Growth Hacking Interview Series #122: Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

How did you start out as a marketer?

I grew up a poor, black child (The Jerk, anyone?). I fell into the industry. I needed a job badly after college and there was an opening at a PR firm. The rest, as they say, is history.

But in recent years, as I’ve built my own business, I’ve discovered I not only have a passion for marketing, but for the data side of things. I LOVE being able to use data, science, and math to make really smart decisions about your target market, creating funnels, and generating real revenue.

Looking back, what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?

Oh, that’s easy! It is, hands-down, an antiquated way of looking at results among the entire industry. In the PR industry, we’ve always looked at media impressions and advertising equivalency, which are such baloney metrics.

They mean nothing, yet this is how the industry has always reported results and so it’s what executives are accustomed to receiving. They’ve now added number of social media followers, which is another metric that means nothing. The industry needs to do a better job of delivering results.

How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?

I hate to say how easy it was. I had a client who told me he’d be my first client if I ever decided to go out on my own. So, when I did, he stayed true to his word. He was a client for the first eight years we were in business.

What do you find most rewarding about what you do?

I love, love, love trying to figure out solutions to client’s issues. Can’t figure out why your community has stopped paying attention to you? I can fix that.

Don’t know why you’re not generating revenue? I can fix that. Have a broken email marketing system? I can fix that.

I really should have gone into some sort of computer programming. I love working through challenges that allow you to use technology to improve.

We have a lot of readers who are bent on becoming freelancers, aside from freelancing how else can someone earn online, and what is your advise?

So many ways! You can create online courses. You can build a team of like-minded people and charge them to hang out together. You can create events—online and off.

If you look at what some of the internet marketers are doing (Scott Oldford, Danny Iny, Jeff Walker, Michael Hyatt, Brian Clark), you can learn all sorts of things about how to earn online. I’m reading Launch by Jeff Walker right now and it’s chock full of things you can sell online.

If you were given the chance to build your career all over again, what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?

Oh, man. I really, really wanted to be a sports agent so I’d probably pursue that if I were to do it all over again. But if we’re talking about this career and just doing it all again, I would work longer in the real world before going out on my own.

I had zero business experience so it was a very, very expensive lesson that could have been avoided had I had more experience. Couple that with the Great Recession and there were a few extraordinary painful years.

How is your typical work day structured?

I’m pretty structured. I like my routine and get cranky when something new is thrown at me that I wasn’t expecting. Therefore, I pretty much follow this routine:
Up at 5:30 and write until 7:00.
7:00-7:30 is family time
7:30-8:30 is always getting through my inbox and moving things to my task list or to folders for follow-up later
8:30-12:00 is reserved for meetings and I typically have all of those hours full.
12:00-1:00 is exercise time (I cycle).
1:00-5:00 is deep work time
5:00-6:00 is getting through email and social media one more time

I rarely go back at it after dinner. I like my family to have my full and undivided attention so I try really hard to not let work creep into the past 6 p.m. hours. Unless I’m traveling. Then all bets are off.

Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?

Uh, yes. The first 10 years building my business! They say it takes 10 years to have overnight success and that is so true! Last year was our 10th year and it was our best in history.

Not our best revenue year, but our best profitable year…by far. It also was the year we finally figured out how to make money online. Now I can look forward to the next 10 years of profitability and hockey stick growth.

You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.

People pay us hundreds of thousands of dollars for this process! I actually wish it were as simple as just writing down the steps. As with most things, it depends.

Are you doing a complete redesign? Are you just doing a refresh? Do you need new messaging and new brand standards and a new website?

What kind of software are you using? Does it need an update? What does your email marketing look like? Does it need to be updated? What are you doing for other types of marketing? What’s working and what’s not working?

Our process includes a two-day session. The first day we spend answering these (and more) questions. The second day is brainstorming and then putting costs, deliverables, and responsibilities against them.

Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?

I feel like I’m interviewing for a job! Are you also going to ask me if I were a tree, what kind I would be and why? What about my strengths and weaknesses?

I do this every, single day! It’s the life of being in the agency world. You could easily have three clients who need something all at the same time. You get really good at prioritizing, using that deep work time I mentioned in my routine answer above, and setting realistic expectations.

Of course, you can’t deliver three things at the exact, same time, but maybe one is early and one you’ve negotiated a deadline an hour later. You make it work.

What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?

It’s not recently-developed, but I am obsessed with internet marketing, finding ways to earn online, and building a business that is scalable without relying on people’s time (which is not scalable).

That’s why some of the people I mentioned earlier are top-of-mind for me right now. I love the psychology of online sales and why people buy. It’s fascinating to me and it’s completely different than what I’ve been trained to do throughout my career. I love it!

What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?

I read. A ton. I subscribe to blogs and newsletters and to SmartBrief. I also read every article we post on the Spin Sucks Twitter feed (which is run by my team, not me).

I read at least four books a month. Almost everything I read leads to some sort of idea for business.

Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?

This was a long time ago, but it’s one of my favorites. The client I mentioned who was our first client and stayed with us for eight years? They created a product that kills fire ants with only one chemical application. If you live where fire ants are a problem, you know what a big deal this is.

To launch the product in early 2000s, we held a fire ant funeral at a festival. We hired a Southern Baptist preacher and mourners. We built a casket with a gigantic dead fire ant in it. And we had a funeral. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen and pretty much every news outlet in the country covered it. I still laugh about it.

Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?

I really loved What Would Google Do because it completely changed the way I think about my business and helped me understand why I should move towards earning online. I mentioned I’m reading Launch now and will report back on whether it’s a recommendation.

What advice would you share with other Marketer’s who want to become more productive?

Block time to do deep work. So many of us go from project to project and fire to fire and nothing ever gets done. We’re really good at putting out fires, but not at doing meaningful work.

In my routine answer, you saw I have at least four hours every day where I do deep work. This leads to serious productivity.

If there’s one Marketing Guru you’d recommend who and why.

I won’t do it! That’s like asking my favorite child!

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