Giving employees more autonomy, while initially appearing to be a disadvantage to companies and organizations, ultimately makes the entire workforce more engaged and effective as well as improves health, well-being, and the economic vitality of the entire nation.
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 Esther Poulsen.
With over twenty-five years’ experience in CRM/Marketing, Information Technology and Management Consulting, CEO of Raare, Esther Poulsen, has dedicated her career to bringing structured, elegant, and pragmatic solutions to clients. As founder and president of Raare Solutions LLC, Esther expresses her professional passion in premier marketing and CRM operational support for clients including BMW of North America, Rolls-Royce Motorcars NA, and Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic Cruises.
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 and what lesson you learned from that?
When working in corporate CRM, I worked on a team that launched a new campaign orchestration and email deployment platform. In the first email we deployed, the salutation was accidentally populated with the segment, and not the name. Rather than “Dear John,” it was “Dear Fencesitter,” or worse, “Dear Defector!” The lesson to be learned is that you ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS send out tests, tests and more tests — especially when working on a new platform. Murphy’s Law is as predictable as Newton’s Law of Gravity!
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?
There was a point in my life that I needed to step away from the intense work of consulting and care for an ill parent. Though it was an easy decision to make for their sake, it was still a tough call for me professionally. However, after their passing several months later, I found myself really re-assessing my entire life and career direction. I quit my consulting gig and found a job in the corporate world, but a year later accepted an opportunity to come back to consulting as a supplier with my own team, rather than an independent consultant. That opportunity led to founding Raare Solutions in its current form, and from that initial contract with three people, we are 22 strong and growing today.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
This summer, I lost my beloved husband and soulmate of 25 years; it was sudden and totally unexpected. In the days before he died, I had worked late several nights. That last evening, completely unaware of what was to pass the following day, I decided to push away the keyboard and sit with him on our porch with our dogs, just talking about nothing in particular and enjoying each other’s company. It was an incredible gift from the universe to have that last night with him. The takeaway to this is that you never know what is going to happen, and ultimately, the time you spend with your loved ones is the time that you remember and treasure all your days. Put the keyboard and the phone down, talk and laugh, take the walk, sleep and snuggle with your favorite person for that extra hour. Those memories energize you for the career and professional life you are building, and believe me, the regret of not taking more of that time is difficult to overcome when the one you love is no longer with you.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
Personalization and gamification!
Customers do not just want ads and offers pushed to them. They appreciate and welcome being given content that tells them about their relationship to the brand and gives offers that are meaningful based on their prior purchase and engagement history. Companies cannot just “spray and pray” sales offers based on inventory and sales goals. Presenting a customer experience that is highly personalized based on demographics, psychographics and customer behavior is critical to push through the noise of dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of brands targeting your customers. This should harmonize with sales objectives, but sales objectives and targets should be based on understanding customers first, then building sales plans accordingly. Give people what they need, expect, and appreciate, and they will continue to buy from you.
In terms of gamification, this extends the personalization concept to create a more connected relationship where a brand offers incentives for further engagement and creates more dynamic communities of brand fans and customers. People love healthy competition, and activities such as browsing online, buying products, sending product reviews, engaging on social media and sharing information all help build customer advocacy and customer loyalty. Brands that do this well, either with one-off events or ongoing customer loyalty campaigns, are the ones that keep customers as enduring and loyal buyers.
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.
The most important to me is the importance of learning financial intelligence. As a business owner, I really wish I had paid more attention to the financial tracking of business growth and revenue in our early years. Every person should take an accounting course and advanced accounting if possible, even when going into trades and not planning to attend college. There are so many ways businesses can weather tough times and maximize strong periods through tight financial discipline that it should be required learning for everyone. Too much economic power gets lost from not understanding how finances work, and it’s a tough lesson to learn years into business building.
The second is to not be hesitant to speak truth to power. Years ago, a campaign that we worked on needed to be stopped as the event it supported filled up. A junior team member thought it should be stopped, but was concerned about speaking up as they were not sure if they were correct. The campaign ended up costing unnecessary money as we honored the extra ticket requests. We had an honest conversation about the authority and agency. Every team member has to speak their mind and “if they see something, say something.” Speaking up respectfully, even in a case where one could be wrong, should never be discouraged, ridiculed, or belittled, and even in an environment where that may be the case, still do not fear speaking out, as growing the tolerance for criticism is a part of maturing as a professional. If an organization continues mistreating you right for doing so, then that organization is not the right place to be.
The third, to flip the second, is that when in a position of authority, to listen to those who speak truth to power. It is just as important to be open to the possibility of being wrong when at the top of a team hierarchy. We as leaders need to be prepared to throw out all assumptions when presented new information. While we depend on our experience and knowledge, it’s critical to not let it calcify our thinking and openness to change. And while we may not agree with those who speak their truth, it’s essential to be respectful of their expression and have a calm and rational conversation.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
In the industry, I love following Women of Email, a vibrant and energetic organization of passionate female marketers. The support network and the insights they provide are outstanding. Professionally, I also enjoy the podcasts of our partners such as DialogTech, the S3 Agency, and Selligent and follow all of our platform partner resources online.
Thank you so much for sharing so much value with us!