Jhara Valentini has applied her vast education on psychology in devising marketing campaigns for her major clients at Valentini Media Group, which she founded and currently runs as president. As a student, she earned her degree in psychology, and focused her graduate work on the same field, including cognitive behavior, as well as forensic studies.
As president of Valentini Media Group, Jhara Valentini uses her experience handling data to run an “analytic and engagement based approach,” which makes sure to deliver only the best returns on investment after every campaign. Since every question in psychology can be answered through solid bases on data, Jhara believes this is also why “digital advertising and media” have interested her.
With every campaign, Jhara Valentini adopts a “cognitive-behavioral approach” for “99% of [her] campaign strategies.” This approach helps her adopt a conversational tone or voice, enabling her to spend as much time with her audience as possible. Also, this approach allows her to get a little deeper to find “human contact and human connection,” which translates to an effective marketing campaign.
Jhara Valentini’s success has helped her snag major clients across multiple industries. She has worked with fashion brands, including Diane von Furstenberg, South Coast Plaza, and Louis Vuitton. Currently, she runs media on all platforms, depending on her client and their audience. These platforms include Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon; she also uses traditional publications from Vogue to the Sunday New York Times.
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Jhara Valentini: I think what makes my company stand out is me as funny as that sounds. I am not your typical strategist by any means. My campaigns look vastly different than a traditional media agency and I definitely don’t work like a traditional agency at all but I think that’s the variance that people are looking for.
I concept everything from a psychological perspective, not an advertising mindset. All of my education and graduate work was in cognitive behavior and psychology so I use that to guide the structure of my campaigns and really everything I do in media.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Jhara Valentini: Thrive but not burn out- that’s so hard because a big metric of success is revenue and doing what I do, the more you work- the more revenue right- so why not just keep doing more?
It’s been a struggle for me honestly, especially in the beginning because I would say yes to every project and every account. I was so scared that I wasn’t going to get another deal so I would take all that I could get. That was NOT fun- definitely burned myself out.
What I’ve realized since is that e-commerce isn’t going anywhere. People are going to need minds like mine all the time, I just have to make sure I stay focused on my craft and keep learning so I can always be of value.
I now look at things much more holistically and set up a yearly plan. I always start the year off with a revenue goal. I am all about growth margins so it obviously has to be more than the year before and then I start scheduling projects out. When I started out I would negotiate my contract and start a project right away. Now I typically start negotiating my contracts and looking at new projects 4 to 6 months before I start working with them.
This way I:
- can give my clients the time they need
- can schedule my year to have consistent work
- don’t burn myself out by doing too much at once
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Jhara Valentini: Absolutely no doubt that I wouldn’t be here without my support system. Life would just be so different without them.
I am most grateful for my husband and my parents. They have been on this ride with me every step of the way. From my husband supporting every crazy idea I get, listening to me ramble about client proposals at 1 AM, my mom picked up my boys from school when I am stuck in a meeting, or my dad giving me a pep talk before I walk into a presentation- it’s all been essential to getting me here.
I look at VMG as a team effort for sure. I may be the face of it but there’s so much that happens behind the scenes. The rest of my family, my brothers, and my sister who is actually also a media manager herself- They have all been a part of this ride.
There is also my board. My “board” is a small group of women that I lean on for moral support, business counseling, client drama- all of the above. Along with my family, they are my sounding board on life. Some of them have been in my life since high school and are like my sisters, others I have met throughout my career but all are people I have learned from and dearly respect.
I don’t know if there is one story in particular that would do this group justice. Their support is constant- It’s like magic, I feel it every day and I am so thankful for it.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Jhara Valentini: I think the biggest shift that I’ve seen across the board from CPG to luxury goods is that more brands are listening to their audiences and understanding what their needs are from a content and media perspective down to the user shopping experience on-site. Brands that weren’t taking time and money into developing e-commerce strategies and UX experiences are now honing in on what their digital footprint looks like and putting together really interesting concepts. From virtual reality to automation there have been a lot of “new” ways to shop.
Bottega Venetta was definitely an early adopter. At the beginning of the pandemic, they launched a virtual residency on their website that went outside of just shopping and fashion. It’s really a place of inspiration from many types of creative people- writers, musicians, etc- it’s a really cool concept and keeps users entertained on site.
Levis used a platform called Obsess to make their traditional retail store into a virtual shopping experience which I thought was genius. I believe Tommy Hilfiger used Obsess too during their Zendaya collab fashion show.
Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Jhara Valentini: Well, first it depends if you see Amazon and Walmart as competition. Sometimes they can be great partners where you can have great margins and profitability.
In regards to the much cheaper D to C brands, a big reason why they’re doing so well is that they’ve made themselves part of the conversation in a way that major fashion houses and bigger companies are still trying to do. That’s really the difference when you look at it from a user perspective it’s not so much who you’re purchasing the T-shirt from but why. Yes, there may be a slight price difference but for larger e-commerce companies to be successful that’s what they have to look at and think about.
How you can interject your brand into conversations that you wouldn’t typically be a part of? Or how are you planning on staying relevant? What’s your retention strategy after you acquire the user? What does that mean three months from now? six months from now? How are you going to stay top of mind and be able to keep your consumers happy so that they don’t go looking for other places to purchase?
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Jhara Valentini: I don’t know if I would call them mistakes but there are a few misconceptions that come to mind when it comes to e-commerce and leadership staff.
I would say the first is that they only think about targeting their “target demographic” which is unrealistic; especially when you’re trying to scale a business. I understand that companies have a customer that they are striving for but with ecommerce you need as much variance as possible when it comes to attribution. This way you can get maximum behaviors and multiple qualifiers to scale your audiences.
Another one would be that social media is going to fix all of their sales problems which is definitely not the case. Don’t get me wrong Facebook, Instagram and the rest of the social platforms are incredible mediums to bring new attribution and retain your consumers but they’re never going to solely make your business work. You need to have serious retention strategies going across the digital landscape, an incredible UX, customer service, and obviously amazing products to make it happen. It’s not just about a strong Instagram presence.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Jhara Valentini: I think the most underestimated part of e-commerce is the retention and email strategy. People focus so much on how to get users to their website or what the conversion funnel is going to look like but they forget they also have to keep the consumers entertained after the purchase is done. You need the conversation to keep going to stay relevant.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Jhara Valentini: I always recommend addressing the issue and continuing the conversation off-platform. I think the biggest hiccup brands find themselves in is when they try to respond and have a full conversation with somebody that left them a bad review- it’s not worth it- Never will be. Take the conversation offline so you can have a private conversation and resolve the issue then.
When the negativity is coming from more than one person, the same thing, address the issue but then flood the feeds with positivity to get the conversation back to something positive.
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Jhara Valentini: I think everybody right now just needs to take a minute, press the reset button and allow time for that balance to actually happen. People need to process everything that’s occurred in the last year and with so much change, I don’t think any of us have and we should. We need to heal from the effects of this pandemic, all of the social and systemic issues that are happening in our country, climate change, the wildfires- all of it. There’s been so much hardship, it would be great to bring some good.
If I could somehow create a resource of strength for people it would be such a beautiful movement. I think it’s something that people really need right now. I don’t know exactly what that would look like; it could be a website or some type of social presence but essentially a resource hub of sorts where no matter what you’re going through, there is content and information available to guide you through it.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jhara Valentini: They can visit my website valentinimediagroup.com or my Instagram.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!