Episode #027: Lisa Vielee, President at Well Done Marketing
Creativity and speed-to-market - how do you balance the two?
In this episode, we chat with Lisa Vielee, President at Well Done Marketing. She has more than 20 years of marketing and communications experience and previously worked at Gracie Communications, Office of the Governor of Indiana, Hetrick Communications, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and more.
We’re talking about balancing creativity and the need for instant gratification, responsive marketing, helping brands navigate a pandemic, how to manage up, and so much more.
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Stephanie Cox: Welcome to Real Marketers, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat and there's absolutely no bullshit allowed here. And I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola, have exceptionally high standards and surround myself with people who get shit done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truths about marketing and empower you to become a real marketer. Creativity and speed to market, how do you balance the two? How do you have enough time to really be strategic and creative about a project while also making sure that you're getting it out to market as quickly as possible, because you know time is of the essence? As people, we want instant gratification, and that holds true in our professional lives with marketing as well. Today, we're going to talk to Lisa Vielee. She's the President at Well Done Marketing. She has more than 20 years of marketing communications experience, and previously worked at companies like Grace Communications, Office of the Governor of Indiana, Hetrick Communications, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis and more. And we're talking to her about balancing creativity and this need for instant gratification, responsive marketing, how she's helped brands navigate a pandemic, why everyone needs to learn how to manage up, and so much more. Welcome to the show, Lisa.
Lisa Vielee: Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me.
Stephanie Cox: First question, my usual, tell me something about yourself that few people know.
Lisa Vielee: I'm really glad you asked me because I've listened to your podcast and I was hoping you had asked me this question. Most people don't realize that I have six children. I have two of my own and four stepchildren, and that's not the part that most people don't know. What they don't know is that we have six kids and they went to five different high schools.
Stephanie Cox: I have so many questions right now. Oh my gosh, I don't even know where to start. I have two kids and I'm like, how do you have six kids and do what you do? How do you manage this?
Lisa Vielee: Well, fortunately they are pretty much all out of the house. Right now they're 18 to 27 years old.
Stephanie Cox: When you think about the phrase responsive marketing, what does that mean to you?
Lisa Vielee: Yeah. I've been playing around with what to call this because I'm not sure responsive is exactly, that it exactly sums it up. But when I think of responsive marketing, I think about curiosity and connections. It's really being proactive. And when I say connections, it's not just to people. We were talking off the air about being Midwestern agencies and it's important to know the people. That's kind of what we do. But also to know context. I think to be the best marketer, you can't just know your industry, or if you're an agency, you can't just know your clients. You've got to understand the city, the state, the nonprofits, the issues that are important in the community, the national trends and how they're playing locally. That's what I mean by responsive. You've got to take all of that and be able to respond to that to do the best work that you can in marketing.
Stephanie Cox: So how would you capture or characterize how most marketers behave today? Is that what they're doing? Are they doing more of this reactive approach?
Lisa Vielee: I don't want to over- generalize, but I do think marketing has gotten a little bit reactive because there are so many more channels today. So, it's really easy to be very strategic and do your due diligence, do the discovery process, get a plan in place and then start about the business of implementing the plan. And that doesn't allow for looking for opportunities, finding those places to make those connections and suggest the bigger, better, more relevant kind of marketing. I mean I hate to say this, but in a lot of ways, marketing can be a business of checking boxes.
Stephanie Cox: Oh, 1000%.
Lisa Vielee: We're on social media, check. We have a print ad, check. We have a billboard. And those things aren't tied to business goals, they're not tied to community. I mean, we don't like to work that way.
Stephanie Cox: So when you've been into, maybe let's say this path of checking boxes and just like you said, marketers have so much thrown at them. Sometimes you don't have time to be proactive or responsive. You're just stuck in reactive, addressing it, like putting out the fire mode. Right? How do you start to make that shift? And especially in an organization where that may be something that they've just been used to marketing behaving like for years. And now you're trying to get ahead of everything.
Lisa Vielee: I don't think that responsive and reactive are mutually exclusive. I mean, I do think there are times when reacting is okay. That for us as an agency, the client says we need to do this, and if it makes sense with the plan, all right, we'll do it. Making that switch, I really think it comes down to curiosity. Are you the type of person that'll go down the rabbit hole? Do you leave yourself time? My mother called it bumbling. So don't walk in a straight line, just bumble around the park. That was how we were supposed to go play. And it's kind of similar. Do you allow yourself that time to just jumble around a little bit? Sometimes the best ideas come from that kind of behavior.
Stephanie Cox: I love that you said that because one, it's true, but also I think the thing that popped in my head right when you were saying it was, that's what marketers need to do, is this ability to be creative and to sometimes spiral down a rabbit hole about a certain concept to get the really best idea possible. But on the flip side, we're held accountable to these sometimes I feel like unrealistic goals and need for instant gratification. And we need everything to launch as quickly as possible to show metrics that drive ROI immediately, and on and on and on. How do you balance the two? How do you know that you're able to still create this really compelling concept and rabbit hole a little bit, so you can get to the best idea while also being able to move quickly and drive results?
Lisa Vielee: I wish you could see me nodding over here because you're absolutely right. So to your first point, creatives, designers, copywriters, animators, videographers, they sort of demand that thinking time and tend to be the marketers that get that time. But the strategist, the account executives, the internal marketers don't always get that. So I would say the first thing to do is to try to manage expectations, to try to set up your entire marketing team as a creative team that you all need that time, especially on the front end. If it feels front- loaded, you're probably doing it right. And then once you have that direction and those metrics, I operate on this 80-20 rule. It's another thing I'd like to rename because I know there's a book called The 80- 20 Rule on something else entirely, but we try to be 80% planned and then 20% opportunity. So that's where the connections come in or I'm out at a community meeting or I'm volunteering and I hear something that strikes a chord for a client. Having a little bit of that flexibility within the plan, I can take that idea. And then collectively we can say," Okay, is this a priority? Does this bump something? Do we try to do this in addition to?" It's a little bit of that negotiation, but we've built that flexibility into our marketing plans.
Stephanie Cox: I call that my crazy idea slush fund, which is this idea, I have lots of crazy ideas, but the things that you just see like, oh, I was in the shower and I thought of this, and then I had this idea or, oh, I saw this on social media and then it made me think about something completely unrelated and how we could do that for our business. So same thing. They're usually my crazy ideas. They're a little farther out there, they're the stuff you can't plan, but they're also the stuff that seems to drive the biggest results the fastest, but they also just come to you like in that creative zone. They aren't something that you can sit in a room necessarily and brainstorm together out of, from my experience.
Lisa Vielee: Totally. Yeah, I'm glad to hear someone else has that big idea in the shower kind of thing, because for some reason that happens to me too. I love that the slush fund or slash, I love that concept because you can hold onto it. It just shows that you're passionate. I mean, I know with the pandemic and working from home, there's a lot of concern about not pushing away from the desk. So I'm not suggesting spend 60 hours thinking about your job, but honestly, sometimes when you do push away from the desk and you do something else, that's when those connections start to happen. It's like recording your dreams, I guess. Just take a minute to write it on a Post- it Note or try to hold onto it.
Stephanie Cox: Well, and your point about pushing away from the desk, like I know I personally struggle with that. But I think what's interesting is I tell people, yes, I work a lot, but work is also... Marketing is my hobby. It's what I love to do. So when I'm brainstorming ideas or I'm working on something at 10 o'clock at night while probably watching episodes of the West Wing, because that's my current obsession right now is to re- watch that show. Yes, I'm working, but I'm also working on something I'm super fired up and passionate about. This is fun and great marketing is fun. And so sometimes you do need to turn off and disconnect, but also there are times where I think you put in the extra hours because you are so passionate about what you're doing and you enjoy it. It's no different than a hobby, at least to me.
Lisa Vielee: I used to say that all the time. I don't know why we haven't worked together before, because I am the exact same way. I have always said that work is my hobby. Wait until you don't have kids in the house. My husband and I, he's a small business partner as well. And we'll sit at night and just start spit-balling each other's problems. What if we do this? What do we do this? And then eventually we have to say to each other, why are we yelling? We're just so excited and interrupting each other. I mean, I think that that's really fun. And I know not everybody feels that way. So I mean, I think that's the other thing, is I'm always cautious when I talk about curiosity and that passion, because it means different things to people. But I do think there's something about your individual experience that you have to bring to a marketing job. It can't just be your work experience, your resume. It really needs to be bringing your whole person to the job.
Stephanie Cox: Yeah. My newest saying on that is you have to be personally invested. You have to believe in your core what you're marketing or selling in order, I think to have some of those really great ideas, because if you believe it, then it's like all of your passion and energy comes out creatively. At least that's my experience.
Lisa Vielee: Yeah. And then I think you are more committed to making it work.
Stephanie Cox: Yes, because marketing's hard. A lot of people don't think it's real easy based on the number of opinions we all get on it, but it's real hard.
Lisa Vielee: It is. I say it is very hard to make things look simple. And good marketing seems so simple and it's not.
Stephanie Cox: It does. It's not simple. So you've done I think a lot of really great campaigns. I'd love to talk to you about how you've taken this concept of responsive marketing and use that for, like let's talk maybe the Big Ten Championship to get started and what you did there.
Lisa Vielee: Yeah. So let me back up a year on the Big Ten Championship. Well first of all, it's interesting that COVID and the pandemic, where everybody was reacting and things changed on the minute, especially in the beginning. That was the time where we really, at Well Done, we were able to put that responsive mindset into action. And so a year ago, at the Big Ten Championship, the night that Michigan and I think Rutgers were pulled off of the floor right before they started the game, a lot of people were reacting to that. Excuse me. It was, oh my gosh, what does this mean? What does this mean for our business? I know for us personally, we were all frantically packing our desks and going home because it felt like a crisis. It felt like an emergency. If you go back three weeks, because we have healthcare clients, we had already been tracking COVID. We had been paying attention since November in helping our healthcare clients. And we're able to say to the Convention Center, to Lucas Oil Stadium, we do work with the CIB, which manages those facilities. But we were able to say," Hey, this is coming for you too, and you've got to start thinking ahead. You've got to start being very proactive. What are you going to do about health concerns? What are you going to do if conventions start canceling?" And then three days before Trump declared a national emergency, I mean, I went into PR crisis mode. I started sitting in their conference room. We started having conversations in real time, as we were getting data and as information was coming to us. My role there was not to decide what they should do for their business, but my role there was to also pay attention to what is the city saying? What is the health department saying? What is healthcare getting ready to do? And bring that information and those connections into the conversation so that the response was relevant, it was timely, it was well- planned and made sense for our community and for the way Indianapolis works. I'll take a breath. If you fast forward to now with the NCAA March Madness, holding that in Indianapolis is really a result of that. And I can't take credit for this, but just that proactive, responsive curiosity led just philosophy. Indianapolis, I think just does that naturally. I mean, when was the Pan- Am Games? 1987. So 40, 50 years ago, we had leaders saying we can be the amateur sports capital of the world, and the egos are low enough that everyone works together. And that was never more apparent than during the pandemic. And I was able as a marketer to sit alongside of some of these decision- makers and it became apparent very quickly that if Lucas Oil Stadium came up with a mitigation plan, that was worth sharing with the State Fair. If the Indy 11 came up with a testing protocol, or the NBA's the better example, that that was worth sharing. And all those things come together and that's why the NCAA can be really confident in Indianapolis' ability to host this because we just know our stuff and we understand all of those connections and how to prepare. It's true for marketing, but I think it's also just true for businesses. If you can prepare in that sort of fashion, good things come, good things happen.
Stephanie Cox: So how do you think about really making all of that come together and work in a situation that is, you know back then, March of 2020 things, to your point, were evolving by the minute. We didn't know what we didn't know. And I think there was... You said,"I went into PR crisis mode." That's how I felt back then too is, oh dear Lord, what's going to happen? So how do you help another organization figure out, educate them and also direct them in how to think about what they're going to do when you don't have all the answers?
Lisa Vielee: Confidence and staying calm. Those are the first two things that I think that you have to do. And I don't know about you, Stephanie, but I think that marketers can also play the role of... When I worked in government, we had this term where we would staff our people. I worked for Governor Kernan and part of my job was to staff him, which meant give him the information he needed and decide what not to tell him that would just worry him. You walk through a room and it's like,"Hey there's this person and the last conversation you had was X," or," Here are the issues that are important." And I think that is something that as marketers, again, our brains work fast in that area. We understand messaging, we understand the value of the right message at the right time. So I think that is really helpful, is help the C- Suite stay focused, help your leadership know what they need to know right then and there, and then take all those unknowns and give everybody permission to not worry about them.
Stephanie Cox: It was funny when you said staff that my immediate thought was Chief of Staff. I think sometimes we see that a lot in government roles, but not a lot of businesses, even though it does seem to becoming little bit more prominent these days. But a Chief of Staff role is such a important role in large organizations, whether that's a public company, privately held or even government, because they do help you get just the information you need when you need to make decisions and they keep all the noise away.
Lisa Vielee: Yeah. One of the best marketing coordinators I've ever had, and this was not part of her job description, but she staffed me. I remember being on my way to Grand Park up in Westfield for a meeting, and I didn't know who I was meeting with. This was a new person to me. And in my half- hour drive, she sent an email to my phone that gave me all the background on this guy, a couple of places where we had things in common, so I could walk in and one, it made me more comfortable, but it also allowed us to connect a lot faster. Oh my gosh, everyone should have that. Everyone should have a staffer, but I feel like everyone should staff one another, just keep each other prepared and be your best self kind of thing.
Stephanie Cox: Oh, I say this all the time to my team. Part of your job is managing up. That means part of your job is managing me and making sure what you need from me, you tell me. And if you need me to do something for a project you're working on, you should be reminding me, which is, it's hard to do when you're early on in your career and you're realizing like, but you're my boss. Well part of that is I manage you and I lead you, but it's also you learning how to manage up. And it's an important talent that people need.
Lisa Vielee: It's such a gift too, isn't it? Because as a leader, you can't know everything.
Stephanie Cox: No, definitely not.
Lisa Vielee: Yeah. It's almost like having a mentor. It's mentoring up a little bit.
Stephanie Cox: It really is. So one of the things we've talked about a little bit in our conversation has been that we're both in the Midwest, both in the beautiful state of Indiana. I would love to talk about what it's like to be a Midwest marketer, a Midwest agency, because I think sometimes there's a perception that your business is located in the Midwest, and therefore you're not at the same quality of work as maybe someone on the East Coast or West Coast. So talk to me a little bit about your take on that.
Lisa Vielee: You're so right. It's hard to be in the Midwest. You don't always get taken seriously. But is it cheesy to say that the Midwest is the best kept secret of the United States? There are a lot of things that, like any place, there are a lot of things that aren't perfect about the Midwest, but here I feel like we're just more honest, we're more polite. We tend to listen. I mean I said it earlier, but I just don't feel like the egos are as big in the Midwest, and especially in a state like Indiana. We'll ask for that help. We'll ask for the staffing kind of thing. And I think that makes our product better.
Stephanie Cox: No, I agree. Well, I think what's interesting is people assume that you're in the Midwest and maybe you didn't go to a big name school or something like that. I'm like, well first of all, we have lots of great schools in the Midwest. Second, you get people who, to your point earlier, have less of an ego because everyone in the Midwest for the most part is fairly humble. I like to tell people, I think about the culture we're trying to build at Lumavate. It's like Midwest humble, West Coast swagger, this perfect blend of the two. We're going to market like we're a West Coast company, but we're going to be really down to earth and great to work with and authentic in who we are. I think companies in Indiana especially can find the balance of that and do a lot of really successful things and create value for their customers and really, really amazing marketing campaigns being based here, and we shouldn't be overlooked.
Lisa Vielee: I completely agree. I love that approach that you take. The other thing that I think is a little bit different about Midwest agencies is because we're Midwest... In Indianapolis where the 12th largest city for crying out loud, but we are surrounded by a lot of rural communities. There is a difference in the way ideas should be presented in different communities. And we have that 30 minutes away from downtown Indianapolis, you're in a small town like Arcadia in Hamilton County. Well their experience is different, and multiply that between geographic regions, between cultural differences, gender differences. I think inherently Midwesterners... I don't know how to say this. Inherently, I think that Midwesterners allow people to be a little more human when we're at our best. And again, things are not perfect here. I mean, there are definitely days where I wish I lived on one of the coasts and had-
Stephanie Cox: When it's cold and snowy, I wish I was in southern California.
Lisa Vielee: That's right. When it's cold and snowy, and when I want to have the latest fashion or the latest music or attend a concert that won't come here, but there are definite pluses to being here too.
Stephanie Cox: No, there are. My other one is when I want to get a Shake Shack and I can't, because I'm still waiting on them to build the four in Indianapolis that we're supposedly going to get after this pandemic.
Lisa Vielee: I know. First it was one and now it's four and maybe I'm going to have to go to the airport just to get it. I'm totally with you.
Stephanie Cox: Right? I joke with my husband. For those of you who don't know, haven't heard me tell this story before, I am obsessed with Shake Shack. Before when you could travel more often, if we went to a town and there was a Shake Shack, I get off the plane with my luggage and we go to Shake Shack. And anyone that's worked for me can attest to this. This is what happens. And they all go. Everyone has to come. We take our luggage. It's the craziest thing. Because I love Shake Shack.
Lisa Vielee: It's a thing. You've got to stop.
Stephanie Cox: It's a thing.
Lisa Vielee: The trip won't be good if you don't stop at Shake Shack.
Stephanie Cox: Exactly. And we're supposed to get four in Indianapolis. That's what they keep telling me.
Lisa Vielee: Well that's the other thing, I think there's this perception that the Midwest is just chains. We've got great restaurants and we've got great arts. And especially now with remote work, the cost of living is better here. I mean, it's good people, it's good times. I think everyone should do a stint in the Midwest.
Stephanie Cox: No, I agree. When you were talking earlier about there are pros and cons to living in the Midwest, immediately in my head I thought, yeah, one of them is I get to have a backyard. My kids get to play in my backyard and they get to ride their bikes in the cul- de- sac, all of these things that you don't have when you're on the East Coast or West Coast and housing constraints are what they are.
Lisa Vielee: Yeah, I agree. I really, honestly, I think the Midwest is due for a bit of a Renaissance when it comes to marketing. I mean, Chicago was that place halfway between the coasts 30 or 40 years ago. And I think there is a new breed of marketing agency that is starting to emerge. Minneapolis is a hot spot, Cincinnati, Louisville are hotspots. And I think that Indianapolis, definitely on the tech marketing side, is starting to make a name for itself. And I really think that that's going to be a trend that we're going to see.
Stephanie Cox: One of the topics that Lisa and I chatted about today that I think is so relevant right now is about how geography shouldn't matter. And the reason why I say that is I think sometimes there have been perceptions in the past that based on where your company is located or where you are, maybe you aren't as on top of your game if you're in the Midwest versus if you are on the West Coast or East Coast. And I think that's a load of crap, especially today in this world where everyone's starting to understand that you can work from anywhere. So I think one of the things I would challenge all of us to do is to not have those preconceived notions about a company or a person based on where they live. Perhaps they just love living there. It doesn't have anything to do with their quality of work or their potential. You've been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. And don't forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness shouldn't be kept a secret.