling, performance arts, and teaching. It wasn’t until I arrived at my 15th year working in the arts that I recognized marketing as a profession where I could pool all of my passions into one place, and since then, my life has been much more fulfilling.

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 like to be seen as a person that values openness and transparency, especially where I work, as there are multiple business units each with a different owner. One time, I made the mistake of authorizing an email blast for a business unit without the knowledge of the owner, and because of that oversight, time-sensitive news was spread out prematurely. Naturally, the unit owner was not pleased (along with my boss, the CEO). The lesson? Be even more transparent than you think yourself to be and check on who is CC’ed in emails and make sure that all parties are included.

What industry are you in? In your opinion, what makes the company you are marketing different than others in your space?

I work for a nonprofit that also operates as a social enterprise. Marketing for CSD is definitely different than others as we are the largest social impact organization in our deaf community. We are deaf-led and hire and develop deaf leaders while creating positive change through many different programs that address the root causes of everyday deaf peoples’ struggles. On top of all that, we have to change peoples’ minds about deaf people, removing biases and misconceptions about us, and showing them that we have tremendous value that is mostly untapped. In fact, there is no other single organization that does everything that we do, so our story is much more unique.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

There are too many to count! We have Connect Direct, which is disrupting our usual model of customer service through a third-party sign language interpreter. What Connect Direct does is allow direct American Sign Language (ASL) communication through creating call centers filled with deaf representatives that handle different companies’ customer service concerns. We’ve partnered with Google and Comcast, with more companies on the way, often driven by inquiries from the deaf community. Connect Direct is great because it provides deaf consumers with high quality customer service in their own language, and it also creates jobs for our deaf communities as well.

We also have the CSD Social Venture Fund (SVF) that has been investing in deaf-owned businesses across the country. We just announced our 6th partner as of this month. The CSD SVF provides an action-based learning experience, and places equal importance on maximizing financial returns and socially driven venture investing and entrepreneurship. It’s one of a kind and we’re just getting started.

Additionally, we have CSD Works, CSD Learns, and CSD Unites under CSD Neighborhood which focuses on uplifting and centering those who are most vulnerable and marginalized. CSD Works will be having its first career expo in Austin. We strive to empower our community through hosting webinars on various subjects as well as creating online courses that develop specific skills to improve employability.

Finally, we just retooled and launched our SignVote campaign with a goal to inform and engage deaf communities throughout the 2020 election by developing and sharing resources in ASL.

CSD has a simple goal which is to empower individuals and organizations to create positive change in our deaf community and we do that through Connect Direct, the CSD SVF, CSD Neighborhood, and we are still growing.

That is wonderful. What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

I have this mantra that I keep close when things get overwhelming is: “Work smarter, not harder.” There are so many tools out there that can help reduce our pain points significantly if we know where to find them. We are in a generation where there are many apps to choose from and the potential of automation and augmented reality is a thing, and it all really works when this technology is put to use in a way that serves your team. We’ve made so many course corrections through testing out new platforms and have learned so much about what works for us as a team, and we will probably never stop changing and adjusting our work environment to suit our needs. So that’s my advice. Work smarter, not harder.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. As you know Google and other search engines constantly update their search algorithms. Today, do you believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still an important part of any long-term marketing plan?

Yes, I do. Optimizing SEO is still one of the most effective marketing strategies that we have today and I believe it will continue to do so as long as humans want to search for information. If anything, the changes that Google (or other search engines) continue to make will help improve our engagement. This also means that we will need to keep up with the Joneses, making sure that we adjust our marketing plan to maximize these new changes.

Can you share some basic Search Engine Optimization tips you have for less experienced marketers?

Content is everything. Without good content, it is nearly impossible for your organization to thrive. It is also important to create content that is relatable with readers and viewers so that they can engage and breathe life into it. The more “alive” your content gets, the higher it will climb in search engine rankings.

What “3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies” have been most effective for you in your industry?

  1. Disrupt with purpose: Ask others what they want and build it. The appeal of Connect Direct is explained best by asking people to think about what an intuitive experience means to them. It is nonintuitive to them to think about what the experience might be for others. In this case, would you want to be face to face with a customer service rep on the phone? We ask people to imagine what a perfect customer call might be for a deaf person calling their company. Many managers reference TTYs, which are still used, but nowhere to the degree that video calling is used by deaf people, who usually have to go through an interpreter. It becomes clear to managers that their customers want to communicate directly with them in ASL instead of having things get lost in translation and more. We found all this out by surveying our own community and then developed the technology to make it happen.
  2. Diversify and conquer: After years of asking the world to hire deaf people, we shifted course and went straight to where deaf people are most likely to be hired, by other deaf people. That means investing in deaf businesses, which in turn, employ deaf people, and then showcasing their success stories. That, in turn, will make other businesses see the value of hiring deaf people.
  3. Connecting the dots: Everything at CSD is about connecting the dots. We employ several different programs and approach problems from many different angles and connect our services with the world that can leverage our resources. They are all congruent in cultivating our success.

If you were only allowed to run paid ads on 1 platform (in your industry) over the next 12 months, what would it be and why?

Facebook is where we have most followers and it is also the place where we get the most engagement from our community. We will continue to identify and invest where the majority of our people are.

As a professional marketer, 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?

If I could inspire a movement, it would be getting more people to learn sign language. By learning sign language, you can make a huge difference in deaf people’s lives. We teach babies how to sign, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t continue to learn throughout your life, especially with the proven benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism.

What quote would you say has inspired you the most in your life or career?

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

I am a true believer that you can never truly know prosperity without trying.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

About the Author: Kage Spatz is a Forbes-ft. Marketing Strategist for Good — creating organic growth online for organizations & businesses that put their customers first. Leverage the same Fortune 500 Marketers used to scale some of the largest companies in the world (without the same overhead). Support your CMO & serve more people with Spacetwin.

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