How to Build Community & Make Great Marketing Accessible

Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO, Hawke Media (Santa Monica, CA)

Erik Huberman is Founder and CEO of Hawke Media, an agency serving as “an outsourced CMO-level expert” which, Eric says, “puts client success ahead of our own.” The agency’s “SWOT team” identifies “holes” in a client’s marketing program and provides a “comprehensive à la carte menu of services and month-to-month contracts” to address those needs in a timely manner. Month-to-month works, Erik says, because the idea of signing a long-term contract with someone you have just met is like getting married to someone you’ve never even dated.”

When the agency started 6-1/2 years ago, the scope of services was relatively narrow – primarily e-commerce. In short order, Erik added content creation, production work, and web design. Last year, the agency purchased its first affiliate agency. Erik says that it was the -commerce community that built Hawke Media and e-commerce is still 70 percent of the agency’s business.

Today, customized, data-driven, performance-based solutions facilitate product launch, scaling, and business vitalization for a broad range of industries and business sizes. “Big” companies are responsible for only two percent of the agency’s revenues. 

Erik says his agency’s goal is to expand into 3 to 5 new territories this year. Rather than acquiring agencies or opening offices in new locations, Hawke hires talent in places “of interest.” When things in a particular area “start to open up,” the agency evaluates the kind of space they want . . . and if they want a space. New markets are selected based on market opportunity, cost of living. high concentration of ecommerce brands, SMBs, startup community, and agency saturation. He believes that TikTok, once it scrapes through the political issues, will be “one of the first things since Facebook and Instagram, to be a viable [and quite possibly great] advertising platform.”

Erik notes that building community is one of his agency’s core values. Hawkefest, an annual summit, has drawn 600 brand owners every year for the past 3 years. Since inception, the agency has sponsored weekly e-commerce Happy Hours, recently started fun bi-weekly Zoom events, and even more recently introduced a trivia night. The agency will partner with the city of LA to hose an e-commerce week starting September 28. 

Erik says that one thing he has learned over the years is that hiring and investing ahead of expected growth is “always a mistake.” Reacting to reality makes growth far more sustainable than proactively building for something that might or might not happen. Hiring and training executive talent is more difficult than hiring and training staff.

Hawke operates a venture fund that invests in marketing and e-commerce technology and e-commerce brands. E-commerce-related business doubled in Q2 of this year . . . both large businesses and small. Eric sees cellphone SNS (social networking service) marketing as a massive opportunity in the coming months, even more so than email.

Erik can be found on his agency’s website at or on any social media platform, including TikTok, @ or /ErikHuberman. 

Tik-Tok and Other Profitable Opportunities at the Bleeding Edge

David Azar, Founder and CEO, Outsmart Labs (Miami, FL)

David Azar is Founder and CEO of Outsmart Labs, a digital marketing agency focused on riding new trends and platforms to drive more traffic, more visibility, and more online conversions. His agency works with clients to build a 360 strategy to drive those conversions in sales, traffic, and newsletter signups. David says, “Digital marketing changes so fast that it’s about whoever adapts faster and whoever finds the opportunities in the market.” 

The agency provides traditional digital marketing services — Google strategies, Facebook, traditional social media strategies – but likes the advantage of being an “early adopter” of the newest trends.

Where to be now, according to David? TikTok – the place where kids dance. Or not.

In this interview, David describes the phenomenal growth of TikTok. The number of U.S. users grew from 27 million in July 2019 to 40 million in January 2020, and then to 65 million at the beginning of April, with 85 million users by mid-June. About 1 in 4 people in this country use TikTok, many of whom are “very involved,” to wit, 34% of TikTok users actively produce content. 

David explains that TikTok’s paid ads platform can cost over $50,000 a month. On the self-serve side, the budget can start as low as $1. TikTok has specific rules about content, posting, and addressing the audience, along with a powerful editing app. Videos created for Instagram won’t work on TikTok. 

David says now is the time for smaller brands to gain TikTok followers and community. The cost on TikTok is one-tenth that of Instagram. Big brand demand for influencers is low, so the spend on these initiators will produce a better ROI than an equivalent spend on TikTok ads. This cost is only going to go up, David warns. Today’s users will only pay a fraction of what they will have to pay in a year to “get the same audience and the same followers.” The current TikTok algorithm promotes good content and makes it extremely easy to go viral. That, David says, will probably change.

TikTok usually starts with a challenge. Someone responds to that challenge. The greater the number of people who respond, the better the chance that challenge will reach the “For You page “where everyone’s going to see it and participate in that challenge.” Outsmart Labs partners with initiators who have up to a million followers to create concepts for its client brands. It then develops a first activation, one that will attract a lot of followers and eventually take the brand to the For You Page and “very large exposure.” Outsmart Lab clients have seen great ROIs on TikTok activation campaigns over the past year.

Other areas of opportunity David discusses in this interview are local SEO and programmatic advertising. In regards to local SEO, David has found that close to 96% of retail establishments don’t do anything to develop local SEO. Yet, many customers will look for a company offering a specific product or service in their community. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has impacted this “local market opportunity” for many businesses. But the situation also presents an opportunity for companies to rethink their websites and their business models. Programmatic advertising tracks customers from their cell phone locations and pushes strategic advertisements to these phones based on their location. Covid-19 presents an opportunity for companies to rethink their websites and their business models. 

David can be reached at his company’s website at

Content Marketing: What’s Your Story?

Bonnie Mauldin, CEO, The Mauldin Group (Atlanta, GA)

Bonnie Mauldin, Founder and Managing Director for The Mauldin Group, left a career in medicine to start a general, full-service digital marketing agency, helping any client who knocked on the door. Today, The Mauldin Group provides professional web design, internet marketing, and business development training to clients in “healthcare, construction, manufacturing, senior living, and education.” Bonnie feels these industries are less regulated than others, like finance. Less regulation means her team can create marketing content and “freely share information, education, and entertainment online in a way that’s fun and productive.”

Mauldin team members (all lovers of stories, art, and design) partner with business owners who “had the courage to start their own businesses to stand out from the competition, to build exceptional brands online, to provide products and services in a way that no one else can.”

Bonnie claims that her team’s off-the-clock recreational activities are the “secret sauce” to their creativity. She encourages them “to play video games, watch movies, watch television series, and draw and paint and go horseback riding . . . to do anything they can to regenerate their creative juices.” That’s important, when you are trying to “help business owners tell their stories in a unique way so they stand out.”

How does The Mauldin Group get at the crux of a client’s story? It’s all in the pictures, video, audio, the origins of everything that the client has done, digging into “Where did it come from, why did it come to be, and where is it going next?” Bonnie sees the biggest mistake companies make in creating online content is in posting boring, dry, repetitive, or overly complicated material; preaching at someone rather than telling the organization’s story; and failing to provide value before asking for the sale.

Bonnie sees a trend where millennials and Gen-Z prefer social media (in particular, YouTube and Instagram) over cable television. This means content creators can produce independent films and video series . . . and gain an audience . . . just as cable television stations do. Google and YouTube are today’s biggest search engines. Instagram and Facebook provide amazing demographic targeting. Younger people are watching short, funny videos on TikTok. Bonnie advises people to “Always stay on the lookout for what the young people are doing, because that’s where the world is going.”

Bonnie has been featured in The Huffington Post, Fox News, CNN, the AJC, and the movie The Inner Weigh. She has been awarded Business Person of Excellence and Business of the Year (Atlanta Chamber of Commerce). ranked The Mauldin Group as a Top 10 SEO & PPC Agency in Atlanta. Bonnie serves as President of The Sales & Marketing Academy and on the board with the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. She is a seasoned speaker, teacher, business coach, team trainer, and author. She just completed a degree in Instructional Design and e-Learning and looks forward to using these new skills to help her clients train employees and communicate messages.

Bonnie can be reached on her website at:

Perfecting Personas

Justin Ramb, President and Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services, Bigeye (Orlando, FL)

Justin Ramb is President and Sandra Marshal, VP of Client Services, at Bigeye, a full-service B2B and B2C agency that focuses on audiences, creative work, media and analytics, and data. 

  1. Understand audience: 
  1. Use primary and secondary research to discover who they are, where they consume media, what they look like, and what triggers them to convert
  2. Develop marketing personas that match two or three target audience personas
  3. Test strategies against those personas to ensure activities align with objectives


  • Use current customer data to develop lookalike audience and personas based on existing data
  • Develop personas based on where company wants to head. Is it looking to capture new clients or new types of clients? Supplement data with key stakeholder interviews, additional research, online research, and quantitative/qualitative research.

B2C: Bigeye utilizes specialized tools to learn about a client’s audience and customers

  1. Creative:
  1. As part of persona development, the agency tests messaging, colors, headlines, and photography for optimal audience response.
  2. Rather than resent the parameters of defined personas, the creative team appreciates understanding the target audience.
  3. Media and Analytics 
  1. As part of persona development, the agency explores media usage.
  2. Media develops a persona-based media plan and begins placement in that media
  3. Utilizing Google Analytics and custom dashboards, the Analytics team tracks establishes targets and KPIs
  4. Data 
  1. 24/7 analytics data provides information about how things are performing. 
  2. Data answered the questions: Where can things be optimized? How are conversions going? Do the real audiences align with those targeted? 

Bigeye started in 2002. In this interview, Justin describes the chaos of those early years and the ultimate discovery that the agency’s greatest success was driven by hiring team members who were committed, skilled, and aligned with the agency’s direction. Sandra added that the agency also has to “arm” new employees with “the appropriate support,” foster a sense of collaboration, and avoid over-siloization. 

Justin outlines the updated review and review cycle program (structured through a program called Lattice) the agency uses to keep everything running smoothly. Every two weeks team members submit a four-question online survey that covers how they’re doing, what roadblocks they have, and anything they want their manager to know. Every quarter, team members submit three or four agency- and personal-growth goals. These are used to project the agency’s direction in the subsequent quarter.

Finding a mentor, someone a step or two ahead, can help a startup avoid pitfalls. Justin comments that if you find an outside counsel and can afford that person, it’s probably not too early. He also mentions ways to find such help for free. He says strategic, balanced growth is healthy growth and believes that a company that is not growing is dying.

Justin and Sandra can be found on their agency’s website at, where visitors will find an “incredibly updated” blog. 

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Bridging the Gap for Big Market Enterprises

Justin Gray, CEO and Founder, LeadMD (Scottsdale, AZ)

Justin Gray is CEO and Founder of LeadMD, a performance marketing consultancy. The agency concentrates on achieving tangible, holistic business goals – defining a buyer, launching a product, increasing revenue – to produce bottom-line impacts, rather than focusing on middle-process goals such as website or cost-per lead-optimization. Most of LeadMD’s over 3,500 clients are B2B and B2C considered-purchase organizations – big market enterprises of $100 million and up. 

A “considered purchase” is a complex buying decision, fraught with emotional and financial risks and potential rewards – one that requires extensive pre-purchase research and evaluation. In B2B, this space might include software purchases, but it is more than that. LeadMD’s clients include technology providers (50% of clients are software providers), healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, and “anyone with a channel sale type of go-to-market.”

LeadMD bridges the space between being a global strategy consultant and providing regional implementation. The agency has data science, strategy, and go-to-market teams – who set strategies, plug those strategies into a broad range of systems and marketing platforms, build processes that work for clients, measure results, and optimize performance over time. Justin says that broad scope of function is rare in the B2B space. LeadMD’s consultants find the diversity in clients, the variety and unpredictability of problems and solutions, and the challenge of cobbling together customized solutions . . . exciting, and average 5 to 10 active, and widely-different campaigns a month. Close client relationships are critical. 

New clients may come to LeadMD with a particular goal. The agency uses its “Catalyst Marketing Framework” that clearly states the client’s objective and then provides a “laundry list” of what the client will need to have solidly in place in order to achieve the stated objective. This helps them align their activities to the objectives, and, in the end, produce significant, relevant outcomes. 

Justin has discovered over the years is that many clients believe they already have a full understanding of their buyer profile. Often that “full understanding” is only superficial. Do they really know who their buyers are? All of them? Then, do they know the platforms where their buyers “hang out”? Probably not. Yet that information is critical to know because those platforms are where LeadMd’s clients need to focus their marketing efforts. 

LeadMD’s 3-person data science team digs in at a deeper level that its clients have – researching the market, defining buyers, assembling ideal customer profiles – and then translates that information into engagement and messaging frameworks.

LeadMD utilizes role-based psychological/personality profiling to select candidates who will strengthen the organization—either by reinforcing role-desirable traits . . . or by bringing a new direction to the role. The hiring process can take as long as 2 months. Fifty percent of the organization is employee owned.

Justin can be reached on LinkedIn, on Twitter @jgraymatter or on his agency’s website at:

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Marketing Wellness: When Food is Medicine and Movement is Life

Alana Sandel, Chief Experience Officer, Marketing for Wellness (Chicago, IL)

Alana Sandel, Chief Experience Officer of the agency, Marketing for Wellness, has a deep passion for helping people “to be well.” Her personal health struggles inspired her to create her agency, which focuses on quality of life, healthy foods, and fitness. “better-for-you products” – “to build brands for a better tomorrow” – especially brands with solutions for people with chronic health problems. 

Alana notes that 60% of our population suffers from chronic health issues. COVID-19 is dangerous, but even more of a threat to people with diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and other ongoing health issues. 

Marketing for Wellness works to link “best fit” social media influencers with client brands. Media events have been crippled by the pandemic, so the agency is exploring virtual and augmented reality options (for education and entertainment) to replicate the experiences audiences used to have with high-touch media events, where such events balanced digital-touch social. Alana anticipates an unprecedented expansion of companies’ use of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies to create meaningful experiences for their prospective clients. 

Alana believes that the companies that survive will be led by people whose work “resonates to the core,” drives them, and feeds their passion. With the strain of the times, a lot of talent will become more affordable. People will develop common goals to help each other through this crisis. Companies not prepared to go digital will need to act quickly if they are going to survive. And right now, Alana notes, there are some great deals in both digital and traditional format channels.

Today, people’s immune systems are the only protection they have against COVID. When will we get a vaccine? When will we have a treatment? How is this virus going to change? What other viruses are going to plague us? When? Alana emphasizes, “The only thing that we can rely on is our immune system.” Many niche brands, Alana says, are developed in people’s garages or kitchens, out of inspiration or desperation. Because these small-time innovators understand their customers’ “pain points,” their brands come across as being “authentic.” She expects to see a lot of innovative product development, both in foods and beverages, with a strong shift toward healthier ingredients.

For the future, Alana expects brands already in foods, beverages, and wellness will expand their offerings in support of our immune systems. Companies not in those industries may support their communities by investing in health and wellness initiatives. Smaller brands will increase their corporate citizenship contributions and make a tangible difference to society through the products they create. 

A lot of people will continue to support their wellness experience digitally, but Alana does not put her trust in health gadgets. Devices may measure some vitals, but the most accurate and complete picture of an individual’s health is in the bloodwork. Simplicity – eating better, thinking of food as medicine, eliminating toxins and artificial ingredients from our diets, and “moving more” are the way to win health, even without the gadgets.

Alana can be found on LinkedIn at Alana Sandel, and on her agency’s website at:

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PR Surround Sound and Taking Clients to the Light Bulb Moment

Tara Murphy, Owner, 360 Media (Atlanta, GA)

Tara Murphy owns 360 Media, an entertainment, lifestyle, and hospitality agency that focuses on public relations, event planning, and digital marketing. In the last couple of years, the agency has expanded into hotel work and commercial real estate. 360 Media will have been in business 25 years as of next January.

In this interview, Tara describes how her agency utilizes a variety of complementary narratives, images, and quotes layered on different platforms (social, email, print TV) to build a “big picture” storyline and cadence a client’s message. Tara explains that a lot of companies have ineffective PR because they fail to link their messages across the various platforms. 360-Media often educates clients on how to figure out message cadencing and how to make everything work together.

360 Media’s expansion into the commercial real estate market segment came about when the agency was tasked to promote Atlanta’s Krog Street Market, one of the first “food halls” to gain global recognition. Tara explains that Krog Street Market could have been a glorified food court, but it became much more than that . . . and was pivotal in rejuvenating the neighborhood around it. 

Understanding a client’s goals and objectives, mapping out a strategy, and then building a PR program with integrated story-telling, place-making, and branding components can change commercial real estate from a B2B proposition into a personal “what’s coming to my neighborhood” lifestyle play. 

Tara provides tips on how to write and submit press releases in today’s environment, what makes something newsworthy, and how to help a client find the unique “angle” that makes a “me too” announcement stand out. (This understanding is the light-bulb moment.) Less is more, Tara says. You have to target your audience, then customize the pieces for each of those targeted audiences.

Tara notes a couple of things she might have done differently when she started:

  • She feels she should have been more ready to follow her intuition, 
  • She made the mistake of extending too much credit to financially-strapped clients

The things that have helped 360 Media succeed for almost a quarter decade:

  • Being open to morph and willing to take on new challenges
  • Keeping a diverse client base

For the past 2 years, 360 Media has published the Atlanta 100, an end-of-the workweek e-newsletter and website (, which each week features twelve 100-word stories and 100-second videos on topics of intrigue in the Atlanta area. Lots of information . . . quick and easy access.

Tara can be reached on her agency’s website at or on Instagram at 360 Media, Inc (@360mediainc).

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Focus Faster, Leverage Success

Matt Weber, President at ROAR! Internet Marketing (Altamonte Springs, FL)

In 2007, after nearly a decade of experience in numbers-focused direct-response marketing, Matt Weber used a business broker to buy a small jack-of-all trades agency that provided sales training, traditional media marketing, and a small bit of web development. Over time, that agency became ROAR! Internet Marketing, where Matt is now President. The agency’s forte today? Measurable actions.

In this interview, Matt explains what a buyer can expect from a business broker, how to select one, broker limitations, and a broker’s role in facilitating business acquisitions. He warns that it will be challenging to evaluate transactional opportunities in the next few months. But, he also expects to see a lot of merger and acquisition activity as companies adjust to the COVID-impacted business environment. Matt’s general tips? Agencies will need to be more aware of costs now, “throttle back” on anticipatory hiring, , and eliminate “tool bloat” (buying multiple tools with the same functionality). 

Matt is no stranger to change. In 2007, websites were little more than glorified brochures. Matt shed virtually everything of the original business, rebranded it, and focused heavily on digital marketing conversions and direct response. Early on, 85-90% of the agency’s revenues came from web development.

Today, 80% of his agency’s revenues come from recurring digital marketing services, primarily for three verticals: elective medical (almost recession-proof), recurring-business home services (need-based), and manufacturing (which has a completely different cycle than consumer-based marketing). Matt says, when you focus your efforts on a limited number of verticals, you “leverage your success more effectively,” and follows that with the comment: “Diluted focus yields diluted results.” 

Matt has created a free tool,, which he compares to a car’s “check engine” light. (It won’t tell you what is wrong, but it will tell you when to take a look.) Twice a month, Smylelytics evaluates a company’s Google Analytics, translates the information into memorable, themed photographs, and emails the company with the (good/neutral/bad) “news.”

Matt serves as a national trainer for the Grow with Google program, where he presents small- to medium-sized businesses with a one-day class that covers Google My Business, Google Analytics, and Google Data Studio tools. He also speaks at conferences, frequently on the topic of, “5 Things Your Website Is Trying to Tell You but You’re Afraid to Ask.” Here, he provides a brief overview of those 5 things:

  1. Does your website, as a salesperson, feel confident in selling your business? Is it effective in turning leads into sales?
  2. Where should you focus your limited time and budget?What do the analytics show you about which efforts are paying off and which are not? 
  3. Is your landing page making a good first impression? What does your landing report say about what your first-time visitors do on their first visit?
  4. Who likes you best? Focus your efforts on communicating with those who like you the most.
  5. Are certain pages repelling your customers? Stop serving the bad pages.

Mayt is available on his agency’s website at: or on Twitter @BestWebDesignFL.

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A Million-Brand Mission in a Post-Covid World

Deb Gabor, CEO and Founder of Sol Marketing (Austin, TX)

As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Deb Gabor, CEO and Founder of Sol Marketing, has, herself, become a “brand.” She defines Sol Marketing as a brand-driven, strategy-led marketing firm in the business of creating irrational loyalty. Irrational loyalty means people are indelibly bonded to a brand. 

When Deb talks about her agency, she does not list the provided services: she feels marketing services have become commoditized. Instead, she presents a passionate vision of what the future could be. She tells people she is on a million-brand mission – to impact a million brands in her career. She believes that the best brands in the world are truly unique – in why they do what they do. Her goal is to strengthen brands: making businesses more sustainable will up-level communities, and, ultimately, help people. 

When the Corona virus hit, Deb’s speaking engagements for the next 6 months were cancelled. She is sheltering at home . . . but not sheltering in her mind. The question was: how was she going to generate income when she could no longer speak at face-to-face events? What could she do? How could she help her company? She mobilized her team and made her personal brand a “client” of the agency. “Figure out how this has impacted us,” she told her team, “and then what we need to do.” 

Deb referenced an interview with James Stockdale in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. Stockdale was held for 6 years in a Vietnamese POW camp. When asked how he managed to survive, Stockdale explained that he faced the brutal facts of his situation, but also kept up his hope and optimism. Prisoners who were over-optimistic, but refused to face the “brutal facts,” did not do as well.

Deb’s team identified around eight “brutal facts” about how Deb’s brand was impacted by Covid-19. Some issues were solvable, some were not. 

The company pivoted and, got Deb back on track in a new direction – creating information products, building online courses, building sales funnels, and building webinar funnels. Deb identified the assets she needed her team to build, established a schedule, and set targeted monthly income goals for the information products, her speaking, and her book sales. Then, taking things a step further, the company prioritized a something new: authority marketing services for professionals, who, like her, were facing the same challenges. The assets her team built for Deb became a product that could help other speakers, authors, experts, coaches, and consultants. 

Deb says she has never seen a better opportunity than now for “smart people with expertise that can elevate other people in their own businesses, in their lives – I’ve never seen a better opportunity for them to share generously that expertise with other people.” She challenges people to think about: “How can I be indispensable to people at this time? How can I share something that I know or that I can do in a way that helps another person?” In reaching out, Deb says “be helpful, be authentic, be true to your brand.” She now spends around 6 hours a day, every day, presenting public or private webinars, and consulting one-on-one with business leaders, marketers, creators, or people with personal brands who are interested in setting up their brands to thrive during these unusual times.

Deb can be reached through social media and on her website at:, where Deb is posting thought-provoking webinars that explore a post-Covid world. Deb’s books, Branding Is Sex: Get Your Customer Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything and Irrational Loyalty: Building a Brand That Thrives in Turbulent Times are available on Amazon.

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