Leveraging Digital Marketing for Your Licensing Program | Natalie DiBlasi, LACED Agency

The Brand Licensing Podcast

January 18, 2021

This week on The Brand Licensing Podcast, we’re sitting down with digital marketing maven, Natalie DiBlasi. Bringing her brains as the co-founder of LACED agency, Natalie talks through her top tips for leveraging digital marketing in brand licensing programs.

Listen to the full episode below, or check us out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Don’t forget to subscribe!

This episode is brought to you by Brainbase. Learn more here: https://hubs.la/H0DYVcG0

Episode Transcription

Emily Randles: Hi Natalie! Thanks for joining us today for The Brand Licensing Podcast.

Natalie DiBlasi: Hi there, Emily. Thanks for having me today.

ER: I’m speaking with Natalie DiBlasi, co-founder and executive director at the LACED Agency, and we’re really excited to speak with you today about your digital marketing experience and really how licensing plays a role for your clients and their approach to growth. But before we get into all those fun details, can you just give us a quick rundown of your resume and background?

ND: Awesome. This is the part I dread talking about myself. Let’s see, I’ll make it brief. I have a little over 20 years of experience in Advertising and Marketing. I learned so much during that time. Obviously, lots happened in the last two decades. I’m a digital strategist. Critical thinker. Someone accused me of being relentlessly positive. I try to be a patient communicator and problem solver. I am definitely a self-described coffee junkie, a movie buff, and I absolutely love to learn. But my job is mainly to connect the dots and make things happen within the realm of strategy, digital marketing, and advertising at our agency. I co-founded it with Michael Walsh in 2002, it’s called LACED agency. We set out to create a different kind of agency. One that’s balanced between strategic thinking, creative and great design, and technically and data-driven. So far, so good. We’ve been successful since then. Privately owned, award-winning, data-driven, still full service. I always say it’s a lot of math and magic, if that makes sense. And we’re just incredibly grateful to be here doing what we do.

ER: Yes, no, that makes a lot of sense. And I think for us sometimes when we have a problem, the answer’s in the data. I bet if we look at the data, we will know and figure out our answer. So I totally understand what you’re saying. A hundred percent. I am really intrigued by the work you’re doing at LACED, but before we get into those details, I would love to understand what role relationships play in your day-to-day work and how they can either make things better or worse.

ND: That’s such an interesting question – relationships, right? Well, being on the agency side of things and being in a service-based industry, relationships are obviously paramount to my day-to-day work, certainly to everyone at our agency. But definitely, I would say for mine, they’re built on trust and great communication. But for me personally, I’d say, you know, I work both on the business and in the business as the co-founder partner. So this means I’m literally speaking to clients, potential clients, and the team members internally who are executing those various campaigns or projects that are ongoing and that’s pretty much happening day in and day out. So great communication in my field really means a lot of patience because they’re putting on different hats all day long. So it’s really being a great listener, having the ability to use the whiteboard well, to break down complexities into simply digestible, informational chunks and actionable to do’s, both for our clients and our internal team members.

Let’s face it, digital marketing has really become complex and relationships, they start and end with communication. So you really just have to build them from there. I would say the way that relationships play a role is, you know, the better the relationship, the easier, the communication and faster that our team can work on different initiatives and projects. So for example, clients we’ve worked with for several years, we almost have a shorthand with, so we’re able to accomplish more. We’re very mindful that when we hire new staff, or we bring on a new client, that we always try to allow a little extra time in order to really concentrate on building up that trust at the beginning stage and building a solid relationship. And that’s through automated tools. A dashboard that’s login password-secured where they can always see all the progress of what’s going on. Weekly pulse check meetings. Regular email communication. And basically having my mobile number on speed dial.

ER: Oh no, that makes a lot of sense. We have just found in licensing, relationships are really key especially with clients. And as you said, kind of I’m in the same position as you, in terms of speaking with clients and working internally. And we really, as a middleman in licensing, we really talk about how our clients can have a good relationship with their licensees and how that’s really important to making the partnership successful. So everything you said really resonates. So tell us a little bit about how you connect your digital marketing with brand licensing.

ND: Well brand licensing’s literally about extending the brand’s value and growing it further from mutual revenue sharing between the licensor and the licensee. So the digital marketing space is one of the best places to do this because the cost of entry to participate, it’s relatively affordable and the overall tactics are extremely measurable. So it’s advantageous that brand licensing and digital marketing would kind of collide over the last couple of years and really start to become one and the same and become very important to each other. But for us as an agency, we really work with both retailers and brands. And among those, we have a handful that generates a sizable portion of their company income through licensing. And because we really act as one part strategic consultant, one part creative agency, one part technical data-driven house, it’s important for us to understand the intricacies of their businesses. So if licensing is an important part, it becomes an important part of the digital marketing that we provide to them. So what we’ve done over the last couple of years is really provide digital marketing packages that meet the needs of both a direct-to-consumer marketing message and that of a B2B marketing where it’s providing the value of the business and the brand to other businesses or in this case for a brand owner to their retail partners.

ER: So are some of your programs like a direct-to-retail where the retailer’s the licensee?

ND: Yes. And that’s the cool thing about what we do. We work with a lot of different people. So we’ve worked directly with the retailer where the retailer’s trying to add value, I would say, in the opposite direction, back to the brand owner, but also is diving now into a direct dialogue with customers. So it’s being able to come up with different financial packages that meet these needs with one campaign or one package where we’re creating evergreen mar-comm. And when I say evergreen, I mean creating mar-comm that can last a brand for several years versus paying for something and you only use it once. And then in addition to that, throwing in a 30-day package marketing, a full marketing campaign, handling it from soup to nuts, walking that client through it every step of the way. So they’re learning. And then at the end of that, being able to turn the keys over to them and say, okay, you guys can run with it now.

Sometimes we have customers that say we’re not ready, can you just hang in there and manage it for us for another six to twelve months while we generate more revenue? And then we bring on other staff and then turn the keys over. So we’ve worked from both angles of the brand owner, launching brands where it becomes an important part to develop marketing campaigns and evergreen mar-comm that provides that value to retailers. But also from the standpoint of bigger retailers working backward in that dialogue. I would say in Q1 of this year, we are seeing a lot of clients requesting to rebrand and/or refresh their current offerings and brand look. And that’s really on a fixed budget because obviously everything that happened last year. So what we’re really focused on is developing cost-effective ways to look at a company’s current service offerings, whether they’re a retailer or a brand, and trying to find a new angle to uncover fresh value. And then the challenge for our team starts, which is to visualize that value with creative marketing and data driven solutions that create renewed audience interest and drive those sales. Right now, we’re developing something called LACED brand refresh kit, which is a value package to really meet these specific needs for both retailers and for brands.

ER: Nice. So when you’re working with clients, do you also, specifically this retail, do you help them create the licensed product? So you have your clients would have the bare core products, but then they’re extending their brand through this partnership, particularly with a retailer. Are you guys as the licensor’s representative, helping them say, okay, here’s what the product should be and working closely with retailers to do that?

ND: If the brand owner asks us to, we do. As I said, we function as a strategic consultancy, but I would say it’s a rarity. Most of the time we’re working with brand owners to help them identify buyer personas their audience. All the potential ways that they can add value either directly or through the retailer or point of purchase partner. So we’re really focused on bridging that gap of digital marketing between the two where we’re adding value so that both can create revenue and build their businesses and their respective spaces.

ER: In our role, we’re the middleman between the licensor and the licensee. And the licensee is responsible for taking and launching products with the retailers. And so a lot of times our licensees will be like, I don’t have the budget for marketing, or I’m not as big as the iconic brand that I’m licensing. And so they’re more hesitant to do a marketing campaign for a licensed product. So would you recommend this to a potential licensee? And the other obstacle that we run into is the brand owner is not comfortable with their licensing, creating the digital marketing, and while they’re the products approved and they have to get all the digital marketing approved. And that kind of just makes them a little bit more wary in terms of allowing the licensee to use their brand. So just any suggestions or kind of thoughts around that.

ND: Yeah, absolutely. One I would say, yes, I understand the brand owner, that’s their baby. So trust is obviously key here and just telling right back to your initial question about relationships, plays a factor. Trust is the number one way to get a brand owner to say yes to a licensee to run a social media marketing or digital campaign for their licensed brand products. But how would you go about doing that as a retailer manufacturer? We talked about a few things, but the first obstacle I think to Claire is trust. The relationship part. And these things started the contract negotiation signing stage of that relationship’s early days. I think it’s really important for manufacturers, retailers, the licensees to really speak up and pitch the brand owners their vision for not only driving sales together, but how they’re going to be using digital marketing and social media marketing, and really lay out that process of how they’re going to extend the brand value and put it all out there upfront and early stages.

This really means knowing the value that you can bring to the brand owner and organizing that, organizing your vision of that, and getting their buy-in to say yes, and even agree in some cases to be the active participant. And by doing so, yes, it’s a lot of extra work up front, but if you think about it, it sets everyone’s mind at ease, right? It defines clear boundaries of where the retailer manufacturer is going to live, the licensee, and where the brand will operate. And it also identifies ways the two can cross collaborate together on say exclusives or limited time licensees. I just think that retailers need to evolve. And you’re starting to see that to really articulate more of the marketing vision for the brand, in addition to all the regular day-to-day items, once the brand’s under their care so that brand owners really buy into that and collaborate with them closer because ultimately that’s what it is.

It’s a relationship and partnership. And your goals have to be invested in the same thing, which is shared revenue and growing this brand community. And I just think that there’s ways to evolve the brand owner into the marketing for the licensed product at the same time and make it easy for them to do so without much effort. And the licensee really needs to kind of roll their sleeves up a little bit, like I said, in the early stages and be more organized, clearly defining the marketing and the rollout as well as the value offering of taking on the license. And it’s a shift in mindset for away from short-term sales to thinking, okay, I’m building a long-term customer base and a long-term brand community. And that’s going to get more collaboration with the brand owners involved than ever before.

ER: Yes. I know you can’t see me, but I’m nodding like yeah.

ND: It’s exciting!

ER: You make a good point about doing the work upfront and really working to collaborate and then identifying the value to the brand owner. And I think sometimes our licensees kind of want to jump over that step. So I think to your point, you just start at the beginning and really put the work in. But can a small initiative make an impact? Is it worth it? And I guess maybe say more about how socially things have changed and made a difference.

ND: Small initiatives can make an impact, especially if they’re focused and data-driven. And, you know, I would argue that having a bigger budget isn’t necessarily the recipe for success. I mean, sure a lot of money is great for advertising marketing. I don’t think any agency will debate that. But you know, we do see a lot of larger brands inadvertently missed their targets and spend thousands, if not millions, on campaigns that barely registered with the audience more than a day before that same audience just quickly move on to the next shiny object. And you have to ask yourself why nine times out of ten it’s because they lead with something that maybe it was creative and got the attention, but it wasn’t really based or founded in something that would really resonate with their key customers. And that’s where the customers moved on and it happens more often than not.

I think what’s great for the small guys is you have all these social platforms and marketing tech that’s really available today and even more advanced stuff still coming out, that’s accessible to everyone. The price points have all come down. Everything’s really, really become much more open in the business space. And because of that, you can really dig in and define your specific buyer personas in a way you never really could before, unless you had a lot of marketing research budget to do that. You can get to know exactly who your customers are and what gets them excited on an emotional level. It’s so easy to see what’s resonating with people because people are sharing like never before on all these channels. You can look at their shopping and purchasing habits and glean actionable insights from those to drive greater sales and better marketing campaigns.

I truly think small budget, big-budget, what matters is with the data and insights, both brands and retailers can better tailor their digital marketing and social media campaigns to meet the emotional needs of their customers in order to ensure the smaller targeted campaigns are really resonating and launching that new product offering to them. We saw this with micro-influencers years ago, where they started taking over the big influencers for more small targeted campaigns. And these were getting up five times the ROI on micro-influencers compared to bigger names like Kylie Jenner. Why? Because they were resonating with a very specific audience.

If that audience matched up with the brand or the retailer, I mean, you’re just tapping right into that. And getting customers to resonate with your campaigns is what we like to call sticky in our agency, meaning that customers stick better to a brand or retailer because the smaller campaign took the time to actually get to know them and then offered a lifestyle value with that new product or brand offering. And so a great example, so let’s say you have a home retailer launching a new line of the exclusively licensed kitchen where, you know, so you’ve got pots and pans and all kinds of great stuff. Working with the permission of the brand owner, the retailer can create short-form videos or maybe contextual tips that can be sent out via email as well, cooking with the new line of products, sponsored by the brand owner themselves, but designed to really drive sales with the retailer exclusively on their marketing channels and build that brand community.

You see it time and time again. There’s just so many ways that you can do it and work in tandem with the brand owners. And I think a lot of these digital channels provide tons of different ways that you can do it on a small scale, very focused, or you can do it on a larger scope if you’ve got greater budget. If you’re smaller, I would say a tip would be to downsize our social presences to focus on just a few channels, maybe even just one, and make sure that whatever it is you’re doing, you’re doing it to the best of your abilities. Because it’s better to be on one channel doing everything right than to be spread thin and getting no results.

ER: So kind of thinking through some of our licensees and examples, a lot of times our brand owner will say, well, we’ve already got our social strategy and posts and everything set. Let’s just say that because they plan really far in advance, six months a year in advance. So licensee will sometimes say, well, can I build my own specific, going into your kitchenware example, kitchenware brand on Instagram, instead of just, you know, solely the brand. Would you think that that would have an impact or would be successful or does it need to be in sync totally with the brand?

ND: Ultimately, I think the retailers are at the mercy of the owners. Like I said, the kind of the early stages sets those boundaries and sets those expectations. And that’s why it’s difficult if you didn’t do that in the early stages to kind of come back, you know, I hate to say it, but you’re kind of up against a wall where your options become fewer. Not necessarily that you can’t do it, but you always want to do it with the blessing of the brand owner. But I truly believe that yes, social media can be used by both the retailer and the brands. And the reason is that there’s plenty of room in the market for both. And I really look at it in terms of each brand has a story. Now, the brand owner, they’re always going to be telling the core story. Why? Because it’s their baby.

They created it. They’re passionate about it. Their marketing campaigns are going to focus on building a community around those core values, their inspiration, the passion, the X factor if you will. So you think about it in terms of the story begins. The story is this Because the story moves me. Because the story grows and evolves to a new chapter. That’s really, I feel like the field, the brand owner kind of plays in now, retailers have a unique position because they have purchasing data so they can focus their digital campaigns on more of co-curated experiences that are an extension of the core brand. So you think of it more as the story and/or adventure continues. It’s an extension of the brand, but it’s something different. And it’s in that core wheelhouse. It’s like a specific adventure with that retailer. And so marketing campaigns run by retailers can promote licensed brand products, almost have to take that approach of extending the brand story further another chapter or venture with the brand. I think that’s the easiest way to explain it if that makes sense.

ER: It does. Yeah. That’s very helpful when thinking of working with a manufacturer and they’re questioning, should I license a brand, you know, traditionally. Or in the past manufacturers have looked to license a brand because the retailer would say, well, I don’t know your brand at all. Go get a brand or to put on your product and we’ll put you on the shelf. But now that it’s easier to get to consumers directly to consumers, would you recommend to manufacturers to build their own brand and go direct, or is there still value in licensing an iconic brand that already has a brand presence and brand awareness with consumers?

ND: I am definitely going to go out on a limb here and say, yes, there’s absolutely still value in licensing brands. If anything, I think it’s more relevant than ever, as I just said, the marketplace is big and there’s room for everyone, a brand can sell direct and a manufacturer and or retailer can license that brand and also drive store sales using e-commerce and social commerce as well. Because I think they just have to approach it as an extension of the brand story as another brand adventure. And there’s a lot of value in that because it creates a deeper connection with the brands. If people are truly passionate about the brand product they’re going to want to not only have all the items that the brand owner is selling direct, but all the special new adventure items from the retailer that are limited time only as well.

If you think about it in those terms and you look at it, you say, oh yeah, well, it is definitely just as relevant to license products. I would say for retailers too. They have lifestyle incentives, right? Combining offers with free shipping is always going to be great way to drive interest. I think I saw a statistic for, like, 60% of online shoppers find free shipping, the most compelling incentive to purchase. So that’s not going away by any means, you know, spend this much, you get free shipping, but yeah, retailers have an obstacle in the sense that, brands like, well, we already have all these things. We have that, what else can you offer? I think a retailer’s offering is we can offer the next adventure for your brands. We can offer scalability. We can build out a new community that you’re not touching yet.

There is something called only so many hours in the day. So as good as brand owners are doing it, retailers just have to approach it as that. Look, we’re an extended brand representative for you. And we can tell a unique but complementary story of your brand and find new people to bring in through that. Instead of people think about it this way, instead of coming through the front door, they’re coming in through the back door, the kitchen door, maybe even the window upstairs, who knows. But the point is is that there’s many points of entry. And to think in terms of, well, we already have brand awareness and we have an active community, I think is a very limiting approach when it’s so obvious that we’ve seen the evolution of so many brands over many years and decades. When you create something, you just have to let it keep growing. Period.

ER: I just like your approach there in terms of, or the analogy of kind of how people are getting inside and to the consumer.

ND: Yeah. And I’ll add this too. You know, I do think that all those things said that the future is clear on where things are going in the very near future, certainly this year and beyond that to 2025. And that includes for both brands and retailers is that we are starting to evolve beyond the age of just personalization. When we’re interacting with a point of purchase and we are entering an age of personal commerce when consumers want to co-create their experience with brands to reflect their preferences at any given moment and they expect brands to understand everything that they’ve bought in the past. And help to determine what they should buy next based on all that data that they’ve consciously shared. And often into, and for them to engage with all these sites and channels, you have to be able to mine that data. And this isn’t just a matter of brands, meaning consumers, where they’re at. It’s literally the shift where brands need to tell them and retailers what they want when they want it, based on the data, actionable insights, and taking steps to move your organization both on the brand side and the retailer together tackling what is going to put you in the right mindset to set you up for success not only this year but leading up over the next couple of years. Because that’s a big undertaking. And I think a licensee and a licensor can really work together to tackle both sides of that challenge.

ER: So you’ve talked a lot about the data and how you’re using it. Can you say a little bit more about how you use data or what types of data that you’re using to help the clients? Because again, some licensees feel almost overwhelmed. There’s so much data, how am I going to use this? Or what do I need? So can you just say a little bit more about how you guys are using the data and what types of data to get those insights?

ND: Yeah, absolutely. For us, we typically look at whatever data a customer has, you know, whether it be Google Analytics or the purchasing data on the back of their e-commerce platform, anything that they have available to them, and email marketing that they’ve done.

Then we take that and usually try to make sense of it. Our data department, and then start making recommendations for marketing tech that they can implement that it’s affordable, that they can basically put everything in one place. And if that’s not feasible, we usually do a phased approach where we can start moving them towards that as a long tail strategy. And in the meantime, in the short term, we take that data and we look at it and we start identifying, as I mentioned earlier, the buyer personas and start identifying trends from month to month. Because that’s the thing, too, is that depending on the day, the month, the season, behaviors can change with shoppers and consumers. So sometimes you can see that in the patterns very easily with the data, once you kind of lay everything together. And then I would say from there, we start trying to build out their often data that they 100% own day one, meaning we put data capture programs in place for them so that they’re constantly mining and collecting opt-in data so that they can learn more about their customers in order to provide a better value experience for them and work their way towards these co-curated, more advanced shopper experiences because you can’t do it without data. That’s the thing.

ER: How did you see things shift in 2020 with COVID and what impact do you foresee that having this year and really into the future of digital marketing?

ND: Oh, the loaded question. Well, there’s no question 2020 was a year to remember. I would say the pandemic really shifted five years of digital marketing trends and just crammed it all into one summer. That goes for connected TV, goes for social commerce just really boomed, and many other tactics to be perfectly honest. For retailers and brands specifically, at least, our client roster on that side, I truly believe that’s the biggest shift in 2020 was, we all went direct to consumer overnight. And suddenly, your e-commerce store became the most important channel for point of purchase and keeping your business alive and surviving and moving to thrive.

So, you know, taking a look and going, oh, wow, that doesn’t look so great on mobile. Oh, look at that. The data says 85% of our traffic’s mobile fix that, you know, and then rushing to fix that so quickly. But I think a lot of my colleagues would agree that 2020 is really ushered in the era of that agile marketer. And that’s to say, you know, it’s the marketers who rapidly were able to adapt last year, recognizing opportunities and then execute quickly who were driving that growth and momentum for their brands and for their customers. And unsurprisingly it’s the brands that really had that strong core architecture for the marketing data analysis and engagement that I feel are really able to adapt quickly to the change than those that spread themselves across multiple different software infrastructures that were incompatible.

Let’s say they had something for marketing cloud, different for services, tools, tech, but being agile has become mandatory. And I really think that this year in 2021 will be all about tackling all the challenges that we have covered in 2020.

ER: Yeah. It’ll be an interesting new year on that note. What are some like up and coming trends that you’re excited about?

ND: There’s a couple, for sure. There are so many as I always like to say, it’s fun and I even have this on my LinkedIn. I’m like, we live in an exciting time. No joke. I had somebody contact me one time and said, what’s so exciting about it?

I say that because in the digital marketing space we are changing, it seems, like every 30 days. it’s an exponential change that’s happening. And so one of the trends I’m most excited about – the digital transformation of organizations and businesses – digitizing every aspect of your business structure through marketing, tech, operations, and every other division, product development. 2020 was a big proponent of driving this trend and it will continue and is continuing in 2021. I’d also say I’m really excited about the evolution of video marketing, mainly because it’s limitless and presents a huge growth area in searchable content on the internet between now and 2025. Small brands can focus on this channel and even get a win in certain categories by implementing these strategies now. And that’s to say, you know, video marketing is nothing new, but it continues to be a huge trend each year because there are more and more channels digitally and socially that are supporting them in different ways. To be able to tell a brand story visually optimizing your video for visual and audio search, which is going to be huge over the next couple of years.

It’s huge now. And in particular, the rise of short-form videos is predominantly being driven by influencer marketing and social media marketing. And when I say short-form videos, I mean the short digestible video content that’s been extremely popular over the past few years. But in 2020, you know, it really started to take center stage. And we’ve seen huge success with branded short-form video for before and afters, short tutorials, all kinds of them. From makeup to food prep, to recipes, to DIY projects, huge DIY projects. Now that people are really remaking their homes into also their workspaces, workouts, fashion, you know how to work out, from home fashion, the inspiration for the backyard. I don’t know, you know. And just anything else you can imagine. There’s just so much opportunity there. And these short-form videos can be created by the brands themselves, by agency partners like myself at LACED or even influencers now.

And because brands no longer really have the big budgets to invest in long-form video marketing, and they’re also production challenges, of course, creating traditional length. And the market is saying, well, look, we want things on-trend. We need time-sensitive messaging. I mean, the answer is clear: short-form videos are really filling that void. So I’m very excited about the ways that will continue to develop from a marketing technology standpoint where it will give other opportunities to better target your specific audience or buyer personas.

And then I think the last trend, I mean, I have so many, but I am trying to narrow them down that I’m excited about would have to be all the sponsorship opportunities potentially that can come out of social commerce. Because we saw social commerce really come to its full fruition and say, I am here and I’m not leaving last year and it’s just continuing to evolve. But I really think the next thing is going to be sponsorship opportunities. Cause we’ve seen shoppable posts, videos, especially on Instagram. Seamless transitions from influencer content to brand-owned channels. Deeper integrations between platforms and e-commerce solutions and storefronts. Once we clean up all those e-commerce storefronts to make sure they’re all good to go, but all of those are really paving the way to more of these sponsorship opportunities on social commerce. And I’m just excited to see where it’s going to go.

ER: Yeah. They’ve definitely made it way too easy for me to purchase things on Instagram.

ND: Oh yeah. I’d have to say I’ve discovered the majority of all the new the product that I have purchased in the last 12 months on Instagram easily.

ER: Yeah. And it’s funny. So when you first had video, I initially thought to YouTube and then you were talking like short-term video, and then it really is more of that TikTok, Instagram, Instagram Reels that are shifting. As I said, I bought new skincare stuff in less than three minutes the other night and I was like…

ND: You know, your point is that it’s such a great entry point for smaller companies and mid-sized companies. Because now it’s like you don’t have to have these huge multimillion-dollar budgets to create commercial level stories like we used to see a decade ago from brands like Chanel and whatnot. And now the production quality can be a lot less so long as the creativity, the authenticity, and the story is there and the lifestyle usage like the value. It’s so easy to just get quick information. The other reason that’s driving this is that honestly, we’re just getting, we’re more ADD than we’ve ever been before. And it’s not really a generational thing. It’s because we’re taking in more information than we ever have in previous years, in previous decades. And we have become short attention spans. We don’t have long attention spans any longer. So short-form videos. Yeah. I’m very interested to see the evolution of storytelling and where we can take that as an agency for our clients.

ER: I think just the barriers to entry. I know you said this, but the barriers to entry are lower and quality. And to your point, people are wanting quick digestible stuff. So it doesn’t have to be that high-end 30-second commercial. It has to be authentic.

What are some best practices, your top three best practices that you would recommend to clients?

ND: These do change from time to time, but yeah, I will try to categorize some evergreen if you will, something that you can take for a year. So one would be data capture. I would say the number one best practice is data capture. No matter how big, how small, how midsize your organization is, you should always have an ongoing program to mine and own opt-in customer data. A hundred percent. Whether it’s the point of purchase or a lead form, or hopefully both. It’s imperative that brands and retailers know exactly who their customers are and that they control that data outside of digital marketing and social media platforms. And that’s important because you want to control the dialogue, the interactions, and engagements because those customers are sacred to your business and your brands. And if you’re really building a community, you need to make sure that you’re not outsourcing your strategy for engagement entirely to social media servers or their platforms because you know, they’re evolving and changing and they’re not invested in your business.

So it’s really unwise to do that. I think again, like a balanced portfolio, you just want to make sure that you’re utilizing them, but you’re also taking steps to own that dialogue yourself so that you can do some great email marketing when the world opens up again. You’ll have that data to be able to focus event marketing if that’s something that’s in your strategy. So there’s a lot of reasons to do ongoing data capture. Also, it just makes all your marketing campaigns so much more relevant for your customers. So really, really important to do that. The second I would say is nurture programs, right? Once you worked so hard to get a customer, you want to ensure you keep them. So if you have a solid nurture program, you can keep that dialogue open. And there are so many great marketing tools that can help your team with that. We like HubSpot, but there are tons that are out there to choose from that are equally just as good. Nurture programs can be engagement-focused, meaning you’re sending them content that keeps your customer interested. They can be educationally focused, where they can even be active funnel programs, where they’re literally designed to take fans through a buyer journey and help them become customers and community members for your brand.

And then my third best practice would probably be something called back to basics. And what that means basically is don’t get lost in tech. I know it’s super cool. It’s so easy to do. And I probably preaching more to myself because I love technology and I get lost in it pretty easily, but every now and then, you know, I always tell myself, listen, it’s time to turn the computer off and really get back to basics so that I can reflect on the business of my customers, the buyers and their customer base and what their future growth is. It sounds simple, but it is something that’s often overlooked. And I have the saying “make the easy, easy”, which really means for us at LACED Agency, getting back to basics. It’s really important when you hit a wall with budget or you hit a wall with timing, or there’s a market fluctuation, that’s causing a challenge on a particular project. And sometimes just reflecting on what really matters in a group session, or even by yourself with a whiteboard, why someone’s purchasing it. And really leading with humanity and empathy can help you discover the next great marketing campaign to drive millions of new customers. Because the technology component of it is just the tool you use to get there. But I think getting back to basics is an important thing to remember, especially as we are being kind of inundated right now with a lot of really cool tech.

ER: One hundred percent. And let me think, gosh, I’m like taking a note for myself and really thinking about that for our business as well. Just really important, as you said, to use the tools for social but make sure you’re hitting the right message points.

ND: Don’t let the tools use. You use the tools!

ER: That’s perfect. One thing I want to just note is I noticed on your agency that you guys are doing those kits. I think you even mentioned it before. But I really love that idea of like, here’s what you need, maybe to your point of the basics. And here’s what we can, how we can help and execute that versus trying to maybe build something customized for everyone. So I just wanted to call that out. I’m really impressed with that approach.

ND: Yeah. We find each client is, is so complex, and typically nine times out of ten have both a B2C and a B2B need but then they also have a marketing campaign need. And they have an educational need. And it’s like how can we financially come up with a package that can meet all these for them and then give them the option to turn the keys over at the end of 90 days. Or if they want us to continue to manage it for a while, we’ll do that so that they can scale up. But ultimately I think it’s really important that brands or retailers have a basic to a mid-level understanding of this advanced digital marketing because ultimately they’re the ones in control. And they should learn these things, too. So we really approach it from that standpoint. That’s the one part of strategic consultancy.

ER: Nice, great. Well, really, really appreciate your time today. I enjoyed speaking with you. If people want to connect with you online, what’s the best way to do that?

ND: I would say the best way to do that is nataliediblasi.com and don’t get scared. It will redirect to my LinkedIn page, but that’ll give you all the contact information that you need to get in touch with me relatively quickly.

ER: Great. Well thank you so much again, and we will stay in touch and I know our listeners are gonna really enjoy the insights that you share today.

ND: Awesome. You too. Thanks Emily.

IMC Licensing Logo Mark

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