Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder & CEO of global marketing and digital branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, The New York Times Company, Colgate, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Paige is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes. She also serves on several private company and non profit boards.
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How did you start out as a marketer?
I started my marketing career at Procter & Gamble in 1990 followed by stints working for the 1996 Olympic Games and becoming Asst. Chief Marketing Officer at Coca-Cola so I have worked with several world-class brands. Today I run a global branding and marketing firm that I started 19 years ago, a brand I created from scratch.
Looking back what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
My biggest challenge early on was that the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. The hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people earlier than I did in the first few years of my business. I spent more time managing them than finding new customers. I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff but out of loyalty to them I let them hang around much longer than they should have.
It would have been better for everyone to let them go as soon as the signs were there. They became more insecure and threatened as we grew which was not productive for the team. As soon as I let them go the culture got stronger and the bar higher. “A” team people like to be surrounded by other stars. It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly. I did not make that mistake again later on so learned it well the first time. I wish I had known it even earlier though but lesson learned for sure!
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
My first client came from a talk I gave to a professional networking group. Someone from the audience came up to me after and made an introduction which resulted in my first project a few weeks later. I felt great that my talk was so well received and generated meetings and referrals as follow up, I knew I had a real business. I still give lots of talks and it is a great way to generate leads and business. I think having a good reputation is incredibly important to building a strong B2B business. Here are the lessons that experience taught me:
* Do great work that people will talk about
* Give lots of talks even virtually and use examples from your experience, I do a lot of public speaking online and offline when not social distancing, host podcasts and webinars which leads to people talking about me online, tweeting, etc.
* Join networking groups to meet people who are the multipliers in your industry, they talk to everybody and know everyone, they have large followings so you need to connect with them online too
* Be active on social media so you can share your talks and content and your followers can help spread the word
* Generate lots of fresh content that will push down any potential bad comments online
* Monitor your online data to shut down trolls and misinformation, there are several online tools to alert you of potential problems (some are free others are for a fee)
It continues to be a great source of leads and has served me well.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
I created a platform to do work I enjoy and feel energized by. I feel I have found my purpose because I used to work all the time and life was passing me by. I got raises and promotions but I was all work and no play and I did not feel fulfilled. Since starting my business I have joined boards and volunteered at several organizations.
I am a mentor to the next generation of leaders and have helped build a very successful anti-bullying program that >100,000 middle school aged kids have gone through. As a marketing consultant I am able to write articles, contribute to books and speak at events to share my experience and lessons learned.
How is your typical work day structured?
Pre Covid first thing I did when I woke up was turn on NPR so I could catch up on the news while I showered, dressed and got ready for my day. Then I checked e-mail, made notes while my mind is fresh, reviewed my to do list and calendar, woke my husband, ate breakfast and got going. My routine has changed since the lockdown began. I am sleeping more (10+ vs 5 hours per night) so am starting my day much later than before.
After a morning workout, showering and eating breakfast I am at my desk non stop most of the day now. I think I am more productive and efficient now than I was before, a silver lining in the crisis! By being organized and setting my schedule in advance I find I am actually sleeping more, eating healthier and getting more done in fewer hours now.
I have always been a morning person so once I start my day it flies until lunch. I always eat breakfast and like to work out in the mornings to get my day off to a strong start. I feel I have more energy all day when my heart and brain kick right in! It all starts with a great night’s sleep though! Nothing beats a great night’s sleep to be an effective CEO, it works for me.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
In the first few years of my company I did not know how much is too much for follow up — being persistent vs a stalker. I had pitched a CEO about a month before I ran into her at a networking event where she was the keynote speaker and her topic was about being a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated business. I had followed up after sending my proposal several times via e-mail and voice mail but the CEO never returned any of my messages or even acknowledged receipt of the proposal requested. I thought I was being pleasantly persistent but I was nervous to see her at the event because I thought she might think I was stalking her.
You can imagine my shock when she announced at this event as part of her speech that she believes it is important to put your money where your mouth is and for women CEOs to support other respected & well-run women’s businesses and that is why she has hired my firm to handle all her company’s marketing & PR! Everyone congratulated me after, it was a better endorsement than the New York Times because she was very well known and had the reputation of being very tough with high standards so I got a LOT of business from people in the room that night because they thought if I was able to impress her I must be very good 😉
To think I almost did not even show up maybe seeing me there is what prompted her to pull the trigger and hire us? I sold more business in the month that followed than l ever had since starting my company so we really began to scale quickly at that point and got a lot of referrals as a result! It was a big day in our history for sure.
You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
As a small business we are always pivoting to respond to market changes but I am very concerned about the spread of this virus and the short and long term impact it will have on the economy. I do not think the government bailout will fix this crisis so an idea I am sharing with my community is to look at all the groups we are a part of (industry, trade, neighborhood, alumni, women, hobby, religious, non profit, etc.) and suggest we start our own stimulus packages by agreeing to support/buy from each other directly and refer business proactively to each other too. Cross promote the products and services in newsletters, follow/like/retweet on social media and vice versa. Whether you need to buy food, a book or a gift, office supplies/equipment, update your website, or create a video there is probably someone in your network who is more than happy to get the business right now.
You can always buy gift certificates from them too which is thoughtful and very much appreciated in times like these. I bought a few (all still unused) from some of my favorite local restaurants and shops while they were closed in fact and am now supporting them since they opened.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
It takes effort and a commitment to excellence to continually improve especially as a marketer today. I do not think there is one silver bullet, I use a combination of reading and learning online and off, attending conferences and talks, networking, newsletters from influencers, TED talks, podcasts, finding mentors and listening to all feedback good and bad. I have found that I learn more from the bad and tough situations in my career than when things go smoothly. I carve out a few hours each week on my calendar for professional development activities to make it a priority. To keep my business relevant and growing I basically do a few key things:
* Professional development to keep my skills fresh and stay on top of new trends and technologies
* Network to stay connected and meet potential partners and the movers & shakers
* Writing and speaking to meet other Thought Leaders and keep my business on the radar
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?
I usually prefer books by practitioners because they are more relevant and have current examples from pop culture vs. theories based on research. I also like the classics that have advice that has withstood the test of time and in this case the best book I can recommend is How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie — it is evergreen with insights on manners and people/human nature. In my experience you can learn a lot from books which offer practical advice whether you are someone just starting a career in business as well as anyone managing and leading a team. It was published almost 100 years ago and the advice has held up so you cannot go wrong with this one.
What advice would you share with other Marketer’s who want to become more productive?
A mentor once told me that to be successful “me time” is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance! Respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the least I can do for self care because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either so I manage productivity by:
Giving myself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off your phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting yourself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts you can give yourself. It is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more.
Disconnecting from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships (when not social distancing). Even meeting for virtual coffee or drinks can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.
I am measuring productivity by what we get done, it is based on accomplishments not activity. People need more downtime now we are all under a lot of stress with so many moving parts. Our job is to get through this period together intact, that will make us all feel we have been productive.