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Business Bits with Melissa Kowalchuk

Akvile DeFazio
November 19th, 2014
Akvile DeFazio

Melissa Kowalchuk For the second edition of my interview series, I’m very pleased to have Melissa Kowalchuk sharing some of her insights on lead nurturing, managing client relationships, and various aspects of working in marketing. Melissa recently joined Slalom Consulting as their Customer Engagement Consultant in San Diego. She has an impressive marketing background and a diverse skill set from previous roles she has held with Eloqua/Oracle, Heinz Marketing, Jolkona, and Trupanion Pet Insurance. When it comes to marketing technology, lead generation, and email marketing, she’s incredibly well versed and a good brain to pick!

What piqued your interest to get into marketing and how did you get your start?

It’s funny, I knew when I was in junior high/high school that I wanted to get into marketing. I loved the creative aspect and saw myself working for a prestigious New York City advertising company. Oh, how the times have changed. When I entered college, I knew I wanted to stay in marketing but honestly wasn’t even sure how. It turns out that most of the world didn’t have a clue as to the new marketing wave that was about to hit. Right after I graduated college I was connected with an awesome, small college housing and apartment search website (now RentMatch.com). The CEO was incredibly versed in online marketing, especially for that time, and I was hooked. I’ve always had a knack for the creatives as well as analytical and math side, so I slid easily into the space.

You have experience in a variety of areas within the online marketing umbrella. From SEO, to social media, public relations, email, lead generation, content marketing and much more. Which do you enjoy most and why?

I absolutely love that I’ve fallen into the marketing automation/lead generation space. The tools that are available are so fascinating and I love being able to track success quickly, easily, and make changes on the fly. I’m really excited about the predictive marketing and ad tech space and can’t wait to watch them grow and evolve.

You’ve worked at the in-house and agency level. What advice would you offer someone looking to make the jump from in-house to agency?

As much as we all don’t like sitting in hours of internal meetings, keep in mind that those are what keep you connected to the company. As a consultant, you lose a lot of that connection and you’re forced to take the initiative to ask all of those questions. Complete communication is very seldom handed to you so you have to be prepared to work without complete clarity. Making the jump itself is pretty easy, but coming to the conclusion that it’s the right fit for you might not be. Get ready to manage multiple personalities, working on tight deadlines with ambiguous or incomplete requirements, and always keeping an upbeat and positive attitude. It’s been an awesome ride, but it’s very different than in-house, more so than most people might expect.

How do you manage your client relationships and expectations?

Great question! For me it’s been a lot of trial and error. At the end of the day, be honest and open with your clients. Don’t offer services that you can’t deliver, and be realistic with yourself. Is it possible that you could get a client by giving them a crazy deadline, that leaves you working 20 hours days? Sure, but is that really the precedence you want to set early on? NO! I do my best to build relationships and trust early on in the relationship: do what you say you’re gonna do when you say you’re gonna do it. If there’s a snag, be open and upfront and don’t wait until the last minute. If you see a problem, let the client know. Open, transparent and frequent communication is key here!

You’re well versed with lead nurturing and demand generation. What are some best practices you can share?

At a high level, and this applies to B2B and B2C, I’d say take the time to get to know your audience. Develop personas and tailor your lead nurturing to those personas. Clients are often confused and concerned that they don’t know where to start when I tell them this, but the best place is to look at either your most common prospect, or your most valuable prospect and work backwards. What are their pain points? What are they trying to achieve? What are their challenges? How can my product or service help them get their job done, while adhering to their goals and paint points? Remember, it’s all about the prospect, and this day in age it’s all about getting the right information to the right people. People want to be able to do their research: make sure that information is out there and easily accessible.

To wrap things up on a fun note…you and your fiancé, Ross Hudgens have been traveling quite a bit this year to some really incredible places for work and pleasure. Which country has been a new favorite of yours and what would you recommend experiencing while there?

Yes! Another tough question! I would have to say Amsterdam is probably my favorite city so far: incredibly nice people, very cool architecture, great museums, parks, restaurants. My favorite part, however, is that they really know how to enjoy life. Our last night on our most recent trip ended with a 3-hour dinner. While it felt very strange to us, almost like we were forgotten by our waitress, it was completely normal to everyone else. It was so fun to watch everyone completely enjoy themselves at dinner, unwind, and move slowly. We really need to adopt this in the States!

Thank you so much, Mel! If you have any follow up questions or want to talk about customer engagement, get in touch with Melissa here.


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