Interview with Laurel Cavalluzzo on small business marketing communications

In the latest addition of our Pro Interview series we caught up with Madison based marketing communications pro, Laurel Cavalluzzo. She has a strong background in marketing and PR and has some great insight on small business marketing communications.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you are currently doing – give us a brief bio.Laurel

I have always been interested in communication and PR, since my parents were in the field. I’ve dabbled in some sales and management roles, but my real passion is focusing on the world of communications. I founded Madison Marketing Communications (MMC) in 2005. I truly enjoy working with clients to integrate new technologies (i.e. social media) with more traditional communication tactics. I focus on the strategic side of marketing, and lead efforts to create brand and messaging platforms, to develop strategic communications plans, and to ensure marketing is measurable and accountable and supports a business’ overall goals.

Before MMC, I was the Marketing Director for Speedpass Network, a venture of Exxon Mobil Corporation. I hold an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and an undergraduate business degree from Georgetown University.

Describe your basic approach to helping small businesses with marketing communications.

Everyone wants to jump right into execution and start making a splash. But first, the marketing basics need to be in place.

I always start with my small business clients by making sure they have the fundamentals:

  • Do they know what their positioning is in the market place – what they offer and why it is better, different, unique, why someone would want their product or service?
  • Truly we need to ask: why should someone even care about the business? And then what is their story to tell to make someone care? (every great brand has a story!)
  • Do they know who their target audience is?
  • Do they know how to best ways to reach their target audience?
  • How can they best allocate their marketing resources – both manpower and money?

At a higher level, businesses really need to step back and recognize what they are trying to accomplish – they should have clear and measurable business goals so they can then think about and plan how their marketing efforts with tie into these.

In your 20 years of marketing experience, what’s been the biggest marketing
takeaway (piece of advice)?

As much as you want to skip over the basics and fundamentals of marketing, you cannot. It all comes back to what I described the question above about my approach – you simply cannot skip these steps if you want to be successful at your marketing and communications efforts. Before any executions take place, you simply have to know who you are, and why you matter to your target audience. Then you can get somewhere with your marketing.

Also think about this way: if you don’t know exactly why you are doing the marketing you are doing (i.e. the precise purpose it serves) – don’t do it.

What are some of the biggest marketing opportunities small businesses are missing out on?

Businesses need to understand that they don’t need to pile on more marketing and increase their budgets – they most often simply need to reallocate and be smarter about how they use their dollars. Modify and test, and measure as best you can to determine the results. If it is working, great, keep it going, and find ways to make it better. If it isn’t working, don’t be afraid to cut it or majorly modify it. That is the beauty of today’s marketing world – there are so many things that businesses can do, and the switching cost is low in most cases if something doesn’t resonate with the target audience.

An extreme example is the Yellow Pages – some businesses are afraid of letting go of their very expensive, full page ad. But is that ad as effective as it was 25 years ago? Or 15 years ago? I’d bet the farm it isn’t. So a business shouldn’t be afraid to scrap, modify or change what it is doing – in fact, it is extremely detrimental to not constantly assess, modify and test again.

Why is it important for small businesses to integrate new media with traditional
marketing channels?

Integration. Marketing integration. It sounds fancy and complex, but it isn’t. This is simply making sure all the marketing elements speak the same language, have the same tone and messaging, have actual calls to action and work together – too many businesses do one-off efforts that operate in silos.

The website and database marketing are two very much underutilized tools – landing pages on websites can be important ways to continue the conversation with someone after they find a business on social media – the next step in many cases is for a person to learn more about a brand by visiting the website. And email isn’t going anywhere – but people want targeted, relevant information in their inboxes; database marketing done correctly can be an incredible way for a business to reach its goals.

Finally, businesses need to remember that areas of marketing like PR are merging – no, actually more like colliding – with social media. You cannot separate the two and have effective communication efforts. Today’s world brings all these tactics together and starts to blur the lines that were once clear and differentiated.

Any new, exciting tools small businesses should check out?

Small businesses need to be careful, since they are so limited with resources. I advise that they use tried and true methods that are not on the cutting edge and brand new to market – so many tools fade away quickly. Small businesses cannot afford to invest in those.

I do think that a monitoring tool like is amazing for small businesses who have somewhat of a brand presence – i.e. if there are people out there talking about the brand on social media channels. This is powerful way to find what people are saying about you. As an example, I recently gave a talk at an organization and was able to use Social Mention after the event to search the social media world for posts about the event and the organization who hosted me. I found social media posts about the talk I gave that didn’t use my name – I otherwise would not have been able to find these posts and connect with some of my attendees.

Also, a tip I share is to see what the “big boys” in your industry are doing. For example, if you are in the food services or restaurant industry, and you see that some of the big brands are starting to use some newer social media tools/channels, then they have been vetted by some serious players are certainly worth a look by you.

What’s your favorite social network and why?

Quite honestly, it changes by what I am trying to do and the successes I have. Most recently, I have been doing some projects using social media for B2B purposes, and LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent ways to position someone as a thought leader and industry expert, and to connect with influencers, connectors, and even target customers. These channels, when used correctly are excellent and obtaining referrals and leads.

Can you share a brand/business that was especially fun to work for?

All the businesses are so interesting and different – they are all so enjoyable to work with whether they marketing a profit or service, or even if they are a non-profit.

When I worked with the Speedpass project on a test pilot in the Chicagoland area, I had the opportunity to jointly work with two powerhouse brands – McDonald’s and ExxonMobil – and a newly emerging umbrella brand that tied the two powerhouses together, Speedpass. My team started with all the marketing basics, including in-depth research, to find the best story to tell about Speedpass and why the product matters. Watching the brand come to life at retail stores across the region was magical, and seeing people understand and appreciate the value of the brand and want to make the product a part of their lives is the moment for which all marketers live.

Contact Info

Laurel Cavalluzzo
Madison Marketing Communications

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