Barbara Gretsch of MSS Media: “Encourage a digital culture within your organization”

Use cloud-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software to effectively manage client relationships. These platforms can help your sales team manage contacts, deals and tasks, track emails, schedule email sends, share documents, schedule meetings, and provide quotes all in one convenient location, easily accessed by every member of the team from any internet-connected device. As part […]

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Use cloud-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software to effectively manage client relationships. These platforms can help your sales team manage contacts, deals and tasks, track emails, schedule email sends, share documents, schedule meetings, and provide quotes all in one convenient location, easily accessed by every member of the team from any internet-connected device.

As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara Gretsch.

As CEO and managing partner of MSS Media, Inc., an award-winning women-owned boutique marketing agency, Barbara loves the dynamic nature of her role and rising to meet each challenge she encounters. She’s been a driving force at MSS Media, Inc. almost since its inception, holding roles in every area of the company, from business development and advertising sales to marketing and management. Barbara is proud to lead a company that is known for its core values of positivity, passion, accountability, dependability, integrity, tenacity, and respect.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Growing up, I was surrounded by successful men. Although intelligent and educated, the women in my family were never part of the dinner time “business” conversation, and that mirrored what I saw in the world at large. Rather than accept those limitations, I’ve striven for success of my own. I’ve always embraced the challenge of what it means to be a woman and to be a woman in business in a man’s world.

As an adult, my lifelong fascination with the science of human behavior and social life led me to study sociology at DePaul University. After graduation, I made what felt like a natural transition to the salon and spa industry. In this environment I was able to use my creativity daily while also getting to know all types of people, from all walks of life. Every new client was a fresh opportunity to learn.

After 10 years in that field, however, I grew antsy and began looking for my next challenge. As luck would have it, my neighbor’s good friend was just starting a media company. I was intrigued and decided to take the leap into a new endeavor. As the firm grew, taking on a leadership role seemed the perfect opportunity to excel, while remaining mindful that I don’t need to embody traditionally masculine characteristics to succeed. I’ve come a long way from where I started and I could not be happier leading my talented team in sunny Miami with its gorgeous ocean views.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

At my first “talk” at an industry conference, I sat on a panel with individuals who had worked with MSS Media, Inc. We were there to discuss my firm’s partnership program and their experiences with it. When I got to the podium I was so nervous that when it was my turn to speak, I forgot to introduce the panel and thank them for being there on our behalf, and just started right in on the discussion. Luckily one of the panel members kindly interrupted me to start with a round of introductions, setting the stage properly for the session. With years of experience under my belt, that would never happen now, but I recall the incident like it was yesterday. While the experience was truly embarrassing, it also taught me some great lessons. It was an excellent illustration of both the importance of carrying on even when you screw up, and the ways in which a more experienced individual can help salvage a difficult situation for someone who is new to their role, a specific task, or the industry as a whole.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am forever grateful to my business partner Mike Sheldon for his continual support and encouragement to aim higher. He has always believed in me more than I have believed in myself. His confidence has given me the courage to reach for goals I might not have pursued on my own.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A few years ago, my brother recommended an episode of the Bigger Pockets podcast. This episode, #328: “How to Laser-Focus on the Wildly Important with Author Chris Chesney”, was my introduction to Chesney’s book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which has had an enormous impact on me. From using the power of leverage to move a business forward to learning how confirmation bias clouds your vision, this book gives actionable advice on how to continue to improve your business. It’s one I go back to over and over again.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I started out with MSS Media, Inc. by joining forces with the founder who had a vision for an “outdoor advertising company”, specifically growing a nationwide advertising network across college campuses. As a firm, we have always worked to make a sincere difference for our clients and the regions we served. Even as a beginning media company serving the niche campus market, our mission was to benefit businesses in the area by giving them an avenue to advertise to the coveted college demographic, while simultaneously improving the student experience with our outdoor furniture. This client centered focus continues to the present day. As a well-established full-service media and PR agency, our clients’ goals are the motivation behind everything that we do.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

As a firm, we’ve needed to respond rapidly to the abrupt changes in the business climate due to COVID-19. As a result of the rapid acceleration towards a more digital/virtual reality, MSS Media, Inc. has stepped up the quantity and quality of our SEO content, we’re undertaking full funnel automated email marketing campaigns, we’ve increased our social media presence, and we’re layering in digital media tactics where appropriate so that we can reach our clients where they’re now spending the majority of their time.

We’ve used the knowledge that we’ve gained from this process to quickly expand our firm’s capabilities and offerings in a way that enables our clients to fully leverage the same digital tactics for their own benefit. Not only have we increased the integration of digital features with our traditional service offerings across the board, we’re also adding many free resources to help others learn how best to reach their target audiences in the newly expanded online landscape. There are so many companies out there selling digital services in a way that involves misunderstanding, misinformation, and ultimately, wasted resources and lack of the desired results.Our new resource library provides baseline information for what companies need to know when they’re getting started with marketing and advertising, whether digital, traditional, or integrated.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation involves integrating digital technology into a business’s entire mode of operation. Every area of a firm’s function will be affected by a Digital Transformation — management, operations, accounting, sales, marketing, HR, production, etc. Systems, processes, and tools will be updated for efficiency, effectiveness, and better customer service. What this looks like will be different for each company, because every company is unique. It can mean moving data from file folders and spreadsheets to cloud-based information management systems. Data-gathering techniques and tools may be modernized, and sophisticated data analysis software and strategies put in place. Artificial intelligence and machine learning may supplement or replace some of the work traditionally done by employees, freeing them up for more important, complex, and rewarding tasks. Collaboration and efficiency can be enhanced with tools designed for virtual cooperation. The possibilities and potential rewards are incredibly abundant.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

The benefits of Digital Transformation are so many and so far-reaching that it’s hard to think of a company that wouldn’t be improved by the process. Digital Transformation can help businesses cut costs, operate more efficiently, enhance data collection and data-driven insights, improve customer experiences, and increase profits.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

Our firm’s own Digital Transformation and expanded digital capabilities and offerings have helped our clients in a number of ways. Incorporating digital tactics (such as display, video, search and social advertising, earned online media, and influencer marketing) into their marketing campaigns allows our clients to extend their reach, amplify their traditional advertising and public relations efforts, and build deeper relationships with target audiences. With our creative digital media management and optimization services, clients are able to achieve the greatest possible return on their advertising investment by displaying ads precisely when and where they are most relevant to their target market. Digital, location specific, geo-targeted advertisements are a cornerstone of this strategy.

We know that data is as important at the beginning of the campaign to create the best possible communications strategy as it is during the campaign to optimize results, and at the end of the campaign to provide comprehensive and insightful evaluation. With this in mind, we track all performance measures through digital data analysis from the beginning. This enables us to consistently achieve and exceed desired outcomes because we’re managing every campaign throughout its duration, testing regularly to ensure that we’re meeting all goals along the way. We continuously optimize each campaign, always looking to push past our estimated deliveries and to provide real data as to what was achieved during each stage of campaign execution. We provide access to real-time digital dashboards that not only show how digital campaigns are performing, but also now provide the same approach for components of traditional campaigns as well.

Finally, by increasing our online presence and free digital marketing resources, we’re able to educate our clients on the best ways to get the most out of their advertising and marketing budgets in this new constantly shifting reality.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Yes, integrating Digital Transformation has been a challenging process for some of the companies we’ve worked with. Many businesses are unaware of the digital services available to them, both through MSS Media, Inc. and in general. Even companies with an understanding of the necessity and benefits of Digital Transformation in today’s market are often confused about which tactics will achieve meaningful results and may be using the wrong metrics to measure success. In these cases, education is key. We work hard to provide freely accessed general information on the types of digital tactics that are likely to be worthwhile for the sectors we serve. We also provide personalized research-based recommendations for individual clients on the measures that are most likely to help them achieve their goals efficiently and effectively.

In addition, depending on the organization, the wheels of change may move so slowly that it is almost impossible to adopt Digital Transformation measures at the rate required for optimal results. In these cases, we start with the end goal in mind and identify the most important tactics that would make the biggest impact. We start there, working to establish trust and build a rapport with the client. As our strategy takes effect and positive results roll in, we take baby steps forward, layering on additional tactics at a pace the client is comfortable with.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

When I consider the ways a company can use Digital Transformation to take things to the next level, a quote from Marc Benioff, Chairman And Co-CEO of Salesforce, immediately springs to mind — “Every digital transformation is going to begin and end with the customer, and I can see that in the minds of every CEO I talk to.” While improving a business’s bottom line is an important element of Digital Transformation, if the changes a company makes don’t ultimately improve their ability to reach new customers and serve their existing customers more effectively, what is the point? I suggest that each company do an internal and an external audit of the processes and procedures their company is using with this firmly in mind. Here are five ways a company can use Digital Transformation to take their customer service, and therefore their business, to the next level:

  1. Use cloud-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software to effectively manage client relationships. These platforms can help your sales team manage contacts, deals and tasks, track emails, schedule email sends, share documents, schedule meetings, and provide quotes all in one convenient location, easily accessed by every member of the team from any internet-connected device.
  2. Ensure that your online marketing efforts are cohesive and data-driven. By using a marketing automation tool like Hubspot you can more easily create blog posts, social media posts, and ads to catch your ideal buyer’s attention, convert leads to customers with optimized landing pages and automated email campaigns, and track results with full-featured customizable dashboards.
  3. Use Customer Success management reporting processes that deliver full real-time insight into the “health” of each customer. You need to know when, how, and why customers are using your products or services, and whether they’re employing them successfully. The sooner you have that data, the sooner you can address any issues users are experiencing. And the sooner you do that, the better! After all, satisfied customers are repeat customers and your best brand ambassadors.
  4. Encourage a digital culture within your organization. While some employees may be resistant to pursuing Digital Transformation, the more you promote the adoption of digital tools and processes, the more efficient and nimble your team will be. These benefits were brought into stark relief by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the world, employees were forced to transition almost overnight to working from home, rather than the office. Business as usual was completely upended, and companies with cloud-based workflow and communications solutions already in place were best positioned to weather the storm with a minimum of disruption. At MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been able to continue to work collaboratively with our team members throughout the pandemic, whether they’re located across the hall or across the country, with the use of tools like Asana and Google Drive.
  5. Modify your existing business practices to optimize resource management & productivity. Examine your systems and processes. Are there ways to automate portions of your workflow? Is there a beneficial role for artificial intelligence or machine learning within your organization? One small but effective change we’ve made at MSS Media, Inc. is the inclusion of automated email marketing campaigns. With the proper tools and settings in place, we’re able to send a series of relevant and helpful emails to people when they interact with our website, blog posts, or emails, all without lifting a finger. Further action on their part will automatically change which communications they receive from us, so that our messaging is always as applicable and beneficial as possible.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

I believe that the successful creation of a “culture of innovation” in any company must come directly from the top. Leadership needs to be invested in the value and process of Digital Transformation. Communications regarding any changes need to be positive and evidence a growth mindset. Team members should be inspired by the benefits and possibilities of the coming evolution. When management makes it clear that these advances will benefit customers, employees, and the company as a whole, the necessary changes are much more likely to achieve everyone’s buy-in, thereby achieving the best possible results with the least amount of turmoil.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is this incredible piece of wisdom from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu — “ If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” After many years in business leadership, I know the one thing I can always count on is that challenges will arise day after day, year after year. These sage words remind me not to let depression or anxiety over difficulties get the best of me, but rather to live in the moment, and make each moment the best that it can be.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Readers can sign up to follow the MSS Media, Inc. news feed at or follow @MSSmedia on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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