Don't Just Get the Job Done, Be Good At It
We were standing in line and I figured why not kick things off by asking Jon why he decided to connect with me. His answer was just about flawless. He first reframed the question, then pivoted so his answers could reflect why we as marketing professionals network in general.
In marketing, the landscape is constantly changing. If you want to stay relevant, you have to make an effort to do so. New connections come with new perspectives. They offer an opportunity to learn about new resources, from coffee shops that actually have outlets, to new books, podcasts, or networking events you had yet to come across. They can lead you to the type of vendors that will make the impact your organization needs or new talent perfect for that open seat on your bus. Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't, and it's our job to seize those opportunities and learn something new.
As we sat down for coffee, Jon Hinderliter, Director of Marketing and Communications for University College at Washington University in St. Louis, went on to explain how in any profession you have to know how to adapt to your constraints and pivot. When you get stuck you have to flank, go around, or find a new path forward. You can't wait for permission, you just have to do it. You have to keep learning, keep growing, and ultimately prevent your own extinction, because if you can't, someone leaner and more agile will pass you up and replace you.
Jon's marketing career kicked off during his years of active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. During his time as an event specialist, he assisted in over 500 annual events in support of command protocol programs including ceremonies, conferences, briefings, official and social functions, and high-level foreign and domestic visits in support of 2, 3, & 4-star generals, as well as various flag officers and directors within U.S. Transportation Command. Taking into account the different audiences that were involved in the planning and execution of each event, as well as their different needs, Jon created the Command Protocol website as an online help desk for ceremonies, promotions, and distinguished visitors. This was back in the early 2000's, before the likes of Twitter and Facebook, when employing a digital strategy was not even a term yet. Suffice it to say, he stood out and started becoming know for all things digital.
Fast forward to shortly after coming off active duty. Jon had a degree in hand, and wanted to write. An opportunity opened up at Argosy Casino Alton to manage direct mail promotions for the casino's loyalty program, and he jumped on it. A huge fan of arguably the number one book on how to write great ads, Hey Whipple Squeeze This, you can tell in the way Jon talks about marketing that he agrees ads should be intelligent, clean, witty, beautiful...and HUMAN. If you ask Jon what amplifies that human voice, the answer is data. Through his work for Argosy's marketing department, he was able to collect data from the members loyalty program and transform it into fun and engaging promotions that ultimately led to a 400% return on investment.
Some say content is king, but data drives results.
"Digital is not just a medium, or a channel, but a way of life. It is its own world, with its own set of rules and evolving norms based on the cultural and technological advancements that interact with it." - Luke Sullivan
With proven success in the digital marketing space, Jon found his next role at University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL) as the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications. UMSL was heading into a market where the highschool population in the surrounding St. Louis area was declining. With a smaller pool of highschool graduates and increased competition throughout the region, UMSL knew they couldn't afford to just do marketing, they had to be good at it.
The key objective for a University's marketing department is to increase enrollment. However, you can't forget that every department has its own content needs, all of which have to align with the brand experience you want to convey. With only a couple of graduate assistants at the time, Jon implemented the University's first content management system, converting over 200 individual sites from various departments into one cohesive web presence. He then implemented the first-ever customer relationship management platform for UMSL, where he was able to leverage the suite of digital assets his team had created. Acting on data-rich insights, they were able to develop automated and static targeted marketing solutions for prospective students, ultimately increasing open house registrations by 300%.
We all know of the types that just mosey on by and do the bare minimum. Jon is the exact opposite. With only 3 years heading up marketing for University College, it should be no surprise he's already seen results. Using integrated data-driven marketing strategies, he's reversed a 5% declining enrollment trend to the current improved rate of 3 to 4%, and he's not stopping there. He's the type of guy that as soon as he gets boots on the ground, he assesses his situation, adapts to whatever constraints are present, and commits himself to nothing short of great results. He doesn't just do marketing, he's good at it.