With more than 20 years of experience under her belt, Vision Force Marketing strategic marketing consultant and strategist and St. Charles Chamber of Commerce member Leah Hoppes is well versed in the art of marketing. With the release of her new book, “Marketing Chomp,” last year, Hoppes blended her knowledge of the industry with relatable stories and personal insights into one nice package that she hopes will help anyone learn the basics of marketing in an accessible way.
Hoppes and Vision Force Marketing specialize in helping everyone from small business owners to corporate suits develop marketing plans that help to grow and enrich their business. Hoppes had already had a love of writing, so a book about her experiences in the industry was the natural next step.
Hoppes, the author of “Marketing Chomp,” talked about the book over the phone with Kane County Chronicle intern Jonah Nink. What follows is an edited version of the conversation.
Jonah Nink: Tell us a little about your background in the field of marketing.
Leah Hoppes: I’ve been in it over 20 years now. … For about 16 years I was in corporate America. Fifteen of those years were in industrial manufacturing, and – with that – the advantage of working in an industrial manufacturing environment for marketing, you have to understand every discipline, because you are working with engineering and operations and finance. … So you really do get to see how marketing just permeates [everywhere], and how you just have to integrate with every department in order to be successful. … I was also a products manager and a brand manager on a global level, so I was dealing with global teams, product launches on a global level [and] making sure things were translated to the right local languages. … So marketing I have lived and breathed it for, like I said, over 20 years.
Nink: Now give us a little bit of background on your book. What prompted you to write “Marketing Chomp”?
Hoppes: I opened my business in 2013, and I immediately kind of had this sense that small business owners had no idea about marketing strategy and I was right. So as I started talking about marketing strategy, all of them were like, “Yeah, I need that,” [because] they didn’t know what it was. They just knew they were being very reactive, wasting a lot of money, and they needed to get their arms around it. Well, my answer, coming from a corporate environment, was, “Well, you need a marketing plan,” which [was] to me very basic common knowledge, but not for small business owners who have not been in the corporate environment, or been in a marketing position like that, where that was just the status quo for what we did, but they didn’t understand that. And so I started seeing the power of what happens when you actually get that stuff on paper and then create a road map to how to achieve those big goals. … And so I started getting success with the business, and [I learned] that there’s nobody really teaching people about strategy. … Marketing people like to make it complicated and make themselves look better, and make [themselves] sound smarter than they are, but it really isn’t. There’s a lot of pieces to it, but if you don’t have it broken down properly, then it can be overwhelming. That’s why I wanted it to be easy reading, [and] I wanted a business owner who has a million different hats that they’re wearing to go pick up this book and go, “Wow I can do this all by myself.”
Nink: While reading the preview, I noticed that you have a very casual, almost comedic tone throughout. Was that to make it more user friendly?
Hoppes: A lot of books out there are written for academia, they’re written for the college class. They’re written by very smart people, and they have a lot to say, but they’re not writing it in an engaging way. I didn’t even want to read half of the stuff that I would pick up or that I would see online, so I said, “OK, there’s definitely a need that I can fill.” There was a risk writing it this way because in corporate the things that people are used to are those books that are written in that very official style. … [Now] there’s a lot more people writing in that more informal style, and people are eating it up, because it makes it more accessible for people to read. I knew what I was doing [and] I did a lot of research, but I thought that this is what I wanted to do … I wanted it to just be extremely enjoyable to read.
Nink: You also use a lot of your own personal stories, especially in the beginning. What was the idea behind that?
Hoppes: Business owners really don’t care until they know that you’ve walked the walk with them. … It’s because you get paid last. You don’t get a salary from the company, and everybody else gets paid first, so it’s not like corporate where you just get the same check every two weeks, and so the credibility we gain with business owners was just enormous when I started sharing that, “Look I’ve been there; I get it,” and I treated their businesses seriously like it was my own because especially when you’re in the consulting side of things, like we are, people open up to you, and they get tears in their eyes. … You can’t just sit there and listen. You got to share your stuff, too, and say, “Yeah, I get it; that’s what we’ve gone through,” and that’s how you build that camaraderie, and that’s how you build that trust. … Had I written this book completely out of corporate, I don’t think it would have had that tone, and I don’t think it would have resonated as well.
Nink: Have you had a background in writing before?
Hoppes: I have been writing for a long time, just never published before. I was paid for some blogging when I first started out those first couple years. I’ve always loved writing, and have gotten many compliments on my writing. So there was always this thing inside of me saying that someday, you know someday, you really need to write a book. … I guess there’s always been a part of me that knew I could write a book, but I just needed to focus on the “what” and make it happen.
Nink: What I also noticed is that you also use a bunch of little activities that encourage people to be hands on during the book. Where’d you get the inspiration for that?
Hoppes: Again, a lot of books I would read are very theoretical, and it’s all about this is what you should do. OK, that’s nice, but if you do not have these particular thoughts about marketing, than you don’t know how to apply what somebody tells you. Some of it was intuitive; some of it was in meeting with other business owners and my face-to-face meetings seeing where they would struggle. As soon as I would show them, or I would break it down, they would go, oh! … You can read all the books you want, but if you haven’t put it into practice, you haven’t really learned it. … To me, it was kind of a no brainer, because if I want to write something about strategy and I want to show people how to do it, then you actually have to walk them through the exercises.
Nink: How was the actual process of putting the book together?
Hoppes: Well, I had been writing blogs since I started the company, and when I decided to sit down and figure out how I was going to put this book together, I started going through my blogs, and very serendipitously, I guess, some of my blogs flowed, because I talked about the message, and I talked about strategy. … And so as I started putting those in sequential order, there came to be this very nice, natural flow of just these few blogs. Then what I did was that the missing part was the whole marketing plan, so then I would say, “OK, so what’s the process I would take my clients through?” and I would just put that on paper. I [also] had an editor … He was really excellent at kind of matching my tone of voice and say, “I think what you’re trying to say is this,” or he could challenge me and say, “This doesn’t really make sense here.” … He’s a small business owner, so he was able to walk through it himself.
Nink: “Marketing Chomp” that’s an interesting title. How’d that come about?
Hoppes: There was this one night where I was literally praying about this. I kept thinking, “I have got to have a good title for this,” and one night it just popped into my head. The more I thought about, the more I thought that I could have fun with it, especially in the artwork.
Nink: If the people reading your book took one thing away from it, what would you like that to be?
Hoppes: If they were to take one thing away, I would like them to take away that developing a marketing plan is worth their time. It’s easy; they can do it; and it’s worth their time.
Nink: Do you plan on writing any more book[s]?
Hoppes: Yes, I have three started. We actually trademarked the Chomp series. The next one is going to be “Sales Chomp” [because] my husband has a background in sales. So in that one we’re going to talk about not only sales, but how marketing and sales can be integrated, and then I have some books that are started that are more personal stories. We are looking for and are talking to other people to go in with us on the Chomp series. I would not necessarily maybe write all of the books, but we can always license, or I would write portions of the book. The idea is that the Chomp series will be taking ideas people think are very complex, and breaking them down into everyday layman’s terms, and making them very easy to grasp. … And I love writing. If I could do nothing else but just write, I would be happy.
“Marketing Chomp” is now available for purchase. For more information, visit marketingchomp.com.