Tune into this episode to hear SwagUp CMO Helen Rankin chat with Benjamin Farr on his new podcast series, Creative Boundaries. Helen and Ben cover the importance of understanding your biggest fans, turning a network into a united community, and the challenge of marketing in times of uncertainty.
If you’re interested in how to bring value through your brand, this episode’s for you. Let’s go #tothemoon!
💡 the big ideas:
- Why a hands-on approach is critical even if you’re a data-driven company
- How to align and adapt your brand to foster a sense of community
- The key to identifying what needs to get made (hint: it involves empathy)
- Why not everything in marketing has to have revenue attached to it
- How swag packs are the perfect reengagement touch to keep up team morale
Benjamin Farr is the host of the podcast Creative Boundaries, where each episode explores the world of content creation, social media and marketing with guests pushing the boundaries of what it means to be creative.
- Listen to this episode on Creative Boundaries
- Get more big ideas from Ben on Spotify or iTunes
- Follow Ben on Instagram
- Follow Helen on Twitter
- For extra tips, check out these COVID-19 resources from Helen:
🚀 get started:
Keep reading for a sneak preview of everything discussed in this podcast episode!
Discovering marketing in the showrooms of NY
Before she was a marketer, SwagUp CMO Helen Rankin dreamed of being a designer.
“That was my goal when I was younger,” Helen says, “I loved designing clothes and would rip up clothes that my mom had and I kind of went with that idea. [But] I didn’t have funds to go to college. That wasn’t an option for me growing up. My family couldn’t afford it.”
So Helen decided to make her own luck. At 17, she moved to New York – the rest she would figure out along the way. “I’d find jobs that I can do that would put me in the networking and in the environment that I wanted,” Helen says. What Helen didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entirely different field than the one she came to a new city for.
“I started modeling and started working in showrooms and helping them manage them,” Helen says, “[Because] I was able to work with people in sales and marketing, I saw how much control they actually have in the market, of what actually gets designed and what gets made.”
It was a paradigm shift; Helen became obsessed with all things marketing. “I’m like, oh, wow, they’re the ones doing all the research. They’re the ones doing all the trends. And they’re the ones that are actually like saying what needs to get made and what needs to get designed,” Helen says, “Very few people know that. I didn’t know that until I was exposed to it.”
In hindsight, it all made sense. “I always had a good pulse anticipating what people want just naturally, and that’s why I love designing and creating. But marketing kind of brought in that for me where I could create, but also be able to see it at the experience level as well,” Helen says, “I just dove right in.”
Understanding the customer behind the data
Today, Helen leverages that unconventional background to not only create the perfect customer experience at SwagUp, but also to build a passionate and interconnected community. A signature characteristic of Helen’s marketing approach? Exploring things hands-on.
“A lot of marketers, if they’re traditionally trained, they’re very data driven and very much into looking at the numbers and letting that kind of dictate what they do. And I’m very much of the thought that you have to explore it yourself,” Helen says.
“I love selling the product that I’m trying to promote. I love getting in the seat and like figuring out what that sounds like. I also like figuring out what the customer experience is like and, going through your website and calling your [customer service] and really getting that idea of what the customer is feeling and seeing.” Oftentimes, you discover things numbers won’t tell you.
“A lot of marketers, if they’re traditionally trained, they’re very data driven and very much into looking at the numbers and letting that dictate what they do. And I’m very much of the thought that you have to explore it yourself. [It really helps] to really understand the customer and build around that.”
— Helen Rankin, SwagUp CMO
At SwagUp, we do some of this through client case studies – and the conversations have been incredible. “[Being hands-on] has really helped us and myself as a marketer really identify what needs to get made,” Helen says.
“Most times when I do those kinds of discoveries, where I’m either pretending to be a client or speaking with clients and interviewing them, is when I create the best campaigns. I think too many people focus on clients that don’t like them or at negative reviews, versus looking at the clients that actually love you and love your product and really understanding why.”
Charting a path forward together
How should companies market during COVID-19? “It’s tough,” Helen agrees, “[And] there’s some companies that are really cutting back on marketing. I always kind of step back when I hear this. We’ve done the complete opposite [and] doubled down on marketing.”
For companies wondering how to approach this, Helen offers two tips: “1) Figure out what you can do, what can your product do or pivot to, that is valuable for people right now. [This is] hard for some companies, but there’s always some type of value add that you can offer. And 2) Figure out how you can get your brand out there and align yourself through community outreach to your customers.”
Good marketing can be powerful in unexpected ways. A simple thoughtful gesture can echo across the company: “We’ve done some care packages for really large companies and they just send us screenshots of their Slack channel and it’s just like their Slack channel is going crazy because everyone’s so excited about getting their swag,” Helen says.
Another key to navigating tough times? Community. “Something new that we started doing is partnerships,” Helen says, “And we’ve actually moved someone from our sales team to solely focus on just partnerships. So we’re aligning ourselves with some of our clients to help them and create a sense of community.”
Get the full story of how to do good marketing in uncertain times and boost employee morale on the rest of this podcast at Creative Boundaries.
“Figure out what you can do, what can your product do or pivot to, that is valuable for people right now. [This is] hard for some companies, but there’s always some type of value add that you can offer. [Then] figure out how you can get your brand out there and align yourself through community outreach to your customers.”
— Helen Rankin, SwagUp CMO