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The Power of Creativity in Fueling Marketing Success

Written by:

Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Making That Sale and an award-winning marketing professional.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

The Power of Creativity in Fueling Marketing Success

The Power of Creativity in Fueling Marketing Success

In an engaging and insightful interview, Christina Vance, a seasoned professional in the marketing and print industry, unfolds her journey filled with determination and growth. Starting with a degree in Design & Communications, Christina swiftly moved into the world of Marketing Design, driven by her passion for creativity. Her career kicked off at Associates International, where she honed her skills in printing and client engagement. Life took an interesting turn when she paused her career to raise a family, a period she credits for her exceptional multitasking abilities.

Returning to the workforce amidst personal changes, Christina joined DLS Creative and rose from a part-time marketing assistant to the Manager of Marketing and Creative Services. Her story is not just about climbing the career ladder; it’s about adapting to life’s changes, embracing new challenges, and the relentless pursuit of professional excellence.

Introduction and Background

MTS – Could you please share a bit about your journey in the marketing and print industry, highlighting your roles and key achievements?

Christina – I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Design & Communications and wanted to explore creativity. The graphic design field was oversaturated, so I decided to venture into Marketing Design. In 2005, I got my first job as a Marketing and Sales Assistant at Associates International, a printing company in Wilmington, DE.

They specialized in offset printing but were also embracing the new world of digital print. I learned about the print process, sales, and targeting clients. This was before social media, so we relied on PURLs, VDP mailings, and cold calling. My time there was cut short when I started my family in 2007. For the next thirteen years, I focused on raising my three boys, which required a lot of juggling, and to this day, I truly believe this is where my talent for multitasking stems from.

However, in 2019, my life took a different direction as my husband and I decided to separate amicably. This brought me back to the corporate world. Given my long break from work, I chose to return to design and marketing part-time because it was familiar to me. That’s when I joined DLS Creative, another digital printing company in Wilmington, Delaware. I’m grateful that they took a chance on me, a mom going through a divorce, offering flexibility, understanding, room to grow, and have thrived under their guidance.

Since starting, I’ve grown from a part-time marketing assistant to the Manager of Marketing and Creative Services. I’ve maintained and strengthened our client base while also bringing in new accounts. Currently, I am working with various departments within the company and assisting in their own marketing efforts. The past four years have been spent educating and immersing myself in the world of today’s sales and marketing. This, all of the above, has been my biggest achievement. It goes to show that dedication, hard work, support, and welcoming guidance can go a long way in a short period of time.

Team Management and Leadership

MTS – How do you approach team management and leadership in the dynamic field of marketing and creative services?

Christina – The art of team leadership begins with understanding your people. When a new hire joins our ranks, I put myself in the trenches alongside them. Working side by side in production reveals so much about a person—how they handle pressure, stay motivated, and organize their work. From there, I get to know their strengths, weaknesses, and character. This insight allows me to lead individuals and the team collectively. It’s about putting people where they shine and surrounding them with uplifting teammates.

In our fast-paced, ever-changing industry, flexibility and communication are essential too. No two days are the same in marketing and creative services. As the team’s leader, I have to be adaptable and keep everyone looped in. Our success starts and ends with me fostering an environment where our talented team can thrive.

Sales Experience

MTS – With your extensive experience in sales and sales management, what strategies have you found most effective in driving sales growth?

The number one strategy that has been most effective for me is getting to know the client and what their needs are on a monthly basis. It’s going the extra mile and really taking the initiative to say, “Hey, I know you typically have this project coming up; let’s set some time aside to discuss.” You know you’re doing your job when your position feels more like a consultant than someone who keeps knocking on their door and saying, “What’s next? What’s next?”

Integrating CRM into Marketing Strategy

MTS – How do you integrate CRM tools into your overall marketing strategy to enhance customer engagement and retention?

Christina – One of my top goals for increasing customer engagement and retention is to incorporate CRM tools into my overall marketing strategy. A laid-out CRM framework permits our group to align marketing and sales efforts with a deep understanding of customer preferences. Our sales team can provide solutions that the client may or may not be familiar with by knowing their preferences. From a marketing perspective, a well-integrated system enables us to track customer engagement, enabling us to create marketing content that is more informed and targeted.

For instance, we can see in our CRM system, for the month of April, which product was our top seller for 2023. This tells me that for 2024, we absolutely want to market that same product and, in turn, hopefully receive the same results. On the off chance that not, then I must dissect the information and understand why or even email our clients to see what has changed. More than most people realize, data collection and an up-to-date CRM system are crucial!

Leveraging CRM Data for Decision-Making

MTS – How has CRM data influenced your decision-making process in both marketing and sales management?

Christina Utilizing CRM data continues to play a pivotal role in shaping strategic decisions in both marketing and sales management. The insights from customer interactions, project processes, purchase history, and engagement metrics enable us to follow up with our clients intelligently and to create more targeted campaigns for potential leads.

For sales management, CRM data aids in lead prioritization, allowing me to focus on prospects with the information provided in our system. Overall, CRM data is an invaluable asset that empowers data-driven decision-making, enhancing the effectiveness of marketing and sales strategies. Having your data all in one place is key.

CRM and Customer Experience

MTS – In your view, how does effective CRM implementation enhance customer experience and loyalty?

Christina – Effective CRM implementation plays a pivotal role in how I enhance our customers’ experiences and foster those partnerships. Organizing customer data in our CRM system allows me to ensure I am following up appropriately on a monthly basis to check in and see where their needs are. From a client perspective, I can only imagine how meaningful it is to work with a vendor who knows not only your print/design/marketing schedule but also one who can step in and hold your goals accountable.

Keeping an updated database also allows my team to plan and ask questions ahead of time, ensuring a seamless process. All of the above, plus so much more, creates that customer loyalty and bond.

Influence of Graphic Design on Decision-Making

MTS – Given your proficiency in graphic design, how do you believe effective design influences consumer decisions and behaviors in marketing and sales?

Christina – Effective design plays a significant role in influencing consumer decisions and behaviors in marketing and sales. It can evoke emotions and create a connection between the consumer and the brand, which is why it’s important to do research and gather data ahead of time. I find that there are typically two kinds of designers: those who design for themselves based on their likes and dislikes, and then those who design with research and collaboration to reach a target audience.

Designing for a target audience involves a deep understanding of their needs, preferences, and pain points. By incorporating elements that align with the audience’s preferences, the design becomes more appealing and relatable.

Social Media Marketing

MTS – How have you leveraged social media marketing strategies to effectively boost sales and increase business revenue?

Christina – In 2024, I plan to increase my use of social media for marketing purposes. Social media is a fast and crucial method of promoting brands in today’s age. Brand awareness is important both on social media and through traditional marketing methods. In our industry, LinkedIn and Instagram have proven to be the most effective platforms. We enjoy sharing pictures and videos of our company’s capabilities with others. Additionally, our client base predominantly uses these two platforms.

Effective Networking

MTS – Networking is vital in marketing and sales. What are your tips for building and maintaining professional relationships?

Christina – Networking is one aspect that did not come naturally to me; it has definitely been an avenue of focus over the past few years. Here are some tips that have helped me and proven successful in building and maintaining relationships:

  1. Understand your audience and tailor your communication style to their communication preferences. You’ll find that some clients prefer straightforward communication, strictly factual, and others might be a little bit more warm and welcoming, giving you room to be a bit more personable.
  2. Listen actively and engage in eye contact. Your audience wants to be seen and heard! If they are talking, do not interrupt them and follow up with relevant questions.
  3. Networking and industry events are a fantastic way to chat among like-minded individuals and build meaningful relationships. Referrals, mentors, even reliable vendors might come from putting yourself out there!
  4. Follow up and check in on your clients. This ensures your clients that they are at the forefront of your mind and gives them a sense of importance. The more attentive and considerate you can be, the better.
  5. Be authentic. Being yourself is one of the best things you can do. It’s very easy to pick up on someone who is merely there to gain business and make a dollar. Be yourself and foster a relationship—the goal is long-term trust, both ways.

Challenges in Marketing and Sales

MTS – What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in marketing and sales, and how have you overcome them?

Christina – The COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges for our company’s sales, as it did for many businesses. With events canceled, schools closed, and people wary of physical mail, we faced major disruptions. Our marketing and sales operations, heavily reliant on in-person interactions, were forced almost entirely online.

This season of life more or less forced our department to get creative, rethinking our sales strategies and client offerings for a socially distanced world. Though difficult, adapting during this period taught us valuable lessons and new approaches.

Success Metrics

MTS – How do you measure the success of your marketing and sales initiatives?

Christina – The measure of success for me is not just revenue but also how clients interact with my team. Some clients email us in a way that goes beyond B2B—it’s personal and friendly. These are the customers who will keep coming back because they know they are our top priority. We genuinely care about them and their business success.

Advice on Sales and Marketing Alignment

MTS – In your opinion, how should companies align their sales and marketing teams for optimal performance?

Christina – Optimal performance requires communication and listening. Marketing and sales must work together. Without collaboration, the marketing strategy will fail, and the sales team won’t have the necessary tools. When approaching the sales team, I ask two questions: “Who is the target audience?” and “What are we selling?” These questions help shape the marketing plan to align with sales, and the sales team must believe that the marketing team understands the best way to reach customers. A marketing team’s goal is to support sales, and with this support comes trust; trust is crucial between the two.

Future Trends

MTS – What emerging trends do you foresee in marketing and sales, and how should professionals prepare for them?

Christina – Future trends in marketing and sales are evolving rapidly, with several looking to reshape these fields for the better! One notable trend is the increasing use of AI, and understanding how machine learning and automation can be effectively used can not only increase sales but also set you apart from your competitors.

In the print industry, Artificial Intelligence offers capabilities that streamline processes, enhance personalization, and improve overall efficiency. AI can be used for automated prepress tasks, creating design layouts, and ensuring color accuracy. Variable Data Printing powered by AI enables personalized content, allowing businesses to customize printed materials based on individual recipient data, thereby increasing relevance and engagement.

The more specific you can get your marketing materials, the better your chances are at generating open rates and leads.

Advice for Aspiring Marketers

MTS – Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring marketers looking to succeed in this ever-evolving industry?

Christina – Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and promote yourself. Marketing involves experimenting and making mistakes, but there will also be successful moments. Take lessons from failures and celebrate victories. Additionally, consider joining an organization and offering your services as a volunteer. Through my experience on the PhillyDMA board, I gained valuable knowledge and formed meaningful connections in the industry. Lastly, always ALWAYS be learning because marketing trends are forever changing!