Have you heard about the BBB Passport to Learning? BBB offers BBB Accredited Businesses a new series of 12 webinars taught by local experts and business owners. The first of these monthly webinars, scheduled for January 31st, will be with Lauren Kolbe of KolbeCo, a St. Louis marketing firm. Lauren will talk about how to create a marketing message, where to place your marketing message, and how to measure your marketing results.
Lauren has made her mark in St. Louis not just as a business owner, but also as a community leader– she’s on the boards of Just Because We Care, a charity that helps children in Honduras, and the United Way.
We interviewed Lauren to see how she maintains excellence both in her career and in her private life. Read on and get to know this fascinating St. Louisan.
BBB: How did you get into marketing? Have you always wanted to do this kind of job, or did you discover a connection between your passions and marketing later on in your life?
LK: My first job out of college was Marketing Coordinator for a local manufacturing company. I helped identify prospects, researched industries we were targeting, and worked with the sales team to prepare their marketing materials. At the time, it was a part time position and I had never intended marketing to be my career– but I loved it. I found that I thrived in a field where I was challenged to think strategically about how to position a product, be creative about how to craft and distribute the message, and constantly seek knowledge to expand my skill. I worked my way up to Marketing Director, then established KolbeCo in 2000.
BBB: Wow, that’s really impressive! What do you love about your job at KolbeCo?
LK: Always learning new things, and that’s key for two reasons. First, in marketing there’s always something new, consumer behaviors shift, and ways of reaching your audience are constantly evolving. While you can be taught the fundamentals in school, you can’t be taught all of the tactical options marketers will face over the course of their careers. Second, throughout the course of my work, I get to learn about businesses, products and industries I never knew about. I get to see the passion of a business owner when he or she shows me their newest product, then work with the company to create marketing strategy for it. You must have passion and a love of learning to succeed in this industry, and I love that.
BBB: Passion can make all of the difference, in just about any industry. Do you notice any other similarities between your business and your clients’ businesses?
LK: Many times there are great similarities when we’re working directly with business owners. Regardless of the industry, it seems that we’ve all faced the same things. Our brands, our values, and our stories are very personal to us. We also find similarities with large organizations, especially where brand and culture are important.
BBB: So to get to the matter at hand– can you tell us more about the webinar? What are you looking forward to about presenting?
LK: I’m looking forward to helping members craft their stories and create messaging that differentiates them – well before diving into tactics. Many people will ask me “Should I have a commercial on Channel X” or “Should I run an ad in X publication” or “Should I be spending time on Twitter,” and my answer is always “I don’t know – maybe, maybe not.” You have to really delve into your why before making any of those decisions.
BBB: Marketing does have to be very personalized. That must get tricky at times! What was the most challenging project you’ve worked on lately? What do you do when you feel stuck?
LK: We are in the midst of a rebranding campaign for a longtime client. I’ve been so close to it for so many years that I had a hard time stepping outside my knowledge and experience with the company. I had all the research, all the background, and I knew where I wanted to go, but I couldn’t verbalize it or map it out. I have a great team here at KolbeCo and pulled in one of my colleagues who was able to quickly see my vision and verbalize it in a matter of a few minutes.
BBB: You really do seem like you’ve got a great team– and a great HQ for your team. Do you enjoy being based out of St. Charles?
LK: My husband and I both grew up in St. Charles County, and are very active in the community here. When we started this business, it was important to us to be located here, providing a service, creating jobs, and supporting local organizations.
BBB: As a professional communicator, do you use social media in your private life? What do you like and dislike about it as a civilian?
LK: I do use social media. I like it as a source of knowledge and sharing information. I like that people have a voice. I like being able to have conversations with people about things that matter to me who I’ve never met (and many of whom I probably will never meet.)
On the flip side, I truly dislike mean-spirited discussions. People say very hurtful things on social media that they would never say if the person was standing in front of them. I wrote a blog a while back called “Be Nice on Social Media” about a fire that had destroyed a restaurant owned by some friends of ours. The family was devastated as it was their life’s work, however the comments people were making about the restaurant were horrible. Even in the face of a family’s tragedy, people were being hurtful. We need to stop doing that kind of thing on social media. Negative comments can be constructive, but the mean-spirited posts that have no such value are uncalled for.
BBB: On a less serious note, I see a lot of dogs on your website and Facebook page—tell us more about them! How do KolbeCo’s dogs relate to KolbeCo’s business?
LK: KolbeCo is a dog-friendly business – but not just for the sheer purpose of being able to bring our dogs to work. Our dogs, who we call our Board of Dogrectors, have a mission here, and that is to serve as ambassadors bringing awareness and promoting goodwill towards stray, abused and unwanted animals in our community. All of our Dogrectors are Rescue Dogs. Each year during the holidays, the Board of Dogrectors presents Frills for Furbabies, a drive to benefit Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Over the last five years, we’ve raised over $30,000 in supplies, food and cash donations.