- CMO Q&A:
Painting with a Twist is the rapidly growing paint-and-sip franchise that in September announced the hiring of its first CEO, former Smoothie King executive Joe Lewis. Then, in October the brand announced the hiring of its first CMO, veteran marketer Katherine LeBlanc.
Though new to the brand, LeBlanc is not new to marketing to or franchising. She previously served as head of sales and marketing at Dickie Brennan and Co. (parent of four New Orleans restaurants: Palace Cafe, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Bourbon House, and Tableau). She also spent four years at Smoothie King as director of brand marketing, where she guided the marketing department in developing and executing initiatives for the brand’s more than 900 stores; and played a role in creating a new brand strategy and achieving significant growth in same-store sales and guest count.
In her new role, LeBlanc oversees the marketing, art, and IT departments at Painting with a Twist, working to increase the brand’s resources and capabilities with a focus on improving studio sales. “The number-one measurement is sales,” she says. “Depending on the tactics or the leading measures you choose, you can predict whether your plan will have the results you want, but at the end of the day you are successful when sales go up!”
Painting with a Twist has been an industry darling, winning recognition in such publications as Entrepreneur and Forbes LeBlanc seeks to capitalize on that momentum as she transitions into the CMO job at a brand that has more than 300 studios in 39 states–and in October acquired the 20-unit paint-and-sip brand Bottle & Bottega.
Describe your role as CMO.
I am responsible for leading the brand strategy and revenue growth for the company.
What’s the most challenging part of being a CMO today?
I am a new CMO, so I can’t answer what’s challenging about today that wasn’t challenging in the past. However, for me, the biggest marketing challenge we face is to maintain the relevancy of the brand. With so much content bombarding our prospective guests daily, brands need to own their voice more than ever, which means saying no to some opportunities and leaning into others.
What are the 3 most important keys to being an effective CMO leader today?
1) Leading from behind; you need a great team to execute your vision, and a leader can inspire a team to greatness. 2) Be the brand defender; you have to be willing to say no, that’s not right for this brand. 3) Making an impact and being deliberate in your tactics and strategies.
How do you prepare a marketing plan and execute the strategies?
The marketing plan should align with your brand’s overall vision and strategy. It can’t stand on its own. To be effective, the plan needs to work in tandem with the efforts of every department, from operations to IT to product development. Therefore, you start with the brand vision: What does marketing need to do today to realize the brand’s vision in 5, 10, or even 20 years?
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How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness?
The number-one measurement is sales. Depending on the tactics or the leading measures you choose, you can predict whether your plan will have the results (sales increase) you want. But at the end of the day, you are successful when sales go up!
Discuss your core consumer marketing strategies and objectives.
We are developing our reenergized core consumer marketing strategies and objectives to be implemented in 2019. We’ve started on a few great initiatives in collaboration with our franchisees that will build a foundation for Painting with a Twist to be the leader in the DIY art/paint-and-sip segment for years to come!
How do you go about creating a “customer-centric” marketing and brand philosophy?
Organically, through the experience we provide. Walk into one of our studios and you are greeted, shown to your spot, and encouraged to pop a cork! Our guests feel like they are walking into a friend’s home when they visit us. It is core to how we interact with our guests, so it’s an easy sell to our franchisees.
Describe your marketing team and the role each plays.
As a franchisor, we have a marketing team of 350! All of our franchisees are our marketers–they have to be to create a successful business model. Which means that we need to listen to their successes when developing the overarching brand plans, seek their counsel as we develop new tools and ideas for them to use in the field, and above all, support them in their efforts to deliver on our brand experience.
Why is it so important for the marketing department to have a “personal touch” when it comes to helping the brand connect with franchise prospects?
Because each individual wants to ensure they are joining a supportive, flourishing family that matches their personal morals and values. We want each prospect to have seen the brand in the media and in our advertising and to have started to see our many points of differentiation through our marketing efforts. Painting with a Twist is the nation’s original and largest paint-and-sip franchise that inspires guests to have fun and create lasting memories through art. And we give back: to date, our charity arm, Painting with a Purpose, has donated more than $4.8 million.
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How does this help your franchise sales and development effort?
An ideal franchise prospect is already on board with our brand’s vision before they know it! That happens through their interaction with the brand and the marketing before they get to us. If we’re able to do that, we’re connecting with the right prospects and the process begins on a great note.
Do today’s prospects expect more from the franchise marketing department? What, and how do you provide it?
Franchise prospects expect brands to know who they are. Part of the benefit of purchasing a franchise is the brand equity that has already been developed, the research on who the core prospect is, and the branding from top to bottom that every new business needs. Therefore, when a franchise prospect interacts with a potential franchise, the brand needs to be well developed with a clear purpose.
How is today’s consumer and marketing data helping you fine-tune your marketing initiatives?
Painting with a Twist has some of the richest data I’ve ever seen! Big data is fine-tuning marketing everywhere, but you have to know when and how to use it to connect with your guests. It’s important to understand how your guests want their data to be used, and to not abuse it.
Describe the evolving role of social media in your marketing efforts.
This was one of the first brands to jump on the wave of social media. Because our concept itself is social, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were all natural extensions for our guests to interact with the brand.
How do you work with other internal departments and does technology help?
Our teams come together regularly to discuss business issues and gain consensus on new initiatives. We use technology to share documents and collaborate no matter where we are in the process or country. In addition, we use videoconference calls to connect with team members or franchisees who are not in the home office. We look to incorporate these tools across departments so everyone feels connected.
How do you manage costs and budgets for the marketing department?
Dealing with budgets and how to best optimize them can be a challenge. But if you start with the foundation–What do I need to provide franchisees to make them successful?–you’ll find that your budget comes into focus.
Do you see vendors as business partners? Why/why not?
Of course! Vendors are an extension of your team. Whether they are providing a service to just your marketing team or to your franchisees, they are helping you execute your plans. When you treat vendors as an extension of your team, your expectations of them change: you hold them accountable for more, and they take ownership of their tasks for your brand. It becomes win/win no matter how long the relationship lasts.
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How have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade? How have you adapted?
Marketing strategies have evolved as audiences have. Marketers have to go where the consumers are and appeal in new and ever-changing ways. For example, cause marketing burst onto the scene a few years ago because of consumer demand for brands to take an active role in creating a better world, not just the next coolest lifestyle product. Of course, as new content channels emerge, marketers must be aware of where their target is consuming media and how best to break through. This is specific to each brand, so it’s important to know who your target is and the best time and channel to reach them. We’ll do this through research and testing. The strategies and tools are still being developed, but I see a huge opportunity for the brand as we solve for a core need: creating a safe and inviting place for women to celebrate together. Whether this strategy becomes driving new products, experiences, or bursting onto a new channel as we did when this brand propelled itself onto the market, we’ll use research and our guests’ voices to guide the way. The marketing strategy of appealing to the broadest audience with your service or product hasn’t changed over the last decade. What marketers have adapted to are the ways in which our audience is consuming the message. The tools and channels for marketing to consumers have expanded as well.
How is your marketing/branding strategy developed, and how does it flow through the system?
Our strategy is developed in collaboration with all departments and franchisees. To create a focused vision, it’s important to be inclusive in this process. Involving so many people also allows the message to spread quickly across the system.
What advice would you offer to aspiring CMO executives?
Keep your ears open and learn from everyone around you. If you’re lucky enough to have someone smart in front of you, spend as much time as you can with that person. If not, learn from your leaders and peers. And keep growing your network. Everyone you work with–boss, direct report, or peer–is a potential boss, direct report, or peer. Keep those relationships intact.