Inside a Digital & Experiential Marketing Agency

guest: Laurel Mintz
company: Elevate My Brand

This week, Joe is joined by Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand. Elevate My Brand is a digital and live events marketing agency with a unique offline and online methodology. They work with emerging brands to Paw Patrol, and everything in between. Hear about Laurel’s road to becoming an entrepreneur, as well as how her background in legal helps her marketing business, and how she handles everything behind the scenes today. Get insights on what it is like to be data-driven, as well as the importance of setting goals.

Episode Transcript

Dee Gallegos 0:00
Enter the world of Mind Your own Marketing Business, explore variety of trends in the creative landscape getting insider knowledge from the industry’s best, fjorge is proud to present Mind Your Own Marketing Business with host, Joe Barsness.

Joe Barsness 0:11
Thanks for joining us on the mind your own marketing business podcast. I’m Joe Barsness from web and mobile development team Fjorge. And today on our show, we’ll be talking with Laurel Mintz about her agency Elevate my Brand. Welcome to the show, Laurel,

Laurel Mintz 0:26
Thanks so much for having me, Joe.

Joe Barsness 0:28
All right. You are in Los Angeles, correct?

Laurel Mintz 0:33
I am. It’s gorgeous here today.

Joe Barsness 0:35
I know in Minnesota, it’s early. It’s late spring, and we have our first warm day outside today. So kids in the neighborhood are running around doing sprinklers and all that kind of stuff. So I’m sure you get that weather often but it’s only seasonal here. Enjoy it. All right. As always, I like to hear a little bit about your business. So tell me a little bit about elevate my brand and how it came to be.

Laurel Mintz 1:05
Absolutely, so elevate my brand is a full service marketing agency, which means we do the full digital suite, web content, social advertising and creative as well as full experiential, basically all the things that are not currently happening. So launch events, trade shows, conferences, national field marketing for brands as small as baby startups that no one’s ever heard of. And as big as global brands like Verizon, Facebook and patrol, and started the firm about 12 years ago, we’ve now worked with over 200 brands, and started at kind of by accident, after having to step in and run a family business which taught me that I was an entrepreneur and I never looked back.

Joe Barsness 1:46
Got it. So I realized it was 12 years ago but what what led you beyond just kind of entrepreneur what what other experiences in your career Have you had because I know we talked a little bit about it. And so tell us the background of where you’ve been in your career.

Laurel Mintz 2:05
Well, I have a JD and an MBA and the MBA is in marketing and I actually am a board attorney. So I have a separate entity that’s a law firm. Because we do so much branding work, we can do all the protection behind it, which is very unique and I think is the reason why a lot of the more regulated industries like working with us like cannabis, healthcare, etc. But like I said, I started it completely by accident, I thought I was going to be a lawyer and work in some big firm and, you know, make partner before I was 30, and my dad actually came down with stage for bladder cancer, which he survived. So it’s a really happy ending to the story, but ultimately, I had to step in and run his interest in a national furniture brand called Bassett. When I was 26, I was interim CEO there and ran that show for like I said three years and had total imposter syndrome. But there I did all the marketing, merchandising, buying, training, sales, all the things which as I I said before really just turned me into an entrepreneur and I kind of never never went back to the law. Got it? Yeah, you got you got thrown into it correct. I, I started my own business when I was 23 as well and have a little bit of that entrepreneurship in myself as well. So it’s really cool to hear that it wasn’t maybe necessarily what you went to school for, but it’s kind of a natural ability of yours. It really kind of inborn like you either are an entrepreneur or you will never be an entrepreneur and I think I fought it too long, too hard. And the university was like, nope, this is your direction. Have fun.

Joe Barsness 3:35
Yeah, for sure. So tell me on with elevate, elevate your brand. What What would you guys what would be your core strength? What is something that you guys are better at than than most other firms like yours?

Laurel Mintz 3:53
Well, we’re heavily data driven agency. So we use best in class technology in every category. We have unbelievable listening. So software that allows us to really see what our clients competitors are doing in the space so that we can make assessments based on data not on feeling like things beautiful. Making things beautiful is one thing. But if it doesn’t convert, it really doesn’t make sense. So I think just being a super data driven agency, and then of course, having that creative perspective, right, because ultimately, the volume of creative that has to go into building out every platform is really vast. So making sure that there’s a balance between the data and the creative I call it being center brained. I think that’s really what we’re best at.

Joe Barsness 4:32
Awesome. And hopefully segwaying into what what is the coolest thing? What is something really fun or engaging? Or what was an aha, like career moment for yourself in your team?

Laurel Mintz  4:47
Um, shoot, I don’t remember what I what I said in the pre notes. But let’s see. I mean, for me, it’s about building a team, right. So I have the most incredible team a very diverse team. so important to me as a founder. So being able to lead and grow these amazing creative minds has been the most honoring part of my entire career. We’ve definitely done a lot of really cool things from being on the floor at Lakers at a Lakers game and receiving an award pregame to launching national campaigns for brands like Paw Patrol and doing these incredible crazy road tours where we can get an 18 Wheeler and do these, you know, build outs where parents and kids can interact with their favorite characters kind of come to life. So I think for me, it’s a balance between the experience and the foundational pieces of building a team and really getting back to my community tied in with some of the like, really cool, crazy, weird experimental things that we’ve done.

Joe Barsness 5:45
on it, that is very cool. I’d love to hear it. My kids would love to hear Paw Patrol

Laurel Mintz  5:49
I was gonna say, Forgot to mention that in our first conversation, didn’t I?

Joe Barsness r 5:54
Yeah, um, so digging in a little bit more to You know what, what our listeners can learn? What? What things do you have to tell marketers on how to do your type of work effectively?

Laurel Mintz 6:16
If you cut out there for a quick second, I think you said how to do my work proper. The work properly is that we said,

Joe Barsness 6:21
how do you how do you do your type of work effectively?

Laurel Mintz  6:24
effectively Got it? Well, I think you have to start with listening. So I had mentioned the software that we licensed it’s a very expensive software. But we always start with every client with this 30 day kind of evaluation period where we can see where the whitespace might be for our clients. I think that a lot of agencies have these very cookie cutter models. This is what you know, rinse and repeat. They don’t they do for all of their brands. And for us. It’s a really bespoke model, right? We only take on 15 to 20 major clients every year so that we know we can really deliver for them. And I think with that model, it gives us a very good unique perspective into how to build out campaigns properly. And then of course, you know, best practices, things as simple as high velocity A B testing on any campaigns and things like that. So I don’t think what we’re doing is brain surgery, I just know that we’ve been doing it long enough to have perfected the process and being a process driven agency, not only will help you get to success for your clients faster, but ultimately will then make them much happier and stay with you long term. And ultimately, I think that’s a huge challenge for many agencies is that churn, right? Because you have clients that are unhappy because you maybe didn’t do something the right process or you don’t maybe have your process down. So that would be my that’d be my note.

Joe Barsness 7:39
Cool. And, and so how does with with only accepting, you know, a number of clients in a year so you’re making sure you do a really good job? How does a company know they’re ready to work with a firm like yours?

Laurel Mintz 7:55
We have a process called mind mapping. And when we first first we do just a conversation, right? We have a schmooze calm And we talk through things like Have they ever worked with an agency before? Do they have a clear defined budget? What are their specific marketing goals? And if they don’t have an answer to those questions, or they’re like, well, we’re looking into you for that, then they haven’t been thoughtful enough about their own internal process yet, in my opinion, to hire an agency. So then from there, we will, we can and we’ll go into what we call our mind map session. And if they come to that session, without those questions answered, then we know that they’re not ready yet. Because like just taking a road trip, for example, if you’re going from California to New York, and you have no idea how to get there, and you have no map, you’re not the likelihood of you getting to New York from LA is pretty slim, right? It’s the same thing in marketing. If you don’t have specific end goals, and you don’t know the road, that road you’re going to take to get there or how much you’re going to spend on gas and food, etc. On the marketing side, you’re never going to get your end goal. So for us, that conversation has to be first and foremost. Sure.

Joe Barsness 8:55
Yeah, absolutely. So

Joe Barsness 9:00
When somebody is starting to work with you, what are the things that you do first, after you decided to engage, like what are typically the first steps? Do you need to learn more about their organization? Do you guys, you know, dig into documents that they have, what is something that you do and kind of a first step after engagement happens?

Laurel Mintz  9:26
I keep coming back to process and I think if there are agency owners, or even consultants listening, like I’m gonna beat this dead horse over and over again in this conversation, because it’s so important. So we have a really defined clear cut process that we go through, including everything from set emails with links to how we’re going to get access points to all their back ends, and all the documents and all of their wish list and all of that. So we deploy those on a frequent enough basis that the client feels really taken care of. And then we can also get what we need to be successful for them. And then you know, Just typically like every other agency does, we do a kickoff where we start to dig into some of the findings from that first 30 days because we won’t even engage in a long term contract until we’ve done that listening phase. And I think as a really great kind of feeder into the agency relationship, and that’s something I suggest all agencies and consultants do is offer some sort of model, whether it’s a listening phase, or I don’t know what the research phase, whatever that is for you. We offer that at a specific price that then gets that that investment gets credited back on their account if they move forward with us into execution mode. So I found I’m sure you found this early on in your days in marketing, that you would spin your wheels a lot with clients that maybe weren’t that serious or didn’t have the budget or you know, really weren’t ready to move forward. Having that as a starting point, allows you to ramp up into success and execution. It’s far faster and weeds out the weak, right? We’ve got the people that are never going to spend what they need to be spending on marketing to be successful. We’re really just fishing for your agency to answer some questions that They might have, you know, behind the scenes. So the first step for us always is that listening phase. And that gives us really great insights into where our efforts are, and our budget is going to be best spent for that client.

Joe Barsness 11:12
Hundred percent, I think, you know, what we use at our organization is the discovery phase. And we’ve even and that’s that listening phase, and we even have one that can come before that called the workshop where it’s more of a one day sort of experience. And you’re absolutely 100% right, you know, I’ve been doing this for a number of years as well. And the same mean, we need to do that phase. And so it’s an easy way for somebody to bite off something and you as the organization get that commitment, right. And you also know that it weeds out the people that aren’t interested in moving forward pretty quickly and without much work without much effort either. So and it’s right for the club. Client two,

Laurel Mintz 12:01

Joe Barsness 12:01
gets them, you know, the right people in the room and all of those sorts of things, not just the sales group. Right? Exactly. Right. Yeah, hundred percent. Okay, I wanted to, you know, as we set up this show, I did some digging into to you guys and what you do really well. And I found this article, and it’s on your website, and it also contains a video. And it talks about strategic partnership agreements and how you go about that. And I thought it was really interesting because I do a number of those as well. And so I thought, speaking about this, and then sharing it with our audience as a great way to, to learn more about how this can benefit you talk to me about why you decided to write this article, first of all, and then we can kind of dig into some of the things that you talked about into it.

Laurel Mintz 12:58
Well, first of all, thank you for doing Your homework because a lot of podcasts, leaders don’t do the homework and they just ask the same questions over and over again. So I appreciate that you actually dug in and did some homework on us. And then to your point, you know, strategic partnerships have to be really intentional. And I think that that is a failure point for a lot of brands. And they get very frustrated, right brands always want to build influence or relationships. And they think, Well, we’ve got such a great product, if we just give it to people, they’ll talk about it. And then we’ll create this great groundswell of awareness about the brand. But just like, again, the roadmap, you know, from LA to New York, you have to be really clear and intentional about how you’re going to get from point A to point B, and that goes double for partnerships, because they’re not spending any money and you’re not spending any money. So it’s got to be a content driven relationship that is super intentional. So what do I mean by that? Instead of just saying, here’s some product, hope you’re going to talk about it or you have a product that’s talking to the same audience that we are, let’s co work Get across market, right? What we do is we develop an arc of communication and arc I kind of media arc, right. So it’s looks something like this, the partner brand is going to do three blogs over a month period of time, and five social posts that look like X, Y, and Z. And then we’ll have three swipes and five stories and so on and so forth. Right, whatever it is the medium of that brand, because they might have a podcasting might have blogs, and blogs, social, of course, etc. So it has to be relevant for that brand. But if you’re not intentional about what that content conversation looks like, you’re never going to see an end result that is going to be successful or very unlikely, again, to be successful. And that is kind of marketing 101 as I’m sure you know, that it takes multiple touchpoints before someone knows likes and trust your brand. And so if you’re developing a strategic partnership with an ancillary, non competitive brand that is trying to talk to the same audience in order for you to conquest, those are eyeballs, you need to be talking to them frequently enough that they remember you. And that you’re kind of top of mind and then they end you’re building that trust so that they are conquest it over to your pages, social email list, whatever that KPI is. So that’s how we go about building those very, very intentional media partnerships. And it takes a lot of time and effort, but it is one of the lowest hanging fruits, especially right now when everyone is in front of their computers.

Joe Barsness 15:24
Got it? So as as you have, I assume you have done this number one for your own business. And then I assume you’re also speaking about or help other organizations with this aspect, correct?

Laurel Mintz 15:37
That’s exactly right. I have to be honest, we weren’t doing it as well for ourselves as we could have been doing historically. And because of COVID. We took a pause and we rethought this and we recognized that we were not walking our own talk when it came to this media arc this this content partnership. So we revamped everything and now we’re doing what we know is the right process. But historically we’ve done that very successfully. For brands all across the board back to the patrol brand, for example, we created a great strategic partnership with them and canine companions. So this was a nonprofit time, which created this amazing visibility and awareness because they’re a national nonprofit. And we were doing a national tour stopping in all these major Metro cities. And on top of that, it created this great visibility in the media because everyone wanted to cover these great, feel good stories about this amazing brand that everyone knows and loves. But on top of that, we did content partnerships, tons of video content, some ad buys, definitely social engagement, etc. So it created that groundswell in a really effective and intentional way.

Joe Barsness 16:41
Got it. And it Do you have some strategic partners and maybe you’re referring to them right now that you know you’re you’re in an agency and you have clients but they have may have needs that fall outside of what your team specialize. As in is that kind of where a strategic partnership could come in for your own business as well?

Laurel Mintz 17:05
It could be that for sure. So for example, if we want someone that’s going to be doing like deep, deep, deep brand work, that’s probably not going to be our area of expertise, right? We usually brands come to us or companies come to us and they’ve already built a brand or maybe they have like the logo, font choices, etc. in the air, we’re building out the, you know, the values and the personifications and the things from there. But the deep brand work is highly creative and very, can be very technical. And so that would be a great strategic partnership for us. So we’ve got a lot of firms that do that kind of work. Same thing with international, experiential, so we have brands that are global and scale, we obviously can’t be everywhere. So we certainly have fabrication teams and experiential teams all over the world that we work with, to make sure that we can stretch as far as they do to offer our clients that global service. So yes, absolutely. That is the approach that we take within our own business.

Joe Barsness 17:59
got it done. Has it ever from your

Joe Barsness 18:03
legal background? Is there ever formal agreements for these partnerships? If there isn’t any financial backing?

Laurel Mintz 18:12
Oh, yeah, there is I make them sign. Oh, yeah, make them sign on the dotted line. Because, again, if there is no intention, and that’s, it’s funny, because it’s like contracts one on one, you have to have the same intent behind the conch behind the work that you’re going to do collectively. And so I always have them sign on the dotted line so that I can go back to them and say, Hey, guys, you promised X, Y and Z. You’re not delivering or this was the process. Everyone’s crushing it right now. Thank you so much for everyone’s hard work. So yeah, absolutely. I have been signed on the dotted line. And if they balk at that, then I know that they’re never going to, you know, honor their commitment. similarly to the commitment, we asked for our new brands to come on into it in terms of that discovery, listening phase. Again, you’re trying to weed out the weak and you’re trying to collect the brands and the partnerships and the clients that are going to be a great fit for what it is that you’re trying to do.

Joe Barsness 19:00
Cool, great. I’m changing gears a tiny bit. I wanted to get into a little bit of situational questions. We have just a couple more minutes, Laurel, but you had recently written an article about how to stay profitable during COVID. So we are in the middle where I’d say we’re probably eight to 10 weeks into COVID. At the moment, just for listeners who may listen to this later, but give us a couple highlights from from that article. And what listeners at either agencies or marketers at organizations can can do to stay profitable during this time.

Laurel Mintz 19:40
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we started the agency in 2008 2009. So right when the housing market was crashing, and so what were what we saw that and what we’re seeing now is a very similar approach. And so brands are reacting very similarly. Of course, it’s not wasn’t on the same global scale, and it certainly wasn’t a health crisis, but the reaction is very similar. And so what we saw then and what we’re seeing now are that brands get freaked out and they either ostrich, which means they’re putting their head in the sand and hoping and praying that this is gonna just go away, which doesn’t work as we know. Or they are freaking out and pulling their dollars out of marketing and advertising and, and therefore shooting themselves in the foot because there’s gonna be a far greater uphill battle for them to climb when this is all over. So in our opinion, there’s really five things that people need to be doing right now. One is of course, doubling down on digital which Joe I know you will agree with, she was getting more social, we’re seeing a 30 plus percent in group engagement increased and much lower CPC cost, so that is evolving currently. The third piece is of course putting your people first making sure that you’re not tone deaf and really taking care of your people both on the you know, if you’re an agency both on your team side, and if you’re a brand on your customer side, converting and not cancelling is number four. So instead of just shutting everything down, again, that kind of ostrich egg approach, evolving to things like that. Zoom meetings. I know we all have zoom fatigue right now. But there are really smart and creative ways. And we’ve created some unique digital experiential offerings that we think are going to kind of change the game. So convert, don’t cancel, you can still network, you can still have cocktail events, dinners, lunches, all those things online. So keep moving it forward that way. And then of course, number five is that content is critical. So make sure that you’re pushing out at least twice the amount of content that you were historically, because it takes that much more time for people to recognize and build that trust factor.

Joe Barsness 21:28
Yeah, great. Those are I love the the five things you can do approach it really rings true and, and I agree with your digital I mean, we we live in, in a digital development world. And if you can’t have a in person, conference, or whatever else you have, you know, you have to get to your clients and you have probably some budget that you didn’t plan on for that type of thing. And so there’s lots of opportunity and like you said, people are spending more time on social media in digital ways and so digital advertising is going to have even more exposure. So yeah, absolutely. I think those are some really big things that we’re seeing and feeling and why at fiords we’re so busy lately, you know, there’s been opportunity for, for our business to grow during this time, which at first was unexpected, but now it kind of makes sense. So yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, that’s all the time we have for today on mind your own marketing business. I wanted to thank you Laurel for joining us and I wanted to make sure that we talked about how people can find you of course there will be some show notes that we will share. But there you can also find Laurel at elevate my as well as at elevate my brand la on Instagram, and at elevate my brand on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thank you so much for joining the show Laurel and I look forward to having you back sometime.

Laurel Mintz 23:00
Thanks for having me Can I just have one more second to let people know that we are also offering a free 30 minute consult and that we’re asking people to make donations to one of three charities currently so that we can pay it forward as well. So if you need any help out there, let us know.

Joe Barsness 23:13
And can they find that on your website as well?

Laurel Mintz 23:17
They can email Erin my EA directly

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