This past year, we were lucky to work with Haley Schultheis of The Studio Digital. Haley came on board as a sponsor of the sale to help us understand the breadth of FELIZ- what our message is and how to convey it best. The sale, like most businesses, has a lot to offer and many ways to do it but only so many hours in the week. Where to start? Well, Haley has a skillset honed for making creative businesses like ours shine. Below, we talk about how she marries the technical and the creative, how she landed at that intersection, and how she feels about social media cleanses. Let’s all go on one now.
The Studio Digital offers a wide catalogue of services, can you tell our readers some of what you specialize in?
Some of our services include: digital and brand audits, SEO assistance, digital ad campaign management, content strategy, strategic partnerships, copywriting, consulting, and email campaign management. We work closely with clients from all different backgrounds to understand whether they are seeing the digital results they are hoping for via their websites, sales, social media, etc… After that’s established, we really dig into their digital presence (and any numbers and analytics we can get our hands on!) to see what’s working, what’s not working, and what could be better. Once we are confident things are in a sturdy place, we develop a customized digital marketing strategy and prioritize based on whether they are handling the execution (and we’re assisting) or if we are stepping into a more in-depth role.
Is there a traditional job title that it all falls under or have you created a new one for yourself?
I don’t believe I could find an exact job title at a company for what I do - particularly if it were at a large marketing firm as things are often so segmented. Because I’ve worked with many startups and worn a variety of different hats, I do think I’m well-balanced when it comes to tech and content experience. Usually, someone considers themselves to be either content creator/social media marketer (think experiential) or someone who can manage the more technical aspects of a website (SEO, digital advertising, etc.). And, the two best work together. For instance, search engines have their own rules and preferences and if they aren’t followed, it can dramatically impact organic search results. It’s my job to constantly stay current on what these are and make sure that it’s well communicated with the individuals I work with.
Can you speak a bit about your work history and how it has impacted your current line of work?
Right out of college, I went to go work for Mark Cuban companies - HDNet and HDNet Movies. Ever since having that particular job as my first post-college work experience, I knew I could never have a standard desk job. Though I was working in marketing, as an English major, I missed writing and wanted to find a way to stay in practice, so I started a blog in 2008 that led to incredible interviews (Neiman Marcus is headquartered in Downtown Dallas!) and opportunities to start creating content for other retail and lifestyle brands. I worked for a variety of Dallas shopping centers and retail brands, building out and managing their social media channels, email marketing lists, and managed advertising campaigns and sponsorships. Through this work, I experienced both the creative and technical aspects of marketing early on and continued to learn ways to maximize the exposure of the content I was creating. This certainly impacted my love for understanding the data and strategies that can impact different aspects of a digital brand. For instance, when you are launching a new product or promotion - what are the best ways to do that? And on what channels? Do you need to advertise? If you don’t have an advertising budget, what are the options? These are all questions that I love to work with clients to answer.
Tell us a few case studies for ideal clients, who is best suited to working with a (insert job title).
Marketing Director or Marketing Managers - I often work with marketing managers or marketing directors at companies who don’t seem to be achieving the goals they are hoping for digitally. These individuals either don’t see themselves as experts in a particular area, have exhausted their knowledge, are frustrated, or simply don’t have the manpower to devote to it. In many of these cases, I’ll start with an overall digital and brand audit to make sure that there’s isn’t anything technologically responsible for these issues (particularly something that could be an easy fix) before we proceed. Examples: Not showing up where they’d like in Google Search results, growing their number of website visitors, having a high website bounce rate, testing campaigns, etc.
Business Owners (of all sizes) - I have worked with a variety of businesses, both large and small. Whether it’s creating and managing an entire marketing strategy or simply advising a client on where to best use their own time and budget when it comes to marketing efforts, I support businesses in a variety of roles. For instance, recently, a new client’s website was being penalized in Google Search Results because the imagery on the site was extremely large. We remedied this issue and it made a significant difference. Examples include: hoping to increase website sales, when a client isn’t optimizing all relevant and available platforms to reach their goals, when a client isn’t sure if something they are doing is worth their time, fixing a website that’s confusing to a user (can they find what they’re looking for easily?), when clients don’t have the budget for a new website, but want to make their current website better (cleaner, quicker load time, etc.). Or, if they simply feel stuck, we review best practices and next steps.
In what state do clients come to you? Are they market-savvy, or focused on their work with blind spots towards their marketing needs?
50% of my clients don’t want to worry about marketing and trust that I stay educated and current in the field. They usually hire me to manage, develop, and execute their marketing strategy. On top of content marketing, this often includes running their advertising campaigns and making sure the website stays current when it comes to SEO and other necessary structural updates. On average, these clients want to know marketing is taken care of and just want to see that goals are being met (with monthly or quarterly reports).
The other 50% of my clients are more in-tune with marketing. Sometimes, it’s even difficult for them to justify hiring a consultant. However, they too may not have the time to give the areas of concern enough attention, particularly if they are a smaller business. These clients are often confused as to why something is happening or not happening in the way they’d like or want to see increased results - faster (be it sales, website traffic, etc.). Or, some of these individuals are simply overwhelmed and want to understand where their energy is best spent and where they might potentially need help. In these cases, I often come in as a consultant and help them with a prioritized action plan or come in and assist with an item they don’t have time to do, but that we find is important.
The best advice I can give is to not panic and to work with someone you can trust. Referrals are valuable. Even if I don’t take work in a particular area (like graphic design) or offer a service a client desires, I have an esteemed network that I trust for those types of client work. Utilize your networks to make big decisions, but don’t be afraid of making them at all.
It all seems the most important which can be overwhelming, but maybe something often rises to the top. Do you see a common area for improvement with your clients or out in the world?
I think a major question for most brands and companies to remain strong in 2019 and beyond is reviewing one’s relevance. What is your true purpose? Why are you here? Who are your audiences and how do you or your business serve them? When this is well communicated and understood then it can surface in all other messaging and platforms. You want to communicate with potential customers and clients in all ways that are available to you and make sense for your company or brand and, be open to changing and evolving - technology doesn’t wait for anyone to catch up. Just because you’ve done something one way and it’s working - still doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best path. And, there are always relatively painless ways of testing new ideas out there, don’t be afraid of doing so! For example, most email campaign management software allows you to send email campaigns with two different subject lines (along with other differences). If there’s a good opportunity and not a make or break it promotion, give it a try and see what has the best open rate.
Is there a brand that you think executes their story and experience perfectly?
A few of my favorites are Monocle, Glossier, Garden & Gun, and Goop. The most interesting thing to me about all four of these brands is that they’ve executed and told their story so beautifully in digital and/or in print, and then opened stores and restaurants after the fact. These brands are growing and touching so many different areas. Monocle has a shop in London, Garden & Gun has a store in Charleston and a restaurant in Atlanta, and though they started as online companies, Goop and Glossier have a mix of pop-ups and stores around the globe. When you can have such a significant brand impact digitally that there’s demand for the physical - you’ve mastered both engagement and the total brand experience. For their followers- Instagram, newsletters, blogs, playlists, products, conferences, events, collaborations, books, and podcasts weren’t enough. That’s not to say that through not having a physical space you’ve not achieved success by any means, but the simple fact there’s a potential or continuous demand for more than what you currently offer is rewarding in itself. In an era where there’s often gloom and doom stories when it comes to brick and mortar retail, this e-commerce transition to brick and mortar trend is fascinating to follow.
We’ve loved working with you and getting some perspective on the ever-changing world of digital and Print marketing. Can you shout out another profession or field that works to support small business creatives?
This past year, I leaned heavily a local business networking group called The Circle. It was wonderful to talk through big decisions and/or problems with other local small business owners while learning and growing with each other. There’s an array of professional groups in Austin - from Boss Babes to Creative Ladies Night. If you can’t find one that’s a good fit, you could even start your own. And, I find the FELIZ community to be extremely supportive of each other as well!
Can you recommend a book or resource that has helped you build your business or offered inspiration?
One of the most impactful books I’ve read recently was “Small Giants” by Bo Burlingham. Success is so often equated with growth. If you don’t grow into a big company, you are not successful. This book deeply questions that belief and brings together a strong counterpoint that puts confidence into growing into a size or staying at one in which you (still) do your best work and are happiest. Often growing too fast or unnecessary growth leads to the unhappiness of employees and a blurred mission or purpose.
Otherwise, when I’m in need of inspiration or a quick boost, I love flipping through The Authentics by Melanie Acevedo and Dara Caponigro and Linda McCartney: Life In Photographs. I also love giving out a copy of Heart Talk by Cleo Wade as a gift and the audio book is calming too (it’s great for reducing stress during a traffic-heavy car ride).
Where can we catch you on a sunny Sunday in Austin?
I have been trying to get into gardening as it’s creative, but the antithesis of screen time (with soil-covered gloves and hands). I’m still in the stage where I get super excited when something grows and survives. It’s also helped me unplug, which I’m trying to be even better about this year. Sarah Senter of The Medicine Kitchen has a Five Days Away program (with limited screen time) that I participated in last summer. It really helped put things into an even greater perspective and I was able to prove to myself that it can be done. I think there’s added pressure being a small business owner, freelancer, or entrepreneur - an anxiety that you always have to be on and available. And, it’s really not healthy for you or your business when this is the case. Another outlet is going to Auditorium Shores with my husband and our two dogs. It almost always leads to the dogs needing a bath directly afterwards - but it’s worth it.
Thank you Haley for helping us navigate this crazy digital world! Want to learn more about The Studio Digital? Thinking you could use a hand in getting the word out about your business? Click over to her site and get started.