Danielle Reid: “Not Yourself or Your Team”

Build Brand Loyalty- Understand that there are competitors out there and that your customers have different options available for purchasing. Build brand loyalty by showing appreciation for your customers in the ways that are feasible for your organization. This can be something as simple as a follow-up email thanking the customer for their order and […]

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Build Brand Loyalty- Understand that there are competitors out there and that your customers have different options available for purchasing. Build brand loyalty by showing appreciation for your customers in the ways that are feasible for your organization. This can be something as simple as a follow-up email thanking the customer for their order and asking for feedback and a product review after delivery or offering online contests for savings in exchange for a customer’s email address. Find a strategy to build brand loyalty and don’t be afraid to utilize it.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Reid. She holds over 14 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry, serving the majority of her career as a senior manager for a Big 6 agency responsible for managing marketing and communication campaigns for such brands as Nissan, Nintendo, the Olympics, Adidas, Nespresso, Coca Cola, Comcast, Verizon Wireless, and Subway among many others. Danielle has been awarded and recognized by Memphis Business Journal as a Top 40 Under Forty, Bizwomen Headliner for Marketing and Communications as one of the Top 100 Women in Marketing and Communications, and Google as one of the Top 50 Rising Stars in Marketing. Outside of being awarded for her industry work, Danielle also made history by serving as the first woman within her role at the Department of Defense as Marketing and Advertising Advisor for a branch of the military. Danielle has made an impact that continues to grow with experience, now utilizing her skills as Executive Director of DR and Associates which specializes in marketing and strategy for small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit organizations. Danielle has used her skills to help businesses grow, as well as brands looking to enter or expand both nationally and globally.

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?

I worked for Big 6 Marketing Agencies most of my career and could never break the glass ceiling for any positions above a senior manager position; even though I was always more qualified and more experienced than those I reported to including Directors and VPs. I enjoyed the campaigns that I created and managed, however, I was always searching for something more! After transitioning from the marketing agency world to corporate marketing, I found myself on marketing teams that were not experienced and also saw many organizations that were being taken advantage of by their marketing agencies. I hated being stuck in a dull office or cubicle with nothing to inspire creativity and hated sitting in unproductive meetings for 6–7 hours out of the day. I simply grew tired of the constrictions on my creativity, grew tired of requesting information from superiors that was never provided for me to complete my job duties successfully, and decided it was time for me to take a part-time occasional entrepreneur opportunity and turn it into a full-time gig!

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

The “Aha Moment” that led to me creating my own agency was realizing how much I was limiting myself and when I would work alongside and collaborate with others that included agency supervisors and owners that were less experienced than myself, yet were profiting millions of dollars per year. I said to myself, “if they are being trusted with the success and profitability of their clients’ businesses and don’t have as much experience and expertise that I do, there is no reason I can’t do this myself and make brands and firms more profitable through my experience.” I was already frustrated on a daily basis from my job and decided it was time for me to take control of my own destiny and to put my skills to use on my own terms.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Although I am a trusted marketing and branding expert, it is always hard for me to do things for myself as I am a perfectionist and will second guess myself. When I first started, I didn’t know what industry I wanted to focus on for clients or even the type of clients that I wanted: it was simply about getting clients to make money. I ended up shorting myself on pricing because I would see people charging less for services and figured that I had to be able to compete: a major mistake. I ended up overworking myself while being underpaid and was even taken advantage of by some people that I believed were honest associates. I couldn’t believe that becoming an entrepreneur was so hard, as I was barely getting any sleep and couldn’t concentrate on what I needed to do to become successful on my own. I wanted to give up and just thought maybe entrepreneurship wasn’t for me. There were so many days that I thought about just returning to a job that would at least provide a steady paycheck. I had to decide for myself that while I was helping build brands and seeing my clients make hundreds of thousands of dollars from my expertise, I was not being fair to myself with being paid my worth.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going great! I finally learned that everything for myself doesn’t have to be perfect and found out the type of clients and brands that make me the happiest. I also have learned to step out from the shadows: something that I was accustomed to in my career because often time I never received proper credit for my ideas and work. My grit and resilience led to my eventual success because once clients saw the results that I created for them; they were happy to spread my story to others on how I could help them become successful.

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

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a funny mistake, but looking back on it, I laugh because of how I didn’t take myself seriously or was afraid of truly making money. When I first started with my business, I actually was afraid to charge for my expertise and services. I would do free consultations, free marketing strategies, and then would wonder why I never heard back from the potential client: not realizing I was wasting my time and skills by not properly vetting those who were serious about their own business or they were attempting to implement my strategy on their own. Now, I understand how valuable my time is and that the skills and experience I hold are greatly needed for many businesses. By actually charging for my work and skills, I am able to easily weed out those potential clients that truly do not understand that in order to be profitable, you must be willing to invest in your business and have trusted experts on your team to ensure your brand’s success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One of the things that makes my company stand out is that I believe in being honest with clients and let them know I am not in business to only take their money: I am in business to help them become more profitable by becoming a partner in success. Many agencies don’t truly care about the success of their client, only that the invoices are paid. I believe in being transparent and pivoting marketing strategies for success. If something isn’t working or doesn’t have the impact that the client is looking for, I change tactics; I don’t allow them to continue to waste money that isn’t providing a positive ROI. While completing my MBA program, I was in a session with another agency leader who stated in so many words that even if they were not an expert in a certain area of marketing, they never would tell the client and would take their money while providing an excuse for not meeting expectations later. While that sounds good, there is nothing wrong with letting a client know that someone else on your team is more experienced in that area than you. I actually gain clients by telling them about my experiences with unethical “professionals” and the reason why I started my business.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Take mental breaks, don’t let anyone place a limit on your learning or creativity, and don’t become stagnant in your position. If you have the opportunity to travel, don’t be afraid to apply for positions in marketing that are outside of your city. Working in different cities, states, regions, countries, and areas of the world help you to gain knowledge that others you will be competing against for positions in the future will not have.

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?

One of my former Regional Managers that I worked closely with on a marketing campaign and remained associates with after actually gave me much career advice when I was deciding on the next steps in my career and expressing my frustrations with marketing on the corporate side. One of the best pieces of advice that he gave me was not to just accept a position based on the pay and that I had to find what made me truly happy.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

For most brands, while they already had an eCommerce business, many of them began to see the need to actually place an increased emphasis and funding into eCommerce, as some firms were still focusing more on brick and mortar operations. In an online world, there are many options for purchase, so brands began to focus on a multi-channel strategy including increased social media content and engagement. One of the ways that some of my clients with eCommerce businesses made sure to stand out among the competition was eliminating shipping charges, offering price matching with certain competitors, and creating loyalty programs for consumers to be rewarded for brand loyalty. Other simple ways that some of my clients adjusted during the pandemic were to communicate in different ways with consumers by utilizing text marketing, and even looking to decrease shipping and transit times by utilizing different shipping providers.

Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Regardless of the industry, there will always be larger competitors. While many retail companies and eCommerce companies can’t compete with the prices of products coming from China, they can build brand loyalty in other ways. Brands and firms must always know who their target consumer is and how to reach them. Know what products the target consumer currently uses, and where they currently get their products from. Highlight what makes your company different. Do you believe you offer the best customer service or the best quality product? Highlight that in your brand messaging at all times to build trust and brand loyalty. Smaller retail companies and smaller eCommerce companies can’t always compete with Amazon and bigger companies, but they can ensure to have brand loyalty by ensuring to have a strategy that they implement successfully to reach their target consumer.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The most common mistake is wanting to mirror an eCommerce business from another eCommerce business in another business segment or industry. Some CEOs and founders will see websites such as Amazon and want to have their website to look like that, not understanding the time, funding, and overall manpower that has been put into such a project. Other errors I have seen with CEOs and founders is not having a clear strategy on how entering the eCommerce business will support the goals of their organization, or even a clear strategy on how the eCommerce business will truly be successful. Another major mistake is that CEOs and founders think about what they would like to see on a website instead of considering what their target consumer would like to see on a website. Entering the eCommerce business is more than just having a website that customers can access, it involves multiple parts and support from professionals. Without having a successful marketing and business strategy to support an eCommerce business, it will ultimately fail.

In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

The most underestimated aspect of running an eCommerce brand is how to actually direct customers to the brand. I have provided consultations where the brands could not figure out why they were not receiving traffic on their eCommerce websites and if they were receiving traffic, could not figure out why consumers were not likely to purchase. The brands had done no research on implementing any type of digital marketing efforts alongside the launch of their eCommerce brand or didn’t understand their target consumer and how pricing was a turnoff. In the eCommerce world, you have to always look to remain competitive and consumers don’t know your brand exists unless they find you: therefore, investing in marketing to find your target consumers is critical.

Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?

Depending on the size of the eCommerce brand or the initial funding, there are many tools and software that can help eCommerce brands to be more effective and successful depending on the goals of the eCommerce business. There are many platforms now that allow brands to open an eCommerce website with low overhead including Shopify, Woo Commerce, and more. There are also so many tools that can help the brands be more successful such as Constant Contact and Mailchimp for email lists to help build brand loyalty with consumers and for communication; or even for abandoned cart emails. On the technical side, you have free tools such as Google Analytics which help track the most active pages on your website, view bounce pates, and track conversions. For any eCommerce brand, there are a plethora of options out there for your brand to be successful on any budget and depending on what your needs are.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?

Make the website fast and load quickly, have accurate and detailed descriptions of the products including great photos, make the website easy for customers to access and a seamless checkout process with multiple forms of installment accepted. Some potential customers leave a website simply because they can’t find what they need because the website isn’t user friendly, the website isn’t properly formatted for their device, and others leave during the checkout process because too much information is requested. Making the buying process as easy as possible and as quick as possible for consumers is crucial in the eCommerce business.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Show appreciation for customers, as they have many other options available in the eCommerce business. If you have collected an email address or telephone number for email and text marketing to customers, offer them exclusive and early discounts and sale opportunities before the general public. Even if it is not a discount, let them know about new releases coming soon and always make sure to thank them for being a loyal customer. If your eCommerce website allows for reviews and ratings, offer an incentive for customers that have purchased your product to leave their honest thoughts and opinions; this could be something as simple as 5 dollars off a future purchase in return for helping to collect honest opinions about your product while building trust in your brand for visitors and potential customers. Easy ways to build customer loyalty as a trusted and beloved brand are to also have contests for customers, even something as simple as a 10 dollars-50 dollars gift card for sharing your brand with friends on social media or about a new product release. Customers also love to be highlighted on their favorite brands’ social media accounts, so create organic ways to highlight your customers on your social media accounts or webpages.

One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?

Always respond to every review and comment, including negative and poor reviews. Most brands make the mistake of only responding to reviews and comments that speak about their brand in a positive manner, however, consumers will always look to see how brands respond across the board; especially when an issue arises. Online platforms are an extension of a brand’s customer service and can cost brands if not implemented and managed correctly. If a customer is not satisfied, apologize for the problem and ask how it can be resolved, along with asking for future business from the consumer.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.

Know Your Target Consumers- Know who your target consumers are and how to reach them. Your eCommerce business and website are just one small piece of the puzzle. Know how to drive consumers to your eCommerce business instead of the competition and know what their online habits are. Build a successful marketing strategy around your eCommerce business and don’t be afraid to reach out for help from the professionals for their expertise.

Plan Based Around Your Target Consumers, Not Yourself or Your Team Members’ Wants- Don’t build an eCommerce business based on what you or your team members’ want to see: they are not your customer. Make sure your eCommerce business loads fast, is easy to navigate, and allows them to save as much time during the purchasing process as possible. Customers are much more likely to purchase in the future if you provide a fast checkout and get their products to them with the same quickness.

Build Brand Loyalty- Understand that there are competitors out there and that your customers have different options available for purchasing. Build brand loyalty by showing appreciation for your customers in the ways that are feasible for your organization. This can be something as simple as a follow-up email thanking the customer for their order and asking for feedback and a product review after delivery or offering online contests for savings in exchange for a customer’s email address. Find a strategy to build brand loyalty and don’t be afraid to utilize it.

Always Remain Competitive- Always remain competitive in your pricing, shipping costs, and product options.

Look for Ways to Innovate and Remain Relevant- One of the major mistakes that eCommerce brands make is they often fail to innovate; they don’t believe in refreshing content or even refreshing a website design that has become outdated. Companies such as Amazon don’t remain on top by becoming stagnant: they welcome both internal and external feedback and ideas and therefore are always are finding new ways to improve and provide solutions to the needs of their target consumers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

That is such a hard question, as I always have different ideas in my head to implement on different scales, however, the movement that I would like to start would be a program to teach proper communication skills to children. I believe one of the ways that many adults are not successful is that often time, they don’t properly know how to communicate on a professional or personal level. While many of us have the opportunity to take communication classes on a college level, many never are granted that same opportunity. Communication skills are crucial for success in life, and also assist with conflict resolution or preventing a conflict in itself due to miscommunication.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I am active mostly on Instagram and LinkedIn. I can be found on Instagram under @IamDanielleReid and on LinkedIn under Danielle Reid.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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