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Conversations with the Inspiring Marni Hale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marni Hale.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In today’s world of direct response marketing, brand awareness takes a back seat to data analysis. With over 15 years of experience, it was time for this brand marketer to put her calculator to work and really make a difference.

Here’s my story…

I’ve always had a job. Even during high school, you could find me greeting guests at the local salon or assisting the local CPA during tax season… the rule in my house was “everyone works”. After high school, I did what most college students do and became a server, but I knew that was a holding spot until I’d eventually find my career in marketing.

I had one year left in college and had been managing operations for a small office when the job of a lifetime came along.

I became the PR associate for a small mom and pop PR agency that worked with companies in the action sports industry such as Hurley, Roxy, and Nike. For a girl from Huntington Beach growing up around skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding, having the opportunity to work in the industry was a dream come true. Every summer, our office was literally on the beach while we ran the PR for the largest surfing competition in the world. And during the winter we were in Park City, Utah leading PR for the introduction of snowboarding into the Olympics. I quickly became the owner’s right-hand person and developed the bug for creating stories and learning what it meant to run a small business.

Brand vs Metrics takeaway: It was our job to get publicity for the brands we represented. If our clients were featured in the mainstream magazines we were successful. Success was measured in media impressions, which in PR isn’t exactly scientific data.

Just after the Olympics, I jumped at an opportunity for growth and became the PR specialist for Mercedes-Benz USA. They were growing the west coast team to support media relations and product launches. It was a long way from board shorts and flip-flops but I quickly embraced the dress code of business chic and the luxury lifestyle. I managed a fleet of brand new vehicles for the media to test and review… not to mention putting 400 miles on each brand new vehicle before they went out. During my years with MBUSA, I made lifelong friendships, traveled all over the US, and got married along the way.

Success was measured by the quality and quantity of articles written about each new vehicle. Extravagant launches were held for new versions of every Mercedes-Benz class vehicle including the $250,000+ SLR sports car and Maybach luxury. It was our job to get ink… in and outside of the industry… from Road & Track to the Robb Report. And the best part of all, when you call the media and say you’re from Mercedes-Benz with a test car… they take your call.

Growth opportunity #2 came along and I became the PR Manager for BSH Home Appliances North America. BSH is the third largest appliance manufacturer and sells under the brands Gaggenau, Thermador, and Bosch in the US. During my seven years with BSH, I spearheaded the largest product recall in the history of the company, launched social media for the company and clocked several trips to Europe.

This is where metrics really stepped in. As with all PR, impressions were still king… but when social media came into the mix it was all about the numbers. In the beginning and for many years after all the CEO wanted to know is “how many followers do we have?” and at the time, that’s what everyone thought mattered. It wasn’t until later we realized what really matters.

After seven years, I was ready for a new adventure and went out on my own. Starting MCH Communications was scary and challenging! But, I got a break when an agency in Denver, CO happened to be looking for someone exactly with my experience and we started working together. It was a great experience helping clients with all types of marketing challenges including community management, loyalty programs, website rebrands and direct mail.

Direct mail was a big part of the CO agency business so metrics were important. But we weren’t 100% of the way there yet.

An opportunity to be the head of marketing for a professional development company in the real estate space came along and I just couldn’t pass it up. It was challenging in the beginning but I quickly mastered acquisition. Here I was, a consumer products brand marketer thrown into a direct response marketing role. While I was developing customer analysis and a 30-page marketing plan the “bosses” were wondering where the digital ads and landing pages were. I quickly learned to focus my attention on the numbers… media impressions became cost per lead and followers became referral traffic. The light bulb was on and glowing. The value of seeing an immediate result of our marketing efforts was exhilarating and I was hooked!

I now speak in acronyms – CTO, CTR, CPL, and CPA. Data guides every decision and every creative headline and subject line are tested, measured, optimized and tested again.

As a marketer, having the experience and skills to utilize brand (storytelling) + direct response (lead acquisition) has made me a true asset and master at achieving business goals. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to share my expertise to help businesses achieve consistent, scalable, predictable growth through smart marketing.

Has it been a smooth road?
Coming into a company that is more focused on acquisition than retention of customers was a challenge. What we all know is that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain one. However, in a sales directed environment “outrunning the churn” is heard more often than not. This was particularly challenging to align with this mindset. I overcame it by mastering the lead generation requests while using data to show the downward trend of an acquisition only strategy. Over time, the company matured into entertaining retention based thinking but continues to struggle with a product-centric vs. customer-centric mindset.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Marni Hale story. Tell us more about the business.
Over the years, I’ve realized that my strength lies in strategic planning and execution. Seeing the long-term vision of achieving an objective while quickly outlining the steps to get there comes easily to me. It’s something that I’m able to use in both my professional and personal life and has served me well. As a leader, helping others see the vision and take action has become my greatest joy. I even find myself up at night writing plans for friends who are running small businesses because I enjoy helping others and believe that everyone deserves success.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
As a female climbing the executive ladder, I asked myself many questions that a man may never have to question. Questions about my appearance (outfits, hairstyle, makeup, accessories), business trip opportunities, networking events, etc. With the #metoo movement, I’ve experienced hesitation from male executives for one-on-one meetings which was never an issue in the past. Just recently my CEO and I were meeting one-on-one and he felt compelled to ask me how I felt about the #metoo movement. He shared that he is aware of the perceptions people may have about our meeting. I was immediately offended and requested that he view me as an executive team member and not as a female as the content of the conversation was purely professional.

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