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Scary Stories From the Marketing Department Result in Lessons Learned

It was a dark and stormy night when Solid Digital’s CEO and founder, Jesse McCabe, sat down with three marketing leaders for the Halloween edition of our Marketing Panel: Scary Stories from the Marketing Department
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In spite of the spooky pretext, the shared experiences brought an audience of the marketing community together and not only did we all survive – we gleaned some valuable lessons learned along the way.

Lesson 1 – Beware assumptions across borders

An Event Coordinator Who Becomes a Ghost
Shared by Jana Bartlett, Marketing Director, ArisTech Surfaces

As the Marketing Director for ArisTech Surfaces, a global manufacturer of acrylic sheets, Jana Bartlett has been through the trade show planning process plenty of times all over North America. So when her AMEA region manager left four months prior to a big trade show in London, she thought she had plenty of time to get things in order and take over the planning.

She began tracking down the modules she needed for the show and scheduling shipments to collect them from all over Europe and get them all to London, so that they would be onsite in plenty of time for the trade show. Belgium – check. France – no problem. Spain…..Spain? Spaaaaiiiiiinnnnnnn……

As it turned out, Spain became a dark and scary place for Jana. Beyond language barriers, the challenges mounted, most notably when the whole of the country went on their annual holiday for two weeks in August and Jana couldn’t get anyone to respond to her, much less help her get her shipment over to London.

In the end, the modules from Spain did make it just in time for the show, but as Jana explained, “I took it for granted it would be similar to North America and it was very different. I coordinated through other people but had never been hands on.” Her experience, organizational skills and savvy may have saved the day, but, as we learned, beware not just those who ghost you, but of differences that may pop up unexpectedly.

Lesson 2 – You know your brand better than anyone (trust your instincts)

An agency that spent too much of their time in the crypt and not enough time drinking your blood
Shared by Gillian Carter, Director of Marketing, Brandtrust

Gillian Carter has been in sales and marketing her entire career – most notably going on her eleventh year with research and brand strategy firm Brandtrust. But once upon a time, as she tells it, she was a wee marketer hiring an agency partner for the first time. Stakes were high – she was feeling the pressure to produce results.

Thrilled to find an agency who offered all of the bells and whistles – a large dedicated team, an impressive client list, great referrals and case studies -Gillian signed on and was ready to get working. However, it quickly become clear by what the new agency was proposing that they did not understand Brandtrust’s business. On top of that, Gillian added, “they were elusive at best with communication. They would disappear. But we’re in a contract and we had to do a lot of hand holding, follow ups, re-writes, push back, it took our team a lot of effort and a lot more time than expected. Did we get results in the end? Definitely. Did we have to work a lot harder to achieve this? Also yes.”

Now when looking for a partner Gillian follows these three steps to avoid any partner who spends time hiding in the crypt. First, before engaging or sending an RFP know what kind of partner you need and what kind will efficiently help you achieve your goals. Second, establish expectations before setting goals and communicate them throughout the journey before making any decisions. Lastly, trust in yourself. You know your business better than anyone else does so don’t be afraid to say no when it doesn’t feel like the right fit.

Lesson 3 – There WILL be things out of your control – be prepared to pivot

The end of a sports curse that in turn cursed an event
Shared by Melinda Joseph, Chief Marketing Officer, Sterling Trading Tech

Before Melinda decidedly made a career out of fintech marketing, she produced events for eight years. One thing you learn from event planning that you never forget? “No matter how prepared you are, something always goes wrong.” (Cue the horror movie music now).

One of the largest events Melinda produced was Mac & Cheese Fest in Chicago. “Your biggest competition with events,” Melinda explained, “is for peoples’ time.” This, it turned out, becomes even more pronounced when your event is competing against game 7 of the World Series featuring the beloved hometime team that could win it all for the first time in over 100 years.

After confirming that the Cubs making it into the World Series did not qualify as a force majeure, and the contract could not be broken, Melinda and her team got to work to do what they could to save the event and make it as successful as possible given the unexpected situation.

“We had to think fast,” Melinda recalled. “We tried to position the event as we would solve the food component of your evening because you could come to our event and watch the live game here.” The event was now being marketed as a place to gather to watch the game while enjoying Mac & Cheese from over 50 restaurants with your group of friends.

As it turned out, that quick-footed pivot worked and the curse was broken. While the event did not sell out as expected prior to the announcement of the World Series game being on the night, there was a solid turnout, and a successful event.


Missed the live panel? No problem. Catch the on-demand video.

Interested in sharing your own experience with the marketing community? We’re also looking for marketing leaders to join us for webinars and panel discussions!
Reach out – we’d love to hear from you!

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