Turn your customers into evangelists. When we take marketers and turn them into heroes, we position them as thought leaders in the industry. The net result is that for many marketers it accelerates their career growth. We’ve become more than a marketing platform — we’re an organization that helps people move forward in their careers. And when we do that, people become evangelists.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Dennis Mink. Dennis is the VP of Marketing at Liftoff, a leading performance-based mobile user acquisition and re-engagement company based in Palo Alto, CA. At Liftoff, Dennis heads up all marketing and PR activities.
With over 15 years of marketing experience, Dennis has created a new culture amongst marketers through Liftoff’s Mobile Heroes program, assembling some of the top mobile app marketers to share their expertise and stories.
Prior to joining Liftoff, Dennis was CMO at Appoxee, a mobile marketing automation platform for app publishers (acquired by Teradata in 2015), and Duda, a SaaS-based mobile website platform for SMBs based in Palo Alto, CA. Dennis holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an M.A. in Psychology from Connecticut College.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was working on my master’s degree in clinical psychology at the same time as the early days of the web. I became really fascinated by how the internet would impact how we engage with one another — so I decided I’d be more interested in exploring the web than getting my Ph.D. In fact, I was so interested in the impact that the web would have on social interaction that I did my master’s thesis on computer-mediated information and self-disclosing behavior — that is, how open people will be on the internet.
After that, I taught myself HTML, started developing online digital marketing ideas, started pitching ideas to advertisers, and found myself in Los Angeles building a marketing agency.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
For one of our accounts, we built out an online instant-win game, where we’d give away bottles of a very popular beverage. We had 15,000 coupons for free bottles to give away. The game started running, and at some point we looked to see how many had coupons we’d given out. We’d gone over the 15,000, and in fact, we were over 20,000 coupons — it turned out that the prize cap never kicked in to automatically end the game. We had to cover about 5,000 dollars in extra product costs.
I think the lesson is, when you’re building an online game, make sure the cap is rock-solid — or it can cost you money.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We have a unique philosophy about education and our events: we believe in entertainment. We’ve found that if you go to any conference, between 60 percent to 80 percent of attendees are on their phones or computers, not paying attention to what’s going on in front of them.
About a year ago, we decided to take a different approach with our presence at events. Growing up in LA, I was really into game shows. So I created a “ Mobile Feud” game-like “Family Feud” — and started hosting the game at conferences. It really worked well in terms of holding people’s attention!
Then we evolved the game, calling it “Mobile Heroes Showdown.” We had teams with captains and gave prizes to attendees with the right answers. We got the whole audience screaming and yelling — it injects so much energy into the conference experience. And it was unbelievable how many people wanted to talk to us afterwards.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
One area we’ve been investing in is our Audience Estimator self-service tool, which marketers can use to identify all users they’ve acquired and can retarget through programmatic advertising. It’s brand new in the programmatic space.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
I see brand advertising as, ultimately, the focus on communicating the essence of the company — whereas product marketing is more of the “bread and butter” of the product and services the company offers.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
People want to feel good about the companies they work with and spend money on. Brand advertising really supports that — especially in the marketing industry, where you have a lot of competition. Most of the companies in this industry focus on bread and butter marketing activities, which makes it difficult to differentiate between one or the other. We know what Liftoff stands for: Community, bringing people together, and helping marketers learn from each other. None of these things has to do with Liftoff products and services — but they have everything to do with us being a facilitator of knowledge.
Can you share 5 strategies that a small company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or an example for each.
Be authentic. Starting from the earliest days of our email marketing, we made sure all emails came from me, [email protected] We also write messages in a way that’s not sales-y, but very friendly. Our communication has a real voice behind it. It’s not anonymous marketing. People should feel like they’re having a conversation with me, which means they’ll reply back.
Dare to carve your own path. Often in B2B marketing, marketers bring little creativity to marketing themselves. They tend to just do what everyone else does, like a webinar. In our case, we realized we were sitting on very useful data, so we wanted to be the ones who’d put benchmarks out there. We felt like there was so little knowledge-sharing going on — so we decided to help people get better and smarter at what they do.
Turn your customers into evangelists. When we take marketers and turn them into heroes, we position them as thought leaders in the industry. The net result is that for many marketers it accelerates their career growth. We’ve become more than a marketing platform — we’re an organization that helps people move forward in their careers. And when we do that, people become evangelists for Liftoff.
Quality matters. It’s really important that whoever leads marketing has a high bar for whatever is being executed. It’s not enough to just take a quick look at something. Someone has to hit that bar every time.
Nurture your team, because your success depends upon them. It’s easy to get caught up in executing and hitting goals, instead of investing in your team. Talk to people about where they want to be in their careers, and what they want to grow into, all with the goal of helping them get there.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
I have been so impressed with Nintendo, especially now that they’ve released their games for iOS and Android. The brand represents childhood fun. How to replicate that? You need to have a visionary at the top to execute against that vision — like Elon Musk at Tesla. He set out to build his product, he stuck with it, and he’s got lots of passionate customers who love the cars.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
One thing that helps is involving your team in planning, because then they have more buy-in. On our team, we do once-a-quarter team offsite, where we do fun activities, get out of the office — that really helps to balance things out a bit.
Also, you need to understand what’s important to each team member. I know that for one person, family is most important. He wants to spend time with his kids, so I want to help him leave the office at 4:30. Another person loves to travel, so we make sure she has opportunities for travel to look forward to.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Dennis’ Twitter: @dennismink
Liftoff’s Twitter: @liftoffmobile
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.