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Kent Lewis, CMO of Deksia

As Chief Marketing Officer at Deksia, Lewis is responsible for the overall strategic direction of marketing. Since 1996, he’s been a thought leader in digital marketing. Since transitioning his career into digital marketing in 1996, Lewis founded or founded or co-founded four agencies and two organizations including SEMpdx and pdxMindShare. He speaks internationally and writes for industry publications like SmartBrief and Leadership Trust. For over two decades, Lewis was an adjunct professor at Portland State University. He’s been named a Top 40 Under 40, Marketer of the Year by AMA Oregon and a Top 100 Digital Marketing Influencer by BuzzSumo.

What's your industry?

Digital marketing

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

After a brief career in public relations, I moved to a marketing role at a sister web development company in 1996, where I learned search engine optimization and began building services for clients that would eventually span 10 agencies. After leaving an agency I co-founded in 2000, I immediately created Anvil Media as a marketing consultancy. After trying my hand at two different in-house marketing jobs and another email marketing agency startup, I elected to commit to Anvil full-time, hiring my first employees in late 2003. I spent the next 20 years building Anvil into a pre-eminent search marketing agency, servicing brands including Intel and Nike. I sold Anvil to Deksia, based in Grand Rapids, in March 2022.

What kind of work does your daily role involve?

In my role as CMO at Deksia, I've spent my time building and optimizing marketing across channels and disciplines. My passion, however, is speaking and writing about timely topics and best practices, ranging from entrepreneurship and leadership to digital marketing trends like Web3 and ChatGPT to educate our clients and the broader community.

What gets you excited about your industry?

For two decades, I've enjoyed identifying trends and technology that are likely to impact digital marketing as well as the public at large. Fifteen years ago, I was a proponent of mobile marketing. A decade ago, it was podcasting. More recently, I've focused on NFTs and the metaverse and this year, AI and ChatGPT. I share my thoughts in presentations and articles.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?

The best advice I've received was from my uncle: "Stay close to the money." When he shared that insight in 1995, I had no idea what he was talking about, relating to my new career in PR. Within a year, I realized that my transition to digital meant I was literally on top of the money, by tracking website visitors, leads and e-commerce revenue. That transformed my career as I moved into agency management and ownership.

What's the most challenging project or situation you've overcome to date?

The most challenging situation I've had to overcome was losing 45% of my agency's revenue within a 45 day period when my 5 largest clients left for different reasons. Rather than lay off half the team, I elected to suspend my pay (for the rest of the year), trim other costs and ramp up sales to fill the gap. It was my leanest year as an owner, but I retained my best talent and clients as a result.

Are you using any AI tools right now to help grow your business or, if not, do you plan to use any this year?

Yes, I've been testing ChatGPT, along with other members of our digital team, to determine how we can our clients can leverage the technology.

Overall, do you see AI as a good thing for business?

Yes, AI has the potential to streamline repetitive tasks, research, copywriting and reporting. I do not see AI like ChatGPT replacing skilled employees immediately, but it will change how we work and improve the quality and quantity of output.

Overall, do you see AI as a threat or an opportunity in business?

Opportunity, I've lived through many "threatening" trends in my nearly 30 year marketing career. While AI is going to transforms parts of business and marketing, a human touch is required for creative thinking, complex problem solving and storytelling.

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

We have to rethink how we work today and tomorrow. Company's with aggressive growth goals and/or profit targets need to understand that flexible work schedules, remote employees and offshoring talent is the future.

Before we finish, where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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