Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a global branding and digital marketing firm whose clients range from early-stage start-ups to Fortune 500 companies including Colgate, Virgin, Microsoft, and The New York Times Company. She was formerly VP Marketing at Zipcar (IPO & sold to Avis) and VP Marketing at Inc.com (sold to Bertelsmann). Prior to that she was SVP Marketing at Launch Media (IPO & became Yahoo Music).
Arnof-Fenn has also worked as a special assistant to the chief marketing officer of global marketing at The Coca-Cola Company and held the position of Director of the 1996 Olympic Commemorative Coin Program at the Department of Treasury.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: I am a child of the 60s and 70s who grew up in the Deep South. I am the oldest of 3 and was always a good student and athlete growing up, responsible and hard working. My father and both grandfathers were in business so I always thought I would go that route too. From a young age, I loved sports, movies, TV, and travel. I was an exchange student in France in high school and in Italy in college. As an adult I have lived and worked in NYC, LA, Bay Area, Atlanta, DC, Cincinnati, etc. but have been in Boston for the past 20+ years. After graduating college with a degree in Economics, I started my career in finance on Wall Street in the 80s and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at 3 different startups as the head of marketing before they went public or were sold. I took the leap into entrepreneurship right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. I have never looked back and love being an entrepreneur.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: I have been so fortunate to have great mentors, champions, and role models throughout my career including former bosses, my father, senior women in organizations where I worked but the person who has always encouraged and supported me as an entrepreneur and has my back every day is my husband. He started a company too so understands the journey of an entrepreneur and has been my sanity check and thinking partner every step of the way. He is both a cheerleader and butt-kicker depending on the situation and I trust his judgment and advice because I know he always has my best interests in mind. I am very fortunate to have him in my corner.
It really started with my parents who always encouraged and supported me to challenge the status quo and question authority when I had done my homework and could make a strong case which is also great training to becoming an entrepreneur. They were also very proud of me and encouraging when my high school guidance counselor told me I needed more backup schools because I was shooting too high for college and I went ahead and applied to my top choices anyway. My mother reminded that man every time she saw him how much I loved going to college at Stanford and getting my MBA at Harvard Business School so I come by my renegade tendencies naturally I guess. My parents seemed to get me when I tried to bend, break or change the rules if I had a solid argument so I learned early on to not stop just because someone says no. That is such an important part of being an entrepreneur and has served me and. my business very well.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: Especially for new business owners and entrepreneurs, I recommend NOT spending money on things like fancy brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc. Until you know your business is launched I would say to put your budget into things that help fill your pipeline with customers. Getting your URL and a website up and running is key. I created online stationery for proposals and invoices, ordered my cards online, and made downloadable materials as leave-behinds for people looking for more information to help me find clients more quickly. I know other business owners who spent thousands of dollars on these things and found it was a waste of money. Your story will evolve as you find your market, you need to look professional and have a website to be taken seriously but embossed paper with watermarks and heavy card stock is not going to accelerate your sales cycle. Find those reference customers quickly, use them to get testimonials and referrals. There is plenty of time later to dress things up!
I also think “there is no such thing as bad PR” is bad advice because there are a lot of ways you can dilute or damage your brand equity. Stay on message and on strategy for best results. It can take a lot of time, effort, and money to try to course-correct after the fact but once things are released/posted online social media can take on a life of its own and the information can live on the web forever.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: For me, resilience is about mental toughness and the ability to bounce back from adversity or setbacks. Covid has definitely made me and my business more resilient. Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc. is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. There have been so many times in my career where things did not go as I had hoped or planned but with each setback, I learned important lessons which made me more resilient and able to bounce back stronger, mentally tougher, and try again.
To be successful today you must be resilient because you get knocked around often so you have to be able to keep getting back up and trying again with enthusiasm and energy. A lot of people tell you no (investors, board, customers, candidates, etc.) so if you are easily daunted or do not have a thick skin you will not last long in my experience. A good sense of humor goes a long way too but without resiliency, you will not survive in business today. It makes the biggest difference between success and failure I think because the road is always bumpy and you know you will have to overcome obstacles along the way. I stay motivated because I get excited about solving problems and helping people. I have always loved fixing things and helping out where I can. I am naturally curious and get energized talking to people so when I meet interesting people it is just natural for me to ask a lot of questions and when I hear about things that they are dealing with where I can be helpful I want to roll up my sleeves and jump in. It’s just how I am wired I guess. I love the challenge of cracking the code to see what works. More challenges create more opportunities!
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: Our name really sets us apart I think. For my company when I started the firm I jokingly referred to the women as the Marketing Mavens & the guys as the Marketing Moguls & for short I called them Mavens & Moguls as a working name but never expected it would stick. I did research over e-mail with prospective clients, referrers, media, etc & tested ~100 names. Mavens & Moguls was one choice on the list & to my great delight & surprise it came out as a clear winner. It has helped us be memorable and stand out from the pack. Because I have a hyphenated last name half the battle is for clients to be able to find you when they need your help. I have had clients tell me they could not remember anything other than my first name & one word of my company so they googled Paige & Mavens and we popped right up. I was at an event one day and a venture capitalist started waving in my direction and shouted “hi Maven!” across the crowd, everyone looked my way and we ended up getting introduced to a portfolio company that hired us!
Names contribute to your brand and in our case, I think it has been a major plus. Maven is Yiddish for expert and a Mogul is someone of rank, power, or distinction in a specified area. I like the alliteration and I think it sets us apart from other consulting firms. It shows a little personality & attitude and implies we do not take ourselves too seriously. Would you rather hire “Strategic Marketing Solutions” or Mavens & Moguls? We are the “not your father’s Oldsmobile” of marketing firms. If nothing else our name is a great conversation starter and getting into a conversation is all it takes to open a door.
Delegating is part of being a great leader, but what have you found helpful to get your managers to become valiant leaders as well?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: Managers today also need to be great communicators and connect with people (team, customers, partners, media) both online and offline in a way that combines information and need, synthesizing feeling and facts. Leaders have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does right now. Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind but also the heart and soul. There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with compassion, transparency, truthfulness, and timeliness.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: I believe personal branding is very important because if you do not brand yourself then others will brand you instead. Having a brand is what helps you stand out from all the noise and competition. The single most important ingredient to creating a great brand is authenticity. It has to be and feel real for it to work I think. Whether your brand is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through. Everyone is not going to like you but for the ones who would be a great fit for you make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that they think of you first. If your brand is not memorable you do not stand out.
As a founder/CEO, I try to build my brand through Thought Leadership activities like writing articles, hosting webinars, podcasts and building my following on social media which all contribute to increasing my awareness with potential customers/clients, building my credibility with a larger community more broadly, and raising my profile which allows me to raise my prices by attracting more clients/customers. Without a brand, you are a commodity and therefore compete on price.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: My leadership style is collaborative and inclusive. I tend to ask lots of questions and get input from all parts of the organization because I have found some of the best ideas come from unexpected people. I prefer to over-communicate and delegate a lot so people feel invested in the process and contributing to the team’s success. I think people do their best work in a give and take/collegial environment.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: I think both ways are paths to being an entrepreneur. There are successful entrepreneurs like Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg who were clearly born that way but the majority of entrepreneurs like me I think get into it after working for others earlier in their careers. Looking back I am guessing the ones who are made can see signs of being entrepreneurial in their previous lives so maybe there is a little part of it you are born with but the rest can be cultivated when you get inspired by the right idea.
What’s your favorite “business” quote and how has it affected your business decisions?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: One of my favorite quotes is “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It has been attributed to many people including Teddy Roosevelt. I like it and find it helpful in business because it is a simple reminder even (maybe especially) online to listen more than talk, show empathy, and try to look at the situation from another perspective. The goal is not to wear them down or impress them with your smarts. The goal is to connect, communicate clearly, solve the problem and move on.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Paige Arnof-Fenn for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Paige Arnof-Fenn or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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