Interview With DMN 40 Under 40 Recipient April D. Mullen

By: Katelyn Chostner, Kyle Eggering, Patricia Knight, & Sarah Thomas

UMSL enthusiasts! Ever wonder who helped mold your digital curriculum at UMSL over the last five years? Meet April D. Mullen, an email expert and current Director of Consumer-First Marketing Adoption at Selligent Marketing Cloud. She has been with UMSL since 2014 as an adjunct professor and is a recipient of the prestigious 40Under40 award by DMN! We sat down with April Mullen to talk about her experience in email marketing, industry predictions, and her time with the UMSL Marketing Advisory Board.

You are no stranger to UMSL, can you tell us how you’ve helped shape our digital curriculum?

When the program initially started over five years ago, Dr. Drake asked me to lead the curriculum committee to ensure the program was meeting the needs of the market. I did competitive research and also took a pulse of what CMOs were looking for in terms of filling their rosters. Additionally, having prior brand side experience, I had a good idea of the skills needed to do the jobs. From there, we kept adding courses and even removing some as they became less relevant. While I no longer lead the curriculum committee, I do still participate in conversations about the course offerings. I love what this program has done to bring a digital curriculum to the St. Louis area and that’s why I continue to be a part of it. Our community is better positioned for the future as a result of UMSL and Dr. Drake starting this program.

We could say April Mullen knows a thing or two about email marketing. What’s your story? Were you always an email marketing champion?

I’ve been doing email marketing since the early days of my career 12 years ago. I was more of a practitioner role initially, producing campaigns and coding emails. I have evolved into a strategist over time. I have long been a huge advocate for email marketing because it is the only universal app, which has made it immune to the corporate bureaucracy and limitations that have faced other mediums like social media. (Look at the privacy concerns eroding Facebook.) In fact, The Wall Street Journal just produced a piece on email marketing called “The Hot New Channel for Reaching Real People: Email.” Email marketers like myself have long seen the value driven by email for a long time. I’m excited to see broader respect for the channel now.

In 2018, you were named one of the DMN’s 40Under40. Congratulations! What was that like?

It was surreal. It didn’t feel like reality until I went to NYC to receive the award along with others named to the list. It was then that I realized how profound of a moment it was in my career.

What will be the biggest focus in 2019 for email marketing?

In 2019, we’ll still be focused on things like segmentation and personalization as data ecosystems that power these strategies gain more sophistication. We’ll also be looking at jaw-dropping capabilities like kinetic and interactive features, such as image carousels, in-email conversion, video and other exciting elements that weren’t possible before HTML5. You’ll see more emails in the inbox that operate like a webpage, essentially. I think AI will take center stage as well when it comes to optimizing email’s capabilities. In fact, I’ll be speaking about AI at MDMC this year.

UMSL students typically get a lot of emails, for better or worse. Do you have any tips on managing the inbox?

I am an expert in getting emails to the inbox. I’m afraid I don’t have any advice on how to manage the inbox, though (Laughs). If anyone has any tips, I’d love to hear them!


Be sure to check out April Mullen’s interview with DMN News for a closer look at her career and future goals!

How Crowdfunding Changed The World: Interview W/ Ryan Brennell

UMSL Marketing recently talked to Ryan Brennell, founder of Gladitood, and how the era of social interaction has re-shaped the way we give! Ryan will also be teaching an exclusive ‘Crowdfunding 101 ‘ class as part of the revamped UMSL Digital curriculum!

We live in the era of social organizing. How has Crowdfunding been a part of this trend over the last five years?

I think crowdfunding is a natural progression of social organizing. We’ve been using Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family, or Reddit to talk with like-minded individuals about shared interests, and I know it’s easy to connect the dots looking back, but it just seems like Crowdfunding was inevitable. We’re making it so easy for people to connect from all over the world, it was only a matter of time before we started using this medium to raise money. Now we’re seeing it on a scale that is changing our culture. Bernie Sanders just ran the most successful political crowdfunding campaign in history during the last election. Startup founders aren’t at the whim of venture capitalists who held all the power. Now they can find their audience and let the market decide if they should be funded. Thanks to social organizing, we have crowdfunding. And thanks to crowdfunding, new opportunities exist for us all.

Crowdfunding services such as GoFundMe are everywhere. From school supplies, family tragedy’s, to lifelong dreams. How has this changed fundraising culture?

I think that the many crowdfunding platforms that have popped up, especially those like GoFundMe where anyone can raise money for nearly anything, has increased competition for fundraisers and also increased an individual’s awareness of fraud. Crowdfunding has completely democratized access to funding. If you can tell a compelling story and execute a clever promotional plan, access to a wealthy network isn’t necessary anymore. It has also made fundraising a very real piece of pop-culture. The subjects of viral campaigns become overnight celebrities, and this perpetuates the biggest myth in crowdfunding – “If you build it, they will come.”

Despite the abundance of crowdfunding campaigns, many generate zero dollars. Why is this?

The failures almost always come down to that crowdfunding myth. The idea that crowdfunding is internet magic is the reason why the vast majority of crowdfunding campaigns fail right out of the gate. You have to put in the work.

Crowdfunding campaigns can be very difficult to dissect. We see the success, but we can’t get a good look under the hood to see what’s driving those results. This makes it very difficult for those new to crowdfunding to figure out where to begin. After years of helping hundreds of campaigns succeed, and seeing plenty fail, we’ve recognized the patterns and formulas that lead to both results. Frankly, 90% of the work for a successful campaign happens before it even launches.  Realistically, there were several weeks – sometimes months – of planning ahead of a successful 30-day campaign.

Basically, crowdfunding is not a magic ‘Easy’ button. It takes work. How can someone approach this?

I like to approach it by creating a two-part plan. Part one consists of everything you need to get in place in order to put the campaign together and set yourself up to execute successfully. Part two is the actual execution.

Part one is about crafting your story, strategically planning your reward levels, identifying and building relationships with your audience, and lining up distribution channels for your campaign. This means making a video and creative graphics, coming up with creative and unique “up-sells” that don’t dip into your profits, figuring out which social channels and forums to engage, and creating a PR plan. It sounds like a lot, but if you tackle these, you are in the top 10% of your competition. If you take part one seriously, part two is a breeze. If you half-ass part one, those 30-60 days might be the most stressful of your life.

What will your new Crowdfunding course be touching on? Who is this course for?

The course is for anyone who wants to learn how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign from day 1 of planning through day X of follow up after the campaign has ended. Nonprofit organizations, startup founders, marketers, and inventors, I’m talking to you. My goal is that my students leave with not only an understanding of how to run a successful campaign but with their own concrete plan of action.  We’ll cover how to craft your story to include the four key ingredients for virality, how to identify and engage your target audience, how to utilize distribution channels to increase your reach. We’ll go over creating a great video – even without access to a professional production team, building an email and social campaign to accompany your fundraiser, and how to capitalize on the momentum of success after your campaign to keep backers engaged for your next fundraiser. The course will include a number of case studies that break down some of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns in history, including successful campaigns from right here in St. Louis!



#MDMC17 Live: Getting to Know the Speakers. Part 2

By: Dan Klevorn

We continue to introduce the speakers of the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (MDMC17), who UMSL Business students were able to interview for the podcast series “In Your Business With UMSL Business”.
NOTE: Please select the speaker you want to listen to: here.
Sylvester Chisom
At the conference, UMSL student Sean Gabris took over the “In Your Business with UMSL Business” podcast with educational technology entrepreneur and author Sylvester Chisom. Sylvester is connected to UMSL through a technology incubator that takes ideas from people and companies and uses them to help students connect with education through technology. His role is to find and help these company’s ideas become a reality.
During the interview, Sylvester was asked about starting a company and how to connect with consumers. He described understanding the target audience and having a “caring conciseness”. He also pointed out that an entrepreneur should “manifest greatness” by taking ownership of the business aspects and apply them to life.
As the interview came to a close, Sylvester encouraged future entrepreneurs to not be lazy and make sacrifices to make the business grow. “Who executes on that level and is willing to take those sacrifices will be successful. You don’t have to be great to get started but you have to get started to be great,” he stated.
Nick Weber
Monsanto collaborative, social media and content strategist, Nick Weber was also interviewed at MDMC17 by Curtis Hoffman. During their interview, Nick described how Monsanto deals with challenges or issues the company faces. It takes a team effort and the right process to deal with something when it “hits the fan”. Nick described how important it is in his team to know who makes the call, as they should have a very quick response time before it fully unfolds on social media. Companies are forced to pick their battles on social media daily when people post about their brands. Nick described how they try to take a bad comment or post and turn it around into something positive or something which can shed a better light on Monsanto.
Curtis asked Nick to give some advice for students and future marketers. Nick answered that young people need to continue to learn and test what they already know about social media. The hottest aspect of social media is analytics which helps brands find their audience to help them adapt to the fast-paced reality.
Ajay Gupta
The CEO of Stirista, Ajay Gupta also joined the UMSL Business podcast at MDMC17. Chanty, an UMSL student, talked to Ajay about Stirista and the concept of predictive modeling. Ajay double majored in economics and creative writing where he worked on political campaigns that finally led him to Stirista. When asked what Stirista does, Ajay stated that they are a “data driven marketing agency” that works with clients to find the specific audience that works for the brand. They target the audience with a specific marketing strategy using email or social media channels.
At Stirsta, each client has a team that understands the needs and wants of the brand, so that they can start building the project from the ground up. Ajay described how each brand is different and could only use help in specific areas while other brands need help across the board. When putting together the models, they can find specific people and see who they follow on social media channels to see if they should be targeted for their client. These statistic based models produce percentages showing how likely someone is to make a decision or switch to a client’s program.
Ajay also mentioned that everyone attending the conference had a chance to learn about the different data available and how companies find it and use it to their advantage.

The Future of Live Streaming

By: Chidu Subbiah
Untitled designLive Streaming has become a buzzword of late, but the history can be traced back to the late 90’s and early 2000’s when computing power became cheaper and powerful. The bandwidth of networks grew dramatically in this timeframe which increased the number of people and computers with access to those networks, creating the Internet as we know it today. Early live streaming efforts were mostly single-event broadcasts and were more focused around audio streaming. Continue reading “The Future of Live Streaming”

A Chat with MDMC17 Speaker: David Deck

By: Brittany Lloyd
David Deck
David Deck is the owner at Built to Lead. A former professional soccer player and successful executive with progressive experience building, growing, running, and evolving businesses from $1M (5 employees) to $100M (+200 employees). David is an educator by degree, a teacher and coach at heart, who is uniquely equipped to partner with CEO’s and business owners with the aim of: building them into leaders, transforming their teams, and growing their business. Born in 1973, David is the middle brother of 5 left-handed boys. He was married in 2001 to a tenderhearted spitfire and his soul mate. He is a father to 3 great kids. Self-described as a beautiful ruin and passionate fool, as well as a strategic idealist who is unreasonably aspirational and perpetuates improvement.
While working at his business, Built to Lead, David’s focus is small to medium, family owned, privately held companies that want to take things to the next level or need to change / evolve but might not know how. He challenges the leader of the organization (first and most) to more clearly define who they are, what they believe, and why it matters. Then they systematically transform every aspect of the company in alignment with what was (re)discovered. Thus, creating a more successful, thriving company.
I was able to catch up with David for a sit down. Check out some of the Q&A below.
Question: What are some of the worst mistakes a business could make when it comes to content marketing?
– Lacks authenticity
– Not a clear overarching content strategy / purpose
– Inconsistent brand ethos
Question: What do you think is next for content marketing? How will it evolve in the coming years?
Authentic influencer endorsements.
Individuals with a good personal following / brand will hold the most marketing power if they stay authentic individuals who only “promote” things they really believe in.
I can see a day in the future when influencers are able to select the companies they want to work with verses just work for companies who will pay them.  If influencers truly understand their power and hold true to this, this will be a marketing channel unlike any we’ve seen to date.
Question: Social media marketing is free, right
A: No.  It takes time and resources to develop a point of view, a purpose and position.  It takes time and resources to develop a strategy to communicate authentically and consistently.  It takes time and resources to test, learn, listen and respond.
Question: A small business owner has to wear many hats and time is always tight. What are some social media time management tips you have to help them stick with their social media campaign without losing a lot of time?
Answer: Be real, be transparent, be authentic.  Just talk about the things you are doing and don’t try to be something you aren’t.
Question: Share your favorite digital marketing case study. What did you like most it?
A: I tested this “authentic influencer endorsement” concept while at New Balance.  I helped influencers define their own voice and personal brand.  Then had them talk about their everyday life and New Balance in their own way.  The results (engagement and sales) were significantly higher via the influencer’s social channels compared to New Balance’s.
Question: According to you, what are the top three mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging digital marketing?
A: 1) Not taking the time to define who you are, what you do and why it matters.  This should be the anchor to align all marketing and creative decisions.
2) Speaking to themselves, not their customer.  After you’ve developed your brand ethos, you have to test / rinse / refine your message until it resonates with the target customer.
3) They over complicate it.
Question: Which are your three favorite digital marketing tools?
A: N/A… trial and error are the best teacher.
Question: What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for digital marketing profile?
– loves all things digital in and out of work
– loves learning
– not afraid of failing
– always wants more
– believes in this channel
Question: Who are three people you respect when it comes to digital marketing?
1) Judy John from Leo Burnett – created the “like a girl” campaign and delivered the message in such a powerful way.
2) Pete Frates, Pat Quinn and Corey Griffin – started the ALS Icebucket Challenge
3) The Kardashians – don’t respect them in any way other than how they have built a marketing empire where they are the brand and decide what they want to endorse.
I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did.
Join us on April 13th at the MDMC17. David Deck will be inspiring us all in the Perficient room from 12:15pm.-12:45pm. during a special Lunch time Pop Up session. David will be speaking on the power of “OPUS”. This word means “work” in Latin. David will be there to encourage and help you clarify your passion and align it with your work.