Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

Ilene Rosenthal is the CEO of White Space Marketing Group, fulfilling her aspiration to bring hybrid marketing expertise to the mid-market. With a deep love for the brand, and a practical passion for marketing that delivers results, Ilene runs the Strategy Lab at White Space, and serves as a fractional CMO for small and mid-sized businesses.

Author's Posts

Buyer Personas Are Still Useful. They Just Need to Be Different.

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

How often does your organization use its buyer personas to make decisions?

I’m asking because buyer personas have always bothered me a bit. In my experience, marketing teams agonize over these personas. We brainstorm alliterative names, select stock photography headshots that best capture the demographics of the fictional person we’re developing, and put together a list of their attributes that will help us as marketers create the best experiences for our target audiences.

As much as I love being “Insightful Ilene,” my frustration with personas is three-fold:

1) Persona research isn’t always as thorough as we’d like it to be. What begins as a desire to interview current and potential customers often ends with us asking our internal teams for insights. Marketing teams are constantly being pulled in a million different directions, and sometimes it’s easier to lean on our sales or product teams for intel.

However, our sales teams know customers best the further they get into the buying process. Basing our personas on that data doesn’t help marketers understand how prospects initially look for solutions to their challenges. Similarly, our product teams tend to interact at a “user” level—they’re looking to see how someone will interact with the product or service in question. They’re not concerned with the emotional elements surrounding a purchase, or what a customer’s needs are. 

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

Relevance: The Elusive Sweet Spot in Marketing Differentiation

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

I’m not one for “trend-spotting” in marketing, but it’s hard to ignore the pendulum swinging between transactional marketing and longer-term brand-building initiatives.

Last summer, the travel giant Expedia made a bold announcement when they said they planned to move away from being “transactionally-focused” to building “longer-lasting direct relationships with loyal high-lifetime value customers.” 

Expedia wasn’t the first brand to put that stake in the ground. Airbnb had already made those plans the year before, cutting its performance marketing spend in Q1 2021 in exchange for an increased focus on brand-building and PR. It was a bet that paid off, with Airbnb reporting its “strongest ever” fourth-quarter results at the end of 2021. 

For the record, I think prioritizing customer loyalty over individual transactions is absolutely the right move. But I also think there’s another question at play here. Instead of making those dramatic pendulum swings, how do we find the sweet spot between the two?

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

The Next-Level Questions That Shape a Marketing Strategy

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

When I talk about marketing strategy, people often look at me quizzically. I can hear them thinking: “What does strategy really mean?”

And, I don’t blame them. Strategy has long been one of those words in our industry that has a hundred different answers, and so it gets executed in a hundred different ways. 

I could get long-winded for a while with this question, so instead, I’ll say my simple answer: 

Strategic skill is anchored in the ability to ask the right questions. 

In addition to the right questions, there’s an ideal sequence in which each can and should be addressed. First, there are the strategic questions–the ones that have been covered in many marketing blogs. They’re usually a version of these five questions:

  • Target Audience: Who do you sell to?
  • Motivation: Why do they buy
  • Buying Cycle: Who makes the decision?
  • Messaging and Channel Strategy: How will you reach them?
  • Value Proposition: What are you positioned to best deliver to them?

These are all necessary questions to ask, and they’re certainly the right questions to ask at the beginning. But at some point, to move from strategy to implementation and then resource allocation, we have to go deeper, right?

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

CMO: The Wrong Role to Hire for Your Business?

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

Here’s the scenario. You’re a CEO of a small business, and you know you need to kickstart your marketing efforts. You have a small team that consists of a full-time marketing generalist, whose job mostly consists of working with the myriad agencies you’ve hired: PPC, SEO, digital marketing, PR, and content creation. 

You’ve got it all.

The marketing plates are in the air, and they’re spinning—some faster than others. The problem is that there’s no one there at a strategic level to make sure it’s all, well, okay.

Your external agencies are coming in, one by one, and asking you what you think about this strategy, going after this audience, and doubling down on this campaign. And you say everything sounds good—because all of it truly does. There’s just one problem: All of this “everything” doesn’t quite align with the growth path you’ve laid out for the organization.

What you’re looking for is the right combination of strategies—within your budget, of course—to get you to those growth goals over the next 12-18 months. It might be tempting at this moment, especially if you have a tiny team in place or don’t have any marketing team at all besides a group of outsourced experts, to uplevel your marketing and hire a CMO. 

You feel like your marketing needs to “grow up” a bit, flex some strategic muscles, and connect itself to organizational goals. If you had that full-time, salaried leadership position at the helm, it would all make sense.

With much respect, I’m going to ask you to pump the brakes—at least for the time being. Here’s why.

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

Personal Branding: A Risk, Or Your Company’s Competitive Advantage?

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

Those who have been riding alongside me for a while know that one of my core brand pillars is to help CEOs avoid waste and risk when it comes to marketing investment.

So, why am I talking about personal branding today—something that elicits considerable fear and risk for many CEOs and C-level execs?

Because even though it’s downright scary to put yourself out there—in front of people who are part of your business circles and those you’ve never met—it’s also a must-do.

I understand that fear. I’ve been on LinkedIn—which is now the personal branding epicenter of social media—for my entire career, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I got serious about putting myself and my content out on the platform in a more intentional way.

I’m not someone who gets easily ruffled. I’ve been in the marketing trenches of some of the top global agencies and consultancies in the world. I’ve presented multi-million dollar marketing strategies to boardrooms full of high-powered people. But, nothing—NOTHING—compared to the terror I felt when I pressed the “post” button on LinkedIn for the first time.

Part of it was the judgment I was already passing on myself. All of my friends and colleagues at Young & Rubicam, or SAP, knew me in a particular context. Would they wonder what I was yammering on about? Would they agree? Worse—would they disagree?

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

First-Party Data: How Marketing Can Avoid Being the Uninvited Party Guest

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

We’re in the thick of “prediction time,” otherwise known as that two-month stretch in December and January. Every marketing subject matter expert, trade publication, and consultancy weighs in on what they think will be the most important trends for our industry in the year ahead.

For me, these perspectives present a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s never a bad idea to take a look at what your peers deem the most impactful actions for us to consider in the new year–whether you agree or not. On the other hand, these observed “truths” can create an environment where even the most seasoned, seen-it-all marketing professionals start second-guessing their strategies if they’re not incorporating all of these trends.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about the cool stuff and its ability to connect us with customers in an inclusive and intentional way. The increase in VR- and AI-based apps and tools, the beginning of voice search for SEO optimization, and the rise of conversational marketing are what I find especially interesting as we kick off 2023.

However, if you don’t firm up your knowledge of the marketing basics–and find that blend of the new and now–it will be tough to use marketing to drive growth and revenue. And that’s my biggest concern.

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

Battling Content Fatigue By Killing the Click

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

The biggest gift you might be able to give your customers and prospects right now—and one that might create more trust in the long run—is to not ask them to do anything in order to get your content. 

  • Don’t ask them for their phone number.

  • Don’t ask them for their email address.

  • Don’t even ask them to click on your call to action.

Okay, let me back up a bit. As an organization, you know how important it is to invest in a sound content marketing strategy. Relevant content educates and informs your audience, and it also builds brand awareness and demand for your products.

Because of content marketing’s importance, you’ve poured a fair amount of time and money into creating high-quality content pieces to entice your target audience. Articles, videos, one-pagers, ebooks, huge research studies—you’ve done it all. Then, there are the expertly crafted landing pages that guard those goods, and the calls to action that were written specifically to entice a click.

That’s why it’s always especially heartbreaking when even the best content underperforms. But lately, I think it’s less about content marketing “not working” and more about something that we experience as consumers, but as marketers don’t always want to admit: that content fatigue, especially at this present moment, is real. Very real.

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

The Case for “Fun Money” in Your Marketing Budget

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

Here’s a question we don’t ask ourselves enough: What happens when this year’s marketing allocation actually works?

Of course, we know what happens. Better brand awareness. More customers. Increased sales. Company growth.

But what does it mean for next year’s budget?

Well, the obvious move is that you take next year’s budget and allocate it for most of the stuff that worked. This makes sense—you want more of everything referenced above, so you need the funds to keep that engine running.

I’m more curious about budgeting for the “stick your neck out” kind of stuff. The never-been-done, creative strategies you test next year with one eye firmly on the future. The long plays—the ones that might not get reported as part of your weekly KPIs, but those that represent ambitious opportunities down the road.

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

Sales and Marketing Teams: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

I’m feeling thankful as Thanksgiving approaches, as I hope you are too; thankful for the moments in my work and personal life that feel collaborative and supportive. 

When it comes to working with my sales partners in the journey toward customer acquisition, they know the equation is 1+1=3 in sales and marketing. We need each other like my turkey needs its cranberry sauce. (Corny but true: I make a knock-out version that I’m willing to share if you ask.)

But for many organizations, sales and marketing teams are not aligned.

It’s a mystery to me, but so often marketing and sales leaders—and their teams—remain siloed. Sure, there are moments where the two work together beautifully, but on the whole, it’s a relationship that’s workable at best—and antagonistic at worst.

It doesn’t make any sense. CEO’s lose patience with this petty arm wrestling. Sure, they focus on different parts of an organization’s revenue cycle and are measured on different KPIs as well, but at their core, both teams want the same thing: for customers to find the products and solutions they need, to find a provider who can solve their problems, and results to drive a profitable business.

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business, sales strategy

Demand Generation: The Actual “Holy Grail” of Marketing

Ilene Rosenthal, CEO

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: 

Your company has invested an incredible amount of money—and time—in myriad tactics designed to boost lead generation.

You’ve launched ad campaigns, you have the best marketing automation software money can buy (that’s tuned up with a collection of targeted, personalized email campaigns); you’ve hired an entire team of inbound and outbound sales development reps to nurture the mountain of leads you’re expecting, and of course–there’s all the content. You’ve spared no expense, producing pricey demos, explainer videos, and long-form gated content where you’re giving away your expertise—all they have to do is surrender a measly email.

On paper, your lead gen engine is a finely-tuned machine. There’s just one problem: your pipeline is bone dry. You don’t understand. Didn’t you just invest all of this money and time so that this wouldn’t happen?

I see a lot of companies—especially those in the B2B space—prioritize lead generation over brand-building efforts. On one hand, this makes sense. Leads, and the sales they turn into, are the way organizations make money. Filling up that sales pipeline is essential.

Read More
Topics: marketing strategy, strategy, marketing, business strategy, CEOs, B2B marketing, Founders, B2B, small business

watch the WEBINAR: how to AVOID random acts of marketing 

We're glad you're here.

We write about our marketing passions: building digital brands, digging deep for customer insights, tracking marketing effectiveness and ROI for better results. Ask a question, comment ... or get in touch!