How to Make your Market-leading Competition . . . History

Rahul Raj, founder and CMO of 5&Vine based in Toronto, Canada.

Rahul Raj is founder and CMO of 5&Vine, a fractional CMO and marketing agency that identifies industry incumbents’ vulnerabilities, market changes, and technological opportunities to enable startup brands to challenge and overtake established brands. 

The agency focuses on challenger brands that have both economic and social goals, e.g., increasing financial literacy, addressing discrimination, or making organic food more accessible to the masses. 

Before starting 5&Vine, Raj worked at a Canadian thermostat startup, Ecobee. The big-name competitors, Honeywell and Nest, owned the market. Their vulnerability: single location thermostats did not address the comfort of people in “different” parts of their homes. Ecobee developed a system of individual room sensors that identified temperature and occupancy so that people could be comfortable where they were, instead of only being comfortable in the “single thermostat” hallway. The technological opportunity, Bluetooth, enabled sensors located in different rooms to communicate to the main thermostat without the need for “dropping wires.”

The company had no money, no “presence,” and no awareness. It invested heavily in customer support, won converts, and curated reviews. Ecobee had 10% of the five-star reviews of big-name competitor Nest . . . with only 0.1% of the market share – which made Ecobee larger than they actually were. 

Faced with a profound family tragedy, Rahul left Ecobee, interviewed over 200 companies, received 10 offers, and decided he wanted to “date.” With each company, he agreed to work for anywhere from a week to a month which de-risked the hiring process for both sides. He so loved working as a “fractional CMO” that he professionalized his “dating” and launched a fractional CMO agency.

Rahul’s “sweet spot” is working with referred clients are those who are “pre Series A to just post Series B” – those who have the financial resources to invest in marketing and are highly motivated to grow.

In keeping with his “dating” philosophy, Rahul typically works for a company for up to three days to ensure there is a personal and intellectual fit. If both Rahul and the customer are satisfied, they write a formal contract. Of the thirty or so companies 5&Vine has worked with, the agency has taken a significantly reduced financial compensation from five or six – in exchange for equity or options in the client organization.

Rahul has developed a formalized process to discern vulnerabilities that open opportunities for his startup clients to beat more-established companies.

  1. Use the web to research the big company’s product
  2. Compare customer reviews to the company’s product claims
  3. Buy and use the product and compare your experience to the company claims and to customer’s reviews.

Answer the questions:

  1. What are people yearning for?
  2. What is being under-delivered, and 
  3. What opportunity exists for your startup to come up with a powerful product that will prove a market winner?

In this interview, he also notes that it is helpful to determine what has changed over time. . . and what technologies could be applied to solve problems.

Rahul spoke at HubSpot’s 2020 Inbound Conference on Go-To-Market Strategies for Startups: A Framework + Insights from One Challenger Brand to Another.

He can be found on his agency’s website at 5andVine.  

Redefining Social: A Thousand True Fans

John Lawson, Chief Executive Officer, Colder Ice Media (Atlanta, GA)

John Lawson, Chief Executive Officer at Colder Ice Media, started in e-commerce in 2000 on eBay. He claims that people talked about business in Ebay chat rooms, making it  “the first social commerce platform” before there was such a term.

At the time, John sold bandanas, and was pestered by constant customer questions for information on “how to fold a bandana.” So, he made a video and tracked ten thousand sales – not ten thousand dollars in sales – from that single video listing.

Today’s digital/social media was not the beginning of social commerce. John says, “No matter where you go, whether first world country or third world country, there is a central location that is a marketplace where people do commerce” and that no matter the channel, there is always a person on the other end. If you appeal to human instinct, people will respond. Commerce, by its very nature, requires human interaction and “social” should be much more broadly defined. John explains that there are social channels that many people do not recognize as social, e.g., Amazon Comments.

John wrote a book, Kickass Social Commerce, which offers universal stories of social commerce (as opposed to social media). In one story the book, he tells how Madam C.J. Walker, an African-American entrepreneur, developed a line of hair care products, marketed them to her friends, then sold them door to door, and finally had her friends set up “product presentation” parties for a cut of the sales, a sales strategy later used by such companies as Tupperware and Avon. Walker became the first self-made female millionaire in the US. John describes this as “early social marketing.”

John presented “Twenty-one Kickass Social Commerce Tactics to Sell More Today” at HubSpot’s 2020 Inbound Conference, where he talked about the phases of social that make people buy and “the flywheel of contacting, engaging, getting people to take action, and then measuring that action to create better contact.” Two key concepts he covered were:

  1. Identify and define your avatar, your King Consumer . . . and profile in detail a minimum of three people who would purchase your product.
  2. Establish a need for reciprocity. DO SOMETHING for your King Consumer that creates an imbalance that makes them feel that the need to do something for you in return.

In a candid and enlightening history lesson, John also discusses how race has impacted the growth and development of black entrepreneurship. Thank you, John.

John can be reached through “Colder Ice” on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – almost everywhere except on Tick-Tock.

Cultivating the Gap between Marketing and Sales

James Kwon, Founder and CEO, Figmints Digital Creative Marketing (Providence, RI)

James Kwon is Founder and CEO of Figmints Digital Creative Marketing, a 20-person, full-service, multi-seven-figure digital marketing agency that specializes in accelerating leads to sales. The company utilizes SalesAmp, which James describes as “business development representative as a service.” SalesAmp came under the Figmint’s “umbrella” when James and April Williams, now Fitmints President, merged their two companies. (The way these two companies “came together” is described in a short video on Fitmints’ website’s About page.)

Eight years ago, when James discovered that his first chosen career in culinary arts did not provide him with sufficient creative opportunities, he started Figmints with a focus on providing UI/UX (User Interface and User Experience) web services, which he did for number of well-known companies back when few people were doing it.

In this interview, James discusses the sales process gap the often occurs because “sales and marketing typically don’t like each other” – the marketing department wants the sales team to take leads earlier, while the sales team wants marketing to push leads further along before the “hand off.”

In 2018, James was looking for a partner to better fulfill his vision for where he wanted his company to go. The synergy between Figmints HubSpot operations and North Star Marketing’s SalesAmp, a marketing process focused on building pipelines for individual salespeople, created a marketing powerhouse that far exceeded the expectations of the two merged companys’ leaders. Today, the now-expanded Figmints develops the right content for the exact right audience. As individuals respond (download information, attend webinars, engage with content, open email), the SalesAmp piece takes over with Figments’ internal sales team reaching out to prospects on behalf of clients. Over time, Figmints delivers a thought leadership, content marketing, and funnel program that nurtures customers through the client-journey until they are comfortable enough to talk with the client’s sales team. 

Unlike most agencies where generated leads are handed off for follow-up to client sales/ boiler rooms (which may or may not get the message right), Figmints operates as an “educational ambassador,” running the inbound HubSpot process on behalf of its clients’ salespeople. Most of the Figmints’ clients have long, complex sales cycles. When the questions get too complicated, the client takes over.

In his HubSpot Inbound 2020 presentation, “My Cheat Sheet: How to Growth Hack Five New Companies or Offerings This Year” at HubSpot Inbound 2020, James promoted the idea that entrepreneurs should consider starting multiple companies at a time. He lists a number of reasons that this practice makes sense and lays claim to launching close to nine sub-brands, of which four or five are still active.

James is a big proponent of systems, optimization, and efficiency for everything from workflows to automated engagement to follow-up processes. He says he uses “several dozen pieces of software that combine together to make my workflow easier.” But, he admits, people are complicated. Early on, the agency experienced high employee turnover. “There is no way to love people efficiently,” he says. Today, employees stick around a lot longer because the agency invests in employee growth and meeting with them for frequent one-on-ones. He highly recommends utilizing Entrepreneurial Operating Systems (EOS), as described in Gino Wickman’s book Traction.

James is available on his agency’s website at:, by email at:, on Twitter at, and Facebook. 

From Strategic Digital Hyper Focus to Infinite Traffic

David Sonn, President and Founder of Arc Intermedia (King of Prussia, PA)

David Sonn is the Founder and President of Arc Intermedia, a HubSpot certified, digital only agency that focuses on “customer acquisition using digital strategies and digital tactics.”

David ran a web development company for 13 years but found that he and his partner had become “production monkeys,” delivering a commodity and competing with offshore developers. “You never want to sell or have to build a model based on price,” he says.

Ten years ago, when people started requesting Search Engine Optimization, David found his niche. Intrigued by the ability to precisely measure results, he founded Arc Intermedia — and got out of the website building business and into the business of building businesses. 

David may have started his agency “really slow and really small,” but he didn’t start “really cheap.” He hired the most experienced SEO and paid search experts he could find, people who could lead practice area development. He says, “When you’re a somewhat small agency that we are, every person counts.” Hiring and investing in the right people is critically important.

In this interview, David provides a wide range of tips on building a strong digital business.

Marketing initiatives need to start with strategy. When clients try to tell Arc Intermedia what they want the agency to do, David says it is critically important to understand “the good, the bad, and the ugly” about that business, to get to know the client well enough to discover things of which even the client may be unaware, and to know the client’s goals – what the client is trying to accomplish – before building the strategy and implementing the strategically determined tactics.

As many people in marketing say, content is king. Marketers need to know how to leverage that content through SEO, distribution, credibility, and across social platforms.

While a variety of tactics can be used get leads, to drive people to a website, to fill out a form, to give them “stuff,” people often resist filling out forms because they don’t want the sales calls that immediately follow. David recommends giving people something of value in exchange for their personal information. 

The key to building customer relationships is nurturing potential clients through broad exposure on a variety of platforms and providing a variety of (non-sale) interactions. Use marketing automation to nurture clients to help close the deal.

Clients often come to Arc Intermedia and request adding a particular tool, such as SEO, to their marketing mix. David reminds us that today’s digital marketing requires an integrated process to succeed. SEO, social presence, publication on an industry website or blog . . . these things “loosen the soil” and build the familiarity and credibility that makes a paid search or display ad work. 

Customer acquisition is what “moves the needle for the bottom line of a company.” Paid search has evolved to a high level of sophistication. Precise targeting produces a wealth of data. Advertising on social platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – should be backed by “great strategy.” Knowing when to pivot, why you need to pivot, and having the ability to pivot is critical. 

David describes paid search as a “sprint,” and SEO as a “marathon.” He feels that it is important for both parties to set their expectations realistically about what’s going to be accomplished when. He requires SEO contracts to be for at least 12 months – SEO takes that long to show a return. After a year, when he shows clients where they were in month zero and what has been accomplished in the year that followed, “the contracts basically renew themselves.” SEO on paid media optimized for terms and topics in high demand? He says, “It’s infinite traffic if you do it correctly.”

David can most easily be found on his agency’s website at

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Communication, Connection, Consistency, Curation

Rachel Wilson Thibodeaux, Founder, Brand Strategist, and Professional Speaker, SWAG Strategy Solutions (Houston, TX)

Rachel Wilson Thibodeaux is Founder, Brand Strategist, and Professional Speaker at SWAG Strategy Solutions a boutique consultancy that helps clients design unique brands to “better position their offers” and market them at least twice as effectively as they were in the past. Clients include women entrepreneurs, as well as service providers and experts, people Rachel says want to make a big impact and income.

Building blocks of what Rachel connotes as “brand curation” include: 

  1. Asking clients, “What do you most want to be known for?”
  2. Identifying the audience, even down to the one person who will most resonate with the client’s offering
  3. Establishing the most effective way to connect with that individual.

Rachel majored in finance and marketing at the University of Houston and spent the first 16 years of her career in financial services. In 2013, she left her “good-paying, good-benefits” six-figure job to chase her entrepreneurial marketing dream. 

How does someone make that kind of transition?

Rachel believes that it important to communicate to your community, the groups to which you belong, what you are doing businesswise, “even if you don’t yet have a product or a service out there.” She provides a number of questions that can help build the kind of engagement which can turn into future buy-in. She says that success requires disciplined consistency in doing the hum-drum activities; e.g., making a certain number of phone calls to connect with customers.

In this interview, Rachel talks about when and how to reengage humor and the importance of sensitivity to what is going on in terms of the pandemic, social unrest, the fact that it is an election year, and concerns about the economy. When posting to social media, Rachel often posts questions she thinks will “bring a smile to someone’s face,” help them escape for a moment what they are going through, and increase “connection.” The most important thing? Know and respect your audience.

Rachel had an Ask Me Anything Live session at virtual HubSpot Inbound 2020 where she fielded audience questions about Brand Development, Positioning, and (especially) Social Media Marketing, as well as offering guidance on posting and engagement in  the “new normal,” connecting with people, managing COVID impacts, and online responses to the pandemic and the changes it has brought. 

She also addressed social listening, paying attention to the data available online, your audience feedback (comments, likes), and engagement to identify what works and what doesn’t, create better campaigns, and communicate better.

Rachel can be reached on LinkedIn at Rachel W. Thibodeaux, Instagram at @rachel.theswagstrategist, and on her company website at She has a Facebook group – Brand, Sell profit – for entrepreneurs/brand-builders/experts. She offers a virtual program for strategic pivoting called “Pivot to Profit,” with a free “sample portion” (one of the five parts) available at:

Check it out.

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Search Domination Strategies

Jay Taylor, Managing Director, Leverage, Tampa, FL

Jay Taylor is the Managing Director of Leverage, an award-winning digital marketing agency and Certified Google Partner. Leverage partners with its client brands to help them dominate their market with custom-tailored, location-based digital marketing strategies and concentrates on verticals in legal, healthcare, real estate and construction. The goal is to position a client company at the top in terms of search visibility and digital presence for each of a client’s geographic locations and practice areas.

Key to this effort is utilizing a “hybrid strategy,” embedding websites with obvious search terms and then including other less competitive, highly targeted keywords. Jay provides the example of a “Tampa personal injury attorney,” whose keywords might also include “Tampa dog bite injury attorney” and “Tampa slip and fall attorney.” While great content is essential to successful SEO, the agency recommends adding paid search, which combined with organic search, can be very effective. The goal is to get a client’s site to show up at the top of the first search results page in organic search, AND in the paid results above that AND in the right-hand side knowledge panel. 

Is that enough? Not yet. 

Jay believes reputation management is essential for establishing a successful online presence and even more critical for establishing a successful search presence. Companies need to have a reputation generation and management strategy running alongside their SEO and PPC efforts. The objective is to beat competitors with both the number of reviews AND with a higher average rating. Perception: More ratings + higher average rating = CLEAR WINNER!

Jay started his career in marketing working at someone else’s agency. He studied finance and marketing while pursuing his MBA and started Leverage Digital upon graduation in 2006-2007, way too soon, he says, in retrospect. A few more years of experience at an established agency would have provided him with the opportunity to learn how run an agency, “from sales to operations to account management,” and to understand the services. He confesses to googling “how to write an invoice” upon securing his first client.

Jay gave himself a deadline of “being profitable within 12 months” and two years later started hiring staff so the agency could grow. At the same time, he shifted his personal focus from technical work to working on client strategy. Today, Leverage’s creative team handles design and copywriting, the development team handles programming and website development, and the account management team services the accounts.

When Covid-19 struck, his agency went remote. They are back in the office now, masked, and with social distancing measures in place. They meet with clients either remotely or in person, depending on the client’s preference – but the focus is always “on safety.” Jay defines agency growth more In terms of growing the size of the accounts they have rather than adding to the number of accounts. 

Leverage has received a number of industry accolades and honors, including those from the International Davey Awards, Hermes Awards, W3 Awards, and Communicator Awards. In 2018, Leverage was named the 9th fastest growing company owned or led by a University of South Florida alumnus. Jay notes that it important “to focus on your strengths and be the best in your area of expertise and not try to be all things to all people.”

Jay can be reached on his agency’s website at and on LinkedIn at:

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Leverage Process, Integrate Apps, Automate Profit

John Saunders, Founder, 5Four Digital (Miami, FL)

John Saunders, Founder of 5Four Digital, honed his SEO, SEM, and PPC digital marketing skills when he started his career working for an agency that provided dealership-level marketing services for automobile manufacturers. When John figured out that he wanted to use his skills for different kinds of projects and a more diverse clientele (SMBs, tech-startups), he started his own company. Today, 5Four focuses on brand identity (logo design and brand guidelines), and website design and development on Shopify, Webflow, and WordPress platforms.

In this interview, John explains how to build automated linkages that will increase customer engagement and discusses 3 “shopping” platforms: WordPress, Shopify, and Webflow. 

John says WordPress was a game-changer – it made CMS (content management systems) “accessible” for people with lower-level HTML and CSS skills. The platform is flexible enough that amazing sites can be built with either the supplied templates or with custom code. A disadvantage of WordPress is that it requires the use of an extensive array of plugins for website “attributes,” and these and other security measures need to be maintained.

WordPress with a WooCommerce plug-in works well for ecommerce, but John has found that Shopify allows the agency to more quickly scale stores for its clients. One Shopify app, Teelaunch, provides companies with low cost, high-quality print on demand products so customers can create an MVP (minimum viable product, Eric Ries: The Lean Startup,) and build their own brand for less than $1000. Another CMS option, Webflow, can produce outstanding websites. It has a slight learning curve but is easy to use and highly flexible.

Although John currently sees Webflow as ”the future,” an organization’s decision to use a particular CMS platform should be based on a number of considerations.

Through the years, John has developed systems and standard operating procedures which allow him to delegate tasks to his staff or to automate processes, so the work gets done automatically.

One tool he has found to be particularly helpful is Zapier, which provides a way to “web-hook” different websites, platforms, and apps. John uses Zapier to cross-integrate his company website contact form with Slack (to notify John that the form has been filled out), and then with Mailchimp to send a “thank you for your interest, here’s another form.” Response to that drives another form for scheduling . . . and that information is sent to Colony. John says Zapier can be used to link Facebook to Gmail, Facebook Forms to Google Sheets, with up to 10 such linkages free.

John recommends written website SOPs to facilitate task handoffs to clients if the client prefers to maintain the site.

5Four Digital was already running remotely when Covid-19 hit. John’s SOPs and integrated technology continue to keep the agency operating smoothly. Many of his team use Asana to manage tasks. He notes that not everything he has done succeeded. However, the failures often provided the tools, resources, and experience he needed for subsequent projects . . . that did succeed.

John recently started a company offering downloadable illustrations featuring people of color so sitebuilders have beautiful pictures that promote diversity. He is also involved in digital education and sees a lot of that in the future replacing the traditional four-year degree. 

John can be found on his personal website at and @JohnDSaunders on Facebook and Instagram. His agency’s website is:

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A Video Focus

Ian Garlic, CEO, authenticWEB (Orlando, FL)

Ian Garlic is CEO at authenticWEB. He started his career in marketing about 15 years ago as a consultant for one of the world’s largest information companies – back when good video production required hiring high-end, expensive, technically-savvy videographers. When Google purchased its video competitor, YouTube ten years ago, Ian saw opportunity, left the information company, and started authenticWEB. As a video marketing agency, authenticWEB crafts journey-stage-specific, people-story videos designed to reach “the right customers at the right time.” The goal: to engage potential customers with emotionally riveting content to “earn their love.”

For each client, the agency develops 10 to 100 video packages from micro content to 15- to 20- minute mini-documentaries. The different types of videos they produce include: 

  • the overview video (most people’s commercials), 
  • service commercials (covering the different services provided), 
  • how-to videos, 
  • process videos (explaining complex processes so people understand what happens at different times), 
  • topical video blog posts (including social), 
  • videos covering frequently asked questions, 
  • About Us videos (Ian notes that “About Us” is the second most useful page on a website, an important page for conversion, and that people usually go from the “About Us” to making contact with a company), and
  • video case stories.

The most effective video case stories involve interviewing a client’s customers and searching for that gem of a story that will evoke a positive response in viewers. Ian says there is no way of telling who will give a good interview and who won’t. From raw footage, authenticWEB parses different edits and formats for different clients at different stages of the customer journey. Ian develops videos content to help customers identify a client’s business as an “authority” and “a new best friend.” The agency’s clients include attorneys, doctors, dentists, and other agencies (because agencies often have a hard time marketing themselves). 

YouTube: The Next TV

In this interview, Ian elaborates on the increasing importance of YouTube in marketing outreach – he likens it to “the next TV.” YouTube videos need a “to be on point, perfectly messaged, and . . . delivered at the right time.” A website only gives you a piece of the interaction data. YouTube gets all the interaction data: including total and percent view time. That kind of feedback facilitates cross-platform video and content improvement.

Online video production does not require the same high-end equipment used in the past. Ian notes that today he does his own videography and that he travels “light.” The production process is simpler, so that the focus stays on story and editing the story for the audience. Ian recommends reusing content. He explains, if you drive traffic to your YouTube videos, YouTube will increase your rankings.

YouTube’s search engine is second only to Google. A Google search will start a well-indexed video at the exact moment in the recording where the answer to the searcher’s question is provided. 

Some people think they can buy YouTube followers . . . enough to get their own URL. Ian reminds us, “You can’t buy love.” Purchased followers won’t necessarily view your content, so view time is sacrificed.

Ian also discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of some of the online production tools. He can be reached on Linked in or on his agency’s website at:

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Building a Successful Sales Process

Justin Seibert, President, Direct Online Marketing (Pittsburgh, PA)

Justin Seibert is President at Direct Online Marketing, an agency that focuses on and excels at – direct online marketing – to move clients’ ROIs in a positive direction. In this interview, Justin describes the process of developing strategies to drive quality traffic to its clients, converting that traffic into leads, and sending leads through to generate sales. Justin says the process of vetting potential clients is “very long.” Some of what the agency looks for to get a good fit:

  1. Medium-sized businesses provide the greatest opportunity to make an impact. Smaller businesses will not be able to get benefits commensurate with what it will cost them to work with DOM. In the case of larger businesses, the agency will not be able to move the needle as much.
  2. Highly niched businesses, either the lead brand or the challenger brand within a specific niche. These businesses are not “household names” unless the household is one already familiar with that particular industry. 
  3. Almost any industry. The agency works heavily with a number of SaaS (Software as a Service) companies, higher education, and ecommerce retail and less so with everything else – from “manufacturing to finance to entertainment.”

In 2001, Justin started his career in Los Angeles, working for a company in the financial industry. The company had been highly successful with radio marketing but was looking for the next thing . . . and assigned Justin the task of figuring out how to use the internet to generate quality leads. His office was right next to the sales floor, so he got fast feedback on how good a job he was doing. 

In spring of 2006, Justin moved into his basement and blogged at least five days a week, trying to get the word out about digital marketing. By October, he hired his first part-time employee.

Justin says he always liked the idea of hiring people . . . because of the positive impact it would make on those individuals, their families, and on the community at large. But, planning and timing the growth of a company, especially when there is no outside funding, is a challenge. Justin explains, There are two classifications: 1) the revenue producers (sales, marketing, and 2) the internal administrative staff. He now has the confidence to hire for those internal functions when he perceives it is best for the company. 

For “client-facing” employees, Justin looks at the current book of business and the pipeline to decide which functions to hire and when. The problem is in the timing. If he hires ahead of need, he may not have the cash flow to support those new hires. If he hires when everyone is swamped, the workload increases even more because the new employee needs to be trained. Cultural fit is paramount – but not intransigent. The agency’s employees are virtual due to Covid, the culture has changed, and, in the middle of all of this, Justin has been hiring.

Two things Justin notes as important when starting an agency: 1) Know what your process looks like. (He cites Marcus Lemonis’s “People Profit Process.”) and 2) Get some sales training early on. Sales plus process is key.

Justin can be reached on his agency’s website at: or on LinkedIn at Justin Seibert (S-E-I-B-E-R-T).

Cultural Segmentation: How to Transcend Translation

Alvaro Psevoznik, CEO, DM Agency, Hollywood, FL

Twenty-nine years ago, Alvaro Psevoznik, CEO of DM Agency, was a 19-year-old Argentinian law student, designing flyers for hospitality clients in exchange for admissions into nightclubs. Alvaro found himself frustrated with Argentinian politics – which is plagued with fiscal instability, political corruption, de-motivational handouts for a large percentage of the (unemployed) citizenry, and a cycle of massive financial crises every 5 or 10 years. Alvaro’s experience was, no matter how hard one worked and saved, bank accounts could disappear overnight. This constant uproar, Alvaro says, makes it hard for people in South American countries to plan and work toward a future.

Alvaro moved to the U.S. in 2002 and went back to hospitality marketing. He claims that early adversity provided lessons that helped him survive the 2007-2008 recession (which closed some of his small- and mid-sized clients’ businesses) and prepared him for today’s Covid-19 challenges. In this interview, Alvaro talks about the importance of positive messaging, adaptability, and being “transparent” when faced with crises. He emphasizes that changing Covid-19 “rules” requires fast response. 

Today, DM Agency is a comprehensive, full-service, one stop shop for digital marketing solutions. Alvaro explains that there are costs associated with trying to provide a wide range of client  services—you either risk people discovering that you are not as “good at everything” as you claimed, or you find yourself supporting an expensive, diverse “stable” of top talent in order to be able to “deliver.” If he were to start over today, he says he’d focus on specific industries and doing only what he was best at doing – lead generation through online advertising.

Most DM clients are restaurants or hotels, but DM has also started to expand into the Esports — organized, online, multiplayer video game competitions that produce $2-3 billion a year through advertising and sponsorship. Esports, Alvaro says, is huge. DM has virtual offices concentrating on Esports in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and South Florida. Alvaro has created “splinter” agency entities – pretty much the same staff/different “labeling” – that focus on specific unrelated industries in order to avoid such questions as, “What would a restaurant marketer know about marketing windows?”

Agencies often advertise that they are “bilingual. Alvaro says that DM is bi-cultural. Speaking Spanish is different from thinking in Spanish or Latino. DM understands that the Spanish community in the US is not a homogenous group – the culture of origin varies significantly by geography across the US. The agency divides Hispanic marketing into four regions: Mexico and North America, Central America, South America, and the South Florida Cuban community. 

Aside from South Florida, how do cultural differences play out across the United States? New Jersey, New York, Chicago have strong Puerto Rican communities with some Mexicans and Dominicans. Mexicans as a majority are located more on the West Coast – Arizona, Texas, and California. Because the words, the accents, the thinking patterns, and the cultures in each community are different, marketing needs to be different. Alvaro hires Hispanic staff that mirrors each targeted audience – so the messages “rings true.” Google translation does not work. Neither does human translation if the culture, vocabulary, and thinking patterns of the translator are not the same as those of the target audience. Authenticity cannot be faked.

Alvaro can be reached on his company’s website – DM agency, as in digital marketing agency –

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