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become quite popular, as one example.

We continue to innovate and create new

‘Your marketing results
are exponentially better
when customers are given
the opportunity to give
revenue streams to support our model.

What would you say to any woman

entrepreneur who wants to start
her own company?

feedback and access the
– Valeria Maltoni
Don’t fear failure in some kind of
abstract way. Ask yourself, truly, Valeria Maltoni:
what is the worst that can happen if you Conversation Agent give feedback and access to the conver-
fail? Take the answer to the worst conclu-
sion—you fail, you lose everything you’ve sation. That’s what stops me from going
put in. Now, for most of us, there is a VALERIA MALTONI has taken the art of back to my habits of using traditional mar-
safety net. We can rebuild. So, you may conversations and made it a science. She is keting.
find that the “worst” is bad, but not tragic. the go-to person corporations and thought
And then I say: Go for it! leaders call to understand business com- How does a business start having
munication in this new world. Her blog, a conversation with their custom-
Why do you believe it’s important Conversation Agent is one of the most ers or clients?
for women to be involved with respected blogs prominently featured on I think one thing to consider is to
technology? the prestigious Ad Age Power 150 list. As a start internally and look within your
self-described “communicator in a market- organization. Don’t just stop at the work
Women are the majority of Internet
ing world,” Maltoni looks at technology flow chart. Ask yourself: What are the skill
users. The majority of women blog
through the lens of conversation. sets and voices in the organization that
in equal numbers to men, and control over
80 percent of the household dollars spent, you can bring to the forefront? Can they
Conversation Agent is a fantastic represent the business in their own way?
including on electronics and technology
name for the blog. What was your To have a conversation, you cannot
decisions. And yet they are not so repre-
inspiration? control the message. The more educa-
sented in any hall of power, from politics,
to commerce, to media. And certainly not Growing up I was always the per- tional, informational and entertaining you
in the tech space, despite the fact that any son connecting others. I’m biased can make the message from your organi-
new web apps user base is likely to be 50 by action and using insights to make zation, as a team, the more you are part of
percent women. So, there may come a something happen. I thought why not the conversation, and the more you control
time when BlogHer and its mission are combine the idea of conversation—of the conversation.
obsolete. But we are not there yet. things and people together and the idea of
agent, in terms of taking something to a How should businesses begin to
How important are blogs for driv- new place. It wasn’t scientific. It was more use technology?
ing conversation between the blog like observing myself. You should start evaluating the
reader and the author? Why do you think The selfish motive (in starting the blog) technology to understand the
conversation is so important? was that I love learning. That’s my first dynamics the technology allows. The tech-
passion. I wanted to include thoughts that nology is a container. Ask yourself: Would
Our expectations are different now.
would give me feedback and insight as to I approach my customer using a tele-
We want what we want, when we
what people were thinking. phone, e-mail or a letter? What are their
want it, and we expect to be able to be a
part of it. This applies to the political con- communication styles? Where are the
What have you learned about con- people of influence to my customers?
versation, product conversations, you
versation driving business? Where are the analysts? Where are the
name it. Blogs are a leading channel for
this. And if people don’t want to listen, we Whenever I am tempted to fall back journalists and others who may have a
can all create our own personal platforms on traditional marketing models sway in the decisions your customers
now. and just send out a message or use tools make. What happens in those spaces?
in the traditional way, I remind myself how For example, take Twitter. People use it
exponentially better the results are when to have rapid conversations. What sort of
customers are given the opportunity to dynamic exists in that space and what can

enterprising Women Copyright 2009, Enterprising Women magazine ( 35

All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Web band, Joe, purchased a 47,000-square- select finalists and “turn-on” voting capa-
2.0 foot manufacturing facility, which employs bilities for the final voting stage, which is
55 people. entirely popular vote. We picked 24 final-
you insert into the conversation effective- ists for the scholarship and sent all of them
ly? As you create your technology strategy, When did you start using technol- a kit with specific suggestions to get the
ask yourself how it integrates with your ogy in your business? vote out for their entry so their job became
marketing and business strategies? The early investments were primar- to promote themselves and drive votes for
Always remember, technologies come ily in manufacturing equipment to their entry back to our site.
and go. It’s what people do with them that maximize efficiency and quality of our The winners were the ones who did this
matter. products, and in systems to assist with best, and they promoted themselves and
managing our royalty reporting needs. We the contest on Facebook, Twitter, personal
What is the one question every launched our site in Web sites, and with the local press. The
business should be asking? 1997 and it has been central to our busi- grand prize winner even got his or her
The one question every business ness model ever since that time. We use it school to do an e-mail blast to current
owner should be asking is “How am to brand our products and support the students and all alumni asking them to
I doing?” If you don’t know that you are in local college store retailers by featuring view his entry and vote for him. We cur-
a vacuum. All business owners should their products and driving referrals and rently have a small contest going called
realize it’s what they don’t know that can sales through to them. “Frame Your Graduate”—here is a link:
hurt them. I have invested in software solutions
and equipment to streamline operations /14_frame_your_graduate_photo_contest.
over time, and in 2008 we launched an
extensive enterprise resource planning What’s not to like about a company that

Entrepreneurs system upgrade. This facilitates batching is showcasing and giving back to kids with
of all component orders, streamlines oper- a great vision for their future? The strategic
ations, allows efficient one-off custom tie-in with “frames” and “framing your
You don’t have to be in the tech busi-
manufacturing, and provides system-wide future” works well.
ness to know that using technology to
improve your business makes good sense. order and status tracking. Most recently,
we have substantially upgraded our Web What was the most surprising fact
Lucie Voves and Laura Lee Williams have
site functionality to expand online, visual of using new media?
used technology to boost business aware-
ness and get a few high-flying fans in the frame customization capabilities for Most surprising to us is the ability to
process. school-specific designs. build some real dialogue around
topics that are meaningful to our audience.
What has been most successful This is an area where our competition has
for you in terms of using technol- been slow to act, and we feel we have a real
ogy to market your business? advantage to be out front and stay out front.
We have a company site (Church The popular vote is great for traffic building,
Hill Classics) on Facebook, which and also makes the contest fair with no risk
was the forum for our “Frame My Future” of the company making an unpopular call
scholarship contest, and we used it to on the winners because we don’t decide
showcase entries, gather comments, the winners—the public does.
announce finalists, and build a fan base
Lucie Voves: How much time do you spend
that we can leverage again when we
Church Hill Classics launch the contest again this fall. We did a marketing your business with new
great job last year building inbound links media?
LUCIE VOVES started Church Hill
from scholarship sites like scholarships. I spend about 20 percent of my time
Classics in 1991 as a home-based opera-
com, and pulling in college age kids. This on online marketing efforts, which
tion selling limited edition artwork at her
fall, we want to penetrate more parents’ includes overseeing search engine optimi-
alma mater, Dartmouth College, on the
communities online, and we are identifying zation (SEO), Web site upgrades, and social
street corner at graduation weekend.
potential avenues there now. Parents networking and related initiatives.
Today, the company has a national pres-
spend the money to buy our frames so
ence and sells licensed diploma and award
they are our number one target. Do you outsource any of your mar-
frames, insignia desk accessories (such as
We recently built a custom module for keting with new media and how
bookends, desk boxes, paperweights, and
our Web site to handle these contests, much do you spend on outsourcing?
desk sets), and sports arena frames for
allowing online submission of entries, sort- We work with one SEO consultant
over a thousand institutions across the
ing and searching by name, school, and company on a limited basis. We
country. Their business continues to
keywords provided by the entrant. We can have had a retainer with them in the past of
expand and in 2007, Voves and her hus-

36 Copyright 2009, Enterprising Women magazine ( enterprising Women

All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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