Conversational Marketing

Remington Begg, Chief Remarkable Officer of Impulse Creative, runs his company according to a “compass” with four business tenets: a strong sales message, a strong marketing message, a great foundation, and design and development. Because the South Florida real estate market is “hot,” half of his team is remote—he wants to hire the best, not just what is available locally. He feels he has T-shaped employees—specialized, focused experts who can also understand and communicate with their team members who have different talents. Key to keeping the organization bound together is a body of core values: Reliability; personal, professional, and organizational growth; perseverance, a “North Star” focus, and open communication and collaboration


Impulse Creative focuses on design, development, marketing and sales, predominantly on the HubSpot platform. HubSpot provides inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Unlike traditional “Go out and get ’em ,marketing,” inbound marketing uses digital content customized to address the needs and problems of a company’s ideal customers to attract qualified prospects, build trust, and gain credibility. Remington explains it as a “methodology that is just a smart way of interacting with people and the way they buy.” Impulse also partners with the Drift conversational marketing platform.


In this interview at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018 conference, Remington discusses HubSpot’s newly introduced customer-focused marketing methodology, the “flywheel,” which is based on synergistic service, sales, and marketing. Remington feels that brand, although implicit, is a critical fourth component.


As a presenter at HubSpot’s conference, Remington spoke on, “Conversational Marketing: How to Think About It and How to Package It.” He discussed the core principles of conversational marketing: 1) conversational strategy, 2) personalized experience, 3) real-time response, and 4) a feedback loop. He emphasized that, whether using chatbot or live chat, the conversation has to feel like an individualized person-to-person communication. Reviewing recordings/transcriptions of these interactions provides a company with a rich opportunity: to discover the questions customers are asking, and then to address those questions on its website, in a video, or in content.


Remington can be reached @remingtonbegg on most social platforms, which is the best way to reach him. Agencies or HubSpot lovers can go to for unbranded HubSpot tutorials. His agency’s website is

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Networking that Works

Anna-Vija McClain, CEO of Piccolo Marketing (Nashville, TN), serves as President of Nashville’s chapter of Women in Digital and spoke at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018 (Boston, MA) on using relationships to grow your business. Her Inbound presentation, “Networking That Works: The Proven Formula for Sales Follow-up,” covers personal branding, the “give value to get value” principle, selecting and building quality relationships with the right people, and guidelines for follow-up frequency. Anna-Vija attends networking events based on the potential for meeting either customers or partners, and recommends volunteering immediately to gain visibility. The presentation is available online at, as is a link to “Build Your Damn Business,” her online group learning community.


Anna-Vija’s company, Piccolo Marketing, functions as outsourced marketing department for small businesses with marketing budgets, but without sufficient resources for dedicated in-house marketing directors. Piccolo utilizes full time employees and small “pods” of contractors to provide personalized core services—with the objective of building lead funnels—and adds other promotional services as clients’ needs grow.


Anna-Vija does not hire to fill “slots.” She believes in hiring good people passionate about helping small businesses. She does not post jobs, but hires contractors recommended by her referral network, finds out what they are good at, trains them with the systems and training processes the company has developed, and puts them to work according to their strengths. After these contractors gain familiarity with Piccolo’s operations, they are onboarded—promoted to W-2 positions.


In this interview Anna-Vija discusses how people can find work they really love, how to make networking profitable, sexual harassment in the workplace, the necessity of providing a roadmap for your team, and “what is really working now in digital marketing.”

Anna-Vija can be reached on her company website at: or on her personal site at:

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When the Presentation “Platform” is a Stage: Speaking Your Message

Kenny, Cofounder and CEO of ThreeSixtyEight, presented Assembly Required: Why Your Small Business Should Have An Event Strategy at the Hubspot Inbound 2018 marketing conference on September 5 in Boston. In this interview, he talks about hosting events as an outstanding way to create positive customer experiences—to pick up new clients, grow accounts, retain talent, and position your team members as leaders. Kenny also discusses the power of eye-to-eye contact and the distancing effect of the “theater effect,” when the speaker is elevated on a stage.


Kenny’s agency focuses on user experience and strategy. His Big Fish Presentations service line helps presenters and brands better present and communicate their messages. His user experience/human experience/customer experience philosophy applies not only to the website interface, but also to face to face interactions. He groups these as:

  1. the networking/customer appreciation event,
  2. the salon, featuring small workshops or a series of speakers, and
  3. the conference.

Kenny feels that the most effective agencies are those that teach their clients.


Strategy is more holistic than tactics—it is the “why” behind the tactics (e.g., I need a new website [tactic] because [the why] I need to improve my sales.)—where the “Why” may even, upon deeper investigation, reveal that a “different” tactic (e.g., improved social media conversion) may better produce the desired results. Kenny emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions up front in order to discover the whether the identified problem is merely a symptom of a larger problem.


Kenny can be contacted on LinkedIn at Kenny Nguyen, by email at, or through the company’s websites, or

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Niche Down and Thrive

When Joe Apfelbaum, CEO and Founder of Ajax Union, a B-to-B digital marketing agency that early on serviced over 1,100 with as many as 400 active accounts, realized he’d grown a business he didn’t want to run, he ramped down his agency. He defined his “ideal customers”—those who were investing in the top of their funnels, valued strategy, and understood the value of nurturing the lead from the top of the funnel to the bottom line. His tips? Pick a niche, go deep, and have a solid strategy. The results? Massive.


Ajax Union runs a Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp that teaches people a step-by-step digital marketing strategy. Joe emphasizes the importance of using and understanding your product ladder—a range of services and prices that will meet the needs of different clients. Offer free value at the front end, and increasingly higher-priced, higher value products for clients who “grow into them” or new, larger clients that you may onboard if you have the products that meet their needs. Strive for a backend ladder of $10,000 a month and then eventually grow that to a million dollars a year.


Joe notes that there is a lot more to building a business than making money and trying to grow. He says, “You have to be able to be profitable. You have to have a lifestyle. You have to take care of yourself. You have to be there for your family.” About the time he figured out how to make his company healthy, he lost 95 pounds, kept it off, and wrote a book about it: High Energy Secrets: How to Have More Energy than Ever.


Joe can be contacted on Linkedin at Joe Apfelbaum, on his website at:, (where you can also order his book, High Energy Secrets: How to Have More Energy than Ever), or you can register for his Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp at:


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What’s in Your Toolkit: Two (former) Computer Engineers Talk Marketing

Anand Thaker, CEO and Founder of IntelliPhi, cohosts the Talking Stack podcast and contributed to the now 6,829-company MarTech Landscape Infographic. Intelliphi develops strategies, technology, and training for cognitive and data enabled marketing, sales and customer support.


MarTech marries marketing and technology, creating, managing, and using digital tools to to automate tasks, facilitate data-driven decisions, measure marketing activity impact, and drive more efficient market spend. Anand comments that MarTech is not just about marketing and sales enablement. In a deeper sense, it is about understanding human nature and how we connect with each other.


Companies that market need to evaluate and understand:

  • Their own organization and how they interact with customers,
  • How customers engage with the brand,
  • What gaps exist in the current processes,
  • What opportunities are being missed,
  • What data do they need that they don’t have, and
  • Long term and short term goals and how those will be achieved


Customer data platforms (CDPs), unified customer databases accessible to other systems, provide structure to enable companies to better manage customer and prospect data, understand how the company and these clients engage and interact, and facilitate the appropriate application of AI to the whole body of data. For those using AI, it is important to understand how it learns and what it can and cannot do.


Anand can be followed on Twitter @anandthaker, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on his website at


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Building Traction to Capture Giants

Justin Lawson, Cofounder/CEO at JJELLYFISH (New York City/Boston), a customer development firm for early-stage enterprise startups with between a million dollars to $20 million in revenue, explains how his company enables sales teams to move beyond the warm prospects of friends and family and “hunt very large game.” JJELLYFISH analyzes sales processes, identifies customers, and then builds comprehensive, executable business sales playbooks with simple to understand, targeted value propositions that resonate with a company’s market.


Keys to building his clients’ and his company’s success include:

  • Codifying collateral and sales procedures as a foundation for sales execution.
  • Reaffirming why a client bought what they bought.
  • Ensuring congruency between how the business and its clients define success criteria.
  • Articulating services and their outcomes as a product.


Justin can be reached on his company’s website at: (two J’s) Meet with his team locally for coffee or Skype with him for an informative discussion. Or email him at: or (again, with two J’s!).



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Great Marketing Message . . . but How Will Your Customers Find You?

Rev Ciancio, three-time agency owner, went from being a Yext superuser for his restaurant clients—ensuring the accuracy of digital information about their brands—their name, address, phone number, hours of operation, menu, handicap-accessible bathroom information—to his position as Director of Industry Insights at Yext (New York City). In this interview, Rev explains that, while people in hospitality knew that customer service was important, they often failed to understand the importance of internet reputation management, as is the case for many companies.


People have shifted in how they use the internet to discover businesses—searches have gone from desktop to mobile, from search bar to voice search . . . with a new dependence on AI, VR, chatbots, and knowledge graphs to deliver the requested information.


All search methods have three layers.

  1. A UI (user interface), your link into the system—the browser search bar or the receiver for voice-activated systems.
  2. AI (artificial intelligence), processes information and selects its response from the knowledge graph
  3. Knowledge graph (a comprehensive database of information)


Businesses have no control over the user interface a particular prospective customer will use . . . and no control over how that system processes information. Businesses can manage the information customers receive if they manage their information in the databases . . . and must do so if they want to ensure that their businesses meet customer expectations.


Rev emphasizes that putting effort into marketing a company does not make sense if, when someone searches for information, that information is not accurate and consistent across platforms. Additionally, he notes that ratings and reviews must be managed.

Rev can be reached on Instagram, Rev Ciancio on Linked in, @revciancio on Twitter, or by email at: For those interested in food, follow him on @revciancio or @funwithfries (French fries).

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Personalization: The Future in Advertising

When Peter Reitano and Jeff Goldenberg, founders of Abacus Agency, (Toronto, Canada and New York City) an Ad Tech/agency hybrid that specializes in Facebook and Instagram advertising, they saw problems in the traditional agency model. They reverse engineered their organization from a vision of what a future agency would be like, noting that, in today’s fast-paced technology world, you can’t build for today, because, by the time you get the work done, what you have will be out of date—you need to look ahead 3 or 4 years and design for the future.


Abacus targets better ROI/conversion on Facebook and Instagram advertising spend for large brands or Series A tech companies. They maintain a tight focus on this market segment because they believe that this enables them to be extremely good at that one thing and provides the flexibility of being able to refer as needed to other agencies specializing in areas outside their area of expertise. This collaborative synergy works because partner companies provide referrals to Abacus, knowing that Abacus doesn’t want all the business and won’t cannibalize referred clients.


Peter and Jeff expect the future integration of more personal “smart devices” and the rise of increasingly choice-driven content (e.g., Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, Google vs. traditional broadcasters)

will bring greater personalization of advertising content. In particular, they predict that smartphone advertising will increase due to the pervasiveness, the highly personal nature, and the amount of time people spend looking at these “second screens “—and a high percentage of social is mobile.


Peter and Jeff can be reached on their company website at:, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They have a great blog on their website and can be reached by email at:

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Premium Creativity Results: A Strong ROI for the Client, Profit for the Agency

Blair Enns, CEO of Win Without Pitching (Kaslo, British Columbia) and author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour


Blair Enns is Founder and CEO of Win Without Pitching, a company that trains creative agencies on how to win business without giving away their most valuable product—their intellectual property—in getting that business. Blair authored two business books that have proven to be transformational for many creative firms: The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour. Key to the power of these books is Blair’s recognition that Creative people have an inherent difficulty with “sales.”


Blair defines creativity as “the ability to see, the ability to bring a novel perspective to a problem you haven’t previously solved.” Creative people tend to build businesses that allow them to solve problems they haven’t previously solved. However, their personal desire for variety does not work from a business standpoint—to build a strong, financially solid firm, they need to differentiate, to focus on doing a specific thing for a specific market.


In this interview, Blair emphasizes the importance of client selection . . . of building your business with clients who are interested in value and a return on investment . . . rather than chasing budget-driven clients who are focused solely on price—those who see marketing as a commodity with charges based on billable hours and the cost of materials. The foundation of a strong business is value-driven clients who recognize that creativity is unique in its ability to produce bottom-line results and worth the investment. Although a creative agency might sell excess capacity to price-buyers, it is critical that the agency “strip out the extras” for the reduced-price client, instead of trying to “fly everyone first class.”


Blair is very clear that a price-focused buyer is unlikely to become a value-focused buyer. The creative’s job is to discern a buyer’s-type and manage that buyer appropriately.


Blair is available on his company’s website: and as Blair Enns on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re interested in his book, Pricing Creativity, go to

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Building Blocks for a Strong Agency: Your Clients, Your Employees, Your Partners

Greg Brock, CEO of Firefli, a digital strategy company based in Roanoke, Virginia, discusses the changing digital marketing landscape. When digital first started, it negatively impacted traditional marketing channels, but it also “wowed” people?the results were measurable. Entrepreneurs and start-ups flooded into this “magic” niche . . . and huge media companies followed when they saw the potential in that space.


Greg provides an experienced overview of where digital marketing started and key tactics for running a digital marketing agency. He notes that today’s marketing competition has gotten “insane,” but it has also opened a lot more opportunities.


He believes a client’s digital strategy has to be founded on business strategy in order to be effective, and that digital is merely a tool to achieve business objectives. Business analysis has to come first, in order to clarify objectives and avoid expensive mistakes.


When expanding, Greg has found it more important to hire for fit than for talent?and emphasizes that agencies should never scrimp on talent. Great talent and bad fit can destroy company culture.


He also explains how client diversification is critical . . . as is avoiding “bad money,”?clients who do not share your values, demand diamonds on a dirt budget, and/or are financial laggards when the bills come. An agency will be able to work more effectively if it understands the best size and type of clients for its current team and focus.


Greg sees a future where more agencies work together in collaborative partnerships to meet the challenges of digital marketing’s ever-changing scope and complexity.


Greg can be contacted through his company website at:

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