This Female CEO's Advice For Every Company: Market To Humans, Not Robots


When people tell me they're doing something for marketing purposes, I often ask what that means; the funny thing is that they often can't answer that question clearly. This is through no fault of their own. During my time as a CMO for global companies and now as the founder and CEO of B2B marketing agency, The Ricciardi Group, I've discovered that marketing is more or less a generic term applied to a huge sector of business.

Generally speaking, marketing is about reaching a particular audience with a compelling message that will drive them to take some sort of action. The tactics vary from email marketing and social media engagement to large-scale events and publicity campaigns. In other words, there is no one way to go about it. However, what I can definitively say is that there are a few common mistakes that companies often make when it comes to marketing, particularly early stage companies that are looking for rapid growth.

1. Targeting the wrong audience

Finding your target audience is the most critical part of any marketing initiative. This can go sideways in many ways. For example, if your customer base is purely local, using a national pay-per-click campaign would waste countless dollars from your marketing budget. If your customer base is young adults from Generation Z, running a marketing campaign on a social media platform that skews older (such as Facebook) would miss them completely. The trick here is to drill down your target into specific demographic groups, then identify the best way to communicate with them.

Ask yourself:

-Whose need am I fulfilling with my product or service? Age, gender, education, location, income level, job, and other factors come into play.

-Who do I want to be using my product or service?

-Who is my competition targeting? And should I compete with them or go after an untapped market?

"If your customer base is young adults from Generation Z, running a marketing campaign on a social media platform that skews older (such as Facebook) would miss them completely"

Those answers should be able to get you rough groups of customers. Once you have those, you can begin to drill down even more specifically through customer data, which can be gathered in many ways: in-person observations of competitors, examining social media followers, use of website analytics, and more. All of this effort funnels into the goal of having every marketing message connect with a potential customer, so make sure you discover your right audience.

"Generally speaking, marketing is about reaching a particular audience with a compelling message that will drive them to take some sort of action."

2. Using the wrong tone

Identifying your target audience is a significant first step, but after that, the message you use will make or break your marketing campaign. While you’ll need to tweak things based on the specifics of the demographic, one thing that is consistent across nearly all channels and groups is the need for a tone to be “empathetic” and relevant. By that, I mean you want potential customers to feel like you understand their needs and concerns rather than you’re just trying to sell them a product.

In 2016, Adobe launched its Make a Masterpiece campaign in which four world-renowned digital artists recreated lost paintings by Frida Kahlo, Friedrich Schinkel, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Caravaggio using nothing but Adobe Stock photos. The campaign was a creative way to celebrate history and culture, as well as an attempt to change the negative perception of stock imagery in art. Adobe also made it interactive by providing online tutorials.

Marisa Ricciardi, Founder and CEO of the Ricciardi Group

By showcasing the power of its product with stunning recreations of iconic art, Adobe appealed to its audience, many of which are designers and creatives, on multiple levels. It drew them in with a story about paying homage to the world’s great artists while inviting them to make their own masterpieces. This is how marketing should be done—not just by promoting a product, but by being attuned to your customers.

"Finding your target audience is the most critical part of any marketing initiative...the trick here is to drill down your target into specific demographic groups, then identify the best way to communicate with them."

3. Being robotic instead of human

In today’s world of automated everything (thank you AI), what we gain in efficiency we often lose in effectiveness. The marketer who understands when to apply technology and when to engage creative ingenuity will always win—because in the end, we are marketing to humans not robots. People now want to feel connected and understood, not sold to based on one person’s opinion.

A good example of how to infuse “humanness” is what’s happening on the visual side of marketing and advertising. Businesses that have historically used original production or stock photography (through companies like Adobe), are mixing in images with high-quality authentic photos to provide a sense of realism. Catch&Release, a company that curates and licenses authentic images from across the entire Internet, works with some of the world’s largest brands to serve up real life visuals, from video to photos. Their recent Herbal Essences campaign for Mother’s Day featured pregnant women from around the world overcoming “challenges” often associated with pregnancy.

In essence, effective marketing in today’s environment will mean leading with human connection while technology enables the tasks to happen more efficiently behind the scenes.

4. Information bombing

We all suffer from information overload these days. Much of this is due to the proliferation of marketing channels as a result of the internet and mobile age. Furthermore, basically anyone with a smartphone can voice their opinion about everything from the best restaurant to the most worthy political candidate.

Marketing at its best is about precise messaging to specific audiences. However, some companies go with the kitchen-sink approach, throwing every possible bit of information out there. The result can create an overwhelmed customer that lacks focus. Instead, less is more. A clear, concise message and a clean presentation ensure that nothing is lost and the viewer isn't scared off.

The master of this is Apple, whose simple philosophy towards marketing has powered them since the early 1980s. By now, their campaigns are iconic—a perfect example of that is how the iPod silhouette campaign became synonymous with the early 2000s. Now, years later, they have done it again with their “Behind the Mac” campaign. The core message is simple and clean: using a Mac, people from all over the world are making wonderful things, and you can too. Not everyone can be Apple, but every company, whether B2B or B2C, can learn from the strategy of utilizing streamlined and striking imagery combined with simple value proposition-based messaging.

"People now want to feel connected and understood, not sold to based on one person’s opinion"

There's a common thread through the advice above, and it's something that I often say to clients: treat your customers as you’d want to be treated...like a human. Beyond that, keep it real. In a sense, the terms B2B and B2C may soon be a thing of the past. Instead we may be best served to think of it as Human to Human (H2H) marketing.

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I'm On Track To Save $100K By 25. Here's How You Can Too.

Three years ago, I made a deal with myself - I wanted to have $100,000 saved when I'm 25. But I didn't mind if it didn't happen until the day before my 26th birthday.

One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to save as much money as possible — and I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.

My dad even helped me start a vending machine business when I was nine. The experience taught me essential skills like how to pitch a business, cope with rejection and open a checking and savings account.

For the past three years, I've never made more than $80,000. About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that I was on track to save $100,000. With only a car loan away from being debt free, I've got another year and $10K to go!

I want to acknowledge that privilege is a key part of my story. I'm white, I come from a middle-class family, and I was able to graduate college without any debt. All these things helped a great deal.

But my parents didn't raise me with a silver spoon. Paying for college was a collaborative process. We'd sit down at least twice a year to discuss how we were going to pay for the next semester. The first question they'd always ask me was: "How much can you contribute?"

I've been fortunate. But it also takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and responsibility to save and maximize your earnings. Feeling motivated and knowing that I'll be prepared for whatever life throws my way fuels my drive to keep making smart financial decisions. Here's how I'm getting to $100K.

  1. I side-hustled

This kick-started my journey towards six-figures. In addition to saving the majority of my 9-5 salary, my first year of freelance social media marketing made me quite a bit of cash that I could immediately save. I was able to establish both a SEP IRA and a fully-funded emergency fund with my earnings.

2. I started investing early

Knowing that compound interest is so important, I wanted to start investing early to have my money work for me. Once I started my first big-girl job, I opened my first Roth IRA. Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to aSEP IRA and a non-retirement investment account. My first job out of school had a 401(k), but you couldn't contribute until you were there at least a year. Knowing I wasn't planning on staying long — I was at that job for a year and a few months — I opened a Roth 401(k) and then rolled my earnings to my Roth IRA.

3. I negotiated salary offers and raises

Negotiating should be a collaboration, not a confrontation. Growing up, I watched my father sit on hold, patiently waiting to negotiate our cable and phone bills. Negotiation was always part of my life, and I grew up with parents who knew how to do it. So when I was offered my first social media freelance gig, I negotiated over $10k more than they offered. And after achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k more than what was offered at my next job. And $10k more at the next job. If negotiating for raises freaks you out, here's a guide that can help.

4. I've automated my savings

Automating your money not only makes your life easier, but it makes you feel like the percentage you're saving just doesn't exist. I have 26% of each paycheck automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account. This savings account is purposefully at a different bank than my day-to-day checking account, so I'm less likely to withdraw from it and less likely to think about it. This "set it and forget it" level of financial freedom was something I worked hard for -- through money diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.

At the age of 24, I know that I am on the right track to make my goal a reality. Inspired by my own journey, I wanted to help women everywhere to have that same feeling of confidence that financial education gives — and get information from someone who isn't an old, rich white dude. As a money speaker and coach, I run Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100K too.

It's possible to achieve your first $100K — whether that's debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you've got this!