In Conversation Series with Joseph Grano

Over the next few months, we will focus on insights from our team members. We kick off this series with Next-Mark President and Founder Joseph Grano. Joe dishes on what makes him tick, offers some advice for success in business and discusses the importance of trusting your gut.

What are some lessons learned after 16 years in business?

The single biggest lesson I’ve learned is to stick to your core competencies, the things you do well. Sometimes, especially when yours is a new business, you’re tempted to take on projects you’re not ready for or that fall outside your current level of expertise. I think that’s how a lot of businesses get lost in the weeds – trying to be all things to all people. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be ready when you say “yes” to something. 

Once you understand your core competencies, another big lesson is to seek out clients that align with them. For me, I have an MBA that helped foster a more strategic approach to marketing. I seek out clients that are willing to be strategic and go on a longer journey with us. While I am confident we’ve done exceptional work for all our clients over the years, the best work we’ve done is with clients that have a longer view for their company and value the arc of a business relationship. A good campaign is about more than picking out colors and having strong creative components; it’s about telling a bigger story and aligning with the strategic direction of the business.

What do you think has helped set Next-Mark apart from other firms?

First, we’re very agile. We don’t have a monolithic organization weighed down by unnecessary systems and protocols that can bog down processes, as is the case in some corporate cultures. This enables us to have a short turnaround time for our deliverables, with the time spent actually doing the work. Something else that sets us apart as that we stay engaged with our clients at all levels and through all stages of the relationship. I’m personally in the trenches every single day with our clients, and I expect the same of our team. When clients see that the owner is involved in the day-to-day operation of a service partner, it sets the tone for accountability.

You mentioned accountability and agility. Are these things you look for when building a team, as well?

The single most important trait I look for is kindness. I don’t care how much talent someone has if they aren’t a genuinely kind person. But accountability and agility are definitely two requisite components of the collaborative approach we take here. We want employees who know how to function as part of a team and work collaboratively with each other and with clients. At Next-Mark, we check our egos at the door and truly listen to client feedback and direction. It’s also important that people love what they do and eager to see what each working day brings. That all lends to flexibility of thought that, in my experience, elevates our work to a sum greater than its parts. It’s about finding the right balance of humor, hustle and heart.

What concerns you most in business today?

In today’s digital age, people are allowed the emotional distance to feel comfortable in detaching themselves from others, which in turns makes it acceptable to ghost them. Although we hear about ghosting a lot in social media, I’ve seen it in business, as well. One day, you’re engaged with a client or prospect and the next day they’ve stopped answering calls or emails with no explanation. Business is still very much about relationships, and burning bridges is never a great way to operate. I completely believe there is a beginning, middle and end in all business relationships and true professionals understand where they are in that lifecycle. It’s always hard when relationships end, but it is critical to be transparent, honest and accountable.

As the industry and world continue to trend digitally, what comes next in Marketing?

The digital ecosystem of marketing has forced agencies to keep their eyes just over the horizon. We need to always be looking six months to a year or more out to make sure we’re prepared for change. I think the internet age has taught us that things can change remarkably fast with no warning, and it can feel sometimes like what you do today is obsolete tomorrow. So, one of the things we’ve tried to do is diversify. As a company, strategic marketing communications and public relations has been a powerful and productive niche, but now we have added another dimension to our business becoming a Certified Salesforce Partner creating new and innovative opportunities to better serve our clients.

What do you love about the work?

Honestly, my Instagram profile says it best: “I am a steward of creativity and a purveyor of ideas.” I love the creative process, especially when it’s part of a business strategy. I’m energized when we’re all in the room together brainstorming ideas for campaigns. I am a pathologically positive person; I can always find a silver lining. This industry is as much an emotional fit for me as it is a practical one—I genuinely love what I do and am excited about coming into work every day.

In high school, I had this history teacher that had a story for every lesson he taught. It didn’t matter what time period the historical event happened in, he always had an anecdote for the class. While students with other teachers were failing each exam, his students aced the class with ease. This is because the stories he told committed each historical concept to his students’ memories.

Never underestimate the power of a good story. Since the dawn of humanity, people have told stories as a way to connect and remember details of our past, present and future. Being told a story, rather than just a fact or statistic, allows the individual to step into a world that isn’t their own. It permits them to see life from fresh perspectives.

Storytelling is all around us in our everyday lives. Whether we notice it or not, we tell stories every day to convey the happenings of the world around us. Stories trigger dopamine and oxytocin within the brain, evoking emotion from the individual and helping them remember the message. According to Jerome Bruner, a Cognitive Psychologist, facts wrapped in stories are 22x more memorable.

Now that we know the how unforgettable stories can be, what subject did my high school teacher teach again?

Today, storytelling has evolved into one of the main tactics for most brands’ content marketing strategies. If executed correctly, it allows a company to present its brand in a lively and genuine way. Storytelling lets your targeted audience form an emotional connection with your brand, whether that be by making them laugh, cry, grin, etc.

As easy as telling a story sounds, there has to be a sound method set in place before you launch your storytelling campaign. Lucky for you, our marketing experts at Next-Mark put together a few tips on how to seamlessly incorporate storytelling into your company’s marketing approach.

Be authentic

When conveying a story, you want to avoid it sounding like a sales pitch. By telling your story in a genuine way with creative elements, you not only gain the attention of your targeted audience, but you also gain their trust. Moreover, the story you tell has to be fact based. You want to provide your readers real evidence about your brand, but in an interesting way that provides them a deeper understanding.

Evoke emotion

You want your consumers to feel something from the story you’re telling. They should be inspired by your brand and what you have to offer. An excellent way to tell a compelling story is to make your customer the main character, where your brand is the resolution to their conflict. This notion enhances the customer’s impression of using your goods or services, creating an impact on the long-term reputation of your brand.

Include a call-to-action

A call-to-action (CTA) is the next step you want your audience to take after receiving your story. Your desired CTA is probably the most crucial aspect of storytelling, as it determines how you want the story to end. The CTA should be subtle but also give the consumer direction to the next step of your customer journey.

Tell your story through the right channel

A story can be told through a variety of mediums, such as print, film, social media, etc. By tailoring your narrative to the appropriate medium, you will ensure you’re getting the desired reaction from your targeted audience.

At Next-Mark, we believe in the power of storytelling. We help our clients create dynamic storytelling campaigns, to increase their brand engagement and conversion rate. Let us help your brand captivate its targeted audience through the magic of storytelling. We would love to help! Engage with us here.