Generally speaking, someone with a title like Chief Marketing Officer has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in all aspects of marketing. Because of this, a CMO is the perfect person to know what is more and less likely to work. So what are the top 5 tried and true marketing strategies that executives recommend to other business leaders? As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Barry Silverman.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To start, can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In my senior year of college, I got a job selling ad space for the college newspaper at Rutgers. I worked with a local jewelry store to create some provocative ads that I felt guilty about, thinking they might have wasted their money to satisfy my need to create something interesting and different. A couple of days later I walked in, and they informed me that after the ads ran, they had more students in their shop than they ever had. I liked the feeling of impacting someone’s business in that way and thought I might have landed on a career.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?
A gentleman by the name of Davis Taylor was a boss I had early in my career and taught me some of the most important lessons I could learn about leadership. He was truly vested in the people around him, including me and made me feel like I mattered, and it was genuine. It was a lousy job, but I was willing to work weekends because I felt so inspired by him.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
I met a man recently who had bought an RV with Ultrafabrics on the seats. He knew our product was on his furniture and started speaking about how much he appreciated how it made him feel. I asked him to elaborate, and he said when his friends and family visit him, the first thing they do is feel the fabric and comment how amazing it feels and how impressed they are. It made him feel accomplished and proud that this is their first impression. It’s as if his success in life comes through without really being talked about. He absolutely loves his furniture because it reminds him of how he has fulfilled his dreams. That’s how our company stands out.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!
Our partnership with Pantone is one of the most exciting projects the company has worked on. It has already inspired new thinking about color, and it will help our design community fulfill their ambition of thinking more creatively about the relationship between color and experience.
With so many different types of marketing, has any one area had a bigger impact on business over the rest? Have any changed?
The three most important innovations in marketing are data, content, and storytelling, and they are interlinked. They are each used for the same higher purpose: to make marketers more effective in ensuring they are telling the right story to the customer. These three areas continue to evolve, become more intuitive and are focused on the higher-order purpose of creating personalized experiences.
How often do you try a new marketing strategy, and which ‘boxes’ does it need to tick before you’re willing to implement it?
We are trying new things in the digital space regularly. It needs to tick the box of either enhancing our experience or making our experience simpler or more seamless before we will implement it. The newest thing we are exploring is a way for designers to see how our fabric looks in a space or on a piece of furniture in the digital realm. Our expectation is that it will make evaluating our product a more robust and meaningful experience.
In your opinion, is it better to try out new marketing tactics or to stick with what you know works? How do you decide where to allocate your budget and resources?
I think you need to combine your tried-and-true techniques with experimentation. We allocate our budget based on a combination of three principles: what we know works, what will help us reach our business goals and what will push our creative thinking in the spirit of those goals.
Based on your experience and success, what are your top five most successful marketing strategies?
Each of my examples fall under the idea of “Telling a better story.” My belief is that great stories fundamentally support the best marketing strategies, so here are the top five stories I have told and some accompanying results.
1 . Pantone: Breaking Through
At Ultrafabrics, we decided to partner with Pantone and its Color of the Year, Viva Magenta, to break through our traditional audience and expose our offering and brand to a larger segment that we typically don’t reach. We are applying content marketing via multiple channels including social, webinars, event marketing and digital marketing to promote our brand in the context of a new story about Awakening: Bringing quiet moments of awareness, inner strength, and new beginnings to life. Initial results have been very strong, including generating numerous leads, and achieving impressions and engagement rates that are the highest we have ever seen.
2 . Branding Washington DC: It’s the People
The city of Washington DC was losing new businesses to other cities and many of their residents were migrating out of the city to other areas. The political climate was a turn-off, and the cost of living was rising quickly. I was tasked with branding the city by capturing its authentic benefits and its true spirit. Through research we came to understand that the unique story of the city came from the unique people that lived there. They all shared a common story about intrigue and exploration. They are seekers and provocateurs. They are people interested in changing the world and we used their persona to create programs that helped shine a light on what makes the city great. Within a year they were attracting new businesses, and migration to the city had increased considerably.
3 . Medtronic: Turning a Mission Inside Out.
Medtronic was a mission-driven company, focusing on the welfare of people. They help alleviate pain, extend life, and develop products that truly save lives. Their employees were inspired by the mission and lived it every day, but they were unable to communicate their message in a meaningful way to their customers and prospects. My team took their mission and turned it into a story by featuring the people whose lives were permanently impacted by the miracle of their products. We helped physicians and consumers understand that not only do they impact people, their work impacts generations of people. Over a two-year period helping them tell a better story, they watched their stock price accelerate and exceeded YOY revenue goals.
4 . Aflac: Life is Worth Living
Aflac had the duck, but they lacked a really good story. The duck made them memorable, but consumers really didn’t know what for. I led a team that helped them realize that their insurance helped people live in the moment, instead of waiting and suffering through unpaid claims. Their customers needed money now and Aflac provides that when a person is in a dire situation. The comprehensive story we created helped Aflac grow, attract new agents, and expand its market presence. Research showed that consumers began to truly understand why Aflac played an important role in their lives.
5 . Bloomberg: Before You Do Anything Else
Bloomberg had a truly successful business and a clear value proposition but needed a relatable and simple story to help them reach a small business segment and expand its offering into new markets. We distilled the essence of what Bloomberg offers into a simple phrase: Bloomberg First. In other words, before you do anything else, check Bloomberg. The narrative gave Bloomberg an umbrella idea that stretched across all its offerings and we created a content marketing strategy that created multiple new meetings for the sales team with small businesses and helped it grow the business overall, and diversify its offering.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
Recently at Ultrafabrics, we implemented a social media strategy for one of our vertical markets that attempted to engage our audience with key questions in the hopes of creating a dialogue. The strategy did not create the level of interaction and engagement we had hoped, however there were some key learnings. We realized that we didn’t effectively understand the type of engagement our audience in this segment wanted and needed from us. We also realized that due diligence was needed to better understand what type of content strategy would be most appreciated by this audience, so most importantly, we were reminded that you need to study before you act.
What expert tips can you share with those who just starting to build out their marketing strategy?
Apply as much empathy as you possibly can. This means not only understanding your customer, but also feeling what they feel and then being able to apply that understanding to meaningful and thoughtful communications.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would it be?
I’ve always believed that great brands have a point of view. In recent years, certain brands have been forced to take a position on a range of issues, including gun control, politics, and women’s rights. It can be a slippery slope, as the world continues to be a more complicated place, but if navigated correctly, the brand could become heroic and positively influence a lot of people. The movement I would inspire would be to help brands understand the risks, the rewards, and the roadmap needed to take a stand on things they believe in. The positive impact could be far reaching. For those people working for the company, it could instill a sense of belonging and purpose. For those who are either spectators or consumers, they might either come to understand an issue in a different light or maybe regain faith in a commercial enterprise that is not afraid to take a stand on important issues.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me on LinkedIn.