I define purpose as you or your company’s reason for existing. My purpose is to motivate people to achieve their purpose.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with 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 or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Mark Kapczynski.
Mark Kapczynski arrived at Gooten in May 2020 to oversee its B2B2C marketing model. He guides all facets of marketing, including branding, content, customer acquisition, and loyalty programs. Kapczynski previously was CMO at Wrench.com, managing director at Kontrol Media Corp, and held leadership positions at Envestnet Yodlee, Experian, and Microsoft. He was founder and CEO of MESoft, a venture-backed startup in the entertainment industry that delivered digital workflow software products, as well as co-founder and CEO of Digital Genesis, an ecommerce hosting platform. He holds 15 patents and studied film and TV at UCLA.
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?
I was working at Microsoft as a young marketer and I was sent to Mexico City to help launch some software products in that market. I had to deliver an hour-long presentation to 500+ people about our new product line. Since I was in Mexico, I translated my presentation into Spanish and struggled my way through the whole deck in the best high school Spanish that I could muster. I taught myself a bunch of very technical terms in Spanish — like clustering. After my presentation, the country manager came up and thanked me for giving the presentation, and then he asked me why I delivered it in Spanish. I suppose I looked shocked when he asked: “You do know that everyone here speaks English?” Lesson definitely learned: know your audience. That experience has stayed with me to this day. You have to know the audience for your presentation, live demo, ads, content, etc. It makes things a lot easier!
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?
The tipping point for me was when I shifted out of working in the entertainment industry and went to work for Experian — completely opposite ends of the spectrum of businesses as you can imagine. When I joined Experian, I knew nothing about the company, the data, the customer base, the use cases, the ecosystem. I pretty much knew nothing. However, I had an amazing boss who recognized the need to drive innovative thoughts into a business that had been operating the same way for years. My boss kept telling me that he had hundreds of people that knew about consumer credit and he needed me to be different and figure out where we go next. That opportunity to learn a new business and a whole new set of consumer needs was motivating and brought out a passion for data that I did not know that I had inside of me. If I had not taken on a completely different role in an industry I had no experience in, I never would have found my passion and seen my career move to a new level.
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?
I feel really lucky in life that I have had many mentors throughout my college and business career. The person that stands out the most, that I truly listened to and have attempted to apply the lessons that I learned from him, is Mike Dean, my former boss and longtime friend from Experian. Mike truly was a role model. We had hundreds of employees on our team and Mike knew every one of their names. He was able to look at a problem, understand the data, and help the team drive to the ideal outcome or solution. Mike would not just give you the answer, no matter how bad you wanted it. Instead, he invested his time to help you figure out the answer. Mike taught me how to tell a story around a set of data so that the audience would understand the context. He also showed me how to focus on the more important items and not get buried in some side less relevant details. Most important, he showed me how to treat a team, and that did not end with his direct reports. Mike, if you are reading this, thank you for all that you have taught me.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
The best two pieces of advice are these: First, find a role/company/executive team that you really enjoy, even if the pay is less or the title isn’t what you desire. Most people get it in their heads that they have to have a certain title or a certain base salary, but if you enjoy your work, titles and salary should not matter. So focus on finding the right job, not the one that just pays the most. The second piece of advice is to find within yourself something that you do not know and take it on, this is especially true if you are in marketing leadership. Don’t get stuck doing just the things you know how to do. Force yourself to learn new things all the time. Personally, I’m like a sponge and love learning new tools, techniques and strategies. If you do the work and don’t just farm it out, it will be really rewarding and motivating.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
I completely agree with the notion that marketing lately has been too salesly. Customers do not want to be sold to — they want to partner with a vendor or brand. I think the key to marketing going forward is helping to show customers how they partner with your business. And this cannot be in name only. How many companies have you seen that call their customer’s partners, but how they determine partners is based only on how much money they are spending with you. Partnering has to be a two-way street and brands need to ensure that their partners benefit, too. The future of marketing is in partnering with your customers, which requires the underlying data to understand who your customers are so that your best profile them at scale. Not everyone needs to be your customer. Marketing teams need to use data and AI to understand the key trends items between brands and customers, and then to automate the engagement. To me, this is personalization through the full lifecycle with the customer at scale. AI and automation will help a marketer deliver one-to-one marketing to each and every customer.
What 5 things do you wish someone told you before you started?
1. What the true CAC was for customer acquisition. I was operating under some false assumptions of CAC costs. I had felt that the CAC was off, so as part of planning media spend, I was struggling to figure out how to best budget for what we could achieve on the acquisition front. I had to dive deep into the BI tools to figure out our CAC and re-adjust the paid media budget.
2. Which traffic metrics really matter. This is similar to the issue above but involves a different data source that a lot of people misunderstand. The company had commingled traffic metrics together, so it was hard to get an accurate assessment of what was going on the website. I had to split out the traffic sources and then was able to understand the true activity.
3. How they got their pricing model. One company I worked for had not market-tested their pricing, and as I came on board and began testing the pricing level and model with prospects, I quickly realized what the company thought their pricing should be was more wishful thinking than reality. My team had to aggregate real market research and work with the executive, product and sales teams to re-adjust expectations.
4. How well they know their customers. Another company that I worked with was going to market with a data product but had not done any research on the market fit and had no idea who their customer was or who it could be. They were already in the market trying to sell their product and not being successful. They thought marketing was the issue, but the problem was that they had not discovered their customer and built a use case for their offering.
5. That our solution was already live. I was working at Microsoft and we were on stage at a conference with a business partner showing some new ecommerce supply chain functionality that we had built. In the demo, we place an order for 100 laptops and the solution shows how the order gets routed to the parts companies to enable JIT assembly. Our team thought we were just using a demo server, when in fact we were using a live system and literally placed an order for 100 new laptops. I was on stage doing the demo with our client and my phone started blowing up. Not my best moment, but we did prove the system worked.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
I love learning things that I do not know much about. Here at Gooten, I came with a strong marketing and data background, but I knew very little about manufacturing. I have been really fascinated to learn about the manufacturing of apparel and home goods and supply chains that enable this work. I have been reading content from sites about the fashion industry including Vogue Business, Business of Fashion, TexIntel, and WWD, as well as manufacturing content sites such as Industry Week, Manufacturing Tomorrow, and Engineering.com. For marketing, I read content from AdExchange, the IAB, CMO Council, and a variety of market research from eMarketer and Forrester. I also love getting my daily email from Product Hunt to learn about new products and services. And the secret sauce item that I use is lunchclub.ai, check it out.
One more question! 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 love this notion. I am always speaking about the need for people to have a personal purpose and every business should highlight their purpose as well. I define purpose as you or your company’s reason for existing. My purpose is to motivate people to achieve their purpose. The personal movement that I would like to see come to life the most is to help the youth of today to think about and find their purpose, and then execute. On the business front, I have become passionate about the sustainability of apparel production. Less than 1% of the fashion industry actively uses “on-demand” manufacturing techniques across their clothing lines. I would like to see a movement to move the fashion industry to adopt on-demand manufacturing to at least 2% of all of their manufacturing by the year 2022. Sustainability in fashion will have a massive positive impact on our planet and reshape the industry economics to support more people.
Thank you for sharing so many valuable insights with us!