SIPA: Let’s start with social media. How do you treat it for the companies you work for?
MARY: As client-centric. I look closely at the client’s business and the specific marketing objectives they are trying to achieve. The key is finding the right social media “mix” that best suits a company. Facebook and Twitter aren’t always right for everyone. Maybe it’s just LinkedIn. So I really do approach it on an individual basis. To this day, I still have a few clients that I have to strongly persuade [to jump in]. If they don’t do it on a personal level, maybe it’s unknown territory. The other thing about social media discussions is that results are difficult to quantify, very soft. Reporting tends to be more qualitative and anecdotal, rather than quantitative.
Does email marketing still stand on top for you?
Yes, I’ve done a ton of it over my career, and it’s still very in-demand as a service. But I’m not a proponent of beating people over the head with too many efforts. I tell clients that it’s important to observe reasonable conventions and rules, because if we lose someone via an opt-out, we’ve lost them for good. So I generally don’t advocate multiple emails per week on the same topic. You have to have some really worthy content in order to justify that.
That goes back to content being king.
Yes, content is still king—that’s the key. It’s imperative to have information that’s absolutely valuable to the reader in some way. I have a client that I do an e-newsletter for. I made clear to her up front that we were going to need to build her newsletter around salient content, not just monthly “specials,” in order to engage and retain her audience. We want them to keep opening, keep reading. As a result, I’ve developed some really interesting and topical articles for her business, and she tells me she’s received a lot of positive feedback.
What’s your feeling on subject lines?
Direct, simple and as brief as possible while still conveying the message. Ideally, 60 characters max. I’m telling my age here [she laughs], but my first few years in the marketing business, I had to “write to count.” I’m grateful for that experience, because doing so forced me to hone my writing skills. In those days of print, it was impossible to “run on.” I had to really learn how to get down to it!
You just came back from a conference?
Yes, I’ve been working with [SIPA member] Robert Michel of the Dark Intelligence Group on two of his conferences, Lab Quality Confab and the Executive War College. We’ve been very pleased with the registration bumps that have been achieved.
What is the biggest strength that you bring?
Experience, of course, but also single-mindedness. I bring to a client the marketing focus that they simply don’t have time for. I started in the business as a writer, and over the years my career evolved into creative direction, then strategic planning and development. I’m skilled at taking a client’s disparate (or neglected!) marketing elements, and building upon them and pulling them all together into a successful marketing program.
Do you work on websites? What do you look for most in a site?
Yes, I develop small business websites for clients and myself. For larger sites, I work with the client’s preferred development team to get it done. I worked for Oakstone Publishing for 10 years and was instrumental in developing their web presence. When developing a site, I am most importantly looking for intelligent and appropriate navigation. The most attractive site is nothing without it.
How’s the consulting market these days?
Good. Because I have a heavy medical and allied health background, my business has seen an actual benefit from the increased focus on healthcare reform. I’ve also seen a bump in the need for senior care marketing services, from nonprofit as well as for-profit senior services groups. I predict that the marketing services demand in these areas will only grow.
And, of course, I have to ask if anything keeps you up at night. Too much work?
No! I’m fortunate enough to be excellent at something that I also love doing. Any insomnia revolves around the fact that I’m a perfectionist. VERY detail-oriented. I do sweat the small stuff and am always making sure that I keep the t’s crossed and i’s dotted for my clients.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline