Marketing Best Practices from DC-Area CMOs

One of the highlights of the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAMS) is the annual CMO panel. This year’s event featured Lauren Bates, CMO of UrbanStems; Linda Kerr, Director of Marketing, Kajeet; and Joe Vacca, CMO, Revature. Paul Sherman, Publisher of Potomac Tech Wire, moderated the session.

A little background on each of the speakers:

UrbanStems is a same-day flower delivery service available in five cities. They are the only flower company in the world that controls their entire supply chain, meaning that they manage the planting all the way to the delivery of cut flowers. Because UrbanStems manages flower selection, colors, and distribution, pricing is less expensive than other flower shops and spoilage is only 5% (a traditional florist may have spoilage as high as 50%). The company now has 85 employees and brings in close to $1MM in revenue per month. One of the big initiatives Lauren is working on is trying to figure out the brand’s personality and how to roll that out across marketing activities.

Kajeet provides safe, affordable broadband connectivity to low-income students outside the classroom. Linda shared that the board is extremely numbers-driven and has established aggressive revenue goals. Linda is currently focused on ensuring that the customer onboarding process goes smoothly and that the marketing team is meeting the board’s metrics.

Revature is a technology talent development company that has a unique business model. College graduates can apply for one of Revature’s immersive coding bootcamps to improve their job prospects. Joe markets to three distinct customer groups: students (potential applicants), universities (that may help promote and host a bootcamp program) and businesses like Accenture and Capital One (that hire Revature graduates). As companies grapple with the difficulty in hiring experienced coders, Revature can provide a stream of qualified candidates.

On the topic of social media, none of the panelists see social as a primary driver of revenue. Though UrbanStems’s Instagram posts may be popular, the posts don’t drive a lot of traffic to the website. UrbanStems does invest in paid social and is now setting an organic social strategy. Revature is using a variety of social channels, but it’s not a primary marketing focus. Kajeet tends to invest in tactics that will drive measurable web traffic such as email marketing, Twitter, and blogging.

Paul then asked the panelists to share something about their marketing program that has surprised them. Joe at Revature discussed some pleasant surprises; PR has turned out to be an outstanding avenue to get the message out. Revature was recently published in Money magazine, which generated two months worth of web traffic in a week. (Full disclosure: Revature is an REQ client). He’s also been pleased with the success of Revature’s video program.

Lauren at UrbanStems had assumed that her primary audience was men who send flowers on Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day. In fact, 70% of UrbanStems’s clients are women sending flowers to other women for unusual occasions. As a result, UrbanStems ran campaigns and promotions for International Women’s Day and Equal Pay Day — and had a nice sales spike on both days.

Linda shared that one of her biggest surprises this year has been the success of tradeshows. The EdTech market is very cluttered, but they’ve had a lot of success with their Homework Gap Action Herocampaign and t-shirt giveaway.

In one of the final question of the session, Paul asked the panelists what tools they can’t live without. Lauren mentioned her distrust of social attribution tools and Linda expressed her love for HubSpot. In a comment that speaks to the degree of specialization and abundance of expertise within the marketing community, Joe shared his reliance on part-time resources from UpWork. He hires short-term freelancers to fill a variety of functions, test new ideas, and provide a fresh set of eyes. As Joe says, “there’s a lot of talent out there.”