What Really Matters in Marketing: An Interview with Fractional CMO Dusti Arab

You know how to deliver results. 

But if you want to sell your magic sauce, you need a marketing strategy that makes an impact. 

Between email marketing, social media, and the ever-changing algorithms that drive views, likes, and shares, sometimes modern marketing feels more like a guessing game than a business strategy. So, today I’m interviewing a Fractional CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and my friend, Dusti Arab, to talk about what really matters in marketing and what you need to know to create a marketing strategy that will expand your opportunities and grow your business.

Making Sense of Marketing 

Dana Corey: Hi, Dusti. Thanks for coming to play with me this morning. I know so many people who have a hard time distinguishing between marketing and sales.

So, can we start by defining marketing?

Dusti Arab: Totally, yes. A lot of people hiring marketers also seem to mistake marketing for sales, and there is nothing more frustrating for a marketer than that. 

Marketing is all of the touch points that get us to the sales conversation. It’s the way that each point in that journey looks. It’s the way that it feels. It’s the way that it sounds. But it’s not only the storytelling; it’s also applying analytics and ensuring that we’re measuring the creative efforts and the impact.

Marketing is a broad topic, so you got a broad answer.

Dana Corey: That’s exactly what I was looking for. 

When I think about marketing, as opposed to sales, I really think about getting your ideal client to see that you have the solution to their problem so that they put up their hand and self-identify as your client. 

At its heart, marketing is about speaking to people in a way that empowers that self-identification. That’s what happens when we get it right.

What are the biggest mistakes business owners make when trying to market their business?

Dusti Arab: Spray and pray, no question. By that, I mean trying to do lots of different things simultaneously and just hoping to God that something works.

I also hear a lot of, “Well, I tried social media, but it just doesn’t work for me,” particularly from online business owners. What they mean is they posted one thing, and the only response they got was from their cousin. 

That’s not how it works. Of course, you’re not going to get a response that first time. It takes time and strategy to coordinate an effective marketing campaign. 

As someone who is primarily a content marketer, as opposed to someone who does a lot of paid ad work, creating different connection points is critical. If I am anything, I am a storyteller and a connector, and it’s my job to help facilitate those things.

Dana Corey: I think it also takes more than just time, right? It takes actually doing the pre-work.

You have to know who you’re trying to reach, where they’re spending time online and off, what they’re thinking about, and what they want. So many people just spray and pray without doing any of that work before they start posting. 

Some business owners, especially those who are just starting out, don’t know what needs to be considered before they start trying to reach people. 

Dusti Arab: That’s a really great point, Dana. Defining your customer avatar and working through these thought exercises is standard advice these days, and there is a lot of value in having a good understanding of your customer avatar. But that level of understanding isn’t there yet for business owners in the earlier stages of building their business. 

It takes trial and error to figure out who your people are and where they spend their time. Instead of spraying and praying, experiment to find out what works. An experiment is organized and has a hypothesis to guide you. Spray and pray does not. 

Figuring out where your people are and where they want to have those conversations that you want to have with them, it can get a little sticky for folks.

Dana Corey: It really can. And figuring out your client avatar is not a one-time deal. Even when you get past those early stages, you have to make a point of going back to refine it, hone in on specifics, and create even more clarity. 

Marketing is about self-identification, and getting your ideal clients to raise their hands and self-identify requires knowing who they are so that you can speak directly to them. 

One of the things I love about marketing is having that intentional conversation with one person. 

I am in the process of updating my website right now, for the first time since 2016. I hired someone to do it for me and made it clear that I just want to talk to one person at a time because I want the person reading it to feel like I’m speaking directly to them.

Speaking of the different phases of business…

What changes in marketing between the startup and growth phase of a business? 

Dusti Arab: I think there are two separate things that happen. One is that as you get better and better at delivering your service, you’re going to get more clear on exactly who you’re talking to. You’ll have more best-fit clients, so you’ll have a better idea of who you really want to work with. You’ll also learn to identify those sneaky red flags from people who are not so great to work with, which is great data to have. We only get this data by doing. It’s not guesswork. 

The other thing that happens, and this happened for me very recently, is that the scope of your business evolves. You’re talking to some of the same people, but it becomes a particular subset of those people because they’re the people who are ready to self-identify. Those are the people who are going to be your best-fit clients every time. Honestly, that’s really where business owners get to play, because you’re only doing the shit that you’d like. 

Dana Corey: That is the good stuff. There are also people who prayed and sprayed and happened to hit the bullseye. They get to this place where they’re making money in their business, and they need to grow, but they don’t know what worked, why, or how. 

Dusti Arab: You wouldn’t believe how common that is. Up to the $3 million mark, people still feel like their business will stop working or that it’s all been “good luck.” That is a widespread belief or fear that business owners struggle with. Thankfully, it’s not rooted in fact, generally speaking. 

I think about when I started in business eleven years ago, and that’s exactly how it felt. I was just doing whatever felt like the next natural step.

I started copywriting because someone I respected told me I should because I was a good writer. I had been blogging online for about six months, and I thought they knew more than I did, so I became a copywriter. I have mixed feelings about it now, but overall, she was right. I am a good writer, and that is a way to make money as a writer. 

I grew a lot as a result of that conversation and the choices I made because of it. And that’s part of this conversation, too. Being in business, marketing yourself, and being visible leads to a lot of personal growth because it brings up all your shit. It requires a lot of personal growth. 

I really like your approach to business and marketing because you’re willing to go there with people.

Dana Corey: I believe that business owners are innately committed to personal growth, and they unconsciously choose to own a business as the way to make that happen. Business is nothing but a pathway to personal growth. Your business can’t grow beyond the container you’re able to hold. If you don’t grow personally and expand your capacity to hold a bigger container, your business can’t grow. And your container is made of your ability to know yourself. I know that sounds so hokey, but it’s so true.

Dusti Arab: It’s not hokey. It’s definitely true. As you get to that point where your business is bringing in multiple six figures, that is also the point when you have to make a decision–

Am I going to run a lifestyle business on my own and figure out how to scale profits? 

Or am I going to scale a company, learn how to become a CEO, and step into leadership? 

It’s a pivotal period of personal growth because each requires a very different skill set. Becoming the CEO of your company requires you to do so much more personal growth. I don’t blame people for not wanting to choose it because it is brutal. 

Dana Corey:  I always think of those moments as bottlenecks. 

They’re the inflection points where your business is shifting, and you’re evolving into a different version of yourself. As you grow, your marketing also needs to shift to stay aligned. But many business owners don’t know how their marketing needs to change because they don’t fully understand what has shifted in their business.

Dusti Arab: And that is usually the best point to bring in some outside help because it’s so easy for business owners to stagnate in that space. 

Dana Corey: Absolutely. So many folks get stuck spinning their wheels when what was working isn’t working anymore. Before we dive deeper into what is working in the world of marketing,  I’d love to hear your thoughts about how marketing is different for online businesses versus “offline” businesses. 

What are the differences between marketing a brick and mortar business versus an online business? 

Dusti Arab: So, I’ve done marketing at the highest levels for both brick and mortars and online businesses. Having done both, I would say that the principles are fundamentally the same. However, the execution looks very, very different. 

I think there’s a lot of noise and garbage online, and it’s very easy to get taken in by someone’s phenomenal branding and excellent photos because they have all the markers of success. 

Did you know you can rent a jet? That’s a thing I learned recently.

Dana Corey: So you can stand in front and tell everyone what an amazing, luxurious life you have.

Dusti Arab: No, thank you. In real life, business owners don’t do that. They don’t have to. Most of them already have established businesses that they run like actual business people. They’re not focused on trying to look shinier than anyone else because they’re busy doing the work. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with excellent branding. I am a huge proponent of it. However, it cannot be all there is. 

Circling back to your question, for brick-and-mortar businesses, you often don’t have to work as hard to educate your audience because they’re familiar with your services. I love doing marketing for accounting and legal firms because it’s so easy. People already need those things, and that obvious need gives us a very clear client avatar to speak to, so we can leverage that to go into new markets and connect with new people.

Overall, I would say that it’s more about the business owners themselves and less about the industries.

Dana Corey:  I totally agree with you. I also think that for brick and mortar businesses, there is more of a focus on being part of the community, knowing your neighbors, meeting people in real life, and looking for ways to connect with potential clients. Whether your business is online or off,  it’s the same idea, but playing on a different playground. 

Dusti Arab: I would say that’s true. When I owned a physical coffee shop, I was very invested in the local downtown community because those people would be there every day. The mayor would come and have meetings once a week in the shop; we were very involved with the city. Part of it was that they wanted to support local small businesses, and we got to help facilitate some of that. It’s definitely a really unique way to be able to serve the community. 

Dana Corey: I really like that. That’s so true. Thank you for sharing that perspective.

Now, there is a juicy question that I’ve been dying to ask. 

What is working for your clients in terms of marketing? And what isn’t working? 

Dusti Arab: I’ll start with what hasn’t been working because it’s quick. 

Facebook ads aren’t working anymore.

If you’re not doing videos on Instagram, don’t even bother. Your posts are actively being deprioritized because they’re in a war with TikTok. So if you think you can actually monetize your Instagram videos on TikTok, be my guest. But I’m not your girl. 

Evergreen is another thing that isn’t working. I’m starting to see a little bit of a bounce-back now, but finding ways to keep your offer fresh and top of mind for your people when it’s always available is very, very, very difficult unless you have a huge audience and a lot of brand trust. 

In the online space, live launching is very popular because you get instant access. There’s a lot of momentum there, and the energy feels good.

What is working is anything with a live one-to-one component. The more of you they’re getting, the more likely you will sell that offer. A lot of the people’s pre-recorded DIY offers are not doing nearly as well as they used to. 

Email marketing is shifting. I’m not saying it’s not working, because it is. But you have to be much better at it than you used to be. If you’re going to hire a copywriter for something, that’s what it should be for, not your social media. 

That is a huge mistake I see many people making: just dumping money into social media versus email. If you’ve been in business for a while, have somebody come in and take what you’ve already established and build on it to make it even better. Whether or not you’re launching, add some launch-like elements.

Basic lead magnets aren’t cutting it anymore. 

What is definitely still working, and may be working better than I’ve ever seen it working, are quizzes. 

They have to be really, really well defined and really well done. You probably need help doing it. Very few people I’ve seen have been able to create all of the pieces of it and put it together in a way that actually can convert people. 

Pinterest ads are definitely working, but you have to be very creative. This is a place where the visuals have to be stunning. You probably should be using video. 

Dana Corey: That’s really fascinating. Thank you for answering that one and walking us through it. Here’s my next question–

How do people know when they should get help with their marketing strategy? And where can people find you, Dusti?

Dusti Arab: I would say that you don’t need to be actively working with somebody until you’re bringing in multiple six figures. Realistically, it’s not worth your time or money to sink a lot of effort into that until you have enough data for somebody like me to rifle through so that I can start to find trends and patterns. That data is the basis I use to help you create the kinds of experiments that will help your business in the long term. 

You can find me at www.thereinvention.co. That’s where I hang out. We can create a marketing plan for your next 90 days in a single day. I also offer intensives and longer-term containers to support people in their marketing. All the details are on my website, and I’m always happy to jump on a call to answer questions and make sure we’re a good fit.

Dana Corey: Thank you so much for joining me today, Dusti. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and share your expertise.

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