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Articles - May 2014
Monday, April 28, 2014

BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTO BY CARL KIILSGAARD

Mambo Media
President and CEO: Siouxsie Jennett
Headquarters: Portland
Employees: 12
Factoid: Mambo generated more than 50,000 tweets last year for themselves and on behalf of clients


Tactics CarlKiilsgaard OBM Suxsie0101Siouxsie Jennett, president and CEO of Mambo Media, is in her downtown Portland office expounding on social media: the good, the bad and the ugly. Jennett, 47, founded Mambo in 1997 in Mountain View, California — “the home of Google before there was Google” — as a marketing firm that moves across all platforms. The company will create an old-school print campaign if that’s what’s needed. But its real focus is web design, video production and, more and more, social media; the latter now comprises 20% of Mambo’s business.

A well-conceived social media campaign is steeped in research, analytics and a commitment to the return on investment, Jennett says. An ill-conceived campaign, not so much. “I often have to explain that a digital-media campaign doesn’t mean posting what you ate for breakfast on Twitter,” she says.

Polished and articulate, with a knack for spot-on cultural commentary, Jennett is a commanding presence who rattles off business and technical jargon at a breakneck clip. She also understands the ups and downs of Internet marketing firsthand, having started her career selling advertising for a San Francisco Bay Area online magazine, Goplay.com, which she describes as a precursor to Citysearch. “It was 1995, and it often felt like I was selling sunscreen to Eskimos,” she recalls. From there she and a business partner spun off Mambo Media. With initial clients like Hewlett-Packard, Visa and Nokia, they rode the dot-com/dot-bomb bubble of the late ’90s.

Mambo swelled and then shrunk accordingly, employing five people at its height before the tech wreck brought it back down to just Jennett. It was time to re-think Mambo Media, her growing family and the Silicon Valley. Put off by the Bay Area’s overcrowded school system (“I signed up my daughter for preschool when I was pregnant and three years later she still wasn’t accepted”) and its social climate (“about what you do and not who you are”) Jennett and her husband, Paul Kelly moved to Portland in 2003 to pursue work-life balance in the Silicon Forest.

The move paid off. Today Mambo is worth $1 million, and Jennett expects it to double in value in 2014. Building on its success, Mambo recently moved to roomier offices in the Pearl District’s Park blocks to house 12 employees. Jennett expects that number to double over the next year too. While industry averages see employees changing jobs every two to three years, people at Mambo tend to stick around. Like Jennett, they are older and wiser, many with MBAs who cut their marketing teeth at the dawn of the digital era.

It’s an ever-changing environment. Today many clients seek out Mambo for its social media, web design and SEO-generation services. Jennett ticks off the success stories. A software firm came to Mambo troubled by declining traffic from search engines. Mambo developed a program that increased search traffic 110% from the previous year, with referral traffic from social media increasing 86%. Another firm, a “multichannel customer experience and contact center solution provider,” wanted to leverage social media to increase web traffic and leads. Mambo’s solution generated 177 “high-quality” leads and a 44% increase in Twitter followers in the first four weeks of the campaign.

As technologies evolve at a rapid pace and as more companies jump on the social media bandwagon — digital marketing is now a $62 billion industry in the U.S. — businesses are shifting their approach to advertising and promotion, Jennett says. For instance, savvy companies are combining IT and marketing budgets and responsibilities in order to keep pace with changing needs. Mobile is also huge. “Most of our clients get between 15% and 50% of traffic from mobile devices,” she says. “But many websites aren’t mobile ready, even the new ones. There’s still a disconnect.”

The rising tide is causing some growing pains for Mambo. “Growth and scale are our biggest challenges,” says Jennett. “I spend more time on operations than clients now,” she says. Jennett still insists on reviewing deliverables, but she’s enjoying living behind the scenes, working as a strategist instead of managing projects.

That strategy includes practicing what she preaches. Mambo pulls out all the digital marketing bells and whistles to promote itself. The company puts out informative blogs, posts on Facebook and Twitter, and has a nifty mobile app. Ironically, however, the company still gets 80% of its business the old-fashioned way: repeats and referrals from clients. It keeps them plenty busy. “We are booked with what we have coming in right now.”

In 2014, of course, social media is steeped in irony — and positive and negative impacts. On the business side, Jennett aims for as many eyeballs on Twitter, Facebook and other social media as possible. That imperative is at odds with her role as protective parent — Jennett recently confiscated her 14-year-old’s cell phone for a month after discovering the teen’s Instagram account. “I made her write an essay on the pros and cons of teenagers using social media,” she recalls. “She couldn’t find any pros. “That’s life in our new modern era!” observes Jennett. “I have yet to see the value proposition for my children, and I will keep them away from [social media] for as long as I can,” she says.

Deployed thoughtfully, however, digital networking reaps rewards. “Social media provides a very powerful, cost-effective vehicle to accomplish marketing objectives,” Jennett says. “It’s direct, engaging and can provide great value to your prospective customer as they evaluate your offering against the competition.”

 

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