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“5 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses” With Kristen Volkland of ECG

I define ‘marketing’ as the ability to tell a compelling story with accurate content that engages your target audience in a way to take action that will make a difference. ECG is immersed in the stories of our clients so much so, that content we create (about overcoming the inner-city education struggles or a pediatric […]


I define ‘marketing’ as the ability to tell a compelling story with accurate content that engages your target audience in a way to take action that will make a difference. ECG is immersed in the stories of our clients so much so, that content we create (about overcoming the inner-city education struggles or a pediatric cancer patient’s success etc.) can leave our designers and freelancers overwhelmed with emotion. We are human, so the content and stories affect us just as much as it does our target audience.


I had the pleasure to interview Kristen Volkland. Kristen is an Advocate for ECG clients. She’s an architect of strategies that build the bottom line and inspires the ECG creative team to aim for remarkable results. Volkland has more than 25 years of experience in education, healthcare and other industries.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

While attending Rider University, I needed to take finance classes and as it turns out I was pretty good at it. I eventually became president of the student finance board and was involved in business decisions for student activity fees. As it turns out Rider was offering concentration in Advertising and in an unplanned route, I met the requirements by having art, business and finance credits.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

There are about a thousand interesting stories since I began this career. I rarely have the same day twice. There will always be a new way to promote and write content for clients. One of the most interesting stories remains when I was making the case [to a client] that digital platforms were a more efficient and effective way to capture leads. I was not abandoning the traditional collateral but was offering a way to increase the value and repurpose the content already created. Long story short — we had a wildly successful run with their digital campaign. I later attended a presentation the client was giving and heard my pitch words echoed in the success of the campaign. This is our role in advertising — give our clients great content with solid ROI. We brought real value to the client. He now has switched jobs and brought us with him. All the while keeping the old company.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting?

I have several stories that I can classify as funny now that weren’t funny at the time. At an agency in the city I had clients from Florida to NYC. I had to place recruitment ads in each market. I place the NYC ad in the Florida paper and the Florida ad in the NYC paper! This was probably a $30K mistake. I was panicking. I knew I was fired. I told my direct report and she chuckled and told me I have to own my mistake and tell our head boss. He happened to be out for a few days. When he returned to work, I told him immediately along with presenting ten ways I was prepared to fix it. He told me to hold on while he checked the numbers. It turns out that both positions had done really well with interested candidates. Weeks later they hired people to relocate into those positions. I was never fired and I’m not sure to this day if the client ever found out.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Always admit to a mistake as soon as it happens. By seeing the mistake and telling my bosses right away it actually made me feel better. In this case, the mistake had a good ending. I realize that it could have gone terribly wrong, but at least I was prepared (from staying up all night thinking about it). I think the best advice is to always be prepared to offer a solution to every problem or mistake you see or make.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
 
Erbach Communications Group (ECG) is driven by the stories of our clients. We are prepared to give them a strong outcome whether it is increase admission numbers or donations, grow awareness about a cause or service line, or improve their digital footprint. We don’t only see the job that is in front of us, but we are seeing the future effects of a campaign and how we can build on it. It also doesn’t hurt that we don’t mark up any outside costs. In return precious marketing dollars are being used efficiently.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
 
Since ECG is predominantly in the healthcare and education sectors, we only take on clients that we think truly help people on a daily basis. St. Baldrick’s Foundation is probably the most exciting project to me personally. We were able to transform their content in a way that has made a significant difference in the lives of so many researchers whose sole purpose is to cure pediatric cancer and make children suffer less from the side effects of treatment. We produce their newsletters in a way that takes very technical research and repurposes it into readable, digestible and fun way to learn about St. Baldrick’s. More importantly, is it generates fundraising results.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?

That is subjective to how you define success. For me, I value success in more of an emotional sense rather than financial. When I decided to purchase the company with my husband from the founder of the agency, that was my tipping point. I chose to be proactive with my career and life. I took control of my own destiny. I believe the success came from executing the purchase without losing any clients or staff. The lesson is always communication. Communicate often. Don’t let people guess what you are about to do — tell them.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Seek conversations and input from those in the same industry. In my situation, my partner in the business is my partner in life. On one hand this is fantastic, on the other I needed to have some separation and conversation with others that are in the same situation as me. I would also say to attend industry events and stay relevant. I have two toddlers under 4 years old and if I can make it work so can you.

How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?

I define ‘marketing’ as the ability to tell a compelling story with accurate content that engages your target audience in a way to take action that will make a difference. ECG is immersed in the stories of our clients so much so, that content we create (about overcoming the inner-city education struggles or a pediatric cancer patient’s success etc.) can leave our designers and freelancers overwhelmed with emotion. We are human, so the content and stories affect us just as much as it does our target audience.

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 about that?

My mentors at Rider University were Cassie Iacovelli and Dean Mayo. They both saw me as a creative person but also helped me identify my business side and helped guide me in choosing a career path.

Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?

Anything server based. Dropbox for file service.

What are your “5 Non -Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”?

(Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Do Something That Makes the World a Better Place. Profit is necessary to grow your business, but keep in mind that people will gravitate towards companies that have a progressive thought process and that affiliate with positive social change.

2. Being able to tell a story will always remain key. As a leader, I trust my team and their creative impute immensely. Being collaborative is the first step to ensuring that we facilitate the client’s needs.

3. Know when it’s time to move on. It’s important to be consistent, but as a business owner and leader, I know that if my creative involvement with a client or a project is not moving either of us forward, then it’s best to amicably part ways. You will not always see eye-to-eye on every element of a project, but most of the time both parties can compromise. If that’s not happening then it’s best to let it go and reunite on a future endeavor, where all visions can be more in alignment.

4. Be serious and enjoy what you do. The communications team for any company might be one of the most (if not the most) important department. It helps to shape how both the internal and external audience views the business as a whole. Therefore, I take my role very seriously when I partner with any establishment. That said, the world of communications is also fun! Creating content and developing innovated brand messaging and campaigns is exciting and always sparks new ideas and originality. It’s a really inspiring industry to be part of.

5. Be forward-thinking. There are principals of this industry that are evergreen, but there will always be ways to updates in the field, technology, media, software, and more. Keep up-to-date with the newest innovations, relevant trade articles, conference topics, and stay open to new ideas. Your team and your clients will thank you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I partner with mission-driving companies that allow my team and I to use our skills to create positive change. I’ve found a way to do what I love creatively while also affording schools, hospitals, and non-profits the conduit to tell and share their stories. This inspires me daily. If I could inspire a movement, it would be getting more people to get involved in preventative care. ECG assists medical groups with promoting their service lines in hopes that more people take control of their health and not wait until it’s too late.

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

Keep your passion with an open mind. When confronted with different opportunities, remember that things may turn into something even better. If I had only focused on creative while in college as I intended to, I may have never taken that finance class which eventually helped shape and navigate this career choice.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Contact us via our website: ErbachCom.com

Facebook.com/ErbachCommunications

Instagram.com/ErbachCommunications

Twitter.com/ErbachGroup

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