Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO Mavens & Moguls
What's your industry?
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a global business and be a Fortune 500 CEO. When I was a student I looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. I started Mavens & Moguls after beginning my career on Wall Street in the 80s and having a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and then working at 3 different startups as the head of marketing all 3 had positive exits. I took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose.
What kind of work does your daily role involve?
Mavens & Moguls is a virtual marketing department for organizations that want access to great talent on an as needed outsourced basis. We work with early stage VC-backed startups, Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations and mid-emerging market firms looking for help with their communications, research, PR, branding or strategy as a seamless extension of their team. We are storytellers and content creators who help our clients in compelling ways by finding the right words and pictures to create interest for their products and services. Creating content is a great way to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and ultimately attract more attention/clients/customers.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Marketing is a career that allows me to use both sides of my brain, explore a more creative path and touches so many areas I find interesting. A professor of mine used to say “marketing is everything and everything is marketing” and I agree. It is a fun area with so many possibilities for growth, innovation and creativity so I enjoy it a lot and never get bored. It offers analytic rigor, strategy, research, using words and pictures to tell stories, there are so many areas to explore and tech tools to leverage to keep it fresh and exciting.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
A mentor once told me that to stay sane and be successful “me time” is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance, respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the most important act I can do to care for myself because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either so I have learned to:
Give myself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, delegating more work or just turning off your phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting yourself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts you can give yourself. It is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more.
Disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Even meeting for virtual coffee or drinks can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
I started my career in finance on Wall Street in the 80s but I did not love the endless analytical work. Being a Financial Analyst in investment banking paid well but the hours and lifestyle did not leave time for anything else so I decided to go back to school for my MBA which allowed me to rebrand myself, try a new area as a summer intern in marketing, gain new skills and build my network and my confidence. For me getting an MBA was critical for finding work I enjoyed and making the transition smoothly. I took marketing classes and got experience on and off campus to help me build a resume in the new field which gave me credibility as a marketer. I positioned myself as being strong analytically which would help me be a better marketer using data to make decisions. I think it is possible to rebrand yourself if you are strategic about the process. It is important to have a story to explain your transition and show confidence in your decision not to be defensive about it. I realized the skills and activities I liked best in my finance career were the ones that would make me a better marketer. Once I shared that perspective the recruiters understood my interest and offered me jobs. I have loved the work and have been in marketing ever since, first going in house at large Fortune 500 firms like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola then heading up marketing at 3 successful startups and now as an entrepreneur who started a global branding and digital marketing company 20 years ago.
I know having an MBA helped my resume stand out to get interviews and gave me credibility as an entrepreneur. I am so much happier in a career that allows me to use both sides of my brain, explore a more creative path and use my business acumen in all sizes and types of businesses from the very largest public companies to venture-backed startups and now running my own firm. If you are not excited by your job, I am a big fan of finding ways to bridge to another track to find something you truly enjoy spending time doing that shares your talents and gifts.
In the current climate especially, many CEOs are looking for ways to cut costs, with marketing budgets usually one of the budgets to be cut. Is that wise?
It is better during downturns like the pandemic for budgets to be redirected to social media and website/SEO improvements away from in-person events and direct marketing efforts to get as much bang for the buck as possible and stand out from your competitors who8 may cut their marketing. The new normal will include leveraging Content Marketing, Influencers, Video, PPC, podcasts, and webinars as well. My clients in industries that once relied on the event calendar as the core of their planned marketing activity have taken a giant digital leap forward since the pandemic began and online content-led alternatives have filled the gap. Budgets that were formerly assigned to event exhibition costs have been redirected to content and in-bound marketing, SEO, digital PR and paid programs. Events will no longer be about volume of attendees, people have become pickier about how they choose to spend their time so a more targeted approach will be essential to catch key influencers. It'll no longer be about the quantity of attendees to an event but rather the quality of those who attend and ensuring you work with the best contacts that are well aligned to your brand to form lasting brand relationships.
For people thinking of starting businesses in 2023, would you say it's still possible to build a big business with little or no marketing budget?
Yes, social media is cost efficient and you do not exist today if you cannot be found online. As a business you must have a website and I’d argue businesses always need SEO because the whole point of having a web site is to make it easy for customers to find you. Being invisible online is a terrible strategy so making sure your site is keyword rich, mobile friendly, loads quickly and produces meaningful content today is the price of entry. That also happens to be a great foundation for effective SEO. Your home page is the most important to hook in prospective clients and customers if it does not load quickly or they do not see something that grabs their attention the opportunity will be lost. It must include enough of your value proposition to start the conversation so they will click further to learn more about your product or service. The goal is to make the navigation intuitive and easy so they follow the breadcrumbs to get their questions answered or problems solved. When your brand foundation its strong the metrics show that you shorten the sales cycle and people spend more time on your site. It's not about the size of your budget today.
Can you share one or two of your favorite free marketing strategies that a business owner in your industry can use.
I am a big fan of Content Marketing which is a great way to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients. There are a lot of ways to repurpose content by turning a series of articles/blog postings/newsletters into a book/e–books then turning every piece of content into a tweet and share links to the content on all your social media platforms. Turn articles into infographics and video your talks to share over social media. Once you have a piece you are happy with get as much mileage out of it as possible. There are so many media outlets today looking for fresh content so find creative ways to leverage your thought leadership pieces so that your audience finds you easily. Even though you may think your content is already out there chances are no one is sick of reading it yet trust me.
In my experience, business owners need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found. It adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with know people in common. LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or rolodex, it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. You do not need to blog or be on all social media platforms but make sure you are active on the ones where you are. If your customers do not use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find you then you do not need to make them a priority. For professional service businesses like mine, LinkedIn matters the most.
With LinkedIn, you don't have to wait for a networking event to make meaningful business connections. You get one chance to make a great first impression with recruiters/employers so make sure every section of your LinkedIn profile is complete, with no blank spaces or gaps. Include a professional head shot and powerful headline followed by a summary with highlights of your personal brand, what you do well and how you can benefit potential clients or employers. Keep this section brief and easy to skim for best results. Keywords are a great way to help professionals and recruiters in your industry find your profile and strategic keywords in your profile give you an advantage in networking too.
To present yourself as a thought leader in your industry post interesting and educational content by sharing a great article you've read recently or if you truly want to make valuable connections in your industry, you should be crafting your own articles on LinkedIn. This does not require big budgets but it does take time. It is a smart investment to get this right.