Generally speaking, someone with the title of Chief Marketing Officer has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in 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 CMOs recommend to other business leaders? As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dawn Foster.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us what brought you to this career path?
I’ve always been a creative at heart, and I started my career on the design side of things, working as a production artist to art director and everything in between. Oddly enough, I knew that if I hadn’t been a design major upon entering college, finance or accounting would have been the direction I would have gone in.
In 2012, I was introduced to the planning and strategy side of the advertising space, and that introduction opened my eyes to how I could bridge the gap between my creative side, and my planning and analytical side. After working within the corporate space in various roles that allowed me to oversee and lead branding and marketing efforts, I was blessed with the opportunity to start my own business, which would allow me to continue to do what I love, as well as make a larger impact by pouring my knowledge and experience into businesses and business owners on a more personal level.
Since then, I’ve been able to do what I love, serve my tribe and community, and see my clients win. Which has been amazing over the years.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?
There have been quite a few people throughout my career who have either said or done something that still stick with me years later. Bob Hermansen was the boss that gave me the opportunity to pair my creativity with my strategic side by creating a new role for me within our department. He was the person that created the space for me to do both while giving me space to also learn.
Rick Miller was the boss that I had that gave me permission to use my voice, speak up and not filter, even when it went against the grain. Dr. Karla Frazier was my very first client after I started my own business. I actually had her deposit before I had my account set up, it was that early that she believed in me. She, along with Laura and Richard Thompson were the clients I had that allowed me to walk away from my corporate career and into where I am today.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In addition to branding and marketing, we connect with, educate, and empower our clients. Building relationships—and giving transparency between the who, what, when, where, why and how—is what our clients get when working with us. Our reasoning behind building relationships is because we can’t do our best work when our clients hold back from us. So we build relationships to foster an open and honest working relationship.
We want our clients to not be shy in asking questions, sharing additional insights, and expressing themselves as we’re working on building their business. We want to be an extension of their internal team, and open lines of communication allow us to do just that. Sharing the details and providing a clear understanding about the ins and outs of our initiatives allows our clients to make better decisions as business owners as well.
Over the years, I learned that internal teams that worked together and updated one another, allowed each team to do better work, and make better decisions for their customers and clients because they had the full picture, rather than just visibility to their piece of the puzzle. The education and empowerment aspect of what we do feeds that concept.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? Tell us about it!
We’re lucky enough to always have exciting projects. That’s one of the beautiful things about being the owner! Our clients all have a ‘why’ that we’re excited about and enjoy supporting. From FemTech startups and sporting apparel disruptors to historical non-profits and food and beverage clients feeding hundreds of thousands of people, we’ve got an exciting lineup of clients and projects that we get to support.
There are so many different types of marketing. In your experience, has any one area had a bigger impact on business over the rest?
For my business, referral marketing has been the most impactful. About 70% of our client base comes in from referrals. It’s always been that way. Luckily, because we authentically care about our clients, and because we are so hands on, the efforts that go behind it with our referral marketing efforts is so minimal. We put more effort and energy into our other tactics, which only result in about 30% of our client base. It’s pretty interesting.
How often do you try a new marketing strategy, and which ‘boxes’ does it need to tick before you’re willing to implement it?
For our business and for clients, to be honest, we don’t try new tactics or strategies very often. One—maybe two—per year. If we are introducing something new, we’ve already watched, predicted, analyzed and have a plan A, B, and C before we actually implement. We make sure that everyone has buy in, and that we’ve attempted to poke as many holes in our plan as possible to make sure it still makes sense. When we do implement, we do it slowly… and obsess over it once we do. We are helicopter marketers.
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 budget and resources?
It is important to not be afraid to try new things. Sticking only to what you know can result in your business falling behind, and not being able to regain traction. But it is also important to find the balance in that—making sure that you’ve got the data, key learnings, and a great return on an existing tactic. Balance that knowledge and experience with knowing what will most likely work when it comes to exploring new tactics.
We’ve all seen brands that jump too quickly into a new space and tactic and crash and burn. Crash the brand, burn through money, etc. As I mentioned before, having a clear and well thought out plan is important.
Planning, data, projections, experience, history and not rushing the process helps us to make sure that we’re allocating budget and resources in a manner that will keep things in tact while exploring new marketing opportunities.
Great! Let's get to the meat of it. What are your top five most successful marketing strategies? What results did you see?
As a marketer with more than 15 years of experience, there are a few constants that have always remained true as the marketing landscape has evolved over the years. From social media to tracking, print to digital advertising, BLM to global pandemics, and everything in between—regardless of company size, budget, staff count, consumer behaviors, demands and expectations—there are five marketing strategies that have remained pretty consistent over the years.
- Consistency - Regardless of how large or small the company, consistency is an underrated and often overlooked tactic. Failure to remain consistent in where, when and how you show up can negatively impact your business.
- Listening - Paying attention to human behaviors (not just your target audience), helps to ensure that your business stays on top of trends, expectations, needs and trends of the future so it doesn’t get left behind.
- Flexibility - I’ve seen companies fail because they weren’t open to change and afraid to take risks. Not being flexible when it is time to evolve and pivot can cripple a business.
- Connection - It is always important to connect with your audience. This is a no-brainer, but businesses that shift their focus from connecting with their audience to revenue end up in the opposite end of desired results.
- Measure Success - Another no-brainer is to make sure that your efforts are indeed working, rather than just doing ‘the things’, because it’s how it’s always been done, or because everyone else is doing it.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
I implemented a loyalty program, and it was a great concept. We had fabulous partners that contributed program perks and we were projected to have increases across the board in average order value, customer lifetime value, customer acquisition, awareness, you name it. There was a great launch plan for the roll out. We had paid advertising, staff trained, everything looked good.
But the program failed. All of our efforts died at the transaction because even though the staff was trained, we didn’t have their buy in. We didn’t have a plan to make sure that the people that were responsible for carrying the ball across the finish line every day prioritized the program and final conversions. Once we pinpointed it, we were already behind in proving success against spend and with partners, so the program slowly fizzled out.
From that experience, I lerned how critical it was to make sure that everyone is on board, and ready to move forward as one unit to achieve the goal. The brand was inconsistent in what the experience was in and out of the store, we told the staff, rather than listening, partnering and getting their buy in. And most importantly, we didn’t outline how to measure success at the store level when the transaction was happening.
What expert tips can you share with those who just starting to build out their marketing strategy?
Make sure you’ve checked off all the boxes. Are you being consistent? Have you listened and paid attention to your audience to build the strategy so that you can connect with them? How nimble is your plan in case you need to pivot? And how are you going to measure success? Answering those questions helps to poke holes in your strategy to make sure it is full proof.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good, what would it be? You never know what it can trigger!
I’ll base my answer on love. If everyone were to start small—just finding one stranger, someone that didn’t look like them, and didn’t have the same experiences as them. Pour love into that person. How can you help, lead, inspire, motivate, or lift that person up? That’d be a start.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I can be found online at D. Foster Marketing, and on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook @dfostermarketing. Linkedin is my social media platform of choice, so be sure to find me. I get pretty chatty over there!