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 Michael Manon.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To start, can you tell us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had the honor of being employee No. 6 for what became the second-largest entertainment and educational streaming SaaS service for public libraries across the globe. While being front and center of this pioneering team was exciting and eventually lucrative, we always stayed within our core mission of “overserving the underserved.”
Today, I support local communities through small business franchises that seek to bring wellness through innovative CBD creations, which all center around our mission of following the science that leads to solutions for our guests and neighbors. My career consistently centers around purpose and mission.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?
My career has had many chapters, and in each chapter, there has indeed been a mentor or advisor that has helped me along the way. Although the focus and wisdom were unique to a project or where I was in my career, each person offered an unselfish and unfiltered look into how an overall discipline should be best approached. It was never a case of advising me that I was doing something incorrectly but windows into the wisdom and know-how that comes from the experiences of both successes and failures.
Even today, when I support peers or fewer experienced team members, I continue to drive home the similar discipline of worrying about making the wrong decision but learning from taking multiple cul-de-sacs along that way that you know, adapt and refocus from experiencing.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
Our founder's personal story that led her to stumble upon the benefits of a daily regimen of CBD is what intrigued me about joining the brand and helping to carry on this mission of wellness. I also have a dear friend who had struggled with chronic and debilitating insomnia for years following a near-tragic accident. After some adverse reactions to prescription-based solutions, he tried several CBD solutions, specifically CBN, in his nighttime routine.
After several months of consistent use, he greatly benefited from not only staying asleep but waking up to find that he had slept in longer, more restful durations. His personal experience, which I can attest to witnessing a much healthier and happier friend, proves that our science-based CBD solutions can enrich the lives of people who have tried everything to improve their lives.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!
An exciting blessing of working in the CBD space is leveraging and enhancing product solutions based on further developments and discoveries from our relationships and studies within the scientific and university research communities. Recently completed studies diving into different qualities of the hemp plant itself have shown benefits from variations in terpene profiles and live resin inclusion when added to topicals, tinctures and gummies already containing CBD. Our team continues to further efficacy around the sponsorship of these studies, and we intend to continue improving our product solutions in our current product line and new market introductions.
In your experience, has any one type of marketing had a bigger impact on business over the rest? Have any changed over time?
The evolution of digital marketing as a means for administering the entire funnel has been the most significant change over time. Whether engaging a new lead, qualifying information throughout a process, sending journey emails that continue to nurture an ongoing relationship with a consumer, or asking that now-trusted customer for a review or referral are now the primary tenets of a quality marketing communications program.
User-generated content is also important but is in its next chapter today. Consumers have become so well-tuned to sponsored content and seeing through ads that organic, candid and honest reviews, testimonials, emails and examples of everyday use cases have become the holy grail when building trust and loyalty with acquainted consumers.
How often do you try a new marketing strategy, and which ‘boxes’ does it need to tick before you’re willing to implement it?
A new strategy must be vetted before significant time and resources are dedicated to embracing it. Before I would be willing to turn it into an SOP and provide bandwidth to support it, it would have to truly move the revenue needle and be testable and flexible in executing it. However, most importantly, the strategy has to be fully trackable. No more shotgun strategies here—validated, quantifiable and repeatably measurable.
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?
Test in a controlled sandbox environment and then determine if it makes sense to embrace the new strategy and add it to SOPs that already work and are proven.
What are your top five most successful marketing strategies, and what kind of results did you see?
- Relevant Email Journeys – Often overlooked or just initially setup and not refreshed often enough, a healthy email communication cadence with relevant and personalized content is the lowest-hanging fruit that a successful marketer can deploy. Make sure emails are only sometimes buying-related but support your brand and the solutions you share with consumers who have cared enough to give you their emails and open your communications. Respect them repeatedly, and don't give them a used car salesman vibe unless you want to drive them away. Keep content short and tight in purpose and if there's a CTA or clickthrough destination, give them a genuine reason to follow and continue their journey outside of that email.
- Dialed in Earned Media/Mission-Embracing PR – Anyone can buy and run ads. As someone who spent half of my career in the ad and PR agency world, I know firsthand that PR and earned activations based on the principle missions your brand is around today is where your focus should be. Genuine conversations and updates for current and future customers and the trade relationships we hold dear as brand representatives should be at the core of every news release, event and partnership you choose to share outside your brand's walls. Consumers are wise enough to see through fluff and pandering, so respect their attention and ensure what you have attracted them to read or listen to is timely, relevant and newsworthy in how they deal with your brand or how they can engage with you going forward. The "why" should be bulletproof.
- Social Media: Specifically, great User Generated Content (UGC) – Think of how often you try a restaurant, a product or even watch a film recommended by a person or a core group of people you trust in your life for good advice. Great UGC that speaks in place of your corporate voice is that power today. Whether you're a service-based business that consumers need to experience for themselves or a consumer-packaged goods brand that makes products targeting solutions, consumers seek attention to augment. A continuous UGC program should be the focus of any contemporary marketing team. Even after all the research, planning, production and execution, at the very least, you have a very strong "don't take our word for it" message out to consumers looking to form their own opinion based on their research.
- Retention – Make sure you keep the new customer that you spent the upfront investment to acquire. Give them a pleasing, respectful and celebratory experience with your brand by deploying a loyalty and referral/rewards program. Make sure you create reward and gamification tiers that are realistically obtainable as they become more repeatable and persuade the behavior that you are looking to become routine in building advocacy for your brand. There is nothing better than when your best customers become your top brand, product or solutions ambassadors. Many companies offer loyalty plans, but only some have an entire community of active brand customers that contribute and participate enough in the programs to make them worthwhile. Spend time making them helpful as you help to keep that relationship lasting much longer than average. Overdeliver in this area and treat your loyalty and referral customers like guests at your home.
- Keep on top of SEO – It's the elephant in the room for any brand looking to rank and show up in search engine results, and then once found, stay or improve your listing. All your marketing team's work stands to be undiscovered and unleveraged if your brand cannot be easily found online. Dedicate a regular amount of time and resources to continuing to research, administer and constantly tweak your SEO strategy. Treat it like a plant that you're trying to keep alive. It needs a level of care and consideration that once you've had some success in either owning the keywords or listing positions that you are pleased with, it takes even more focus to stay in that dominant position. SEO matters to us all. I have a friend in the Bay Area, a high-end barber who makes house and office calls. Because he employs a boutique industry to manage SEO for his services, his schedule is booked for nearly a quarter in advance, and he charges a deposit on the appointment, so his confirmed rate is in the high 90% rate. Competing barbers ask him how he connects with clients, stays booked and has the excellent reputation that he does. The secret ingredient is terrifically-managed SEO in his service area.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
Marketing is no stranger to fads or in-trench topical strategy. A big lesson learned falls into following fads before they have been adequately vetted out, both via our in-house team and in the amount of time they've been live and working among other brands worldwide.
Just keep an imaginary team member on your marketing team that has the same wisdom that your grandmother used to preach to you: "If it seems too good to be true..." and if you want to pressure a fad, then you will perform enough due diligence and testing to prove that it's worthwhile to pursue.
What expert tips can you share with those who just starting to build out their marketing strategy?
Prepare to avoid committing to your initial marketing strategy in stone. Treat it like a living thing and accept that to improve, your overall strategy will need to morph and blend into new tactics as life changes, making marketing SOPs as disciplined as the latest data that you've been able to review.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to many people, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Just a term to live and work by: "Humble Up." Meaning we are naturally in positions to help influence revenue and impact the livelihoods of many. Constantly remind yourself that what you are doing is not a self-serving occupation; if your head swells too much, remind yourself to "humble up" to keep yourself in check. These are words I've lived by throughout my entire career and were said to me when I had success very early into my job, and I needed help navigating the scale of the success.
Since then, in both my personal and professional walks of life, these words have served me well and helped me be a more respectful, more resourceful and more appreciative human being, which translates into a strong and healthy work-life balance.
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