My guest is Kelly Carpenter, whose career in national cable advertising sales began at Court TV. Throughout the past 15 years, she’s spent time at both emerging networks and strategic machines.
As the sole company presence in her state for the past 7 years, Kelly wore numerous professional hats ranging from budgeting to marketing to strategy, and that’s just to name a few.
In that role, she realized her passion for emerging companies. Kelly founded the business concept of Spitfire to continue building growing businesses, where she focuses on strategic marketing and operational efficiency.
To learn more about how Kelly catapults your business success, please visit her website at www.spitfiregrowth.com. Hey, Kelly. How are you today?
Kelly: I am great. Thank you so much for having me on your show. I’m so excited.
Nichole: I’m so excited, too. I’m really thrilled that you are my guest today. You and I met through a friend of a friend, who incidentally, Jennifer D’Alessandro, we did a podcast with earlier this year.
She’s the queen of networking and I’m so excited she put you and me together, because we’re neighbors and we met recently. I love the power of networking and how it leads to so many great connections.
Kelly: Absolutely. She knows a lot of people. If you do need to get in touch with someone, she’s a great person to know.
Nichole: Absolutely. I would love to dive in and start questions. Are you ready?
Kelly: Absolutely. Let’s go.
Nichole: First of all, what was your career path to launching Spitfire? It sounds like you covered quite a bit of ground beforehand.
Kelly: I did. You touched on it briefly. Basically, I spent the majority of my career in cable advertising sales. I worked for companies in both earlier growth phases, as well as massive strategic conglomerate corporations.
I realized throughout that career that my passion was in growing businesses. I really felt fulfilled knowing I made a difference in the success of a business. The most recent phase of that cable career had me as the sole company representative in my territory, from- are you ready- Colorado to Michigan. It was quite a large territory.
I basically was running my own one-man show. My title was sales, but I was budgeting. I was doing marketing, operations, prospecting, and of course, sales. It was all me.
What I realized is as I dove deeper into all of these aspects of business, not only did I enjoy some aspects more than others, but I was successful at things other than just sales.
Specifically, I found that the strategic marketing and making business more efficient was such a strong point for me that that’s how Spitfire was born.Entrepreneurs really desire face-to-face connecting. @SpitfireGrowth Click To Tweet
Nichole: Wow. I think that’s incredible the size of the territory that you managed and that you were able to jump into all of these different areas.
Especially for growing businesses, often times entrepreneurs feel like they have to do it all, handle it all, be it all. How are they supposed to go out and develop their business and get new prospects at the same time?
I think you have this fantastic example on your website, where you say they have a distribution problem, something that’s happening operationally and at the same time they’re trying to be the salesperson. I think it’s such a fantastic service that you offer.
Kelly: Thank you so much. You learn a lot when you have a big territory. You just have to jump in and go for it. You might not do everything perfectly the first time around, but you learn a lot from it. Doing that for seven years, you learn a lot, and I have.
Nichole: Excellent. Do you have any examples that you wanted to share?
Kelly: In my career, in starting in cable, I was at two different companies that were brand new entities. No one had heard of them. There’s just so much work to be done to prospect, market and to showcase a brand.
For entrepreneurs, that is such a challenging thing, especially when that’s not your expertise. Entrepreneurs get into business because they know something extremely well and they’re very passionate about it.
They don’t get into business because they know how to market that skill, product or concept. That’s where Spitfire can come in and help them.
Nichole: I love it. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Kelly: I feel like that’s a question you get asked often, and I have to go back to a woman early in my career. She was my boss. I’m still very close to her today. She taught me such an important lesson about women in business.
Categorically speaking, she felt men had absolutely no problem reaching out to colleagues or even acquaintances to ask for a favor, whether it be something simplistic, like an introduction, or something more in depth.
She felt like, as women, we tend to feel bad. We don’t want to feel needy. Whatever the reason is, women shy away from asking favors. Despite the fact that if you look at it, research does show women have more of a pay-it-forward mentality.
This female boss of mine engrained in me, over and over, don’t every shy away from reaching out and asking someone for a favor. Obviously, keep expectations realistic, but the worst thing that can happen is for someone to say no.
Rarely does that happen, because people have a need to want to feel that they’re important and needed. When they can help someone else with whatever favor, that showcases those desires for them.
It’s something that, as women, we really need to work on and make sure that we can do that. I’ve tried to take her advice and take some of the leaps. Not every time have I gotten exactly what I wanted, but I also ended up making a better connection with someone in the end. That’s a great thing to have, too.
Nichole: Yes. You’ve really touched on a great point there. When you are asking for favors, you’re meeting new people basically. Even if that particular person says, “This isn’t in my wheelhouse” or “I’m not quite sure how to help you with this,” almost always they know someone. They know someone they could put you in touch with. “I bet this person can help you with something.”
Yes, I can relate so much to asking for favors. Back in school it was all about “work hard, study hard, and get it all done.” If you were asking others for help in some ways, it was almost considered cheating the process.
Nichole: Yes, but in real life, we grow up. We have jobs. It’s not just about what’s in it for me kind of favors. Like you said, it’s paying it forward, too. You’re asking for favors and giving favors back.
It’s a great cycle. It just helps everyone reach their goals so much more quickly than trying to figure it all out in a silo. I totally agree with that.
Kelly: Just think about how we met. We met because someone put us together. Had I not, way back when, reached out to Jennifer for something or she reached out to me, I forget how we even met. We didn’t have a strong connection. Someone reached out. Look at where it’s taken us, to your show today.
Nichole: Exactly. That’s so true. You talked a little bit earlier about how you have a broad expertise and you can help entrepreneurs who have these businesses that are growing rapidly, and they’re not sure how to even ask for help.
What is your process when a new client hires you or even when you’re just talking with them for the first time? What’s the process for getting them started to work with you?
Kelly: You really hit on something important. Spitfire is a very unique concept. Most businesses do specialize in one or two things, but given my background, I have this diverse professional experience that doesn’t really fit into a box.
As a result, I typically come in contact with potential clients with shared relationships and networking. No shock, especially given what we were just discussing.
What I like to do is I commonly get a rough idea of a client’s background. I have a tendency to meet with them in person. Not to completely sidebar, but it’s just amazing how different the entrepreneurial world is from the corporate world. Corporate is so fast, efficient, very remote most of the time. Things need to get done quickly.
Entrepreneurs really have that desire to have a face-to-face meeting. My business concept is definitely based on being remote, but I’m happy to meet with people face-to-face because they need to have that initial connection. Entrepreneurs are talking about their babies. They need to have a comfortability factor.
Getting off that tangent, I do meet with potential clients in person to discuss both their needs and expectations. Typically, after that meeting, I follow up with a very tailored intake form, where we get more in depth, and then a proposal for work.
The beauty of Spitfire is that I target businesses in growth phases. There’s not a business that I target that needs 40 hours of my service every work. I work for clients as they need me.
Typically that will range between 5 to 10 hours a week, after an initial partnering period. I think it’s really important to stress that, because when discussing a business’ marketing strategy, you know as well as I do, it is so important to capture that main entrepreneur’s voice.
Sometimes the process of capturing that can take a little bit longer than you necessarily would desire, but it’s so important for my clients to give me feedback, to make sure that we get on that same page. It makes the working relationship not only more efficient, but just much more enjoyable for both of us.
When it comes down to it, I want my clients to be happy. The terms and circumstances that I address on the intake form can’t cover absolutely everything.
For example, right now, I have a client and she is insanely creative, always coming up with amazing ideas. However, she really didn’t have the time or resources to implement them. When we first got together, she was very concerned with consistency and implementation, but it did take a little bit more time than desired to get her voice.
Now, we’re a well-oiled machine. She’s very comfortable with me handling her business and we’re implementing so much more efficiently. I know that she’s so comfortable and so pleased with the results.
A long-winded answer, but it does take multiple steps because it’s important to make sure that I know my clients’ expectations and I can fulfill them and do it in a way that talks about their business’ voice.
Nichole: Wow. I love that you, for local clients, focus on meeting them in person first. I feel like that’s a lost art.
I’m in the social media industry. I know you know this as well. Just like you said, there’s so much that’s done through webinars, teleconferences and emails that the art of meeting person and getting to know someone has been lost in the process.
I love that you embrace that, see the value of it. Someone wrote recently, if you’re not willing to meet me in person, it feels like you’re hiding something. I think that there’s something to be said for that.
Now it’s one thing to say, “I need you to fly to California,” but for local clients and colleagues, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t make time to meet each other in person.
I think it just expands the conversation way more beyond, not only, the topic at hand. Like you said, for entrepreneurs, their businesses are their babies. Often times, they’re born from either personal experience or a company that’s been given from generation to generation.
They usually do have a personal attachment, an emotional attachment, to their business. The fact that you validate that and recognize that, I think, is really wonderful. That’s fantastic.
Kelly: Thank you so much. It’s not to say that I’m not happy to meet on the phone. Clearly, I have the gift to gab and I am happy to do that. However, like you said, there’s something about that face-to-face meeting and connection and seeing the person in person that’s so important.
We all have social media platforms. We all have our pictures. People can see what we look like. When you’re talking about handling an entrepreneur’s business, the businesses I’m targeting are businesses where that main entrepreneur is still making all the decisions.
It doesn’t matter how big their staff is. It could be 1 to 50 people. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what their net revenue coming in is. The point is, it is still all about them. What they finally have realized is that they can’t do it all. There are not enough hours in the day.
They need to outsource something, but they might not even know exactly what, which is why we have that face-to-face meeting to talk about is. What are your pain points? What do you need to get off of your plate? What keeps you up at night?
We find a fit as to what fits in my wheelhouse and where I can help them. I think that conversation comes so much better after doing it in person, versus on the phone. However, again, I’m happy to do it on the phone or go through emails.
Nichole: Yes, exactly. Maybe the fax machine has gone away, but with each emerging technology, we keep the technology. It’s fun to see these old fashioned techniques, like meeting in person, are making a comeback, so to speak. Yes, you and I are both pretty tech savvy, so I appreciate that, too.
Kelly: Do people still even have fax machines?
Nichole: I don’t know if it’s an actual physical machine. I do see people have fax listed, but I think it’s almost always scan-to-email type of things.
I’m going to be dating myself, but one of my first jobs was sending out faxes with the paper. Then I’d have to replace the paper that came on this big roller machine. Then when you went to highlight it, the highlighter would turn brown.
Kelly: I was going to say, “I remember the fax with the roll paper and that’s going to date me a little bit.” I do remember that. It’s absolutely crazy. These fax machines were huge. Thank goodness we invented scanners. I do think those are one of the best things ever.
Nichole: Yes. Even now, how much do you scan with your iPhone? You just take a picture of it and now you email it. Life has gotten much easier in the business world because of that.
Kelly: Think about social media. You don’t have to carry a camera anymore because you just take a picture with your iPhone and can instantly upload it to the internet.
Think back to those days when we had to plug our phones in and have memory chips. Do you have enough memory? Ah, the evolution.
Nichole: Since we’re going down memory lane, I’m going to tell you when our company first got internet, the company I worked for. We had to fill out a form that said why we needed internet access. We had to agree that we would only use it for business purposes, and we would only visit particular websites. It was almost like getting a thumbprint if you’re going through an FBI check.
Kelly: Yes, just give me a little vial of blood and you can access this thing called the World Wide Web.
Nichole: Yes. If people are frightened, rightfully so, of all the sharing on social media. Back then, there was definitely a fear factor with people literally accessing the internet. That was a frightening thought.
Kelly: I love the Today Show. I watched it way back when Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel were on. I feel like there was as commercial recently where they first discussed email.
They said, “Wait. This goes over what? How do you get it to…?” Think back to those days. I remember sending my first emails. I was on an MS DOS screen. Kids now go to college and have cellphones, iPhones at that.
It’s just amazing to see how technology has changed. It’s another way to showcase why some businesses really do need to outsource some aspects of their marketing. Marketing is constantly changing and evolving. No one can be an expert in all things. You need to get someone who knows what that is doing and how to help them.
Nichole: Yes. Speak to that a little bit. Of course, there are a lot of specialties. I’m noticing this in social media as well. I focus now more on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, whereas Pinterest and Instagram are not in my wheelhouse.
Everything has gotten specialized. How do you marry that? I wouldn’t consider you a generalist. You’re very detailed in operations. I’m going to try to answer the question, if you can build on it.
I think it has to do with knowing who has the expertise and being able to reach out to them and pull them. I feel like that’s a talent you have. Do you want to speak a little bit more to that?
Kelly: Absolutely. When you’re meeting with entrepreneurs, you’re not an expert in their business. They know their business much more than you do.
I’m coming in to help promote their business, as you are in a marketing standpoint, or I’m coming in because they know that things could be more efficient. They know that there are kinks in their system, they just can’t figure it out because it’s right in front of their face. Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to look at that.
You talk to them. Since you’re on the social media arena, we can talk about that. For example, different clients need to utilize different social media platforms. Houzz is amazing. It’s the home renovation, decorating platform. It’s great. If you’re updating or renovating a house, it is a wonderful tool, but absolutely does not make sense for every client to use.
You need to take some direction from your clients as to what platforms they feel are very important and what platforms they don’t. You referenced Instagram and Pinterest. I do think there’s a place in business for those, but by no means do I think it’s for every client.
As we talk about different target markets and people getting younger, we talk about how you use Snapchat. It’s really different to use a medium between your friends and colleagues versus you use it to promote your business.
The scary thing is that millennials are getting older. They’re soon going to have more and more buying power. Right now, that 20 or 21 year old might not be the target for X percentage of business, but in 10 years that’s the person you’re going to want to target.
How do you find them? Their media consumption, as we joked about our fax machines, is going to be so different than the way we consumed media even today or especially when we were in that age group of making the decisions to be the target market for specific companies and services.
Nichole: Absolutely. Kelly, what is your superpower?
Kelly: That’s such a cute question. I definitely would have to say it’s my organization.
Right now as we’re talking about platforms and media, I feel like there’s this massive push to use CRMs, which, to be clear, I think are an excellent idea for many business owners.
However, I think it’s a shame so many of them have such a high cost of entry. With that cost of entry, the offering and complexity really isn’t necessary at the onset, I don’t believe.
I encourage my clients to look at tools that they have that are perhaps a bit more cost prohibitive. While I know I am extremely organized, after all it is my superpower, whatever my method is might not be the method for you or for any of my clients.
The important thing is that each entrepreneur/business owner has their own method. Professional organization really is key to not letting anything fall between the cracks.
I think there are simple things like managing your calendar. How bad would it look to miss a meeting because you’re not organized? Things that are a bit more strategic, like staying in contact with your customers or potential customers, organization is fundamental to running a business.
It really comes into play when I’m discussing operational efficiency of businesses. To showcase this, since my specialties are business strategy and operational efficiency, think about a marketing calendar. Nichole, you work with people who need help with blogs and newsletters. You want to be efficient about both your time and your funds.
For a financial reason, maybe you use a service like MailChimp. I think that’s getting more and more popular. They do a wonderful job. However, to be efficient with your time, come up with a calendar of topics. Maybe it’s monthly, quarterly or seasonally.
Whatever the timeframe may be, the organization of the topics will help you be more efficient in writing your blog. You can think about things a little bit in advance. You can also look back to previous topics you discussed and see when it’s time to expound or change on those as the industry has changed.
The entire task won’t seem so daunting. You can tie it into other aspects of your marketing strategy. It’s so important when talking about strategy not to do a bunch of one-off different things. You need to have a strategy and be cohesive.
Many professional tasks take so much time initially to put in effort but it lends to that efficiency later. That’s where I think organization is such a key. That’s why I feel like it’s worked so well for me.
Nichole: Yes. Believe me, organization is something that I strive so hard for. You mentioned CRM. That’s funny you mentioned that. That’s something that I’ve been looking at, too. How fancy do you get without investing too much and without using a tool that’s way more advanced than what you need?
I wouldn’t call your approach simple, but it’s an approach to simplicity. In other words, taking things to the bare bones and only what’s going to be effective and efficient, not “We need this tool and that tool and this and that.”
You tailor it to each business owner. It’s great because otherwise you can have someone come in and recommend all of these different things to use, but who’s going to keep up with that? Unless you do something consistently, like you said, it’s really not a valuable tool.
It’s the fact that you are so interested in the business owner, what works for them and what makes sense for that business. I think it’s exactly what you said earlier. You’re not a cookie cutter solution. It’s really tailored to them. There’s nothing that’s more efficient than that. I think that’s fantastic.
Kelly: It’s not to say at some point a CRM might not be the answer for a business, but most likely the first step into it isn’t going to be from zero to 100 miles per hour. There are things in between.
You also have to remember that all CRMs take time to learn. You need to have someone who can either teach you or someone who’s working for you who knows how to use them, or you’re not getting the full benefit out of them. You definitely will be paying for them. They definitely do have a cost of entry.
Nichole: Right. That’s fantastic. The other thing you mentioned about organization is, I think if we were to generalize entrepreneurs, often times they’re focused on the business itself. It’s growing. They’re delivering a service. They’re delivering a product. They’re networking. They’re meeting people.
Often times, the thing that goes on the backburner is organization. They go back to the office and it could be paperwork everywhere, notes and business cards flying all around the office. I have an inbox myself. Whatever can fit into the inbox stays there. The fact that you can help them get organized to the extent that they know what they need to focus on is super valuable.
Nichole: What is the one thing a busy entrepreneur listening right now could do to get started in their desired direction?
If they’ve listened to this episode and they said, “Oh my gosh. Yes, my business is growing. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t even know what to do next.” What could they do right now? What’s the first step?
Kelly: I think it really piggybacks on what you just said about entrepreneurs being in a crazy place. I think that the most important thing is to take a minute to sit down and write your struggles and goals.
Society right now runs around at this break neck pace. So many business owners feel like they’re barely treading enough water to keep their head above it.
So many things they do are reactionary instead of strategic, because they are focused on whatever the fundamentals of their business are. All of those other aspects of “running the business” do need to be addressed.
They need to take the time to figure out where they want to go and really think about what is keeping them from getting there. Their business has a growth point, and at some point, they might need to outsource. By outsource, I mean strategically.
You were just talking about your inbox. Do you have a ton of business cards in there? Maybe it’s time to hire a college kid to input those business cards into whatever system you use.
Do you have a company that wants to do a mass mailing? It’s not worth your time to stuff envelopes. Hire a college kid or a high school kid to do that.
Maybe your needs are little bit more sophisticated, like you need to build a more professional social media platform. You’ve dabbled in a couple different mediums, but you have two posts on Twitter and one post on Facebook in six months. Then it’s time to hire someone like you or me who knows how to do it professionally, not just for a hobby.
The point is, you need to sit down and figure out what’s working, what you need to do more of, what isn’t working and where you need help.
I forgot the most important thing, or maybe I said it at the beginning: write it down. We have so much more accountability if we actually write things down. I think that’s the key to growth and moving forward. It’s figuring it out.
Nichole: Yes, write everything down. I love that. That helps me tremendously as well. Kelly, this has been a fantastic interview. How can people reach you?
Kelly: Visit my website at www.SpitfireGrowth.com.
Nichole: Thank you so much for being my guest today. This was so much fun. I really appreciate it, Kelly.
Kelly: Thank you. This was super fun. I greatly appreciate it as well and would love to do it again.
Nichole: Absolutely. I would love to. Show notes are posted are iMarketingSalon.com if there’s anything today that you may have missed. This is Nichole Santoro. Thank you so much for joining us, and make it a great day.