The future of marketing, which we’re currently living in right now, has shifted to authenticity and engagement. You have to show your warts and avoid the traditional angle of being manipulative.
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 Mark White.
Mark White is the CEO of Vitaly Connect. He has worn hats as an entrepreneur, financial analyst, marketer, and venture capitalist. After realizing that doctors aren’t taught the valuable marketing, management, and business skills to open their practice and scale their business, he made it his mission is to educate and empower doctors to learn those skills.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
It was time to put up our very first billboard, advertising sexual wellness treatments provided at our anti-aging clinic, HealthGAINS, in Aventura. Our message was clearly wrong, as the billboard read “Want To Have Better Sex? Call Us at…”
Well…Let’s just say that we received a lot of very strange phone calls from men with very weird requests. And we also received a ton of calls from angry parents complaining about their children asking them what sex was as they drove passed the billboard.
We Learned:Your advertising messages must be very clear and thought out. Otherwise, it’s a bust. The billboard company received so many complaints, they had to take it down after just over a week!
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?
I’m not boasting when we say that we were profitable right away. We actually created the very first lead-generation advertising campaign for doctors that focused on Testosterone called Vitality Connect. At the time, we were working with one doctor who was struggling to get through the front door. So we created the campaign for him, and after a few weeks, he called us begging for us to pause the campaign because he was receiving too many leads and didn’t have enough time to treat all his potential new patients.
That’s when it really tipped because we learned that if we could find a way to collaborate with more doctors, they could pay us a handsome fee for leads. So we started creating campaigns for doctors all across the US and were very profitable for 10 years until Google changed everything. That’s when we had to start from scratch and rebuild from the ground up. What we failed to do was create a brand for ourselves and really establish it. That’s when we initiated a huge brand campaign, implemented a full in-house marketing team and opened our very own clinic in South Florida, HealthGAINS.
What I would have done differently: I would have started with building a brand first and then focused on a multi-channel advertising approach instead of relying solely on Google. If I had done that, we would have remained profitable and unaffected by Google’s advertising changes.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
You must constantly be learning and always try to be the first in your field, implement a new tool, etc. It will give you a huge competitive edge over any competitor. This was my mission with a company I created called GAINSWave, which is a branded shockwave medical treatment. Because we started on this right away, we’re the leaders in the industry and have dominated the market.
More advice: Surround yourself with great marketers by attending conferences and events, read as many marketing books as you can, and listen to podcasts. The marketing realm is always evolving, and you must evolve with it.
Avoiding Burnout:Many entrepreneurs place a lot of attention on failed projects, thinking a campaign/company will fail after its first speed bump. Don’t do this. Just find a solution and don’t stress yourself out. What may seem like a huge disaster today, will be insignificant in a few months.
Great advice. 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?
I would not be where I am today without my business partner and wife, Liliana White. Liliana worked at a tech-startup during the early stages of us creating our very first business, and she taught me the ins-and-outs of the marketing world. She’s a very knowledgeable marketer and was mentored by one of the “Sharks” on Columbia’s version of Shark Tank. You can’t do everything by yourself. My wife focuses on making sure our operations are running effectively, and I focus on the business and marketing side to promote our companies.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
So true. Google completely disrupted my business model after 10 years of unattested success. The future of marketing, which we’re currently living in right now, has shifted to authenticity and engagement. You have to show your warts and avoid the traditional angle of being manipulative. In my experience, if you’re able to be truthful, show your warts, and use real stories to engage your audience, you will be successful — especially now with the transparency provided by social media.
Then, it’s imperative that you don’t rely on one source to build your business. For example, 10 years ago, my company only relied on Google, and we received 95% of our business from them. But then things changed. Now, it’s imperative that all businesses use a multi-channel approach with marketing. You need to be able to reach people on the platforms they prefer and do it continuously.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started?
1. Brand Yourself: I’m humble and don’t need to be in the limelight. So, I started building brands for physicians I employed. But after we split ways, they took credit for all of the success and innovations that I had created. So, I was responsible for creating shifts in the market, but because I credited my employees for lack of being in the spotlight, I lost my credibility for those successes while they took them with them.
2. Don’t mix business and friendship: I once started a business with my best friend. We opened an office, bought computers, and started doing well. We spoke one night about an idea I had that would be extremely profitable. The next day, I came into our office and noticed that his computer had been stolen! So I called the police and him as well to tell him we had been robbed. Well… I didn’t hear from him for two weeks, and then I discovered that he had stolen my idea, and started his own business utilizing it.
3. Don’t be too social with your employees: During the early stages of building my first business, I became friends with my employees. We’d go out for drinks, dinner, etc. What I learned is that being friends with your employees clouds your judgment, making it difficult to determine when it’s time to split ways with one of them. Employees are employees. If you get too close, your business will suffer.
4. There’s no magic bullet: I used to think that I could find one person or one tool that would lead to my business’s success. That’s not the case. No one person is going to change your business. No one marketing tool is going to make you millions of dollars.
5. Take it all in stride: As an entrepreneur, you will be faced with many obstacles and failures. When you encounter these, don’t overstress them. Every failure makes you stronger. Just focus on finding a solution. I learned this when Google almost completely ruined my first business. But it actually led to the creation of multiple successful companies.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
- Books: Anything by Dan Kennedy, Russell Brunson, Seth Godin, and Jim Collins. Good to Great is also one of my favorite books.
- Events: Mindshare, Traffic & Conversion Summit, Tony Robbin’s events.
- Podcasts: Sales Influence with Victor Antonio and The Ben Greenfield Podcast
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!