Sometimes it takes the proverbial fork in the road to discover our true strengths.
Take marketer Marti Barletta, who during her 20-year agency career, never dreamed of being a thriving entrepreneur with three books under her belt and major companies seeking her expertise.
Yet Barletta, 52, is proof that we can remake ourselves at any age. It all comes down to smart personal branding, a well-executed strategy and the confidence to take the road less traveled. All of which Barletta has in spades.
In the late 1990s, Barletta was working at Chicago ad agency Frankel heading up a team researching marketing to women. After immersing herself in the subject for two years, she knew more about the topic than most people — including the fact that most marketers were clueless about marketing to women. Consider, for example, that 80 percent of purchase decisions in all categories are made by women, including big ticket items like cars. Meanwhile, the prevailing opinion was that women influenced only small purchase decisions like which pasta brand to buy.
Recognizing the makings of a business in marketing to women, Barletta thought about starting her own company even though she was a novice entrepreneur. The idea was blessed by her employer Frankel who had decided to go in another direction.
Barletta says she still needed a little push to get started and was fortunate to have found it in a mentor.
“I wasn’t sure I could go on my own. There are a lot of marketing consultants out there,” she recalled. However, her mentor reminded her that she was different and had expertise others lacked. “He told me I had an ability to warm up a room like no one he had ever seen. And that five years from now he’d be telling people he knew Marti when she first started out.”
For Barletta, that was an observation that changed her life. “I had never realized that about myself,” she said, and it was just the inspiration she needed to launch her business, The TrendSight Group.
Barletta also was expert at creating opportunities. Thousands, if not millions of people have probably heard Tom Peters speak and left it at that. Not Barletta. Meeting Tom Peters at a conference, she subsequently wrote to him asking if he would write the foreword to her first book . Peters not only wrote the foreword but also became a big fan of Barletta, inviting her to speak at one of his “Cool Friends” gatherings and referencing her work in his presentations. In addition to her own books, she and Peters in 2005 co-authored a book, Trends, about marketing to women.
Marti’s mentor proved right. Today she is a recognized authority on marketing to women, and a sought after speaker and consultant.
Her advice to people wanting to launch a new venture:
Focus on your ability to solve problems. “While it’s important to establish your credentials and marketing materials, people care less about you and more about your ability to solve their problems.”
Be confident. “People will treat you the way you encourage them to treat you.”
Position yourself as an expert. Consultants are a dime a dozen but experts are unique. “You are treated differently as an expert, especially an expert with a book, than you are as a consultant. As a marketing consultant you’re viewed as temporary and expendable. As an expert, you’re seen as needed and someone worthy of respect.”
Get feedback from others. “Do market research on yourself. You don’t always recognize your own unique abilities. Seek out people you know to help you discover them.”
Wendy Marx • Public Relations/Marketing Communications • President, Marx Communications, Inc.