With Jacques Hart, CEO of Roar Media
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I had the pleasure to interview Jacques Hart. Jacques is founder and CEO of Roar Media, an integrated marketing-communications and digital- communications consultancy. He specializes in helping traditional companies transform their legacy business operations and marketing programs into next-generation platforms that help increase market share, conversions and revenues. Jacques is internationally known in digital and earned media for his focus on delivering winning results during more than 15 years of providing strategic counsel to leading Internet enterprises and Fortune 500 companies.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Raised in remote Alaska, during my summer break, I began selling ice cream to Eskimos at age nine, resulting in my becoming the youngest child in the state with his own commercial checking account. My parents, who owned a lodge, would import ice cream on dry ice — everything from fudgsicles and Creamsicles, to Nutter Butters and ice cream sandwiches — and the combination of sugar and ice was irresistible to the locals! I would set up my little stand, ring a cow bell, and they would come by in droves. In one hour, I would sell more than $300!
I believe I was always an entrepreneur at heart because I truly wanted to be a hub where people could turn to have their needs and wants satisfied. The great success and pleasure I experienced selling ice cream as a kid was the motivation for resigning from corporate America, and the genesis of my company, Roar Media.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
Before cofounding Roar Media, I was hired by one of the largest media companies on the planet to evangelize its middle-management talent to sell content outside of its Mexico base. I did very well, spending a month on the other side of the Rio Grande doing onsite training, before the day arrived when I was due back in Miami.
Shortly after landing in Florida, I received a call from the company’s top brass in Mexico City. They wanted me to immediately hop back on a plane as they had an important opportunity to discuss with me at the CEO’s offices there. I grabbed the first flight I could the very next day, having barely slept.
When I arrived at the meeting, all the top brass was there, except for the CEO. “Jacques,” they said, “we see that you have a lot of potential, and we want you to continue working with us, but unfortunately, though we recognize the value of your contributions, we can’t make you a VP, right now, as there’s only room for the four of us.”
So, I asked them if I signed on for the role, however they titled it, could I hold on to my current salary and benefits? They quickly agreed, and I accepted the offer. I took that experience working for one of the world’s top media companies, then turned around and embraced all of the wide-ranging work in creating Roar Media.
The lesson for small businesses is this: Your title isn’t important. What matters is the quality of, and passion for, your work. When you start at a small business you can find yourself wearing a lot of hats. One moment you may be handling that company’s most critical accounts, responsibilities, and decisions; the next, you may find yourself playing the role of receptionist, office administrator, IT guy, designer, editor, even office dishwasher, you name it.
If you want to flourish, you have to embrace all of that, which includes those apparently menial tasks that come with starting a business from scratch. And you have to do so with a sense of commitment. I threw myself into all of that work and I, and our company, have grown much because of it. Interestingly, that willingness to take ownership of all of one’s workspace is one of the central things I look for today in the people I invite to join our team.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early in my career, I made a mistake that ended up being a real hoot — although it could have cost me dearly. At the time, I was acting as a consultant for a large newspaper launching a new lifestyle publication. To this end, working closely with their design team, we developed everything from a website strategy and wireframe, to advertising rates and the selection of ad channels.
The day finally came to present a live demo of the website to the newspaper’s executive leadership. It was to be the culmination of our collective efforts and in my excitement and haste, I made two seemingly minor typos in the internet address… But just dropping a little “w” and a dot meant that what I in fact projected on that dignified boardroom’s screen was nothing less than porn!
Although everybody laughed, and no harm was done, the consequences could have been dire. I learned a simple lesson that day: check and double check every step of your work. Take the time to breathe, understand your surroundings, and go back through everything in a measured, focused way. But do it quickly or you won’t survive!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Aside from being a tight knit, marketing technology company that brings together diverse perspectives — including team members that are investigative reporters, digital analysts, senior copywriters, and award- winning designers — we can rapidly pivot and solve complex marketing challenges across multiple industries and client types.
Our eclectic group of thinkers enables us to seamlessly tackle the evolving communications landscape from earned to owned and paid media.
Leveraging a perfect trifecta of public relations, creative, and digital professionals, our team is ideally suited to move the needle of client success.
Ensuring positive outcomes for our clients is also a result of our company culture. We hold dear to, and live by, good old-fashioned values, including going the extra mile, taking the time to go deep, and prioritizing honesty, transparency, and mutual respect.
When we say we are passionate about our work and advancing our clients’ success, the proof is in the pudding. On any given weeknight — and often on weekends — you are likely to find multiple team members working overtime, not because they were asked by a superior, but because we’re inspired to exceed client expectations.
A story that captures what makes our company stand out involved how we ended up winning the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce 2017 Good to Great award in our category. An independent panel of judges had been selected to visit the various finalists and meet their teams. We were completely open and transparent with them — nothing was scripted or rehearsed, and they were able to see for themselves who we are and how we work.
They were so impressed with our team and culture that what was supposed to have been a short tour, turned into a morning-long visit. They even walked a few blocks with us to view our new offices, which, while still under construction, gave them a sense of our evolving vision.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are truly blessed and thankful to be working with some of the world’s most inspired brands. From Royal Caribbean to LATAM Airlines, Sandals and Beaches to Tampico Beverages, and including some outstanding legal, professional, and financial services clients, we are continuously exposed to many new exciting and challenging opportunities. There is one project that is very close to our hearts, given its significant potential to positively impact our region. Via our work with the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the county’s official economic development association, we are helping to position Miami as the new business destination of choice.
In this engagement, we are leveraging the momentum created by Amazon’s selection of Miami as a top 20 HQ2 prospect. We have captured this energy and distilled it into a compelling, integrated media campaign, bringing together unexpected social media content and powerful news media headlines.
These collaborative efforts with the Beacon Council will yield much more than a modicum of good for our region; indeed, we can expect a rising tide of prosperity for all, including job growth, inclusion, resiliency, and economic development.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
The tipping point was, quite simply, when the phones started ringing and potential clients began approaching us. During our first five years
we accomplished this by hitting the pavement and engaging in hand-to-hand networking, to the point of exhaustion and near burnout. Our business development strategy was based on personal interactions and word-of-mouth referrals.
The lesson we learned is that we should have practiced what we preached and marketed our agency through digital, email, and other such channels. While networking is a good tool, leveraging it to the exclusion of others is a fatiguing and an incomplete course of action. Use it judiciously, as a complement to a balanced marketing plan.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
It’s essential to develop a strong marketing plan based on thorough market research. Know your consumer, the industry, your competitors. Put everything on the table; triangulate everything you can; know the numbers. Doing your homework upfront and putting extra effort into truly understanding your market will go a long way towards avoiding burnout and helping you thrive.
Once you’ve done the research, the next step is to convert your insights into memorable, actionable messaging. Based on your target audience’s behavior, choose your mediums, which in our present day and age are typically omni- channel, yet favoring a digital, mobile-first approach. But make no mistake, everything — every decision you make including your choice of message and channels — should evolve from your research and insights.
By following a few strategic steps, you can put in motion a strong plan that will help to alleviate stress and move you forward on the path of success.
How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?
Marketing, in its true essence, is moving people in a predetermined way. It can involve getting consumers to buy your product or service; to think about your brand — or even a competitor’s brand — in a certain way; or to form and even change their opinions.
As marketers, we are in the business of creating desire, by combining the right message in the right medium at the right time. This formula creates the impulse that moves hearts and minds, and that compels consumers to take a certain course of action.
None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you get where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As I interview potential team members to fill roles at Roar Media, I constantly encounter people who gave up on their dream to have their own business and instead have decided to join someone else’s company. Why?
In my case, I believe that having a binary star system in the early years was our key to launching a successful company. It takes at least two people that have grit, passion, and expertise to build a thriving professional services business from scratch. I was fortunate enough to partner with a very dynamic, intelligent, and driven woman: former business partner, Jolie Balido.
Together, we were able to support and fill in for each other, be a mutual voice of reason and motivation, and complement our strengths. I give Jolie a great deal of credit for helping to position Roar for long-term success. Though she is no longer with us, having found a new path to pursue, our company continues to grow upon the solid foundation she was so instrumental to establishing.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?
Yes, some essential tools are:
1. Hiring the right people for the right job. That is, hire people that are true experts and specialists in their field of expertise. Don’t hire a generalist for a very specific need or task. Instead hire a true expert that has the breadth and depth to tackle the challenge from all sides and provide a truly impactful solution.
2. Google Analytics: Install Google Analytics on your site, blog, app, etc. to glean deep insights about your audience and site performance. Study and evaluate the results to draw insights and optimize your operations.
3. Social media listening tools: If you are serious about social, be sure to license a social media listening platform to manage your social. The tools will give you deep insights into how to best engage and develop compelling content for your audiences so that they come back for more and share your content along the way. These tools will also reveal brand strength, brand intent, competitive intel, market research, etc. There are many great social media listening tools in the market ranging from:
d. Crimson Hexagon
f. Salesforce Social Studio
4. Brand studies: There are many benefits of tracking brand awareness and perception studies. Say for instance you are conducting a new brand refresh. These studies are important when you want to gauge changes in your brand awareness and perception, as well as to gain competitive intel vis-à-vis your comp set. They can also reveal important answers about your product mix, price points, distribution, etc. We have had good success with Qualtrics as a provider of brand studies.
What are your “5 Non Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Send a personalized “thank you” note after meeting with a business prospect. This may sound like a common-sense idea, but it is actually quite unexpected in today’s digital era. Receiving a personalized hand-written note on a nice “thank you” paper really makes you stand out and makes the recipient feel special. We regularly conduct this practice and can’t tell you how many times our client prospects have commented about how thoughtful our gesture and note was. In your note, be sure to mention something personal from your conversation, but also to take a moment to underscore your business’ unique value proposition.
2. Thought-leadership: As publishers downsize their editorial teams, they are finding ways to source content from other contributors and content sources. Both trade and general publications are often looking for business and industry experts to continue contributing content to their publications. It is an easy process in which you communicate with the editors of industry publications and propose a few different topics that you can provide bylined articles for. When they accept your articles, they are placed in their publications and often feature a link back to your website which is gold from an SEO link-building standpoint. Once the article is published, in many cases you can repurpose the headline and other elements of the article and resubmit them to other publications. Once you have canvassed the landscape, you can also post these articles to your own proprietary channels such as your website or blog, email and social media channels. It is also always effective just to send these articles directly to current prospects as a personalized one-off email to underscore your subject matter expertise, all while giving you another reason to contact them.
3. Organic social media: In this case, we are using this answer to state something not to do. Do not expect to experience strong results by simply developing and posting content to social media unless you also amplify and boost the content. As it stands, organic content reach is only approximately 2– 5%. That is to say that if you have 100 followers, only 2 to 3 of them will actually see your content on their wall. Towards that end, if you plan to leverage social media to drive marketing impact, it is critical that you also support it through paid media and amplification. Doing so will ensure that you maximize your investment in creating the content, as more people and the right people will see it. This will also enable you to effectively target and expand your reach to the right audience.
4. Nurturing: As part of your growth strategy, it is imperative to start to build your contact database. Along the way, be sure to categorize your prospects. By doing so, you will position yourself for effective lead nurturing and scoring. Nurturing is the simple practice of scheduling emails at different intervals which work to remind your customer to reengage with you, or take a desired action, at some point in the future. We are doing this with small eCommerce clients such that when a potential customer abandons the shopping cart, we send a series of reminder/engagement emails in three intervals — at 8 hours, 24 hours and 72 hours. We have seen tremendous success in doing so. Most of the off-the-shelf eCommerce platforms offer this type of functionality, but few businesses activate it. Nurturing is a surefire way to boost conversion rates and eCommerce sales.
5. Retargeting: Similar to nurturing, retargeting is a powerful way to stimulate repeat business and to encourage follow-up actions from your prospects. Retargeting is very easy to activate and enables you to extend your touchpoints with potential customers beyond your website as they journey through the Internet. As customers tend to convert mostly near the time that they initially interacted with you, it is important that you establish some recency rules which enables you to retarget them at specific intervals. In fact, you may even set these rules such that you are willing to pay more to serve them retargeting ads when they are more “recent” and closer to the time of their first interaction with you. Developing a smart recency plan will skyrocket your conversions and return on advertising spend.
12. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
In my daily and professional life, I believe in the mentoring movement. As an agency, we support Big Brothers, Big Sisters because of their impact mentoring youth. I also apply this to my interactions with colleagues and staff. I was fortunate enough to have a few very impactful mentors early in my career and it gave me the confidence, knowledge and humility needed to be successful further down the road. I have internalized this and am always exploring ways to better and provide counsel to those around me. Mentoring is not only a powerful gift to others, but it is also extremely gratifying and rewarding to the mentor as you watch others grow and improve.
13. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If there is one thing I have learned on this incredible journey we call life, it is this: the sign of a truly successful individual is humility.” — Naveen Jain
14. How can our readers follow you on social media?
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