Wise Marketing Secrets Interview Series #164: Rob Petersen

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President, BarnRaisers

MBA Faculty, Rutgers Business School

Rob Petersen is an experienced advertising and marketing executive, who spent years working at major NYC ad agencies where he held leadership positions.

In 2009, he started BarnRaisers, a full-service digital marketing agency that builds brands with proven relationship principles and ROI.

In 2010, Rob was invited to join the MBA Faculty of the Rutgers Business School where he teaches digital marketing and social media marketing courses at the executive, graduate and undergraduate levels. Rob is the author of two books.

166 Case Studies Prove Social Media ROI, that has been downloaded over 200,000 times and a contributing author to Strategic Digital Marketing, which is used as a textbook in college curriculums.

How did you start out as a marketer?

I started out in the NYC ad agency business. I spent 20+ years working with many top brands, Coca-Cola, Tylenol, Dunkin Donut.

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I was always fascinated with the significant results marketing can have on a business when done right. In my later agency years, I was a Chief Strategy Officer and the guy who went after new business.

All of this helped prepare me for an entrepreneurial future.

Looking back what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?

The identification of a realistic time frame for the results to happen.

Most people expect it happen almost immediately. But, realistically, it is going to be a combination of what you put in place and how long it takes for your takes for your target to become aware, get interested and buy.

For the company, that mean making the investments first then seeing the results. This is always a struggle.

How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?

I was working at a NYC ad agency in a new business role. I got a call from the Shell Oil Company.

They were making a significant investment in NASCAR. But they could not figure out if there was any ROI.

They needed someone who could help figure this out. I tried to bring the account into the agency.

Management wanted a bigger budget. We went back and forth. The client and I became friends in the process.

He said, “can’t you just do it.” I said I could but, if I did, I couldn’t continue working at the agency.

So I resigned, took on the project and went out on my own.

What do you find most rewarding about what you do?

My expertise is data and analytics. I love connecting the dot with data and showing what’s working and why.

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And, of course, telling someone what they should do as a result.

We have a lot of readers who are bent on becoming freelancers, aside from freelancing how else can someone earn online, and what is your advise?

Anything you try to do on your own is likely to take more work at the start than the results you get back.

But that will change with time and perseverance. And be much more rewarding in multiple ways.

So, I advise just really knowing what you’re good at. And how you want to get it, either working with someone who needs your help or getting it on your own.

If you were given the chance to build your career all over again what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?

So many of the good ideas people have probably already been done by someone else.

If I were to do it again but differently, I would research who is doing what I’m thinking.

And how could I do it better and smarter.

How is your typical work day structured?

At work by 7am. Meetings by 8:30am stopping around 11 am for some exercise, errands and lunch.

Back at work by 1:30pm until around 6pm. Generally, in the evening at some point, I’ll do some internet research on a topic of interest.

I do marketing for my company (blogs, emails, social media) over the weekend.When you work for yourself, you never really stop working.

But it’s easier to choose what you want to work on, when and what is important to do when you have down time.

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?

I was and am convinced ROI can be proven for digital marketing far more convincingly than traditional marketing.

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But I started my business in the Great Recession. People told me they were interested but needed proof.

I researched and showed them case studies. But nobody was biting. I realized I was being played.

So, I put all the case studies together as blogs on our website and gave them away to readers. Website traffic went way up.

I developed a reputation as an expert in the ROI of digital marketing.

This proved more valuable over the long term.

You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.

My process for developing a company’s brand strategy follows the outline:

1) Where are we now,  2) where we need to go and 3) how we get there.

For the first part, I audit the brand and their online presence – Google Analytics, keywords, social media presence and identify what’s working and what’s not.

For the second, I do discovery – competitor examinations, website user experience and some ideas for consideration.

There are interactive steps working in collaboration with the company’s key stakeholders.

Based on the response, I develop the strategy, tactics, budget, timing and KPIs.

The process is Audit, Discovery, Strategy and Plan.

Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?

I’m always juggling multiple projects.

Fortunately, I have great people who work with me. All have worked with me for 5+ years.

We work together well at dividing and conquering when these situations arise. I’m lucky to have them.

What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?

Marketing automation platforms like SharpSpring and HubSpot interest me, especially as, this year, we’ve received a good amount of business for B2B companies.

It’s interesting that they map out how an individual found you website, what they did while they were there and how valuable they are.

What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?

I have a second job. I am on the MBA faculty of the Rutgers Business School. I have taught digital and social media marketing for 10 years.

My faculty colleagues and my students keep me current.

Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?

We recently completed a clinical trial recruitment projects using geo-targeting with Google Ads and Facebook Ads. It was for a worthwhile new therapy.

The goal was to secure the participants necessary in 6 months. We did it in 5 months.

Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.

Marketing theory put into practice to identify uncontested space and capture it.

A very smart and inspiring book about creating something that is truly differentiating.

What advice would you share with other Marketer’s who want to become more productive?

Pace yourself so you get the work done but leave yourself the time to look at it and ask: How to I make this smarter, more insightful and actionable than what anyone else could have.

If there’s one Marketing Guru you’d recommend who and why.

Mark Schaefer is a colleague of mine at the Rutgers Business School. And a good friend. Mark pushes companies to have a human side.

This has never been more important than now. Mark also put himself out there, always wearing his heart on his sleeve.

He practices for himself what he preaches companies should do.

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