If I could I would create a movement to address this because while women are becoming empowered, men are still being held to the same outdated stereotypes with their worth measured by an old-fashioned value system.
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 Carla Williams Johnson.
Carla Williams Johnson, CEO of Carli Communications LLC. Known simply as Carli, she is extremely passionate about helping others and giving back, volunteering her time and skills wherever she can. When she’s not working, she can usually be found in the company of her adult daughter and infant son in the beautiful Caribbean twin-island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?
Funniest…well at the time it wasn’t funny but now I laugh because I definitely learned my lesson. When I first started my business, I would meet with potential clients at their offices regularly. Not a fan of driving, most times I would take my significant other with me (and I would tell persons he was my driver).
Anyways while at a meeting with a gentleman, we got into a discussion about what was best for him and how he should proceed. He had gotten some bad advice before and I really didn’t want him to keep wasting money on promotional packages that weren’t working.
Now, I’m not saying that he pushed back and argued with me because I was female but he gave off this ‘know it all’ vibe and literally challenged everything I was saying, to which my boyfriend said “Listen, Carla knows her stuff and whatever she says to do, just do it! You won’t regret it!” Eventually, I did book the client, but unfortunately, his misogyny started to show and just couldn’t work with him anymore.
I learned pretty quickly that just because someone can pay for my services doesn’t mean they’re my ideal client. Sometimes I have to say no for sanity’s sake. I saw the signs and I still pursued thinking that my knowledge and expertise would win him over, but all it did was encourage him to comment on how my legs looked every time I had to pick up the cheque.
From then on, I always understood that it’s a relationship I’m building with clients so I have to ensure that our values are aligned.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Funny you should say “Tipping Point” as it’s actually one of my favorite books by Malcolm Gladwell, but I digress. I remember coming to the conclusion that my online look didn’t match the personality of my brand. My website, my social media were all over the place and really did not convey the message of who I was and what my brand was about. I decided to invest in a Brand Stylist and that was the best thing that I could have done. She really tied everything together, gave my brand credibility, and, as such, helped me be more attractive to my ideal clients. The business began to soar and I started to get a lot more publicity in the form of requests for interviews.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Schedule self-care like your life depended on it because it does. There are times I get so focused and engrossed in what I’m doing that I forget to eat. It’s crazy! I had to learn the hard way that being unkind to my body and not giving my brain time to recharge can have terrible consequences. Being a marketer means you have to always think of the best ways to connect with your customers and you cannot think creatively or strategically if you’re tired all the time, so do yourself and your business a favor and take a break every once in a while.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people who have helped me in so many ways, but I would have to say my best friend who has been cheering me on from day one! Odessa Laulys has been by my side and is literally my rock and really, she’s more than a friend, she’s my big sister. She’s been there for everything in business and in life and I have no idea what I would do without her.
Another person I must shout out is my good friend Marlena Cole. She’s a Relationship Coach and she actually reached out to me because she knew I could help her build her business. Little did we know at the time that such a close friendship would emerge. She saw in me what I was so afraid to see in myself and truly gave me the confidence to step out and do what I’m good at.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
I think people don’t want to be spoken to and where previous marketing tactics would require a very one-sided, impersonal approach, today’s customer wants more of a dialogue and to feel like they’re a part of something.
Now customers are doing their research and would like to know who is the CEO of the company and what he or she stands for. They want to understand the story behind the brand to understand why they should even care to invest their money. This is the future of marketing and it’s all rooted in emotion; Google and social media have just made it easier for businesses to connect with their audience faster and get feedback in real-time.
Emotional connection with your audience is an extremely powerful marketing tool because money is no object when feelings are at play. Your people will stick by you, understand and appreciate you, and most of all pay you.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1. People will almost always think you’re crazy.
Being in marketing means you’re always going to be thinking out of the box and coming up with innovative ideas to connect with your audience. Having the ability to see and execute what others can’t is a gift that no ‘normal’ person will understand. I’ve embraced my craziness but I always tell people it’s the ‘good crazy’.
2. Failing is ok, even for a marketer.
I would beat myself up whenever I made a mistake or things didn’t go as planned. How could someone in my position make such a stupid call? But as time went on, I realized that it’s all part of the process, as a matter of fact, I’ve dismissed word failure from my vocabulary all together. Marketing is all about understanding what works and what doesn’t and the more we know what will not work, the faster it would be to find out what does. It’s all about collecting data.
3. It could all be too much sometimes.
Marketing is so much activity; You have to be on top of market trends and changes, audience preferences, changes in media consumption, competitor campaigns….then you always have to remain ten steps ahead to pivot and make changes all while trying to be creative. It’s a lot, and when you’re in your zone you get so caught up that you neglect everything else. I had to learn the hard way that running around like that is not for my brain or my body. In order to be my best I have to recharge. It’s hard when you think you have so much to do and you can ‘drop the ball’ at any second but it’s necessary to take it easy once in a while.
4. Trust your gut.
Sometimes you might have all the facts and data but your gut is just pulling you in the opposite direction. Nine times out of ten, your gut is right. I cannot tell you how many times I went against my own intuition and got myself in hot water. Now I don’t make a move unless my intuition is in play. It gives me the confidence and the desire to follow through much easier once I feel aligned and at peace with the decision I’ve made.
5. Patience is key.
Having patience is a work in progress for me. I had to understand that sometimes my audience is not ready yet to make a move and there’s nothing I can do about it except let them know I’m here for them when they’re ready. They may be afraid, not in the right frame of mind or the current market has them so preoccupied that they really cannot listen (think election season or when the pandemic first hit). I used to get frustrated honestly, but I’ve learned in those times building brand awareness is key because I want to be remembered when then the season has passed and they’re ready.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
I definitely read a lot; anything by Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell I’d read in a heartbeat. When it comes to marketing I love The Tipping Point and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Both books really helped me delve deeper into understanding the psychology of marketing and are filled with real-world, practical information with examples that are guaranteed to have me thinking, planning, and strategizing.
The books are extremely informative and really give a unique perspective on how things can really move from the ordinary to the extraordinary when all the right components are in place.
As a professional marketer, 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 honestly feel that men are ‘groomed’ (for lack of a better word) a particular way and therefore they are ‘expected’ to act and react in situations that can be really unhealthy for them and the people around them. Society still expects them to be a certain way which is counterproductive to how the world is progressing. If I could I would create a movement to address this because while women are becoming empowered, men are still being held to the same outdated stereotypes with their worth measured by an old-fashioned value system. I think helping these men unlearn some of the traits they were exposed to can truly help the world become a better, less violent place.
How can our readers follow you online?
Everyone is welcome to join the Carlicomm Community.
Visit my website www.carlimedia.com or
Find me on social media at carlicommunications.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!