In this interview, I had the opportunity to chat with Vicky Wu, Marketing Guru. Check out our Q and A, as she talks about her journey to success. From leaving her full-time job, to launching Vicky Wu, Marketing Guru, she shares her expertise and gives out one guru tip that every small business owner must know!
- Hello! Please tell us about yourself and your company, Vicky Wu, Marketing Guru.
One day I looked up, and realized I had been working 80 hours a week at my job for over 2 years. I liked the company where I worked and the people there, and I love marketing, but I stepped back and realized that overwork was impacting my health and my family. I also realized I wasn’t PAID for 80 hours a week. The salary I received was in the bottom 25% for my position – salary for 40 or so hours a week. The low pay was never an issue because I loved what I was doing, but I thought about the fact that if I were working for myself, those extra 40 hours each and every week would likely result in extra income – income going into my own pocket rather than someone else’s. That extra income I could use to provide benefits to my family and myself that I wasn’t otherwise able to – including things that could save me time and energy, such as hiring a housekeeper.
I had been employed in the marketing sector a long time, having worked with large companies like Southwest Airlines, regional companies, and even nonprofits. I had also done freelance work being my own boss for a while when my youngest was not yet in school. And even more than doing marketing, I love helping other people learn new skills – a large part of my responsibilities at my last job and the reason I also love teaching ballroom dance (what I love doing on the side).
My background working with small businesses, startups, entrepreneurs, also made me realize that they all reach a tipping point where they need the expertise that someone focused on marketing can strategically bring their business, but they may not be to the point of being able to hire someone full-time.
I decided that pieces were coming together where I could take my love of helping others learn and succeed, combine it with my knowledge of how to do it in little or no budget which I gained while working with nonprofit, and the high-level strategic expertise gained from working with successful global companies, and wrap all of this up in one great package and offer that knowledge and expertise to help small business owners thrive and become large business owners.
- How long have you been a “marketing guru” 🙂 ?
I actually first started doing marketing activities when I was still in high school (we won’t mention how long ago that was!) I was editor of the school newspaper and yearbook, and everything I learned doing those two jobs carried over into my first full-time job in advertising. My degree is actually in business with a minor in marketing, I had decided since every business is a business that major would provide me the widest range of knowledge, and the marketing minor combined nicely with the experience I already had working on marketing and advertising in the field.
I’m also a graphic designer, and have been drawing and painting since I was about 3 years old. I have an adorable “self portrait” from when I was 3 or 4. But I had formal art training all my life (including from some professional artists in my family), and when I started learning computers in 6th grade in a “gifted and talented” class, the marriage of art and tech led to my eventual love of computer-based graphic design. I worked on a Macintosh and with Photoshop 1.0 and have been constantly learning and expanding my skills ever since.
- What are some of the services that you currently offer?
Our services are broken down into three levels:
Do it yourself – this is for the entrepreneurs who want to do the marketing, graphic or social media work themselves, have the time and desire, but may not have all of the technical skill. Our training programs help them learn the skills they need to know without having to make all of the mistakes that we learned from over the years.
Do it with help – this is for businesses that have someone on staff, maybe the owner or another employee, who can do the work (either they already know some of the technical skills or they’ve gone through our training) but need help with strategy and direction to implement it in the manner most strategic for their business to realize the greatest return on investment. This includes our marketing coaching programs, Marketing Bootcamp, business coaching, and the “Hire a CMO” program.
Have it done for you – this is for the business that wants to outsource some of their graphic design, social media, and other marketing pieces. The problem with finding your own freelancers is that you often have to go to multiple places to have the differing pieces accomplished, and this can result in a lack of brand consistency, which is very bad for a business. We have a whole team of freelancers on call so that you can have all of your needs met in one place, and provide an account manager who acts as your Marketing Director or Art Director to oversee it all and make sure your brand messaging and design is consistent.
- Favorite part about what you do?
While I love all of the parts of what I do, really the piece that speaks most directly to me and brings me the most joy on a daily basis is teaching other people, helping them learn relevant skills (without taking time away for skills they don’t need) that help them succeed.
Nothing is more exciting than having a business owner achieve goals that perhaps they had been struggling with in the past, or that they thought were a bit out of their reach, and with the proper teaching, coaching and focus, they make amazing things happen. They had to do the work, but knowing that you helped them achieve that success is a feeling that is hard to beat.
- What are some of the biggest challenges that you face in your industry, and how you position yourself to overcome those challenges?
I see two big challenges, really which impact a business of any size even though we focus more on small business owners and entrepreneurs, and we directly address both of these challenges with our service offerings. Technology is changing the marketing world (all aspects, whether it’s graphic design, social media, or other areas) on an almost daily basis and it can be hard to keep up with the latest. Plus the ability to scale up or down as your business grows without upfront investment in ongoing employee salaries when you may only need periodic help. Our team keeps up-to-date on the newest marketing, graphic design and social media trends for our clients, and provide services a business needs, but only when they need it.
- Can you tell us more about your “Hire a CMO” service? It sounds pretty innovative.
What we see with entrepreneurs, start ups and small businesses, is that as they grow, they may get to the point where they hire a person who can focus partially on doing some of the marketing or design activities. But often these employees may not be at the level to develop strategy, and the business owner may not have experience in this high-level marketing as w ell. So they may be able to get the work done, but need more of the guidance on what work to be focusing on to be most efficient and provide the best return on investment. A lot of that is learned through years and years of experience and training that you would find in a Marketing Director or Chief Marketing Officer. But those are expensive – the median salary of a Marketing Director is $130,000. For a Chief Marketing Officer is $218,000.
You may find yourself at the point that you need someone to help focus your marketing work, but you can’t justify “buying” by hiring a full-time or even half-time director or CMO. We allow you to “rent” one and only pay for the time used, even if it is in small quantities.
Today’s economy is trending that direction when you look at things such as Uber – you can’t afford to hire a full-time driver but you can afford to hire one only when you need. Or even something like Task Rabbit – you can’t afford to hire a full-time personal assistant but you can afford to hire a person to go pick up your dry cleaning the one time you just don’t have time.
That freedom to ‘choose when to use’ fills a critical need for small business owners. Plus since helping small businesses is something we love to do, and working with a variety of businesses makes our knowledge base both very broad and deep, so it works for us and for the business.
- One Guru Tip for small business owners?
Consistency. If you can’t focus on anything else, focus on this one area and everything else will follow. You want consistency in the look, in the service or product you provide, in the frequency of communication with your clientele. Sit down and figure out how you can make your business consistent.