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Wendy O’Donovan Phillips is CEO of Big Buzz, an agency delivering strategy and consultation to drive focused marketing efforts for executives and teams nationwide. Wendy is the author of two books available on Amazon, and she has been published in many healthcare journals.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My father published several newspapers on the East Coast, so communications were in my DNA. I started my first marketing firm in 2001: a boutique copywriting agency called The Writing on the Wall. I did a lot of work for full-service marketing agencies in Los Angeles and Denver. Over and over I watched as account managers overpromised, production teams underdelivered and marketing teams and their clients became frazzled and unfulfilled. “There must be a better way,” I thought. I started Big Buzz in 2007 with one sole purpose: to create a focused team of marketers that would create focused marketing strategies that worked well for everyone involved.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
Focus is hard. We all think we are focused. But are we really? When I first started my firm, my team and I would diligently follow our processes to hone our own focus, our clients’ focus and the laser focus of the marketing efforts. Yet I had so many ideas! On any given day, while my team was busy staying the course we had so carefully plotted, I’d arrive back from some client session or professional development event and announce, “I have an idea!” Certainly, the creative process in marketing needs bright ideas, but even more important is that those ideas are properly channeled. Today, we have a brilliant project manager who does just that: collects ideas, vets them against the strategy and goals, and schedules them for execution if they make the cut.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
About 5 years into running Big Buzz, we had strong cash flow but weak profitability. The key to solving this issue was with our people. I had grown a very affable team; there was not nearly enough healthy tension. Saying yes to the client creates customer loyalty. Yet saying no to the client builds profits for them and us, allowing everyone to properly focus. The same agency team member who serves the client cannot manage the client’s time and budget. They love the client too much and will inevitably waste precious time and money acquiescing to the client’s whims. Mutual success comes with focusing the client on only the marketing that matters most at any given time. To create that focus, the “yes” person and the “no” person must be two separate people.
I had also surrounded myself with people who were smarter than me, yet I was still doing much of the work myself — and not in the obvious sense. I had delegated social media marketing, web development, project management — the areas of marketing that have never been my forte. Yet I was still the only one selling for the firm. Only when I expanded our account management team to include 3 people other than myself did we scale to over $1 million in revenues. Just because I love it and can do it doesn’t mean I should be the only person who does it.
To read the full interview, click here.