The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Tiffany Cooley.
Tiffany is the CMO of Wantable, a retail experience for women and men offering personalized styling services. Tiffany joined Wantable with a broad lens of retail from multiple perspectives — starting with specialty retail (L Brands), department store (Bon-Ton Stores), and strategic consulting from a Martech and Adtech perspective (Epsilon). Prior to Wantable, she spent 12+ years in executive-level marketing roles with The Bon Ton Stores and L Brands and also was a Strategic Retail Consultant with a Fortune 500 Company. She’s a wife, a mother, an executive, visionary, strategist that knows success is in the execution, a leader and an innovator.
Thank you for being here! 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?
When I was the VP of Marketing for Bon-Ton Department Stores, we issued our loyalty customers rich dollar-off personalized coupon codes as a reward for the purchases they made.
We wrote code internally to generate unique codes that would tie back to the customer in our database (a pretty cool accomplishment for the time).
Then one of our very best customers (of course) posted in our social channels a picture of their reward’s coupon code. Why was it a social-post worthy? It spelled out a certain 4-letter “F” word. Super fun one to explain to our CMO and EVP of Stores.
It was an innocent mistake, and everyone had a good laugh about it, including the customer who shared the picture. I never thought I’d find myself in a room brainstorming all the foul-language we could to exclude swear words and other profanities from coupon codes. I’m sure there’s a much more sophisticated way to handle this!
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
- Be Positive and Laugh.
- Build a fantastic team — you can live with, they pick you up when you need it. A team you can rely on to give it to you straight and want you to give it to them straight too.
- Listen — to truly learn/hear; don’t be defensive.
- Flexible/Adaptive — a job description in an environment like ours and in retail is just a starting point — be an “entrepreneur” to build your path.
- Know how to live in the grey absolutely key in retail — it’s an art and science. Marketing is part science and part art as well — or consumer psychology, and sometimes, we don’t know the reason why something tested out the way it did. You have to be able to find direction in unclear and ambiguous situations.
Great advice. Let’s now shift to the central part of our discussion. As you know, Google and other search engines regularly update their search algorithms. Today, do you believe Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still an essential part of any long-term marketing plan? Can you explain why?
SEO is a part of our long-term marketing plan. We want to meet our customers where they are. We know they are using Google (or Alexa or Siri) to find answers to all of life’s little questions, including how to dress confidently. We also know they are not just using a search on their desktop and mobile device. Increasingly they’re using voice search on devices like Alexa and Google Home.
Can you share some essential Search Engine Optimization tips you have for less experienced marketers?
Put your images to work! It can be easy to focus on ensuring copy is optimized for search but don’t make the mistake of forgetting to optimize images too. It’s crucial to place alt tags, descriptions, and image titles strategically. (And it’s so easy to do also!) Image search is one of the easiest ways to win customers, particularly when it comes to the retail and fashion industry. And, bonus tip, SEO should be an authentic, relatable, and conversational tone — not robotic.
What “3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies” have been most effective for you in your industry?
Investing all the time in your company’s culture: people buy when they believe in a brand now more than ever, it’s never been easier to start a company and for that reason, it’s never been harder to build a brand.
There are so many choices how you deliver and your brand purpose matters when customers are choosing you over your many competitors. Customers make decisions on companies’ values.
Empowering customers to tell the story: At Wantable, all of our teams who are responsible for telling our brand story to our customers are aligned and under the same leadership to ensure goals and objectives are shared. We learn from and share real customer stories and interactions and data to help guide what we do and how we do it.
Customer Journey KPI’s: It’s typical to have set KPI’s for a company (LTV, AOV, Churn, Cost per Acquisition, Satisfaction Scores). However, those KPI’s are fully loaded with multiple levers. It’s essential to have custom KPI’s and success measures at every critical touchpoint in the customer journey — from new customer experiences to those experiences later in the life cycle. This will allow companies to be more prescriptive and more proactive in flexing to improve customer experience.
Agility and Iterative Marketing and Project Approach: The Direct to Consumer and retail spaces are changing at such rapid speeds that gone are the days of 18–24 month roadmaps. We need to break our vision down to bite-size steps that move us closer every day to achieving our goals. This allows us to flex and move as we go, minimizing the risk that a lengthy project started 18 months ago doesn’t go live to find that now, the market has changed. Its design is dated before it launched or littered unintended consequences we didn’t foresee. This is all done on the foundation of data science, test and learn, and iterative progress.
If you were only allowed to run paid ads on one platform (in your industry) over the next 12 months, what would it be and why?
Staying true to going where your customers are, despite rising costs and budget constraints, like many DTC brands, paid social platforms are where we see much of our most productive customer acquisition.
However, for that reason, the rising costs in social as well as the distrust consumers have in advertisements, we need to diversify our strategies to more organic platforms. Therefore, if resources/time/budget were different, I would align Wantable’s brand positioning to partners who align on our values and empower them to share our story and impact to drive new customers through influencer and affiliate platforms. We’ve scratched the surface but believe for the long-term growth and success of our brand; this is where we should double down.
As a professional marketer, you are a person of significant 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?
As an executive, mom, and marketer, I’ve spent most of my career focusing on empowering teams and people. I’ve leaned into leading with direct but kind feedback. Knowledge is power, so I’ve built teams being as transparent as possible (sometimes even if it meant breaking the culture norm) with my teams, peers, and leadership. I believe this fueled their ability to make better, more informed decisions that encompassed multiple perspectives. I value positivity and courage, so direct but kind, courageous honesty or radical candor are all ways I propel people forward in my personal and professional life.
Almost equal or maybe more important than that, I think one of the reasons I’m so incredibly passionate about Wantable’s brand purpose, Fueling Self-Confidence, is because, as an executive mom, I’ve been told I can’t have it all. But I can have it all. I don’t want to choose between my career and my family life. I want both.
I was led/managed by boomers, but I am a millennial and coached millennials, I often found myself torn between two universes. One where the work-life balance was expected on one side but looked down upon on the other. I’ve spent much of my time as a manager, leader, and executive, helping bring a better work-life balance to organizations I’ve been a part of. I am giving my team and peers the courage to set boundaries between their personal and professional lives as well as thinking differently about how they (we) work, which includes creative working schedules and time blocking, work from home options, and virtual team management. Empowering teams moms, dads, early-career-stage team members, near-retirement team members with tools to find a balance that works for them is better for our society, teams, and culture and the companies we work for. People are happier and, therefore, kinder, and ultimately happier people produce higher results.
What quote would you say has inspired you the most in your life or career?
Staying true to my personal values, these quotes have inspired and, at times, propelled me to creating behaviors that force me into alignment with my values. Remember, you can have values, but if your actions don’t align with your values, you’re not truly living by them.
“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” — Brené Brown
“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave in my life. And when we choose to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage, or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” — Brené Brown
As someone who never settles for the status quo, this is a significant one that has grounded me in life and especially in life with my kids. Life is imperfect, so is parenting. I learned through lots of trial and disappointment; there is no perfect day. This quote reminds me to slow down and just enjoy the little moments as much as the big ones — if not more.
“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.” — Brené Brown
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!