That One Weird Trick

Paula Reinman

What do you do professionally, in your own words?

I do marketing and communications consulting for social impact organizations. I work primarily with organizations that are using technology for good to create affordable and scalable solutions to problems like financial inclusion, remote learning, digital health, and bridging the digital divide.

What might be different about your experience in marketing for social impact organizations vs. marketing for other types of companies?

While I focus on the technology for good space, I grew up in traditional B2B and B2C technology organizations. The marketing motion is really the same for both. Whether you’re doing tech for good or you’re in a straight commercial venture, you still need to understand your customer base, the messages that really resonate with your market and how stakeholders will want to hear from you. In general, tech marketers are not particularly good at talking about the true benefits that their products deliver in a jargon-free way that resonates with their customer base. The other thing that I see in the tech for good space is difficulty in integrating consistent and cohesive messaging around how they are changing the world for their customers, rather than tacking on the “for good” as an afterthought.

Are you currently more focused on the problem of acquiring new customers or growing engagement of existing customers? What are you specifically focused on?

I do both, depending on what clients need, since I work with them on marketing and communications strategies. Because my background is in building new markets, I do a bit more in the area of customer acquisition. Whether it’s an acquisition or retention issue, organizations need to understand who their market is or what their overall messaging could be. I also consult on building relationships and awareness through social media and expanding relationships within existing client bases.

How does your work contribute to building trust with users, in order to persuade them to use your clients’ products/services?

I think the work that I do builds trust because it is based on direct input from the market. A lot of the work that I do focuses on interacting directly with audiences to find the right messages, the right positioning and the right benefit and value points.

I talk directly with customers and stakeholders and test different ideas and concepts with them to really see what resonates. So when my clients use the messaging and communication strategies and tactics that I’ve created for them, they are inherently customer-driven.

From your perspective, how does personalization give a marketing edge? Can you give one concrete example of how this is done via outbound marketing or in-product experience?

One of the best examples I can think of is creating a new website for a B2B tech company. In this case, we had a lot of intelligence about the particular problem that we solved and we had a lot of information by sector, size of company and the like. We created an assessment on our website that let the user enter information about their business and then we gave them a data-driven assessment about how far along they were in their maturity cycle for this particular situation. Prospects could ask for a conversation with a business development rep to gain further insights. This became a really popular part of our website and our best lead generation tool that year.

What is your favorite marketing channel or platform, and why? E.g. out-of-home, organic search, email, TV, etc.

I don’t really have a favorite. Different tools are best for different situations.

If we’re talking lead generation, I would say a combination of Google ads and content syndication. By content syndication, I mean high quality content that appears in different places that customers and prospects frequent.

What is your one weird trick of approaching marketing?

Ask the customer–talk to them about their problems, what you’re offering and what benefits it can bring them. Practically every time I do this, I get surprising answers.

One example is what I found working with an organization that has an application for factory workers in developing countries that allows them to report unsafe working conditions or unfair labor practices. I talked to workers about what the value was of this application, thinking that they would be motivated by being able to report problems with factory management. It turned out that they were most excited about being the first ones to have this application on their phone and being perceived as tech leaders by showing others how to use it. So this application was essentially an influencer and status tool for early adopter factory workers.

Another recent example is an organization I worked with that has an application on college campuses built to help survivors of sexual assault. We wanted to make sure that students knew about the service and that it was top of mind if they needed it. I tested a variety of messaging and found that what really resonated most was the idea of knowing about the application so that they could tell a friend who had experienced sexual assault. Because it’s really hard for 18-19 year old students to think that this might happen to them, the idea of helping a friend is much easier to focus on.

These are a couple of examples of things that were different than I would have expected in terms of how to get people to pay attention and engage with a product.

What’s the largest single marketing initiative (spend, audience-size, etc.) you’ve participated in and what lessons did you learn from it?

There have been a lot of big ones. One interesting example is repositioning an organization from a services company to a Software-as-a-Service company.

When you are a services company, people hand over their problem to you. You do what you need to do in order to solve the problem, tie it up with a bow and make it look great for them. In the SaaS world, your processes and interfaces are in full view and your product has to be friendly and scalable for all kinds of users.

Repositioning a company from services to SaaS was a very big project and we had a multi-pronged approach that touched all departments from product development to sales and customer success to analyst and media relations. We had an extremely successful “coming out” party at one of the industry’s largest trade shows, accompanied by significant media, analyst and investor relations outreach.

It’s hard to overestimate how difficult it is to really reposition your entire company.

One of the things that contributed to a successful repositioning is a program I started, in collaboration with our Chief Learning Officer, for first and second line managers. While executives have information about major changes, it is often slow to trickle down to the place where the rubber really meets the road - the first and second line managers supporting the people who are on the phone with customers and prospects all day long. When things were changing fast, having consistent and direct dialogue with these managers helped us understand the questions they were coming in and enabled us to provide guidance so that the people closest to the customer have answers and information.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career so far?

My biggest accomplishments are when the people who work for me or have worked for me are able to fulfill their ambitions. Whether that means getting promoted, starting their own businesses or moving into a totally new field, if I am able to help them understand their personal north star and move toward it, then I have done my best work.

Just this morning I was emailing with somebody who used to work for me, asking her for her expertise on an issue, and she told me “Just yesterday I was thinking about a career discussion that you and I had seven years ago that really laid the framework for where I wanted to go.”

What are you most looking forward to working on?

I’m actually working on a passion project with a long-time friend and colleague who has the movie rights to a young adult novel by Jerry Spinelli and it’s called Milkweed. It’s a book about a young boy in the Holocaust and it’s about empathy, kindness and identity. My friend has gotten a grant from the Covenant Foundation that focuses on Jewish education. We are creating pilot curriculum for 18 schools to use this fall and plan to roll out to middle schools nationwide in the fall of 2022. We are also working on funding for a movie adaptation of the book.

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