Carla Williams Johnson is a Media Marketing Specialist based in Trinidad & Tobago. Her 13+ years of experience in creating innovative advertising campaigns, developing creative media executions and advising global, regional and international corporations on where to adequately invest their funds to ensure significant returns, has produced millions of dollars in revenue for companies like Caribbean Bottlers, Unilever, Moo! Milk, Angostura and other innovative start-ups. She is also a passionate writer having contributed pieces to The Catholic News, Youth Voices Trinidad & Tobago, ET&T Magazine and Abstract Magazine. In 2014, she started a blog, which she has since renamed ‘Carli Speaks’ on her website, where she offers advertising and marketing advice to entrepreneurs and business owners who are interested in promoting themselves in the real world focusing mainly on methods to identify ideal clients, online and offline approaches to boosting visibility and the creation of marketing campaigns designed to increase revenue. Her philosophy is to help you M.A.P out your business through (M)arketing, (A)dvertising and (P)romotion in order to A.M.P up your business through (A)ction, (M)otivation, (P)rogress.
After experiencing both agency life and corporate she realized that there was a need for a true advocate for business men and women who were desirous of promoting themselves. She founded Carli Communications, a boutique agency that gives sound, unbiased advice as to where to invest to truly maximize the advertising dollar with innovative ideas to authentically connect with customers in an ever changing market. Carla provides assistance with development of marketing and advertising strategies, social media management, development and execution of media plans, copywriting and both online and offline approaches to connecting with customers which has resulted in her serving more than 30 clients, companies and personality brands.
She currently serves hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs from across the globe on her Facebook group “The New SMS: Strategic Marketing Specialists” and provides helpful and actionable tips on advertising and promoting a business. She’s been called ‘The Media Guru’ and her clients are in awe of her warm, friendly personality and her ability to ‘think of innovative, out of the box ideas’ for their business. Her education includes an Associate Degree in Business Administration from The University of the West Indies School of Business and Applied Studies Limited Trading as ROYTEC and a London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Group Diploma in Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations. She also holds various certificates in Effective Marketing and Sales Management Skills, Multi Media and Human Resource Management.
Carla also gives back to her community by mentoring and using her gifts, talents and abilities to assist where she can. She was recently asked to share her wealth of knowledge at Santa Rosa Lion’s Club, and with the Malabar Secondary School through the World of Work initiative which assists students with preparing themselves for the working world. She has also volunteered with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese through the Archbishop Appeal in assisting with raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a local historic monument. Carla logs a minimum of five (5) hours per month on personal and professional development education to keep her fresh and motivated in her business and her life and is always on the hunt for fresh, new experiences where she can flex her intuition and common sense. When she’s not working, she can usually be found in the company of her one and only teenage daughter, who is exactly like her mom in looks, personality and tenacity.
SB-C: Tell us about your career in marketing and how you ended up starting your own business. CWJ: I’ve always loved marketing and advertising. I think I was one of the few people who just figured out what career they wanted from a very young age and people would always say I had a ‘creative mind’. I was the only person I knew that would look forward to commercial breaks while watching television all because I wanted to see the fun and creative ways companies would sell products.
At age 19, after stalking some of the top advertising agencies I was accepted into a Creativity Workshop hosted by Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi and that was when the love affair truly began. Through my career while working with brands such as Unilever, Coca Cola, Pepsi Co and Digicel to name a few, I found that a lot of really great, but smaller brands were being ill advised by sales representatives who were just looking to make a quick buck on commission. Business men who placed their hard earned money into media channels that would bring absolutely no return all because of a greedy, ‘smooth talking’ sales rep who would convince them otherwise. It really angered me! It was then I put on my proverbial cape and created Carli Communications. (The name ‘Carli’ in homage to my dad who passed just a few years before I started the business)
SB-C How important is marketing to the aspiring and recently started entrepreneur? CWJ: Marketing is extremely important and, I would argue, one for the top things you need to invest in. Reason being is simple……..if no one knows who you are or what you do, how can they purchase?With people being constantly bombarded with messages, it can be difficult to really stand out. Marketing is the tool that gets you noticed by the right people at the right time with the goal of getting them to fall so deeply in love with you that they have no choice but to open their wallets for whatever you sell.
SB-C: Can you explain the difference between marketing and branding? CWJ: Marketing is the matriarch of branding, public relations and advertising. (Yes I’m gender biased). It’s really the psychology of human consumption and understanding what conditions need to be just right to encourage customers to purchase. Branding is one of those conditions, the focus of which is on the emotional connection that persons would have with your brand before they even do business with you. It’s the visual representation of your business such as your logo, fonts and colors that all come together to tell customers the experience they should expect. The other two conditions that need to be addressed are Advertising and Public Relations, both of which really focus on the tactics to get people to take notice of you and your business. I should note here that many people actually confuse marketing with sales, but a sale occurs as a direct result of a really great marketing campaign.
SB-C: You have worked with both Caribbean and global brands. What would you say is the difference in terms of approach? CWJ: The one thing that really stands out is mindset. Global brands tend to be more fearless, always looking for new and innovative ways to reach their customers. They understand that with rapid changes in technology and techniques they must always be ahead of the curve to stay connected with their customers. Global brands also encourage sharing of information focusing on giving real value to potential clients. They are more focused on building relationships with the understanding that the sale will come once trust is established.
Caribbean brands tend to be a bit more cautious only proceeding only if they believe there is a reasonably high probability of success. This usually comes from seeing successful campaigns that other brands have implemented with success being equated mainly to sales and profits.
Marketing is not ‘one size fits all’ and there are so many factors involved when determining the success and failure of a campaign, one major factor being culture. What may work in one territory may not necessarily work in another. Even right here in the Caribbean, we have subtle differences in the way we speak, act and socialize all of which will impact a marketing campaign.
Basing the life of your business on another brand may not be the best approach, and adopting a global mindset is crucial for Caribbean brands if we really want to make our mark in the world. We must understand to always come from place of service and never be afraid to truly put ourselves out there.
SB-C: What is the biggest marketing mistake entrepreneurs make and how can this be circumvented? CWJ: Not taking the time to truly figure out who they are selling it to. I talk about finding your ideal customer all the time because it really is the foundation for business success. It’s why brands such as Revlon and Maybelline or Coca Cola and Pepsi can co exist and still make millions of dollars. I see so many entrepreneurs just trying to either force their product or service to people who don’t really want it or to persons who want but cannot afford it – both of which can lead to frustration. My best advice is to take the time to do a bit of research on who you’re trying to reach. Find out their habits, their pain points and how you can help alleviate that pain with what you do.
SB-C: What are some of the challenges you have faced building a marketing business? CWJ: I have fallen into trap of trying to give people what they wanted. Sounds crazy I know but it’s true. You will ask people what they want and when you give it to them, they don’t want to pay. I learned that the hard way. I will never forget the call I made to my coach that December morning, crying my eyes out, because I came to the realization that I doing everything right but for the wrong target audience. Marketing to persons who did not have the right mindset and would arbitrarily ask for things that they thought they want but not really ready for. I’ve dealt with persons I affectionately call ‘time wasters’ who are people who keep calling or messaging for advice but won’t actually pay.
I’ve dealt with persons who are actually able to afford my services but aren’t looking for a partner but an employee. My silver lining is that I’ve dealt with many people and the more I put myself out there is the better I became at knowing who I wanted to work with. That’s the trick every business owner and entrepreneur must understand - the more you interact with people, the easier it is to spot the ones who are genuine and who you truly want to work with.
SB-C: Can you give our readers some basic marketing hacks? CWJ: Be consistent when putting yourself out there. It’s important to be visible so that people don’t forget you. With so many options out there, you want to be sure that people see, hear and remember you. Share valuable content each and every time. People don’t want to know what you sell, they want to know why they should buy from you. Show them that you understand what they need. Use both online and offline approaches. Use live streams, videos, blogs, posts, etc to get noticed and join groups that are aligned with your brand to share your knowledge and expertise. Truly interact and engage with others and forge real relationships in a virtual world. Also remember to use traditional media, email marketing and even a simple phone call to make contact with persons to get them to know who you are and what you do. Lastly, get a bit of advice: It takes time to build momentum so enjoy the process, learn the lessons along the way and don’t be too hard on yourself.
SB-C: What direction do you see your business going in? CWJ: Onwards and upwards is what I always say. In as little as three years Carli Communications will be a global phenom and will be top of mind for business owners and entrepreneurs who want to build their brand. The name would be synonymous with quality, reliability and business owners will be 100% certain they are in good hands. Mark my words……..the sky is the limit