Interview With a Chief Marketing Officer: Tracy Wehringer, NIP Group

Tracy’s initiative as CMO of NIP Group has been to see full integration between the CRM and email marketing platforms to better align marketing and sales while building and executing long-term strategy as it relates to the brand, marketing positioning, lead generation and retention.

NIP Group is now leveraging their CRM and email marketing platform integration, enabling sales to assign personas, model attribution and map their customer journey through the sales funnel. Tracy also shared her perspective on marketing industry trends, platforms and tools as well as challenges she faces as CMO of a growing company.

Here are the questions and answers from an interview conducted in Charlotte, North Carolina:

What is your background / previous experience that led you to your current position?

Previously I worked with consulting firms, serving a variety of industries (such as Premier Global, etc.). Most of the companies I partnered with were in the B2B space. I worked to open new markets, feature functionalities for products and highlight barriers to growth and market. I would often do the analytics and reporting needed and show what that looks like. While I did some consumer marketing, most of what I focused on was higher-level, B2B companies, offering the strategic view and having a team to execute.

What have you done to increase the digital marketing piece of the marketing pie as CMO at NIP Group?

Since January, I have been running multiple business decisions under an umbrella. NIP Group has multiple divisions by industry, and each have different business models, which I have to consider and adjust to different revenue goals. Specifically increasing the digital marketing piece of the marketing pie, I have encouraged a shared services view of the marketing team. Instead of traditional versus digital teams, we now function as a holistic services team running all programs, whether that’s lead generation or retention. This way I can really pick and choose the best skills to manage on my team.

What have you helped develop as CMO at NIP Group?

I was lucky to come aboard as CMO and already have a solid marketing team on the premise. There were different areas of expertise, and the marketing team was soloed and segmented based on the business line and division. After coming aboard, I tried to turn the tables on this to drive our team towards a more shared services ideology, where team members were pulled in based on skill set.

While this is definitely more of a tactical and operational move, I have also had the privilege of working to integrate our CRM and email marketing platforms: Salesforce and Marketo.

Previously these were not fully integrated platforms, so I worked to build the API and integration between the two to make marketing at NPI much stronger.

During this time period, I also helped to build and grow an inside call team. Now we are really strong in email campaigns based on segmentation and target audience. With Salesforce and Marketo integration, our call team is incredibly adept.

Another huge success because of this integration is that our marketing team can now send the right message at the right time. Honing in on behavior and action and testing to set up the call team based on territory, our call-back time is near immediate. We can see the path to attribution, set up automated work flows, and lead nurturing campaigns all based on stages in the sales funnel. Through seeing what path they are taking, we are able to optimize our digital strategy.

I have learned that it takes time to build the content and what the communication is going to look like, but with the integration of our platforms, once built, it runs itself.

What marketing tools and integrations are you leveraging to be successful?

Marketo gives us incredible insight into lead scoring and behavior. We can see what website pages our visitors were on and what they downloaded. We can then build out behaviors and tasks based on lead scoring and behavior/action. This makes the call team that much stronger and smarter with leads that come in.

Our closed metric of originally 13-14% has increased upwards of 50%. Managing these leads and understanding the path they take from submission received to closed bid of business, we are more strategic. Depending on the specific business unit, we have seen an average 40-50% increase of inbound business.

If you would identify 2-3 developments that have been turning points in the industry, what would they be?

Platforms, platforms, platforms.

What trends do you see for digital marketing in 2015?

Having been in digital for so long, it seems to always go back to some traditional aspects like direct mail. With marketing, as you know, it’s always about the right message, the right offer to the right prospect at the right time, where they are looking and where they are online. I am a firm believer in reaching that prospect.

In 2015, we are definitely seeing customer journey mapping increasing in value. The need to understand where the customer is and whether they have a framework for the content based on where they are in the sales funnel is key to making sure your brand stays top of mind. Persona studies help understand what makes up your prospect but also gives insight into the timing of messaging, the digital touchpoints and the frequency of those touchpoints.

In what direction is NIP Group moving next with digital marketing?

Testing retargeting is next. In the pipeline for me right now is conducting a 3 month test with a few specialty insurance products. Currently, it has only been running for 1 week. As an early adopter of retargeting in the B2B world, I am interested to see if it will make any impact and increase the lead funnel.

Also on my horizon is of course mobile technology. In the B2B space, mobile definitely lags behind, but it is in our overall marketing plan. Currently, I am asking myself the question: “Does it make the most sense for us right now?” My focus has been building out platforms, evaluating where our marketing needs to be from a strategic and execution view. That being said, mobile advertising would start with testing, seeing what works and scaling. Business is all about timing!

What challenges do you face as CMO of a growing company (now ranked among the largest 125 insurance and brokerage intermediaries in the U.S.)?

Often times mid to large companies have misalignment at the senior executive level with the vice president of sales and the marketing division operating like oil and water. This is such a detriment to the company and causes revenue to decrease and lead generation to take a hit. This can become dysfunctional and toxic for the company when they are not in lock step.

At NIP, the field sales have separate divisions. One way I counteract this potential misalignment is to sit down frequently to be a partner with them on equal footing. I make sure to understand the barriers they face day-to-day. By leveraging platforms like Salesforce to provide them with updates and tweaking those platforms to assist the team, they will be more apt to support with the testing we are doing for marketing purposes.

Dealing With the Legalities of Direct Mail

There are many regulations and laws that govern our day to day business activities. In additional to the laws and regulations there are also imposed ethical restrictions on our own behavior. When creating and implementing a direct mail advertising campaign, be sure that you are strictly adhere to all laws as well as ethical considerations. No business can afford to damage its good name through ignorance of the law or by any type of shady behavior.

Both direct mail and telemarketing have been under scrutiny for the past several years. Few people want to be harassed by phone or through the mail at their own homes. It’s good that some limitations have been imposed to keep unsavory elements out of the industry. A few unethical practitioners have given honest direct mail companies a bad name and it’s better for all of us if they are kept out of business.

In order to be absolutely certain that your company is setting the highest possible bar in regards to ethics and the law, be sure to consult your legal advisor about the laws in your state. Make this appointment in the earliest planning stages of your campaign. This site does not pretend to be an expert in legal matters so be sure you consult with someone who is. However, there are a few matters that we can speak to with limited authority in regards to following the law.

Do some research.

Just like there is a national “do not call” list for telemarketers, there is a similar “do not mail” list for direct mail companies. This organization has a responsibility center where companies can learn about privacy policies, identity theft, self-regulation and many other topics relating to the use of direct mail marketing.

Do your homework when planning your campaign. Not knowing the law is no excuse, especially when there are so many resources available with just a simple Google search.

Learn about postal regulations.

It’s not just the legal ramifications that can entangle a direct mail campaign. Practical considerations can trip you up as well. Something as seemingly simple as putting postage on your marketing flyers can become complicated when you are sending a large quantity.

The US Postal Service has many, many regulations regarding bulk mail. Using the US Postal Service’s bulk mail system can be a big money saver but it can also be pretty complicated. When you send your mailers through as bulk mail, you can get a much better rate on the postage. In return, you are essential doing the post office’s job for them and you must process it as they would. They publish a book with all of the regulations outlined and it can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.

Consider hiring a pro.

A professional direct mail company can help you get through many of these sticky situations. Many companies can check your mailing list against your state’s “do not mail” list. They can also navigate the complex postal system to get you the best rate on your mailer.

Dispelling the Most Common Myths About Self-Directed IRAs

The truth about the myths surrounding Self-Directed IRAs…

Have you ever watched a health report on the evening news, wherein even the most credible researchers appear to completely reverse an earlier notion about which foods are healthy to eat and which are not?

Truth is, we’ve all experienced myths like these in our lives. Sometimes we buy into them, like believing that an urban legend is real when it turns out to be a fabrication. And sometimes we wisely keep clear of the myth by not making a judgment one way or another.

Most of the time, these myths are innocent. But sometimes these myths embed themselves into the popular consciousness and prevent people from making fully-informed decisions.

Consider the world of Self-Directed IRAs. Myths about these IRAs are rampant-some of them true, some of them way off base. If you’ve just discovered this site, now’s the time to learn more about Self-Directed IRAs so you can evaluate them with a clear head… and a mind free of myths.

“The Only Possible Investments in Retirement Accounts are Stocks, CDs, and Mutual Funds.”

You might not have even heard this one directly. It simply seems to be the underlying assumption that many investors make. Even money managers make this mistake often enough that the myth has become pervasive. The truth? Self-Directed IRAs allow you the ability to invest in intellectual property, real estate, private companies, gold, and more. There aren’t as many limits on retirement accounts as you might think.

We should note, however, that if you want to expand your retirement investment options, you might have to switch over to a Self-Directed IRA. These IRAs will allow you the financial freedom to make more of your own decisions, pay fewer fees to wealth managers, and take charge of your retirement destiny.

Our ruling on this one: Myth.

“Self-Directed IRAs Are Inherently Riskier.”

Have you heard this from a money manager? Try asking yourself if they were selling you on their latest mutual fund.

The real truth about IRAs and investment in general is, well, a little murkier. Sure, we could sell you on a number of easy platitudes and generalizations, but the truth is, different retirement accounts work for different people. Self-Directed IRAs might work out better for you than the traditional IRAs you’ve been sold all your life.

If you have a lot of experience in real estate investing, for example, then you might actually have less financial risk associated with Self-Directed IRA real estate investments. You know the market well, you know how to handle the investments, and you know how to generate a return. Is that riskier than the traditional IRA? You tell us.

Our ruling on this one: Myth.

“I have more options with a Self-Directed IRA.”

Is this one really a myth? Consider the limited scope of the traditional IRA: CDs, mutual funds, stocks. That’s the traditional route. With a Self-Directed IRA, however, you can open up your investments to real estate, private IRA lending, private stocks, tax liens, precious metals, and more. Opening up a Self-Directed IRA will expand the breadth of your options… and possibly the depth, as well.

One common argument money managers often make is that Self-Directed IRAs require a more subtle appreciation for the difficulty investments. And while this is true, it’s not prohibitive by any means. Ordinary people make real estate and private investments all the time-often, with stable, effective results.