By Kerry Pipes | Story originally appeared on Franchising.com. To read more of the article click here.
Crissy Russo stepped into her role as senior director of marketing at Junk King about a year ago. Junk King is an eco-friendly junk removal company that recycles up to 60 percent of the items it picks up. Russo was hired in January 2020, along with a new COO and vice president of business development, as the brand brought in seasoned professionals to help take growth to the next level.
With 15 years in marketing, Russo was tapped for her expertise in building brand awareness, developing strategic alliances, and leading teams. Before coming to Junk King she spent 5 years as vice president of marketing with Nelson, an independent staffing company where she was recognized as an innovative leader in building successful brands and market strategies. She also has been a part of a disruptive outplacement solutions provider where she focused on B2E marketing and was responsible for educating both enterprises and displaced employees.
Since arriving at Junk King, she has been overseeing two key areas: 1) leading the strategic direction of junk removal from residential and commercial spaces, and 2) marketing strategy and implementation for franchise development.
Russo is a strong proponent of technology use. Data today, she says, has become more sophisticated and provides deeper insights, but it’s also easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it. Nevertheless, the data Junk King collects has been instrumental for the brand entering new markets. “It allows us to find where those opportunities are and turn them into conversions,” she says.
Since joining the company Russo also has been a part of a fundamental shift in social media marketing strategies. Junk King has begun using more local social media tools, and she says the result has been huge growth numbers in followers and consumers.
Russo is quick to point out that while KPIs and conversions are important for marketers, numbers are only part of the story. Marketing, she says, should always include creativity and the desire to create great campaigns, which is ultimately what builds brand awareness, kindles interest, and leads to conversions.
Describe your role as senior director of marketing. I have two main areas of responsibility. The first is leading the strategic direction of junk removal from residential and commercial spaces, with the other being the marketing strategy and implementation for franchise development. I work hand in hand with nearly every department, from customer care to operations and sales to franchise development. The ultimate goal is to push the brand forward and get closer to being the number-one junk removal company.
What’s the most challenging part of being a marketing leader today? Easily the biggest challenge is keeping up with the many ways consumers behave and interact, especially online. You have to ensure that your brand is top-of-mind to consumers, and that is difficult since there’s so much content from other brands out there. There are a lot of different platforms and avenues to reach customers and prospects, and you have to use them all effectively. That includes understanding which social channel each demographic is drawn to. We know that the methods we use for a certain demographic (Facebook, email, phone) won’t work for others. Your efforts need to expand beyond the digital realm, however. You must challenge your brand to be active in the community and give back to build awareness among local markets.
How has Covid-19 affected how you have led your brand’s marketing efforts? While business itself was, fortunately, not hit too hard, the pandemic has provided a lot of valuable learning. Being the first to get your voice out there is key. When things first really started being affected by the pandemic, we knew we had to get our messaging out there first; we had to be first to market. We didn’t wait to see what our competitors were doing. Instead, we jumped right in to let our customers know about the new safety precautions we’d implemented and would be taking to not only keep them safe, but also to keep our employees safe. All of our employees had to be trained on talking points to help address customers’ concerns, especially at our call center. We’ve also been more focused on community-building initiatives. A few of our owners have set up grocery delivery for at-risk individuals in their community, along with the initiatives our other owners have taken part in.
What are the 3 most important keys to being an effective marketing leader today? First, you must have a quality team surrounding you. Having the right teammates that fit from both a skill set and cultural aspect is very important. They have to understand their role in the company and do it effectively so the rest of us also can be effective. Next, you must be nimble. If there’s one thing I’ve really learned in the last few months, it’s the importance of being able to change tactics at a moment’s notice. Finally, you have to be able to interpret analytics. All of the raw data at your disposal is worthless without the ability to understand it and put it into action.
How do you prepare a marketing plan and execute the strategies? Collaboration is the name of the game. My team and I will get together and dive into our plans quarter by quarter to see how we can meet our metrics. We use the metrics we met last year to give us an idea of what we should aim for. Our team also will go through the campaigns and strategies we used, determine which ones worked, then try to implement those into our new plans. Feedback from owners on the local level also is invaluable. During the planning process, it’s important to consider how these ideas will affect the other departments and if they will work cross-functionally.
How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness? We rely heavily on analytics tools for measuring our results and effectiveness. Junk King has a proprietary system that allows us to see conversions (customers booking a job or estimate) through the CRM model. Besides that, we use Google Analytics and HubSpot to see where traffic is coming from and if those are effective at driving conversions. Conversions are definitely our number-one metric when measuring success. Ultimately, our customers let us know how well we are doing. Our consistent positive reviews let us know where the brand stands in the junk removal ecosystem.
Discuss your core consumer marketing strategies and objectives. Our core objective is getting as many conversions as possible; the more appointments the better. We give our consumers a variety of ways to book a junk removal estimate or job. They can call, text, or email, even sending images to help solidify the job right there. SEO initiatives are a main focus for us to drive these conversions. Our digital footprint is phenomenal for a young company, and we’re constantly looking to expand it. We always look to partner with the best lead generators and be top-of-mind no matter where you might be searching. Having a strong presence in the community is another objective for us. Our owners are always looking to participate in philanthropy and giveback programs, something that has been especially important during the pandemic. Even if these aren’t transactional, it’s a great way for the community to know that Junk King is there for them.
How do you go about creating a “customer-centric” marketing and brand philosophy? Our number-one priority is a focus on customer service. With our very high satisfaction ratings and thousands of positive reviews, we truly value how our customers feel about us. We especially take pride in our return referral numbers, which are upwards of 50 percent. To create this, we tout ourselves as the best in the industry and back it up with our performance. Additionally, we never turn down a job just because of pricing. Our employees are always willing to work with a customer on a price they’re most comfortable with. This all goes hand-in-hand with our desire to help people ease some stress in their life.
Describe your marketing team and the role each plays. Our marketing team is small but mighty, with all of us playing a major role. Personally, I do a lot of task-oriented things. Our marketing operations manager has been with us since the beginning of the company and knows Junk King inside and out. She enables us to understand our target market and segmentation, helps to ensure we get the right message to the right person, and is instrumental in franchise support. The digital marketing coordinator handles all of the front end and some back end of our web presence; they do a lot of the analytics and know which methods are best to continue expanding our digital footprint. Finally, our marketing coordinator is the one that puts it all together; they pull it all together for us and are a real jack of all trades. By helping us navigate smaller support functions, we’re able to focus more on bigger initiatives.
Why is it so important for the marketing department to have a “personal touch” when it comes to helping the brand connect with franchise prospects? A personal touch is essential when it comes to connecting Junk King with prospects. They are buying into the brand and want to make sure it has a strong presence, and marketing plays a major role with that. Our team has individual meetings with each prospect to go over our marketing efforts and what they can expect when becoming a Junk King franchisee. Marketing plays a big part in supporting the sales process, as well as the franchisees once they’ve opened. Owners get the royal treatment with us and have access to unequalled resources compared with others in the industry.
How does this help your franchise sales and development effort? By establishing those relationships, new owners get a sense of what they’re buying into. In turn, they feel more comfortable with their investment.
What ways/tools do you rely on to do this? Our team takes a multi-touch approach. We like to include as many members of the team as possible to get the entire company’s perspective. Then we use any tool at our disposal to get our message across. Phone calls, robust email marketing campaigns, and even more-traditional methods help us build those relationships. It’s essential that our message is tailored to each prospect. We never want our message to sound canned.
Do today’s prospects expect more from the franchise marketing department? What, and how do you provide it? There is certainly more expectation from the marketing department. The role of marketing has changed so much, as it’s now closely tied to our sales expectations. We provide prospects with a lot of support on the marketing side, including giving them access to scalable technologies to help grow their business.
How is today’s consumer and marketing “data” helping you fine-tune your marketing initiatives? It’s definitely come a long way. Data has become so sophisticated and insightful that it’s become easy to get lost in it and go down a rabbit hole. This data has been instrumental for us entering new markets and revenue streams. It allows us to find where those opportunities are and turn them into conversions. The analytics help us see if we were the first to market as well.
Describe the evolving role of social media in your brand’s marketing efforts. When I first joined Junk King, the brand’s social media was mainly at a national level. However, it became clear that there was an opportunity to leverage this content on a local level, especially from an advertising perspective. Since making that shift, we’ve seen huge growth numbers in followers and consumers. We’ve also tried to use our social media outside of a sales approach. Our social platforms give a great opportunity to increase consumer engagement and build those vital relationships with them.
How do you work with other internal departments and does technology help? Having a smaller team allows for all of us to work cross-functionally with the other departments very well. I work with operations, sales, IT, and customer success to put plans into action and make sure there’s no strain on the other departments. Technology has played a big part in how we communicate. Especially since the pandemic hit, we are using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and other videoconferencing platforms. However, we still like to do it the old-fashioned way by picking up the phone and giving someone a call.
How do you manage costs and budgets for the marketing department? It really is a “one day at a time” approach. I like to build enterprise-level relationships with our vendors, and these relationships allow our costs to stay low. Our team likes to build a lot of things in-house, which gives us flexibility in the budget for making large-scale purchases.
Do you see vendors as business partners? Why/why not? I 100% see our vendors as business partners, especially those in our industry, like truck providers. It’s vital that they be a part of our business and celebrate our successes together. We have strong relationships with our vendors because of the great work they do for us. Without them, it would be much more difficult to grow and scale as much as we have.
How have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade? How have you adapted? You have to be nimble and ready to change strategies at the drop of a hat. It’s interesting, because earlier in the year email marketing was on its way out for us and we were shifting more to texting. People were spending less time looking at their email and more time with their texts. Then the pandemic hit and people had more time to look at their email, so we began shifting back to email marketing. Our website is something that’s had to evolve as well. Mobile is all the rage right now, and about 50% of our traffic comes from mobile users. For the longest time we were focused only on the website experience for the desktop user; now we must consider the mobile user. You have to stay on top of the different avenues to reach customers. It seems like there’s a new social media platform popping up every year, and our team does its best to take advantage of these different tools and do them well.
How is your marketing/branding strategy developed, and how does it flow through the system? When it comes to developing strategy, our team has a top-down approach. Strategies are developed so that they are scalable nationwide and in Canada. Then we hone these strategies so that they can be done on the local level to help our owners. Our franchise consultants play a big role in pitching these marketing activities to our owners to make sure we have participation throughout the entire system.
What advice would you offer to aspiring CMOs and marketing leaders? There’s a lot of advice, but first is to not get lost in the analytics. While data is helpful to measure KPIs and conversions, marketing is so much more than just numbers. It’s about creativity, too. There are so many facets to what a marketing team can bring that can’t be measured by analytics, such as the power of the brand itself. Everyone starts out with a creative mindset in marketing and has the capability and desire to create great campaigns. But as your career progresses that can sometimes waver. So never forget to tap into your creativity. Always make sure to use your team, since a one-person show is almost never successful. Also, don’t overanalyze an idea. Sometimes the best method is to just roll with it and see what happens.Back