Ilene believes in marketing - but she also believes marketing has a job to do. Her mission is to make sure marketing earns its keep. She does this by helping business owners invest only where marketing will work best for their business.
After 16 years at a global ad agency working on enterprise brands, she's spent the past 9 years working with small and mid market business owners, helping them spend wisely by having a strategy before they hire outside resources.
White Space Marketing Group is a marketing strategy consultancy, serving mid market and small business leaders invest in marketing where it will work best for their business.
In this episode
Instead of investing in the shiny new thing, Ilene Rosenthal of White Space Marketing Group recommends exploring what valuable marketing assets you already have lying around your business. In this week’s Best Kept Secret podcast, Ilene shares the story of how a client saved tens of thousands of dollars by doing an inventory of marketing assets they already paid for and repurposing those in a highly successful reach out campaign.
CEOs need to evaluate their marketing activities the same way they evaluate all elements of their business by focusing on what’s important, testing different options, and stopping spray and pray marketing. You can’t rely on outsourced resources to set your marketing roadmap when you wouldn’t do that in any other area of your business.
Ilene shares her 3 steps you need to take to get the most out of your marketing efforts and spend. She has a special gift for you if listen to the end.
A glimpse of what you'll hear
02:09 CEOs are strategic about everything except marketing
04:23 What CEOs have to do to get on top of their marketing
05:22 When hiring junior marketing staff is a mistake
07:45 Marketing tactics won't work if strategy and objectives aren't set
10:04 Look at what you already own before paying for the shiny new things
16:15 Importance of being channel agnostic
20:46 Learn about Ilene. Email Ilene.
Welcome to the Best Kept Secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a b2b service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale. to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2b services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the co founder and CEO of centricity, Jay Kingley.
Jay Kingley 0:43
I'm Jay Kingley, co founder and CEO of centricity. Welcome to another episode of our Best Kept Secret Podcast, where I am thrilled to welcome Ilene Rosenthal, founder and CEO of White Space Marketing. White Space is a marketing strategy consultancy, that helps mid market and small business leaders invest in marketing world will love where it will work best for their business. And I lean is based in the New York City area. Welcome, Ilene.
Ilene Rosenthal 1:13
Thanks, Jay. I feel like I'm the longest surviving Centricity member. And I'm here to tell all the secrets
Jay Kingley 1:22
Indeed you might be so one of the things that I've always found interesting is marketing obviously, is such a critical function for any business, it directly correlates to being able to bring in the revenue, which is the lifeblood of any company. And yet, so many businesses struggle to understand how to get it done. So I'd like to tap into your expertise. Share with us what you think they're missing when it comes to marketing.
Ilene Rosenthal 1:53
Jay, it's so funny, I'm the mother of two kids, you know, and like when my second daughter was born, I thought, Oh, this is just going to be just like the first one. But of course, it's not. Because each experience we have in our lives and our business lives and our personal lives, has a different set of variables that come along with it. CEOs will be very pointed and strategic, and get lots of advice and lots of perspective on every aspect of their business, their products, their services, how they set up their offerings, how they get new customers, but they seem to separate marketing from the pile. And what I would say is that many CEOs I work with, think that marketing is a separate thing. It's a separate thing that it sits in a basket all by itself. And it needs to be treated differently by them than all the other things that they pay attention to in more in their business. So they are driving their product strategy. They're driving their service strategy. They're driving sales conversations even. But they don't necessarily think it's their job to really anchor their marketing in in the rest of their business in the rest of their business strategies.
Jay Kingley 3:17
Interesting. So marketing is, despite its importance, a bit of a stepchild, as are there's a mental blockage somewhere and how people are thinking about this.
Ilene Rosenthal 3:27
You could say that. And you could say that it's a stepchild, I think it is very important. It's almost like Cinderella, right? It's up in the attic. Somebody else is figuring out sort of how that whole thing is going to go. And I think very often they rely on outside resources. This is fun, right? Because I am an outside resource, but they will rely heavily on outside outside, sorry, out sourced resources to actually set the roadmap for them. I have an interesting story. A recent member of the Strategy Lab that we run, said I kept bringing people in, I brought him in a coach, I brought an SEO company, I brought in a branding expert. And all these people asked me the same set of questions that I realized I had not answered myself.
Jay Kingley 4:20
Interesting. So Ilene, what is it that a CEO of a business should be doing when it comes to thinking about marketing and structuring their entire marketing effort?
Ilene Rosenthal 4:34
Well, some of the things Jay are very obvious and many CEOs are doing these kinds of things, like looking at the data, looking at past performance, seeing what's worked seeing what hasn't worked. The problem is a CEO that runs let's say, a software consulting company or runs an E-comm design company or runs a healthcare database company. They're experts in their field, and it's a little bit like when I used to work in in advertising, and Breyers Ice Cream was a big client of mine. And everybody in the world thought they knew everything there was to know about ice cream. But in fact, they don't. They don't know that when you ship ice cream across the Rocky Mountains, it explodes in the truck, you know. So CEOs don't know everything about marketing, nor should they. And typically, because marketing, I think, to some feels like a soft skill, which I would argue it is not. they'll hire mid level junior people with limited experience to actually make very important decisions like what to spend their money on. And it would be like asking my 24 year old how, where I shouldn't invest in my retirement fund, you know, and I say that with great love, because I've heard this from CEOs themselves, or they wake up with it one day, and they realize, actually, the data isn't showing good ROI for my marketing spend. And the mid level people I have in place, don't really know why don't really know why.
Jay Kingley 6:14
So how is it that they get smarter about this critical topic?
Ilene Rosenthal 6:19
I would say that marketing decisions are actually easier than many CEOs think. Because you have to use the same disciplines that you use in making decisions about your own company. Right, you have to focus on the most important things, you have to focus on the things that have yielded results in the past, you have to test. Nobody wants to test and marketing because it feels like you're spending money or wasting money. But you would test your product to see if it works in the marketplace, right? You would run demos and different kinds of tests with different kinds of audiences. If you're creating a piece of software, right, you might give it away for free to some of your, you know, good customers just to see how it works in the marketplace. Same with marketing, you do have to test certain things, but you don't have to what we call spray and pray, you don't have to boil the ocean, I have a couple of these, you have to decide what is the most important thing? What is the most important job I want marketing to do for me in the next 12 to 18 months? And what are the steps that I need to get there? And what are the questions I have not answered about those very things?
Jay Kingley 7:36
Now, Ilene, if an executive of a CEO is able to reframe how they're thinking about marketing along the lines that you are talking about, what benefits tangible and otherwise, are they likely to see in their business?
Ilene Rosenthal 7:54
Well, every CEO will tell you, the result of my marketing needs to be the revenue that I'm wishing and hoping it will bring along with it. But if the foundations are not in place, then marketing tactics will not work. So here's an example. If you decide on business, and I want to actually expand into a new sector, and I'm going to send my marketing message out into the world, for that specific sector, that's a good thing you've focused and you drive your your processes to drive them, for example, to your website. But your website does not have ample engagement elements on it, that help people raise their hand to say, help me if your website and I see this every day is a long set of words. It's a white paper filled with information so that the visitor doesn't actually know the one two or three things we want them to do when they get there. You can spend tons of money on paid search that will drive tons of traffic to your site. But the foundation of your house, you know, there's no food in the fridge, you know, you can't make dinner.
Jay Kingley 9:07
Do you have any examples of situations or anecdotes that would illustrate the power of what you're talking about?
Ilene Rosenthal 9:16
Sure. So the end of last year, I was invited to come in as a fractional CMO for a $10 million company. I loved this company right away, there was lots of kinship and relationship building, I could just tell that it was a ripe a ripe situation, and they really could do a lot. So I come in, I do my strategy thing for two months. And it occurs to me that they are already spending money on for example, a paid channel like they're putting thousands of dollars every month into paid search against a keyword that's going to drive to a website. Doesn't sound crazy, but they are not seeing the results that they want. So I can't fix this in eight weeks, right? I can't fix everything that's wrong on the website that needs to be done that we're doing today. But I did understand the deep sense of urgency, this company was growing for years until 2020. And they hit an obstacle that many companies have hit. And they wanted this thing to work fast. So Jay, I'd like to say, if you can look at what you already own, and use it before you pay for something you don't own yet, that's a good idea, right? There are clothes in my closet that I haven't worn for a year and a half in the pandemic, before I go out and buy new ones, I'm going to see what's available for me now. And this company, it occurred to me, because you can't see the label, if you're inside the jar, it occurred to me that this company had a 12,000 person email list, not that they had to pay for it, they owned it 12,000 records, once we cleaned it, it was really only 9000 Records. So before you go out and revamp your content and revamp your website, and rework your branding, which could take months, what if you just spoke to the people you already have. So what I did in January, was we just set up an email campaign that drove them to a video and there was a whole funnel thing attached to it, of course. But before we could even spend the time and energy to build new things, we worked with what they had, I'm startled at how many companies forget what's right under their nose, forget what they have right in front of them, because we're all looking for the new and shiny thing. We're all hearing from competitors from LinkedIn, from the news, all the things we should be doing, and it it pivots us away from what we already have in our coffers.
Jay Kingley 12:03
But I also think as you have talked about when you don't have that clarity around purpose, and when you don't have a, at least a clear destination, that you can plot a journey, then you're not going to see the assets that you've had and ,you know, are right there ready to use, because you're not looking for it. In fact, you could argue that you're not even focused or your eyes are totally out of focus, it's hard to see anything when you do that. So you've made a very compelling, I think argument for how to rethink your marketing. So if you had a company that says great, I'm all about doing this, what would be the steps that that CEO would need to take to put this into place?
Ilene Rosenthal 12:49
First thing I would do is I would look at what I already know, and look at what I already own, and see if there isn't a short term fix that I can do that I can implement, whether it's an email campaign, or even paid advertising, but if there's something I can do that utilizes the things I've already paid for, that would be number one. Number two is, I believe, wholeheartedly Jay, in strategy. Now strategy can sound like wallpapers, some people like blah, blah, what does it mean, it's a big black binder that sits on a shelf, you know, from one of the big consulting companies, nobody wants that. But if I can actually determine where I want to spend my money on my company growth and target my marketing, only at that for a very short time. It's remarkable to me, it's like you're asking them to choose between their two children, like you don't have $5 million in marketing spend. So we need to spend it well against one particular audience. It's very painful, because it's well, but what about them? What about those people will come your way, but you can't reach everybody, really all the time. And I think that the the merit of having a strategy is, it really is a roadmap that you as a CEO establish, you say to your team, first, everybody, first we are going to do this thing, and nothing else. But then we're going to use the revenue we generate from this thing, even if it's modest. And then we're going to do the next thing. And then because we see these changes that we've set against our KPIs, because we've seen things change in the market, in our business, then we can do thing number three. So just knowing what's ahead and what you should do first and what you should do next. Sounds like the most obvious thing ever, but it's not. It's not it's hard to make those decisions.
Jay Kingley 14:57
Well, I will just echo the importance of strategy. earlier in my career, I started post business school as a strategy consultant. And one of the things that I was taught in terms of how to explain it, because strategy and tactics actually are military terms that have entered the business lexicon and strategy is really what do you do before you engage the enemy? Do you want to fight from the high ground? Do you want to fight at night? Do you want to fight in an open field? Do you want to fight in the forest? That is your strategy. tactics are what you're doing once you've engaged the enemy. So you you're strategically deciding from marketing sense, who you're targeting, what your message is, how you're going to position yourself, relative to competitors, how you're going to discuss how you meet customer needs. Now the tactics, okay, I choose a certain campaign, I look at the data, I do A B testing. But all of those great tactics, which so many people spend way too much time on, won't get you anywhere, if you never bothered to set a strategy to start.
Ilene Rosenthal 16:06
So here is I'm totally going to steal that. That's brilliant. And I actually heard a similar analogy to the military from a client in the education field, it's, it's beautiful. I have to just say that, that I see my clients spending a lot of money across a lot of things, and not much gets done. And they really wonder about it. And so when they see the results, and the results are tepid, they're like, throw that out, and I'm going to find somebody else. So I think it is really important if I had one thing to say to CEOs, about getting marketing help from anywhere, is find someone Jay who is channel agnostic. And it sounds like a buzzword. But I know dozens and dozens of really talented SEO folks, PPC folks, branding folks, I've met a million of them in Centricity. And you know, we, some of them I've hired, some of them have hired me, if you can find somebody who is channel agnostic, who isn't looking ahead at a solution that can only be delivered by a particular channel, by a paid search, or by a branding revamp or even messaging, you know, I'm a big fan of messaging. It has to start at the top, it has to start with the strategy because you could find out that this particular channel is actually not the right channel for your business. So let me see if I can think of a good example of that. I always make fun of the example of a locksmith, right, a locksmith, the only channel a locksmith should spend all of his money and is in paid search because we're all standing at our door with a broken key going Holy moly, like searching for the local locksmith, right. But in some businesses. If I drive somebody to my website through paid search, do I think the $6,000 a month I'm paying a month on paid search is going to be able to return the investment in a short period of time? No, especially if it's a new user who doesn't know anything about you who still consideration phase, you know, the funnel. They're not very yet. So I really think a strategy helps a CEO and her team say where in the sales funnel, are we focusing? Not every not every business is going to meet their growth objectives by pulling in new people at the top of the funnel, some of them are going to pull in people who are already in the consideration phase. And somehow depending on the business, they'll know that, let's say they respond to a piece of software that you name and a piece of content. For example, some companies say you know what, the funnel is full. My content is fabulous. It is all about my sales team. And guess what? We don't have a sales process. I mean, I have been in this situation many times with multimillion dollar companies, even in the small and midsize space that are the marketing is working beautifully. And then that the only thing that sales people can pay attention to what's actually in the pipeline that moment and there's no work in the pre pipeline. What about the lead who came in you had a conversation with where didn't feel any what's happening with those. So, you know, channel agnostic person can say, Where is the revenue, where in the funnel, and what are the right channels to get there?
Jay Kingley 19:52
Well, you know, Ilene, in the military, you have your colonels and you have your generals in there about the strategy and then you've got your privates And your sergeants and your lieutenants in there about the tactics. And you are one of the best marketing generals that I have come across in a long time. When we come back, we're going to spend a few minutes Eileen, learning more about you.
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Jay Kingley 21:16
Welcome back, let's find out Ilene a little bit more about you and White Space Marketing. Let me start by asking you, what are those critical pain points and issues that you seem to focus on when you're working with your clients?
Ilene Rosenthal 21:37
It's gonna sound so simple Jay, I just tried to identify the real problem. Like the problem sounds like it's lead generation, that's actually not the problem. That's actually could be the solution. But is the real problem that you've been spending money on channels that aren't working for you that aren't the best channels for your business? Or are you investing in a big sales team that's sitting around waiting for the leads to come in, and they're relying on outbound so so my view is, in addition to being channel agnostic, I'm trying to find the problem, because I live for focus. I think marketing has to earn its keep, it has to pay for its bed at night. And to do that you have to focus on exactly what you want it to do and set the goals and put the plan in place.
Jay Kingley 22:31
You know, reminds me of when you're in college, you spend all your time solving problems, right? Exams are just problems, papers, you're addressing problems, you get into the real world. And you learn very quickly, that 80% of the difficulty is figuring out what problem you should be solving. The easy part is once you know that, okay, now I know what I need to do. So that I love it. That is an absolutely critical skill.
So Ilene, I have to ask, right, what makes you great at what you do?
Ilene Rosenthal 23:06
Well, Jay, I've been around for a while. That's helped.
Jay Kingley 23:10
You could have fooled me
Ilene Rosenthal 23:12
You're sweet. There's the wisdom of experience. There is something I'll tell you a story about whitespace. Every single business advisor that I've had in the 10 years that we've been running whitespace has advised me to go vertical. I mean, you have all that healthcare experience, focus on health care. I mean, you did all that financial services stuff, do that. How about all that work you did in the construction business? Do that. And Jay, I just wouldn't do I wouldn't do it. Now. Maybe I could have been a bigger company. Maybe I could be you know, the third largest healthcare marketing company, whatever. The thing I love is the cross pollination of the solutions. That is the magic. I mean, I sit with clients, and I'll say to them, it's surprising, I'll say in this company, I'm talking to a business services company, and I'm explaining to them something I did for an econ design company. And they're blown away. It doesn't matter that it wasn't another company just like that. It's a new idea in their space. It actually helps them be distinctive. I remember when I walked into, I think it was a an AT&T meeting. When I was at y&r and I had spent years in packaged goods. I was the packaged goods Queen craft jello, the whole thing. And I walked in and they had a problem. And I gave them an idea that was so packaged goods obvious. They thought I was a genius. They were like, wow.
Jay Kingley 24:50
When you can connect dots like that is it's a new idea to your client, but it's actually been vetted. So the risk is much lower than that pie in the sky. Oh, I just had a thought. And I think that's a very rare but incredibly valuable skill to have. So last question Ilene for you is, and I encourage everyone to go to LinkedIn connect with you. You're a prolific poster, you put out absolutely terrific content. So connect with Ilene. And when you do that, they can look at your profile, and they can see what a great career that you have. But I want to know, what are the things whether it be in your personal life or professional life, those little decisions are sometimes little decisions, sometimes big decisions that cause you to take the path that you've taken to end up exactly where you are.
Ilene Rosenthal 25:46
Three things Jay. First, I'm the oldest of four. So I'm very bossy. It's just my DNA. I'm always in charge. It's just you know, I'm just a mama bear. And it's just who I am. Number two, nothing succeeds like success. And when I moved from big enterprise, AT&T, J&J, Y&R, and I went to work for a small company, and I basically showed up at this $7 million company and said, like, three smart things, and their business grew by 118%, in 18 months. I thought, this is like, this is like, the best wine. You know, it's just it was so exciting for me to be able to make that contribution. And that's what led me to, to going out on my own 10 years ago.
Jay Kingley 26:36
Fabulous. Alright Ilene, you are, as I said earlier, and amazing marketing General, someone who really gets the strategy, you can really get companies on the right track. I'm sure there are people out listening, who would say, Hmm, I might like to talk to the general that's gonna be my new nickname for you, by the way. How is it that they best get in touch with you?
Ilene Rosenthal 26:58
Well, they can certainly connect with me on LinkedIn. I would also like to offer to your audience that I've talked about a couple of things today, right. I've talked about audience selection and being focused. I've talked about looking at a strategy roadmap. So I'd be happy to I have a little package a little birthday package of an audience selection worksheet and a strategy formula worksheet and a free training. I would be happy to send all of those along to anybody in your world who would like to see them.
Jay Kingley 27:30
Alright, so guys, girls, send Ilene an email asking her for her wonderful gift and mention that you heard her on the Best Kept Secret podcast. Ilene, fabulous, fantastic. I know I learned a lot listening you today as I do every time I hear you speak and encourage everyone to reach out. Thanks for being a guest. Alright everyone, take care and let's make it happen.