[PODCAST] Aligning Sales and Marketing with Missy Acosta

The divide between Sales and Marketing teams is shrinking a little bit every day.

And that’s a good thing, according to Missy Acosta, vice president of Brand Strategy for Delta Dental of Tennessee. “Marketers need to become strategic partners within their organization,” she said. “But they [also] need to be strategic partners with sales.”

Finding tactics to align the two teams can sometimes be a challenge. But Acosta, who has over twenty years’ experience with B2B consumer branding and public relations, has identified four specific ways to get marketing and sales teams to work together in harmony, amplifying results to improve the overall customer experience.

These techniques will be the focus of Acosta’s upcoming AMA Nashville’s Power Luncheon presentation, “Getting Marketing and Sales to Sing in Harmony – the Delta Dental Story” on November 15.

Full Podcast here.

Servant Leadership

The first step to bridging the gap is to encourage what Acosta calls a “servant leadership” culture within the marketing departments. Two qualities she identifies as essential for great service leaders to demonstrate is humility and character – always thinking of others first and doing what’s best for the company as a whole. “What I want to do as a leader in our Marketing Department and what I’m hoping that our team members are doing,” she said, is to approach the job with the mindset that “we’re here to serve the rest of the company.”

One of the ways Acosta sees this as a challenge is when organizations try to compare different Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) as markers of success. “If marketing is chasing one set of goals, and sales is chasing a separate set of goals, you’re never going to have alignment between the two,” she said. “You’ve got to incorporate those KPI’s so that everybody is working towards the same goal – to grow the business.”

Customer Satisfaction

The key to successful sales is keeping the customer satisfied. Acosta, however, proposes that for marketing departments, sometimes that “customer” is internal, for example, the sales team. “It’s important for marketers to understand the sales process,” she said. “Do the research, spend time with the sales team, spend time on sale’s calls and understand what is being faced out in the marketplace.”

According to Acosta, that type of collaboration allows marketing to present better solutions to problems sales teams may encounter along the way.

Understanding the Language of Sales

Musical harmony only works when everyone is singing the same notes. The same goes for aligning marketing and sales teams. Acosta argues that it’s crucial for marketing departments to understand and speak what she calls the “language of sales.”

For a lot of companies, Acosta believes part of the challenge is “marketing has to help explain itself to sales, in terms that sales will understand.” Speaking the same language is part of what makes Delta Dental so successful at overcoming that obstacle. “One of the things we do is whenever there is a sales meeting, marketing is invited. We are always in there with sales, learning about their pain points, about the challenges that they are facing out on the field.”

While the language and terminology may be different, the goal should always be the same – improve the customer experience.

Impacting the Customer Experience

Recognizing how sales and marketing alignment can impact the overall customer experience is essential. “We need to look at marketing from a different perspective,” Acosta said. “Marketers are in a very unique opportunity to be leaders within their companies, with all different divisions of the company.”

Each step along the way, Acosta argues marketing teams can provide value to help enable the sales process, as well as improve the overall customer experience. As an example, Acosta describes that when Delta Dental launched its new website, one of the first presentations Marketing did was to the Customer Service team.

Besides giving the Customer Service department (the front line for consumers) a sneak peak at the new site, according to Acosta it offered the sales team “very valuable insights, finding those gaps in the website that we still needed to plug before pushing it out live.” As a result, the customers had a better experience. And a happy customer is a returning customer!

Aligning Delta Dental’s Marketing and Sales divisions has proven successful for Acosta who said the two teams now work seamlessly together. “They’re in constant interaction,” she said. “That is a key thing, having that proximity and that accessibility for one another.”

Acosta will be presenting these strategies and much more at the AMA Nashville Power Luncheon on November 15 at the City Winery. Register now.

Moving Forward with AMA Nashville is brought to you by Relationary Marketing, specializing in turn-key B2B podcast production, and Astute Communications, a web design and digital marketing agency.



"Our gym is filled with people who are constantly taking selfies."

I thought to myself, "that sounds horrible," as my new acquaintance described her gym. I would never join a gym like that.

And then it hit me like a ton of dumb-bells:  A gym is the perfect metaphor for corporate culture.

Most people would rather juggle chain-saws than look for a new job. Tougher still is finding a company where you can fit in and feel like you belong and make a difference.

And joining a gym can also be a panic-inducing experience for many people. If you're uncomfortable with your body and don't know a free-weight from an elliptical machine, it's enough to make you decide to simply stay on the couch.

One gym franchise decided this wasn't right. They believed in a gym that could be comfortable for anyone, regardless of fitness or experience.



Planet Fitness is one of the largest fitness club franchises in the world. They boast over ten million members of 1,500 clubs across the United States. They believe in "a unique environment in which anyone – and we mean anyone – can be comfortable. A diverse, Judgement Free Zone® where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built."

The founders of Planet Fitness saw a gap in the marketplace. They understood that a huge segment of the population is intimidated by going to a gym. Their ideal customer is someone who may have never been to a gym before. Even if they have, they don't want to be judged. They simply want to get started working out, to move, to be active, and to make some progress toward their fitness goal at their own pace.

It's also important to understand what that ideal Planet Fitness customer does not want. We all know the muscle-bound man who is no stranger to working out with heavy weight, grunting and preening in front of a mirror, drinking exotic elixirs designed to help them get bigger and stronger. When Planet Fitness says "anyone" can be comfortable in their environment, they don't mean the "I lift things up and put them down" guy.

It's not that he's a bad guy (we hope), it's just that he would intimidate their target customer. So Planet Fitness crafts their marketing to communicate who is AND is not an ideal customer.

Planet Fitness makes it easy both financially and emotionally to get started. They're telling their prospect what they believe a gym should be…and if numbers are any indication, at least ten million people believe what Planet Fitness believes. People are buying into "The Judgement Free Zone®."



For my money, few organizations nail their belief - their purpose - better than Southwest Airlines: "Connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel."

Anyone who has traveled with Southwest knows they're getting that done. While the rest of the airline industry is struggling to make a profit, Southwest is delivering "Transfarency." It's straightforward to understand what flying Southwest from A to B will cost you. There is zero trickery in their fee structure. And your bags always fly free, right? Want to fly first class? It doesn't exist at Southwest Airlines; you'll have to find a different airline.

Planet Fitness and Southwest didn't decide to take the path less traveled because it was easy or obvious. Planting your flag in the ground and saying "this is who we are and we're going to exclude the majority of the population" is a risk few are willing to take.

But you know what? That risk, that clear communication of belief, attracts the right customers. It attracts the right employees! It's refreshing to do business with an organization that believes what you believe. It's fulfilling to go to work when you believe what your company believes.

Furthermore, a clear purpose - the stated reason your company exists - transforms your marketing message from an empty slogan or manipulative strategy into a cause and a rallying cry for customers and employees.  



One of my favorite examples of a winning culture is the Nashville Predators. For years, the Predators struggled to put butts in seats. They're now viewed as one of the top franchises in sports. And their culture isn't just something you find in their marketing message. It echoes throughout Bridgestone Arena every time the puck hits the ice. It's about family-friendly entertainment that everyone can enjoy, regardless of your hockey IQ.

Last summer, my brother-in-law and his wife lost their home to a fire. They escaped with the shirts on their backs, but lost absolutely everything else. My twin nephews play hockey in their hometown of Victor, Idaho and are Predators fans. Their grandfather and I wouldn't have it any other way.

We knew the boys lost their beloved Predators gear, so my wife made a stop at the Predators Team Store at Bridgestone Arena to buy some replacement gear. My wife casually mentioned that she was shopping for them and needed some advice on sizing. When the staff found out why she was shopping, they refused to let her pay. They gave her new Predators gear at no cost.

For the last five years, I've been a Predators season ticket holder and I've enjoyed every minute of it. I tell stories about the Stanley Cup run of 2017…but the story I tell more than any other is that of my wife's experience in the team store that day. Predators CEO Sean Henry tells everyone who will listen about the strong culture within the Predators organization. When your retail employees buy into who you are and what you're about, you're doing something right.



Take a step back. Look at your company from the perspective of an outsider who knows nothing about your company. Here are five questions to ask:

1.       What specific messages about your purpose do you communicate via your marketing?

2.       Is your organization's marketing consistent with your culture?

3.       What do you say about the kind of product and service you offer and how it's delivered?

4.       Does your messaging attract the right customer and repel the wrong prospects? 

5.       What impact does your culture have internally? Does it influence your team's behavior toward their work and your customers?

At Keystone, we believe when your corporate culture is clearly defined your marketing instantly becomes easier and more effective. Don't miss the opportunity to work out your corporate culture it before it's too late.

[Podcast] Making friends and fans with Media Whisper

Over the course of their almost decade-long journey, Media Whisper COO Brandon Brown and owner Michael Henry have made a lot of friends - and fans.


Their story begins with Henry who, searching for direction after graduating from high school and losing his father, started working with Third String Productions to promote shows in exchange for free tickets to independent concerts.

For four years, his job was to connect with Dallas-area music fans on MySpace predecessor Xanga and give them more information about the bands the company had booked, replacing the paper fliers that the company had been using.

“It was just trying to connect with kids and bring them back to our page, which ironically, here almost fifteen years later, it’s still what we’re doing: Trying to practically reach out to people and get them to come to our profiles,” Henry said.

Later, he led the company to MySpace and, partnering with a friend who had developed an early MySpace friend-adding bot, ballooned its following to more than 40,000 friends - free exposure for a company putting on what had started out as independent concerts.

“That was kind of the wild, wild west. There was really no rules. MySpace wasn’t doing much to crack down on spam and we eventually developed a commenter bot and we were dropping comments on kids’ profiles about the upcoming concerts,” Henry said.

As popularity grew, so did the crowds. Dallas events started attracting almost a thousand kids per stage, and snagged the attention of booking agents and high profile agencies in New York and L.A., as well as bigger bands.

Among those who reached out to Henry in those early days was House of Blues Dallas; when he had completed a redesign of the venue’s MySpace page, the talk turned to strategy. Who would maintain the profile?

“They kind of scratched their head and didn’t have an answer, so I said, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll run your MySpace page for you for three months, and let’s talk in three months about what we want to do after that,’” he said.

It was Media Whisper’s first contract and soon five more House of Blues locations across the U.S. had been added to the small company’s clientele.

When L.A.-based LiveNation called to hire Media Whisper to run MySpace, Twitter and Facebook for six more venues, Henry realized that the team would have to grow to meet the challenge.

“It sounded like beyond what I was capable of doing. Again, college dropout, just trying to make an income. I was young, I got married at age 21 - I was just trying to keep the lights on. I know it was a big opportunity, I just felt very overwhelmed,” he said.

So, he turned to Brown - a friend he had met through the music scene who was working for SouthWest Airlines at the time and had helped out before, reviewing contracts to make sure Henry avoided lawsuits and audits.

Brown supported Henry’s vision and encouraged him to take on the challenge, though it felt overwhelming.

“At one point, I was like, ‘You have to do this. Because you’re not going to just be able to keep doing what you’re doing right now. They’re asking for a proposal that would either turn what you’re doing into a national thing or replace you with someone who can do that,’” Brown said.

When LiveNation signed the contract, Brown put in his two week’s notice, marking the beginning of Media Whisper in its current state. By the end of 2010, the team was working with 21 venues out of Brown’s apartment in Dallas, listening to dubstep and grabbing free coffee from the apartment complex.

In 2012, they made the move to Nashville with Brandon’s band, in which Michael’s wife is the singer, and expanded their team to 19 people with account managers in Dallas, LA, Saint Louis, D.C. In addition to working with 50 venues for LiveNation, they have taken on other clients as well, including bars, casinos, hospitality venues and festivals.

“We love working with festivals, but it’s different than with a venue. The festival cycle is six months on, six months off. But still, the strategy behind keeping that excitement alive in the off-season is an interesting challenge,” Brown said. “You have to have a strategy around it; you have to have someone thinking about social even when you’re not announcing the lineup for another two or three months.”

In total, their team creates over 150,000 posts per year, with each community manager handling between two and four venues, which they act on behalf of every day.

“It’s like a divide and conquer. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and if strategy shifts, we roll them out quick, we keep up. And they know how to keep up,” Henry said.

Generally, it is more financially feasible for clients to outsource their promotion to a company like Media Whisper than it is to hire a salaried in-house promoter. To maintain a sense of familiarity, Brown and Henry charge their account managers with becoming integrated into clients’ team, even if they’re physically distant from the client.

“They are charged with knowing what that community responds well to. What the interests of that area are. What teams are excited about. What’s the lifestyle of that city,” Brown said.

That being said, it is important that companies budget for some sort of social media management, Brown said. Since traditional media no longer carries as much weight as social media promotion and more social sites are implementing algorithms that make organic reach more difficult, having a strategy in place is more crucial than ever.

“It was a hard pivot in strategy, where suddenly you had to understand that social was being governed and steered by this algorithm. It wasn’t just a free-for-all anymore. Since then, the focus on advertising and the importance of a budget has grown as Facebook went public and they’ve had to make money for their shareholders. Platforms are beginning to monetize, whereas before, we were leveraging these platforms for free,” Brown said.

That promotion also has to keep people engaged beyond the initial PR blast at the opening of a venue, Henry adds. Claiming social URLs, making the plan and budget, and promoting a lineup have to be a part of a fluid journey from groundbreaking to “who’s playing?”

“That wave only gets you so far,” Henry said.

The overall goal of promotion for Media Whisper: To help people to relive a great time or feel like they missed out, keeping the brand in consideration at all steps of the process.

“People getting out of their houses, having experiences, buying tickets, getting out to events. That’s our bread and butter,” Brown said.

Moving Forward with AMA Nashville is brought to you by Relationary Marketing, specializing in turn-key B2B Podcast Production, and Astute Communications, a web design and digital marketing agency.

Red Letter Day Talks Diversity & Inclusion This Year

2018 is being called the Year of the Woman.  So many coalescing events have happened in 2017 and 2018, making the topic of marketing to women more relevant than ever.  This year’s Red Letter Day Marketing to Women Event will tackle some of these uncomfortable conversations:  equality in the workplace, diversity and inclusion in marketing, recognizing and speaking appropriately to the female consumer, building the right partnerships, influencers, speaking to the heart with story and understanding the role of the marketer.

Red Letter Day is a one-afternoon, mini-event focused solely on marketing to women.  It was formed to provide marketers in the South a place to learn, share case studies and explore new ways to reach the 100 million women who make 85% of consumer purchases.

Case studies this year will include well known national and local brands including Nissan North America, Asurion, Goo Goo, Pedigree, State of Tennessee Tourism Development, and Twice Daily.  Research will be presented on Marketing to Women 2018.

Red Letter Day is hosted by Lipstick Economy, a popular blog devoted to marketing to women.  Sponsors for this year’s event include presenting sponsor Asurion, Google Bulletin, Valassis Digital and First Tennessee Bank.

AMA Nashville is a partner for the event.  AMA members can use the code:  NAMA to receive a special $99 rate for the event.  You can register for the event at https://red-letter-day.eventbrite.com.


[PODCAST] Swimming against the current with Stan Phelps

Marketing consultant, Stan Phelps, has made it cool to be weird.  

With the release of his first book, “What's Your Purple Goldfish?” six years ago, Phelps kicked off his career as an author and a speaker, teaching businesses how to optimize customer experience by doing the little things that keep people coming back. Since then, he done has done over 300 events in 16 countries and is looking forward to the release of his eighth book.

However, it’s Phelps’ sixth book that will be the focus of AMA Nashville’s Power Lunch “Think Outside the Bowl – Amplifying Weirdness and Embracing Weakness to Stand Out in Business” on August 28. 

Phelps wrote “The Pink Goldfish” to help companies get “closer to the hearts” of customers and employees by positioning their brand and customer experience differently than their competition.

“It’s the idea that the little things can truly make the biggest difference. The quick path from me: I came from a marketing background, two decades working in marketing. Everything in marketing was about chasing the prospect, and I thought that was a little bit short-sighted,” he said. “I thought what smart brands did was they actually created a very well-differentiated experience that took care of the customers they had, as well as gave them a reason to be able to come back and tell their friends.”

The key? To lean into the “weird” and purposely avoid following the crowd, Phelps said. And he’s armed with plenty good examples.

While some fast food restaurants decided to go “healthy” and start serving water, fruit and salads, another embraced what they were about, he noted: Hardee’s invented the Thickburger and made it “fattier and nastier” than ever.

“They were at a crossroads, they were getting to a point where they were a jack-of-all-trades and they were starting to close stores and people didn’t really get what they stood for. So it really caused them to look inward and say ‘Is there something we can do that is really different?’” Phelps said.

So, the business decided to “go pro at being unhealthy.”

Meanwhile, Buckley’s cough syrup leaned into the bad taste of their medicine and increased sales by over 500% over competitors who tried to market their goods as tasing better.

When Chick-fil-A opened, most businesses were closed on Sunday, but as the 24/7 rush pushed their competitors to stay open all weekend, the restaurant is now distinctive because they didn’t change their hours, Phelps said.

“Part of it always starts with awareness. Part of that is going out and talking to customers, sometimes it’s taking a hard look in the mirror of what makes you different and unique in the marketplace. Then once you do that, you need to make sure that you take the next step of appreciating what makes you different and accepting it,” Phelps said. “Then, once you do that, you have to turn up the volume way up loud or sometimes it’s about not doing certain things to be able to stand out and not following what all the competition is doing. Sometimes it’s a matter of turning the volume down.”

Essentially, a business’s identity must reach beyond the customer’s transaction and into how it makes the customer feel.

“Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we do and the rules we create in business, that we start to lose the sense of seeing it from the customer’s point of view. When you have to walk through their shoes and experience what they experience and see it from their perspective, it changes the way you do business and how you think about that experience,” Phelps said.

Customers are looking for two things, Phelps said: First, they want warm, good intentions from who they’re doing business with. Then they look for competence, the assurance that they will get the expected value from a company’s product or service.

But the best businesses will go the extra mile, he notes, do the little things to create emotional value, taking the actions necessary to lean in and differentiate themselves from the competition.

“I think it’s always been incumbent upon business to try to be different, so that’s nothing that’s new. We live in a world that’s almost flat now. Your competition is not just down the block, it’s one click away,” Phelps said.

Stan will be the keynote speaker at AMA Nashville Power Lunch on August 28. Register now.

Moving Forward with AMA Nashville is brought to you by Relationary Marketing, specializing in turn-key B2B podcast production, and Astute Communications, a web design and digital marketing agency.

5 Reasons to Join AMA Nashville

American Marketing Association Nashville is back in action! A new season is here and our wonderful board of directors has put together a great line-up of speakers for the year.

Have you met our 2018 AMA Nashville board of directors? With the new season comes new leadership!

AMA Nashville president, Tim Earnhart, has a few words for those looking to join a professional organization: 

“This year of AMA Nashville will be very exciting. I’m really looking forward to seeing our chapter grow in not only numbers but also energy and enthusiasm. We encourage anyone involved in functions of marketing, communications, PR, advertising, web development and social media to join us at one of our future events. From our Power Luncheons, Coffees, Networking Mixers, and SIG events, I’m confident we have plenty of options for everyone. This year you simply Can’t Stop The Feeling.”

Here are 5 reasons to join American Marketing Association Nashville.

  1. Build a network. Looking to grow your connections outside of work? New to Nashville? With AMA Nashville’s monthly events, SIG (special interest group) events, mixers and educational workshops, there’s no limit to the number of people you will meet. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a mentor, marketing expert or simply to get involved. There’s something for everyone!
  2. Develop and Grow Professionally. Whether you’re fresh out of college or an experienced marketer, there’s always room to grow. AMA Nashville offers learning on topics such as marketing, communications, PR advertising, web development and social media in a wide variety of industries. Want to stand out from the crowd? Adding a professional organization, such as AMA Nashville is a great way to build your resume and skills.
  3. Discover Volunteer Opportunities. This is another great way to enhance your resume and make close connections with some of Nashville’s finest marketers! Our organization is run purely on volunteers, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved whether it’s with a special interest group, social media, membership or even the blog.
  4. Find Job Opportunities. Becoming a member of AMA Nashville gives you access to our local job board, in addition to the national AMA job board. Besides access to job boards, building lasting connections within the organization can only increase your chances for new opportunities. 
  5. Be a part of a National Organization. Becoming a member of AMA Nashville means joining a AMA’s national organization that has more than 70 other local chapters. Not to mention national perks, such as member-only content, marketing resources, live webcasts and more.

No other Nashville organization provides more ways for marketers to connect with the people and resources they need to be successful.

What are you waiting for, join AMA Nashville today! Not sure about becoming a member? Attend one of our monthly events as a non-member to see what the excitement is about. Hope to see you soon!