Asa part of our series about “Marketing Strategies From The Top” I had the pleasure of interviewing Holly Rollins. Holly is the president of 10xdigital, a digital marketing agency that specializes in marketing strategy, SEO, pay-per-click advertising, PR/backlinks and more. She has more than twenty years of experience in marketing, public relations, digital marketing and content marketing. She has been named a Top Global Content Marketer by the Content Marketing Institute (2013–2018) and when she is not working, she enjoys traveling, painting and her two Greyhound pups.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, or readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had owned a traditional marketing company for eight years and outsourced digital marketing but wasn’t satisfied with the quality and turnaround time of the work. I also knew that my company and other agencies would soon become dinosaurs if we didn’t specialize in digital marketing — from web site development and content marketing to PPC services. I also went to a seminar where Joe Pulizzi (the godfather of content marketing) was speaking –early in his evangelism — and that further inspired me to investigate buying a digital marketing agency. So six years ago, shortly after that seminar, I bought a digital marketing agency out of Tampa, Fla. to round out our full-service marketing offering.
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 in the process of purchasing the digital marketing company, I boasted that we knew so much about content marketing and digital marketing. But I quickly learned how much I didn’t know at the time and now feel sheepish about crowing about our expertise early on.
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?
Before 2010, 10x was successful — mostly with non-profit marketing and PR business. So, we almost started over as we re-made ourselves from the recession and from buying the digital agency right after the recession began. The agency we bought only believed in short or month-to-month contracts, but we knew from our experience that long-term service and relationship-building was key to long-term PARTNERSHIPS. Once we started shoring up some carryover short-run contracts and signing up longer-term contracts with new business, we saw a huge difference in the bottom line.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
10x digital has three stand-out features:
1) We focus on relationships with clients as partners;
2) We are uber responsive;
3) We believe we are one of only 10 organic, US-based link-builders where we achieve articles, quotes and exposure for our clients with high domain authority backlinks.
Many of our competitors have only automated systems. These other companies treat you as a ‘number,’ and your project or account is inserted into rote automated systems, without customization and without continual management and oversight. So, the three features above (among others) differentiate us from the hundreds, if not thousands of digital agencies out there.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have added influencer marketing to our suite of services in the past two years, which we see complementing not only social media but many of our clients’ marketing, branding and overall image efforts — and certainly their bottom line.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Put the smartphone down or at least set limits on social media. Also, take much needed long weekend vacations throughout the year!
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? Can you share a story about that?
Richard Kadzis, VP of Communications at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, was one of my first bosses out of college. He believed in me (when I was ‘green’ with little or no experience). He took a chance on me when I interviewed with him, although he said there was no opening available. So, I asked to create an advertising position from scratch, and after much persistence, he hired me. He then mentored me in writing, editing and on being an overall editor/publisher for the organization’s business publication. When I wanted to go back to school to get my master’s degree in journalism, he encouraged me. I learned so much from him that I would have never learned in college.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?
Although I was young, I was really blown away with Apple’s launch of the Macintosh computer at the 1984 Super Bowl. It wasn’t just an ad; it was major event when there were only a handful of TV channels. It was a take-off of the George Orwell book 1984, filmed mostly in black and white with the heroine being in color and breaking the monotony of the drab-clothed, copycat men staring at ‘their leader’ on a big screen. The fit lady in colorful running shorts runs in and swings a mallet toward the screen, which then announces the Macintosh, showing that it was different and ushering in a new era of individuality and the future of computing. The commercial was groundbreaking and accurately heralded a high-quality, truly innovative product that did — and continues to — leave a big mark in history.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
A successful campaign should address these questions:
- What pain point does the messaging solve?
- Does the message stand apart from competitors’ campaign(s)?
- Does the campaign use the right platforms or media for the right targets?
- Have the campaign been tested with the target audience; is the message clear?
- Is it memorable?
- Does it work within the client’s budget?
- Are there secondary (or philanthropic) themes to better build the brand/image?
- Will the campaign be analyzed with metrics during and after the media schedule?
We worked with a global company to target middle school students and their parents who use coupons. This was a supplemental campaign to our main project with them with a secondary size dollar amount to work with. Since we didn’t have a large budget, we used Facebook with targeted ads, built around a Kid Kindness campaign and “Kid Kindness Day.”
Children, their parents and schools were encouraged to enter based on their ideas for acts of kindness, and the winners were given funding to fulfill the acts of kindness. This type of campaign checked a lot of the boxes (including the philanthropic message) and was successfully created on a shoestring budget — with great results.
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
With AI becoming more prevalent and people cocooning more, we see online communication and ecommerce expanding. As marketers, we will have to continually hone our digital craft to slice through the increasing clutter of messages and changing algorithms and technology.
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.
- Invest in your people and integrate team building into your business plan.
- Most professionals don’t have all the answers. Listen to podcasts so you know as much about your industry and its changing trends.
- Get legal counsel and advice from the beginning for boilerplate items such as contracts and employee agreements. Any time you do business with an outside party and sign their contract, have it reviewed by the proper attorney.
- Don’t wear all the hats of your business. Do a SWOT of yourself and outsource the tasks and roles you aren’t good at.
- An extension of #4 above: hire an accountant or have a bookkeeper on staff.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?
I am a huge fan of conference call software such as Zoom, as well as professional proposal software and accounting software such as Xero.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skils?
I regularly read and listen to Search Engine Journal, Neil Patel and Content Marketing Institute blogs and podcasts.
Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?
My dad was my hero. He had a tough childhood and was a war veteran. But he overcame all of that emotional sabotage and hard scrabble beginning to become a self-employed, loving and giving adult. He always had very sage, if not prescient, advice — even on topics he didn’t know well.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would create a mechanism or organization to fund many scholarships for low-income honor students in the Appalachians.
I’m originally from Western North Carolina and while I had opportunities and loving, supportive parents, many people in that region do not. They don’t have the resources to go to college or don’t have the home support to encourage them to go to college or a technical school. I would love to help make that more attainable.
10x digital funds two scholarships totaling $4000 annually, and each year we plan to increase that amount. Future digital marketers can apply here: https://www.10xdigitalinc.com/digital-marketing-scholarship/
How can our readers follow you online?
10x digital blog: https://www.10xdigitalinc.com/blog/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.