Building an Audience Day 1: Data-Driven Branding

Erik Lokkesmoe, Principal at Aspiration Studios (Nashville, TN), provides insights into how strong branding, a brand’s relational partners, and brand-based distribution systems are changing marketing; highlights how some of the “newer players” (NetFlix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) are tracking audiences’ viewing data to establish future project direction; and comments on how marketing metrics illustrates the critical alliance between marketing’s creative side and its service side. Aspiration specializes in distribution (theatrical through digital) and marketing (ideation through execution) for films, TV, and media programming.


In this interview, Erik explains the differences between and impacts of:

  • Integrated, technology-driven marketing distribution vs. the more traditional functional siloing
  • Relational partners (leaning in together) vs. transactional partners (breakdown potential)
  • The “Blue ocean” strategy (uncontested market space) vs. “red oceans” where competitors fight for dominance


Erik spent 10 years in politics, where he learned about marketing . . . and that politics was not nearly as effective in shaping hearts, minds, behavior, and beliefs as was storytelling. Today, he is a “producer of marketing distribution” for “makers of content” (creatives). He identifies three issues driving marketing and content today:

  • We have the “most cluttered” marketplace in history
  • Audiences are “tribal”?more fragmented and segmented than ever
  • Traditional systems and old ways of doing things are breaking down.


He also defines three ideals that motivate younger generations:

  • Community (belonging to something)
  • Craft (being good at something)
  • Cause (believing in something)


Erik authored the book, Different Drummer. Theme? Intentional avoidance of “common knowledge” communications to facilitate independent thinking. Erik is available on Twitter at: @eriklokkesmoe and @AspirationHQ. His email is: and the company website is:

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Customer Identification: The Death of the Cardboard Cutout

Tommy Swanson, is CEO of Stripes Agency, a Dallas, Texas based, performance-marketing-focused social advertising agency. In this interview, Tommy talks about intriguing changes in digital marketing, including the increased use of FaceBook as a marketing platform, other trending platforms and platform tools that will impact the industry, brand lift studies, and how behavioral data supersedes demographic profiling for effective customer targeting. A couple highlights:

1. Keys to marketing success on Facebook:

  • Understand that behavior is a better predictor of action than demographics
  • Instead of trying to hyper-target the “ideal” customer, trust the platform to find the customer
  • Decrease reliance on revenue-sharing (questionably reliable) “third party” data providers

2. Brand lift studies, which came out in the most recent presidential election, will become increasingly important in the future as a way for marketers to measure impact. These studies:

  • Attempt to measure your campaign’s perception, intent, favorability, and choice impacts rather than counting dollars or leads
  • Facilitate tailoring future creative efforts to target audiences.


Tommy can be reached on his website at: or by email at:

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Phones in Bones and Ruthlessly Efficient Augmented Intelligence

Jake Finkelstein, CEO of Method Savvy (Durham, NC), a full-service, data-driven, omnichannel marketing agency working primarily with mid-market enterprise brands, spoke at Atlanta’s 2018 Digital Summit (where this interview took place) on how user experience design principles and human experience design impact SEO performance.


In this interview, Jake talks about his company’s 5-phase core-value-based methodology that ensures strategic focus and tactical efficiency. Method Savvy is not about “doing a particular thing” to ensure client greatness. Instead, the company strives to solve particular problems (e.g., demand creation or customer life cycle management) through the implementation of iterative, scalable processes across a broad range of (increasingly integrated) channels.


Jake provides an example of integrated technology where a customer’s response to one channel (e-mail) triggered an automated activity in another channel (direct mail). He sees a great future in what he refers to as augmented intelligence, where, as happened with the Industrial Revolution, repetitive brain-numbing jobs are done by automated systems, in this case, making it easier for marketers to do the right kind of great (creative and innovative) work. Jake emphasizes the importance of:

  • marketing and advertising transparency and accountability,
  • aligning marketing activities with what truly creates business value, and
  • setting up systems that build predictable and scalable revenue growth.


Jake is available through his company’s website at:, or through email at:

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Holograms, Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Reality: The Future of Marketing?

Brooke Beach, Founder and CEO at MarketWake (Atlanta, GA), a results-driven, strategy-focused digital marketing agency, partners with medium to large companies looking to grow, scale, or introduce new products or penetrate new markets. In this interview, she explains how her company “partners” with its clients to take them to “the next level,” how she expects AI, A, and holographic technologies will play out in the marketing world, and how Google’s OKR system keeps her company on track.


MarketWake consults with client companies, determines business goals, executes in-depth company and market research, develops plans, identifies marketing channels, and either implement the plans or works with in-house marketing teams to track timeliness, deliverables, and targeted goals. Unique about the company is the close alliances it forms with its client companies, often functioning as an “outsourced CMO,” and its technological orientation: Six months after starting MarketWake, Brooke left her company in the hands of a business partner and served as CEO of a tech company for 15 months during its pivot . . . just for the experience.


Brooke also addressees what to do when a channel taps out. She believes that the well never runs completely dry?you might have to drill deeper, you might have to find new opportunities?but,

even when going into new markets, your current customers are often your best customers. Always market to your base by asking the questions: What they are happy with? What are they not happy with? and Where are the opportunities for upsell?


Brooke can be reached via email at:

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How Telling Memorable Stories Wins Hearts (and Gets the Business)

Cheryl McCants, Founder and CEO of Impact Consulting Enterprises (East Orange, NJ), took her journalism background and founded Impact, a communications/marketing/digital company. In today’s interview, she explains how “story” works as the foundation for an effective marketing campaign, why it is important to be mindful of industry trends and be ready to leverage experience to diversify into new customer populations, and the critical difference between a news release and a press release.


Cheryl provides a clear path for creating and communicating a client’s story:

  • Consult with client to identify the ideal customer and clarify the story that needs to be told to this target audience,
  • Develop an integrated cross-channel promotional strategy,
  • Research the market, the business environment, the client company, competitors, and customers,
  • Build a memorable story that resonates with the ideal customer at a psychological and  emotional level, and
  • Implement the campaign, keeping in mind the communication preferences of the ideal customer and potential cross-channel synergies


Impact Consulting Enterprises is a sponsor of New York and New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council’s Business Opportunity Exchange (June 12-13, 2018).


Cheryl can be reached by phone at 973.337.2028, through the company website at, on Twitter: @icebranding, on Facebook at Impact Consulting Enterprises., and on LinkedIn (Cheryl McCants), where, writing under a pseudonym, your Marketing Mama, she provides marketing tips.

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Scaling Your Resources for Dynamic Marketing Agency Growth

Mark Luckenbaugh, Cofounder of Local Client Takeover and Web 20 Ranker (South Central Pennsylvania), discusses the ever-changing challenges today’s digital marketing agencies face and his risk-minimizing scaling strategy.


Mark’s Web 20 Ranker provides “white label” products and services to help digital marketing agencies minimize manual work bottlenecks. White label services and products are supplied by a third party company and “resold” by the client company to its customers as part of its “branded” offerings. White label products and services allow a client company to offer more services to more customers than the client company’s own staff can support?smoothing the transition until economies of scale can justify taking those services in house.


Web 20 Ranker identifies internal operating challenges, develops and implements solutions, and then tests and evaluates these solutions as potential offerings for its clients. For instance, in response to Google’s increasingly stringent quality guidelines, Web 20 Ranker developed a hybridized SEO/PPC package to expedite lead generation.


Local Client Takeover (, an education-focused site, provides over 50 free digital marketing agency growth and fulfillment strategy training modules, and higher level courses on how to build a consistent stream of local clients.

Mark can be reached on the Local Client Takeover website ( and Web 20 Ranker website ( On the latter website, make sure to check out his information-rich blogs.

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Out of the Big Black Box: The Happy Fun of Making Something New

Will Schenk, Cofounder of the product engineering firm, HappyFunCorp, based in Brooklyn, New York, talks about his company’s role in facilitating new product development. Do you have a great idea for an app and there’s nothing like it on the market? Have you been “spinning your wheels” trying to get some heavy-duty functionality built into a client’s website? Do you need some back-end client-management tools to eliminate agency workload bottlenecks?


Or, is your client struggling with a product development/manufacturing snafu? Release date delays can cause “hurry up and wait” headaches for marketing. Your client may miss the optimal marketing season for his product (Santa Mouse toys will not have much market in January). After years of work, your client could lose the first mover advantage. As a marketer, you know your success is closely aligned with that of your clients. What do you do when your client’s success is beyond your control?


You think like a marketer . . . out of the box.


HappyFunCorp’s team of engineers helps early stage startups, people with a specific ideas, or larger companies trying to build the first version of a product by:

  • Clarifying the vision,
  • Identifying objectives,
  • Defining scope,
  • Optimizing user experience design,
  • Streamlining the development process to cut costs,
  • Leading the iterative process of product design and development by:
    • Utilizing demo-driven engineering to distill product concept essentials
    • Discovering, defining, and redefining the solution that best meets the client’s needs/budget
    • Pruning non-productive branches early on in the process to eliminate wasted time/effort/$$
    • Adjusting the development path as the product and the client’s needs are better fleshed out.
  • Branding and deployment

Will notes that the best solution is often not a given “thing” on a particular platform. Engineering development/client teams may conclude that the function of a “thing” better meets the desired objectives on a completely different platform than first envisioned.


Will can be reached by email at:, through a contact form on the website at:, and on Twitter.

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Laser-Targeting Your Customer with Customized, Personal Marketing Communications

Roxana Shershin, President and Cofounder of Digital Additive, an email marketing services agency, highlights the ability of email marketing communications to marry data, technology, and creative for truly personal marketing communications. Although email is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing, it is constantly evolving. Today, the content of an email may be altered, depending on when it is opened. (The sale that was advertised the day the email was sent may be over two days later when the customer opens the email . . . but the customer will now see the sale which is in effect on the day the email is opened due to a technology called Movable Ink.) Today’s email can also be interactive, including the opportunity for customers to review products from within the body of the email. Roxana also discusses the opportunities which GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation, will afford marketers.

Roxana can be reached by email at:, on her company’s website at:, or on LinkedIn

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The Role of Content: Is Building Awareness & Driving Conversion Enough?

Lee Odden, Founder and CEO of TopRank Marketing, a B2B digital marketing agency, talks about how a customer-empathy-focused approach, building authenticity, and maintaining credibility can do more than convert prospects to sales. He suggests content can also be used to create anticipation, increase customer retention, and inspire advocacy – things that are far more important for long term company survival. In its efforts to improve its own marketing, TopRank developed tools which led to new lines of service when customers said, “We want that thing that you’re doing for yourself for our tech company.”

TopRank develops B2B influencer marketing services and integrated content marketing solutions for other marketers as well as tech, healthcare, and other professional services industries, and has an impressive client list that includes: LinkedIn, 3M, SAP, Dell, and McKessen

Lee, an active speaker in the industry, will be in Montreal June 13th for a content marketing conference; in Mumbai on June 28 for the Indian Digital Marketing Awards and Conference, and in Minneapolis on July 25 for another conference.

See Lee at this year’s September 4-7, 2018, Content Marketing World Conference and Expo in Cleveland, OH:

1.     On September 4, 2018, Lee will lead “Rocket Science Simplified: How to Optimize, Socialize, and Publicize B2B Content,” a workshop on how companies can more effectively promote and repurpose their content to increase ROI:

2.     On September 5, 2018: Lee will present “The Confluence Equation: How Content and Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success,” a seminar on enterprise B2B influencer marketing.

Author of Optimize, Lee has published TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog for 10 years, the only blog that has been ranked as the #1 content marketing blog three times by Content Marketing Institute.

Lee can be reached on his agency’s website at:, through the agency blog at:, on “the Twitter” @leeodden or on LinkedIn.

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Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable and Persevering beyond Fear to Market Building Products

Zach Williams, Founder and CEO of Venveo, an agency providing building product marketing, addresses this niche market’s unique challenges (including “invisible products”) and diverse target audiences (big box stores, retailers, builders, contractors, and homeowners). In this interview, Zach:

  • Presents questions to ask when considering niche specialization: “Who do we do the best work for?” and “How to get into that market?”
  • Acknowledges the accompanying fear that “putting a stake in the ground” will mean turning away clients outside the targeted niche
  • Speaks to the importance of perseverance and education in building solid industry understanding, and
  • Admits that desperation can be useful in driving innovation and creativity.

His recommendation: Find something you love and, when you identify that niche, specialize sooner.

His warning: If you’re aiming for nothing, that’s exactly what you’re going to get.

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