Below is our recent interview with Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls:
Q: Paige, can you tell us something more about yourself? What were you doing before Mavens & Moguls?
A: I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a large multi-national 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 my career in finance on Wall Street in the 80s. I realized early on I wanted to switch career tracks. Being a Financial Analyst in investment banking paid well but the hours and lifestyle did not leave time for anything else so after 2 years 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 running marketing at 3 startups and now as an entrepreneur.
My early jobs gave me great experience but I really started to love my career when I became an entrepreneur and took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Being an entrepreneur provides me a platform to do work I truly enjoy with and for people I respect. I get to set my priorities, I have time to travel and hang out with my inner circle, and work out every day. It has been a journey to get here but I am lucky to have found it. I love the autonomy, flexibility and the fact that I know every day the impact that I have on my business. When I worked at big companies I always felt the ball would roll with or without me, that if I got hit by a bus someone new would be in my office right away. Now my DNA is in everything we do and I can trace every decision and sale to something I did or a decision I made and that is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. Like most entrepreneurs, I am working harder and longer than ever and I have never been happier. Working for yourself and building a business you started is incredibly rewarding and gratifying. It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am the accidental entrepreneur. I knew I had made it as an entrepreneur when Harvard wrote 2 case studies on my business a few years after I started it, we were very early to pioneer sharing resources on the marketing front (before my company it was really only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance). 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.
Q: Share one personal business highlight that you’ve had over the past year?
A: I have learned to give myself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), getting a massage, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself. Like most small business owners and entrepreneurs there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in so when something has to give it is usually time I have allocated for myself to exercise or just relax. What I have come to appreciate and realize in my 50s is that “me time” is not a luxury or pampering like it was in my youth, now it is maintenance!
Q: How is marketing different today than it was just a few years ago? What future trends can we expect to see in this area?
A: Things are so different now! I started my company 18 years ago before social media even existed. In the past few years smart technology has gone from a novelty to now running our lives today and it is hard to stay on top of the latest tools and platforms to take advantage of current trends so you may feel lost, confused or frustrated by all the options and noise in the market today. There will be new tools and technologies coming for sure but here are some trends I see to grow your audience:
* Smart speakers and voice search are growing in importance so being able to optimize for voice search will be key to maximize the marketing and advertising opportunities on Siri, Alexa, Google Home, etc. I predict that the brands that perfect the “branded skill” with more customer-friendly, less invasive ads are going to win big. Are you prepared when customers ask your specific brand for help like “Alexa ask Nestle for an oatmeal cookie recipe” if not you are missing a big opportunity!
* Live video will grow in importance – live streaming is available on every major social media platform and it is only getting bigger to hook in users with short attention spans, in a mobile first world, you have less time to grab people, attention spans are shorter than ever so video will be used even more, show don’t tell for maximum impact, rich content drives engagement.
* Interactive marketing soars — brands will drive engagement even more with polls, surveys, quizzes, contests, interactive videos, etc. to grab audience attention even quicker
* AI-powered chatbots cut costs and convert visitors into leads by encouraging themed content to answer FAQs with voice search friendly semantic keyword phrases, is your content strategy ready?
* More confidence in trusted content, friends and influencers than advertising — the world has been moving this way for years with people seeking their friends’ and influencers’ opinions and advice online on what to buy, where to go, and what to do more than a paid ad or fancily packaged content. Customers are savvy today they are happy to buy what they want and need but they do not like to be sold things. Curated content and ideas from a trusted source beat paid content every time. Partnering and building relationships with the right influencers with content that is co-created helps brands scale and grow faster and amplify and boost their message.
* Authentic relationships beat marketing automation — technology runs our lives more than ever but it is relationships that drive business and commerce so people will find more ways to connect in person to build trust and strengthen connections. Make sure you offer several ways to talk with them and get to know them. Algorithms can only tell you so much about a customer, transactions are driven by relationships. Use automation where you can but do not ignore the power of the personal touch.
* Big data is getting bigger but customer conversations are key to best insights for content. Talking directly to your customers to get first-hand in real time their experience and knowledge will be a priority and competitive advantage to get the messages right.
* Content will match the buyer’s journey and understanding that journey will inform how to attract, engage and convert customers and which keywords and topics are used.
* Influencers will continue to rise in prominence so partnering and building relationships with the right influencers with content that is co-created helps brands scale and grow faster and amplify and boost their message.
Q: What advice do you have for early entrepreneurs who hope to scale up as quickly and successfully as you have?
A: My biggest lesson has been about the importance of focus. There is so much noise out there with social media, 24/7 news, climate change, etc. that for my clients. and me the biggest challenge is often just breaking through the clutter and distractions out there. Especially in an actual election year, TV, radio, online, robocalls, snail mail, etc. are flooded with political messages.
Being a good communicator is really important for an entrepreneur to succeed. Whether you are focusing on fundraising, hiring, promoting or scaling, you need to be able to communicate effectively with investors, employees, the media, and partners or the idea will die in your head. Being able to share your story is critical to spreading the word and turning your dream and vision into reality. Communication goes both ways so learn to talk and listen for best results.
If I do not manage my time well and feel good I am not going to be at my peak performance level for my team or my clients. With technology and social media we are always on today 24/7. All work and no play is just not a sustainable option. To be more productive I try to find creative ways to multi task that incorporates work and exercise . When I worked at large companies they had gyms at the office or groups who walked at lunch but when you are an entrepreneur you have to get creative to find balance . Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too. You’ll feel great after, the time will fly & it will be a fun activity to share. It works with customers too, I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range instead of the office to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. A change in venue is always nice and you feel so much better when you are moving and not trapped behind your desk. The other tips I like to incorporate are taking public transportation when possible, parking at the far end of the lot and walking as well as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, it adds up to a lot of extra steps and movement if you do it every day.
I think it is a mistake to hide behind technology and CRM systems when prospecting. My advice is to disconnect from technology and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. 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.
Q: What makes a successful entrepreneur?
A: I started my company with the goal of working with people I respect and admire for people I want to help succeed. For me, relationships matter. Quality encounters matter. Honesty, consistency, authenticity and integrity matter. The experience and the journey matter a lot too. Focus on what matters to you and get rid of things that don’t. Taking the clutter out of your mind and your life frees up space for more of what you value. Success is very personal so your definition will be–and should be–different than mine. To me, growth for growth’s sake is meaningless, but profitable growth with interesting clients solving important problems is what keeps me engaged and excited. The ability to spend time with people I love and care about is critical. My reputation really matters, and the positive word-of-mouth means a lot to me since almost all of our business comes by referral.
There are a lot of successful businesses out there that stay true to their core values and offer great products and services to their customers that they value. When you can create an environment where your employees and customers feel valued and appreciated you can feel proud and know you have a successful business. Look at Spanx, Virgin, Apple, etc. for examples.
Q: What are some of the main objectives for you going into 2020 and how do you plan to achieve them?
A: My priority for the new year is to find new ways to bring creativity into my life. I think as we age it is important not to become a creature of habit and to keep your antenna up to be exposed to new and fresh ideas, products, ways of thinking, people and experiences. It is so easy to get busy and let inertia kick in so I want to make a conscious effort this coming year to being more creativity in everything I do.