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May 21, 2021

Marketing to consumers isn't new, but the way in which we reach our target audiences evolves every day. With everyone doing things virtually due to the pandemic, savvy marketers know how to digitally impact consumers and elevate their brands. So how do you best market to today's consumers?

I'm Hilary Topper. And this is Hilary Topper on Air. Today, I have the great pleasure of speaking with Farissa Knox, CEO of RLM media and integrated marketing and communications advertising agency, skilled in understanding how platforms like digital and video solutions, search engine, social media, lifestyle, music, and news platforms integrate into consumers 24-hour cycles. So Farissa, welcome to the show.

Farissa - Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Hilary - So can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?

Farissa - Absolutely. So, uh, yes, as we mentioned, I am a business owner. I am from New York originally, now, living in Chicago. And, really from a young age, loved and authentically understood that this art of communication, like legitimately the art of finding the right words and putting in, putting them in the best order possible in order to communicate a message or a desire or a call to action or even a poem, you know, for that matter, when I was a child is something that I've gravitated towards and loved my entire life. So the fact that I am now in this seat owning and running my own ad firm and really working to integrate all of those things into what we call really uniquely, ingredients served, marketing proposals, and solutions for our clients. It's no surprise to me at all that I'm here now.

Hilary - Very cool. So tell us a little bit about RLM Media and how it helps brands market to today's consumers.

Farissa - We started about 12 years ago now, really in the paid media space. So when you think about my world, it's very vast and one of the things that has to happen once you create the media and the messaging, it has to be placed in the right location for your target consumer to see it, and then engage with the message. And that's how our alum got its start mainly because my background is in advertising sales. So I started selling ads. Space for local and then ultimately national radio stations out of New York, and then here in Chicago and was able to pivot my professional experience into what was the first phase of RLM back in 2008.

So we started with that, just placing the media for our clients, but as we grew and as our client base grew and our client's needs expanded, they started to ask us for more. So they started to ask for not just the space on the billboard, but can you make the ad, and then it's can you bring any insights to who our consumers are and what their needs are and what they desire? They wanted to know how to market to today's consumers.

As competition started to rise in the marketplace. So seeing that, allowed me to be very comfortable with expanding our services and building out departments within the agency. That now how we help our customers reach their consumers. It starts with insights and research, right? So really understanding who your customer is, what is it that drives them to even want, or need your product? Where are they spending their time finding out more information about you before they even start talking to you? From their whatever insights we can pull from the actual data. Utilizing those insights and our experience to cultivate what is going to ultimately be the brand message. So, what you want your customer to know about you, how you want them to engage with you and, ultimately, what action you want them to take. Whether it's click here, sign up here, buy this, vote for me, whatever it might be. And then beyond creating those creative concepts, we can then produce them into the actual assets that go into the marketplace. So if we're buying a digital campaign then making sure that there's video or audio or graphics to go along with that or radio ad or TV ad or billboard. And then from there, my media team, executing that and placing that in the marketplace and tracking it and making sure that the results that we said we wanted at the upfront are what we're actually getting in the backend. And if not, how do we pivot? How do we change and how do we make sure that we adjust accordingly?

So high level, that's basically how we're helping our customers market to today's consumers by talking to their clients, understanding their clients, and learning as much as they can so that the next time they do it, hopefully with us, um, there are better results. You know, each time we do this.

Hilary - Definitely. Now, with everybody virtual, right, these days, you know, I mean, a lot of people haven't gone back to the office. I mean, in New York, they're saying January to go back. I mean, so it's, it's a long time that people are at home at work. You know, how do you feel like consumers have changed this past year and how do you reflect that with your business? I mean, cause it's like a totally different thing, right?

Farissa - Yeah. I mean, so yes and no, to be honest. So yes, we, as consumers, as people have completely changed our way of living these last year and a half. So with that, there comes changes to how we do a lot of other things, how we consume media really hasn't changed that much if you think about it. So on a regular day and a regular workday before COVID, people were waking up, getting ready for work. They were at home listening to their local radio station or streaming something online or watching the local news, then they would go on their commute, depending on where you live in the country. That commute could be like in New York, you know, public transportation. And then you're probably in earbuds listening to something digital, but in a lot of the places, the rest of the United States, folks are still getting in their cars, driving to work. So that's like regular radio or satellite radio, and then the work they continue, right. Where a lot of folks are either, you know, glued to a computer and so you're consuming media, whether it's social or digital, that have you, then you go home and you have like your evening routine and that could be streaming TV, broadcast TV, cable, you know, digital. The thing that has been removed from our lives because of COVID is that commute, and nothing else, really.

So with the commute gone, now that does bring some value of some media down a little bit. So for example, I think out of home, outdoor has really suffered the most because we're not, we're literally not outside, right? Like we haven't gone outside. So how we've helped our clients, really understand this dynamic and shift is instead of buying transit like trains and bus ads and bus shelters and that stuff, when it made sense for their strategy instead if outdoor still makes sense for your strategy. Now, when people are outside, especially during the height of the pandemic, what were we doing? We were going to the grocery store. We were going to the pharmacy, we were going to the essential places. Right. And so those essential places became the new train, the new bus, the new commute to work.

And then, our increase of media happened where digital skyrocketed TV, in some cases skyrocketed. So we're still consuming ads on a regular, almost 24-hour basis. Our time spent with different mediums has changed, from a percentage perspective. And we're just helping our clients continue to navigate how to market to today's consumers because to your point, it's still changing, right? Depending on where you live, your office is either talking about six months from now going back, some places this summer. But in a lot of places, it's more about what is the future, right? What's this hybrid model. And so yeah, there's going to be a lot of movement in the next year, even more, but I think, for strategic, smart, thoughtful people, we'll just keep watching and then, helping our clients, adjust accordingly while we're paying attention to what the consumers are doing.

Hilary - That's awesome. So before we move on, I just want to do a shout-out to our sponsors. I really have to thank them. Please support our sponsors and tell them that you heard about them on Hilary topper on air. Special thanks to the Russo Law Group, The Profit Express, Pop International Galleries, Gold Benes, and The Pegalis Law Group.

So Farissa back to you,  we were talking about digital marketing strategies and how to reach consumers online and we're also talking about some of the challenges that companies are facing today, in particular, that awareness and visibility. Could you also talk about some of the solutions to these problems? Like how do you recommend brands cut through the clutter of all these different places that they can have ads.

Farissa - I separate clients into two buckets when we talk about this. So there is like the mass reach bucket where you have, the resources and the funds to spend money like McDonald's and Coca-Cola and those folks, or really everybody else, right. Everyone else. And so I'll answer the everyone else because that's really more important here. So for everyone else, who isn't McDonald's and Procter and gamble and these folks. You really have to start with understanding who are all of your different consumer groups, right? Because you can't afford to just blast your messaging 24 hours a day to anyone who's willing to listen. So the idea of being hyper strategic becomes more and more important and not just from a media perspective, it really needs to start with understanding who your customer is because with digital and being so hyper-focused, we have the ability today to say, okay, my customer, for example, if your customers are moms, so you understand your customer is a mother. Now, is it a mom who has one kid or a mom who has three kids? Is it a mom who works out of the house or is it a mom who works at home? And really keep asking those deeper level questions because when you're specifically with digital, you can get that precise now from a planning perspective, when you're talking about your paid digital strategy and the more things you know about your customer if you can know her down to literally an individual and, and create a profile, a persona of who she is, then you can go find all of the people who match that and meet that online.

And then you're spending every dollar really strategic, instead of hoping that it's reaching your customer or praying that it's reaching your customer. Now you will know that it is.

Hilary - Absolutely. There are so many different outlets today and a lot of people will say, oh, I want a television ad or I want to be on cable or I want to do a Facebook or Instagram and a campaign. How do you narrow people down, especially a small business owner with a tight budget. Maybe you have some case studies that you'd like to share with us.

Farissa - In reference to how I helped people narrowed down, there's no one answer. So, unfortunately, there isn't any particular case study that I would point your audience in the direction of. But I would say, not every medium is for everyone, right? If you are, let's say a local restaurant owner, and you're now opening back up because CDC and state laws are allowing us to now eat safely, buying a TV ad is not going to be your best bet, again, understanding where are you located? How many locations do you have? Who were the folks coming to eat on a regular basis at your restaurant before COVID and how do you get back in contact with those folks? Is it through social media? Have you stayed in contact with them in spite of the pandemic, in spite of them being able to come to your restaurants to eat. Where is your customer spending time on media? So there isn't one, there is no like one size fits all for this. It's really just understanding. And if you don't have it, internally from a marketing perspective in-house someone who works for you, then really taking that extra time to understand your customer will be super helpful. And I've had clients, especially when we were first getting started and we were working with smaller groups. Just ask your current customers. If you have nowhere else to start, it's starting there. It's saying, you know, how did you originally find out about us? What do you tell your friends when they ask you? Would you recommend us to your friends? And just collecting that data because it's with that, that the strategy is developed and it's with that strategy that tells you what you should do with your dollars from there.

So if you wind up learning that, the majority of the folks who were utilizing your space to come eat before, did it after let's say Sunday when they went to church, I'm literally making all this up, but if after church, everyone came to your restaurant to eat, utilizing that information, not only to get them in after church but coming up with creative, fun ways to reach them during other days of the week that matters to them or other occasions throughout the year that matters to them. That's a family event that they would do with the family. So it's a combination of rich data collecting and being creative and combining those two aspects to stay in constant communication with your customers, whether it's 50 or 5 million.

Hilary - Awesome. And now. Can you share with us some success stories that you've had during the past year?

Farissa - Yes, I'll start high level for just my business in general and then maybe for a client of ours. But for me personally, as a business owner and an entrepreneur, I looked at COVID and what it did to our day-to-day lives as an opportunity to just sit down and take a seat for a second. Cause you know, we were all running a legitimate rat race, but to just sit down and take a seat and pay attention and look at what I had built already. Right. What was, ultimately, in my mind, what did I think COVID was going to do to my business? Or what was it doing to my business? And when I sat back and looked at that, I saw that, in reference to my counterparts, who might've been bleeding out and losing business and having to close their doors, we just had a scrape on the knee. And I was like, well, beyond my gratefulness wanted to know, well, why is that the case? And really it boiled down to the types of clients that we were servicing and understanding that these categories were almost pandemic groove. In my agency, we deal a lot with healthcare and higher ed and financial services, employment, and recruitment. So all of these areas became hyper-focus importance to almost everyone during COVID. So understanding that, I decided to do a brand refresh of my agency, and make sure that we were communicating that these were the types of clients that we service. We've been doing this, and this is how we did. These are the lessons that we've learned, and this is how we present ourselves to the world where we had never done that on purpose before. And quite frankly, we never really had the time until the start of COVID to really do that and present that to the world. So that for me is my success story, RLM success story, coming out of this past year, really understanding my business on a deeper level than I have before. And then, with that understanding, using it as the communication to our current clients, but more importantly, using it as a way to go get new business, because now that the world is coming back to life, we've been spending this past year sharing that. Collecting new potential clients, sharing our story, sharing our experience and using it to grow and expand. So that's RLM success story.

One of our newer clients. Also has a very similar story. We work with an organization called  Ruby and what they do is help small business owners with all of the things that entrepreneurs have small businesses need and, before COVID, they were focused on, let's say helping the plumber who has a day books of appointments, answering his phone for him while he's out on appointments and scheduling new ones, right? Because you can't be in two places at once, but when COVID hit, they understood that their small business clients, their needs changed, it went from answer my phone to how do I navigate PPP loans and getting that access to that money. And so what they did was pivot to a model that allow them to expand their services to their clients where now it's everything that you need as a small business owner, you can go to them and figure out how do I insert blank here and they will be a resource for that. So they really grew through the pandemic as well. And we're proud of that and now we're working with them to do the same thing we did. How do you take all that and build it into your brand, build it into your communication and let people know that this is what you are now, so that you can attract new customers that need you on all of those levels.

Hilary - Well, I just have to say first for starters, congratulations to you. I mean, for number one, being in business for 12 years and number two, just really reinventing yourself during this pandemic and for this case study that sounds amazing. So thank you for that and sharing that with us.

Farissa - No problem.Thank you for the kind words.

Hilary - So tell us just quickly, if you have three best practices that you would offer my listeners on marketing in today's digital world.

Farissa - So three best practices. I've stated this already, but it really has to be said again, number one, know your customer in and out, number two, know that you might not be the customer, right? A lot of my clients, not so much now, but when I was getting started, we would recommend something for them and they would go, oh, I don't do that. And it's like, wait, but are you the customer or are you trying to attract new people? So really keeping that marketer's hat on and understanding that people are different and have different habits and consume media and do things in a different way. And then that third piece is allowing for flexibility across all ways to be flexible, because not every person, even if they are your unique customer, is going to respond to the same type of messaging. So being okay with being flexible and having multiple messages out there, being flexible for language, right? Because some folks are more comfortable speaking English as a second language. Just flexibility I think, more so now than ever, is going to be super, super important for business owners to manage.

Hilary - A hundred percent agree. That's awesome. Thank you so much. And finally, how can people get in touch with you and learn more about your business, about you, and how to market to today's consumers?

Farissa - I have a website it's for So folks can find me there. If you're a social media person, same handle on all the platforms, just add Farissa Knox and RLM, specifically, you can find out more information about RLM at

Hilary - Perfect. Well, thank you for Farissa so much for being on the show. This was so informative and I'll be following you on social. So thank you.

I also want to thank our sponsors, The Russo Law Group, The Profit Express, Pop International Galleries, Gold Benes and the Pegalis Law group. And last but not least, I want to thank you, our listeners for tuning in. If you want more information on this show or any other show, you can visit our website at Or you can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Apple podcasts, even Amazon Alexa, where out there you can find us have a great week and we'll see you next time.