Business Development Talk with Paige Arnof-Fenn

Paige Arnof-Fenn (Courtesy)

Paige Arnof-Fenn is Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a global strategic marketing consulting firm based in Massachusetts.  Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, The New York Times Company, Colgate, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations.   Paige started her marketing career in brand management at Procter & Gamble and was previously Asst CMO at Coca-Cola, Director of the Olympic Coin Program at the Dept of the Treasury and ran marketing at 3 successful startups.  She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School.  Paige is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes. 

What should leaders know about Business Development?

I started a global branding and digital marketing firm 19 years ago in Cambridge, MA.  As a small business we are always pivoting to respond to market changes.  Communication is key to all of our community, customer and employee engagement.  As far as messaging goes, between the pandemic and the possible recession, leaders and brands have an opportunity to further connect with anxious consumers and focus on the true relevance of their products or services.   

We have learned to acknowledge that now things are different so we need to communicate in a way that will give our audiences better focus, helping them to create a bridge from today to the future.  We need to communicate in a way that combines information and need, synthesizing feelings and facts.  I feel we have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does right now.  

Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders and brands are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind, but also the heart and soul.  

There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness and timeliness.  It is inappropriate now for content to appear tone deaf in any way to this crisis.  Do not ask to be paid, be too salesy, imply solidarity, hope they are doing well, etc.  It seems cheesy and worse opportunistic.  

What do you think about Content Marketing and Stories?

I am a big fan of Content Marketing for business development and regularly share quality content based on my experience personally and professionally.  Great brands are built on great stories.  In early days of mankind, stories were a great way to communicate around the campfire, they are critical to the Bible and they are still effective today in attracting  the best employees and customers.   

People do not remember facts and figures but if you tell them a story that touches them emotionally you get their attention and they want to hear more.  People need to be educated, informed and/or entertained so figure out how best to tell your story in a way that makes them pay attention and breaks through the noise.  Focus on the benefits to them not the features of your product or service.  

Stories create fans who will help you sell!  My best tip is to stop selling and start sharing.  If you share what you know — your passion, your war stories, the good, bad and ugly — the content will flow and pour out of you.  The stories will be interesting and the lessons will be real, people will remember you and come back for more.  

Once your employees internalize your brand story they will share it with your customers in authentic ways that are relevant to them which absolutely builds a strong culture and makes for a unique and memorable customer experience.  

Many companies have not touched online marketing.  Where should they start?

This is a great time to build your brand through online marketing but social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but you do not have to let it run your life!  My advice is to pick a few things you enjoy doing and do them really well.  

You cannot be everywhere all the time so choose high impact activities that work for you and play to your strengths.  For example, Content Marketing and Thought Leadership are great ways to build your  brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients/customers.  Activities like writing articles, hosting webinars, podcasts and building your following on social media all contribute to increasing your awareness with potential customers and building your credibility with a larger community. 

Instead of trying to start your own blog or newsletter, try contributing regularly to existing well trafficked blogs in your industry or newsletters of like minded organizations reaching the same target audience as you.  Make sure you put your URL or contact info on it so they can find you and follow up.  When your articles become available online, make sure to send them out via social media to all your friends, followers and contacts.

Some businesses want to be on every platform that comes out.  In my experience this can be ineffective, especially for Start-Ups.  Is it better to focus on one or two platforms that work well for them?  

Don’t let social media drive you crazy, you do not need to be everywhere, it does not matter which platform you choose, just pick one or two that are authentic to you.  It should look and sound like you and the brand you have built.  Whether yours is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through.  

Everyone is not going to like you or hire you but for the ones who would be a great fit for you make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that when they need your help they think of you first.  Start small and build as you go.  For me I started with small publications then moved up the food chain to reach bigger audiences.   

People need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found too.  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 many professional service businesses like mine, LinkedIn matters the most.  These ideas do not require big budgets but they are productive ways to stay connected during the crisis and beyond.  

What will happen in a post-Corona world?

I predict the most trusted leaders and brands will have a big competitive advantage in the new normal that evolves in a post-Corona world.  Employees, customers and clients will remember who treated them well during the crisis and they will be rewarded with loyalty from earning that trust during the bad times.  The current crisis has provided a stage for our political and business leaders to rise to the occasion. 

Is there a silver-lining to the situation?

Maybe the silver lining is that this crisis reminds us that we have always needed each other and we have learned that everyone is struggling right now to find a new normal so the key is to show our humanity and compassion while we look out for one another.  With Zoom, social media, cell phones, etc. we see that technology does not have  to be isolating; it can be used to build our real world communities and relationships too!  

About the Author
Sherman holds an MBA from The Kedge Business School, a Grande Ecole de Commerce et de management in France, which included time as an executive exchange scholar at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. He has a BA from The University of California, San Diego, San Diego, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University.
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