Please introduce yourself.

Hi my name is Marieke Hensel, and I run Branding Personality, a Digital Marketing Agency in Fullerton, near Los Angeles California. We work with clients across the world. I’m born and raised in The Netherlands, but have since lived and worked in Brazil, Romania and currently the US.

Interview mit Marieke Hensel: "Don’t look at the competition!"

How did you get into internet marketing?

I studied Marketing in The Netherlands, and during my studies I developed several websites, although what I enjoyed the most, was promoting the site and building online relationships with other website owners to increase traffic and online interaction. That evolved into Search Engine Optimization. In 2004 I joined my husband’s company Hensel Hosting, a web hosting company as his marketing manager. And next to doing marketing for him, I also started to do marketing for our webhosting clients. First doing their SEO and in 2005 I started doing Pay Per Click Campaigns for his clients.

At that time I was pregnant of our 3rd child, and networking was my way of generating business. But being very pregnant and going to networking mixers at night was a big hassle. And that’s when I discovered sites as LinkedIn and where I started to do online networking, a term that later developed into social networking or social media. That was also the start of my own company: in 2006 I decided to do all these online marketing activities under my own brand: Branding Personality.

What are your most successful projects?

We have recently worked for an auto dealer that wanted 1,000 fans on their Facebook Page. That was a goal set by the car factory of that brand. And the meeting was within 10 days. You can read more here on how we did it:
We accomplished our goal before the deadline, and even though the number of fans shouldn’t be the only metric a company should look at. In the end how many followers a company has is not the end-all-be-all metric. But you do need a sizeable community with the right audience to be successful. During that month they received 50 leads, and 5-7 cars were sold because of Facebook that month.

Another client is a personal trainer, we generate about 100 leads a month for him through social media, online advertising and search engine optimization. We have recently added video blogging for him and are building his personal brand on his YouTube channel, through blogging and social media. What I really like about this business case is that these marketing channels really work well together, and the effect of each is greater because they are used together. For example, we advertise for him on Facebook, those ads go to his Facebook Page, where they can interact with him and read his blogposts, and see his style of training on his video’s. When people positively respond to that (and they do!) they sign up for his promotion on the Facebook Page, or on the blog and fill out the form. From that moment a drip campaign starts and the person filling out the lead, will receive an email response and a personal phone call, and after that a couple follow up emails to make sure the relationship is being build after the client first expressed interest.

What are the biggest challenges for your business over the next couple years?

Social Media companies and consultants sprout up everywhere. And as you can imagine, social media is a very broad industry, ranging from platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube to the millions of communities that all these sites host and support. It’s a challenge for my agency to stand out in that crowded marketplace and make sure we attract the customers for whom we can be most valuable.

And where do you see the best opportunities?

The opportunity for us is in being the backbone of social media consultants. Instead of competing with social media consultants, we like to collaborate and work with them. Our agency is best in executing social media and search marketing campaigns, and by working with social media consultants, they can be the contact person with their clients, and we can deliver what they advise, as that is usually not where their time is best spent.

Interview mit Marieke Hensel: "Don’t look at the competition!"

Is there anything you would do differently?

I’m a positive person, so even if things went wrong in the past, I see them as lessons and they have value too. If I wouldn’t have those lessons in the past I would not be able to make the right decisions today. And many more wrong ones are future lessons, ha! J I’m just happy I am where I am in life and in business. And I hope I’ll continue to work with great people, in my team and my clients.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Don’t look at the competition. Pave your own path, and listen to your clients.

What are the most valuable hints you would give someone who is just starting out?

You have to like the journey of the business you’re in, not just the end result and not just when you’re successful. You still have to love your business when you’re not successful. If your passion can survive bad times, than you found a solid business.

Any secrets hands-on information you can share with our readers (e.g. great website, book, training, source …)? great do-it-yourself tips and very results focused, I also love, a site where your blogpost will be shared automatically with your tribe. And you automatically share theirs. Find the right tribe, and you provide great content to your tribe and your blog post will get more views.

What are your preferred information sources about the internet marketing world?

Twitter. J I follow great people, and read posts that are shared.  The biggest resources that I like are, and, although the freshest perspectives are the ones I get from not-so-known bloggers and I discover those daily through Twitter, by my friends sharing the resources.

Anything else you would like to point out?

A lead is not a sale if you don’t follow up. Don’t keep people hanging who expressed their interest in your product; this is where you can provide the most value. Not in selling to them, but in engaging. Find out where they need help most, and how you can add the most value to help them be successful.

Also, people do business with people they like. Make sure you show your (and your team member’s) pictures on your site, have a good About Me/Us section that gives information about who you are and why you do what you do. Before people want to do business with you, they want to look you in the eyes and see if they can trust you, make sure you add that credibility on your site, and offer the option to connect with you on Twitter, so people can read what you are currently working on and what your current knowledge is that you’re sharing.

In the end social media is all about making that personal connection, don’t be scared to show the people behind your brand, that is who people are connecting with and that is why people will come back, because they build relationships with people in your company.

Some general pointers for your online presence:

If your business serves a specific region, post that clearly on the homepage (top center),

Have your business phone number top right on the homepage, large font, clearly visible.

Have a lead generation form on your homepage, so people can easily contact you.

If you can offer the support & and for some industries a chat function helps increase your conversions on the website

A good looking website doesn’t generate sales if you don’t attract enough quality traffic. Invest in SEO and Search Marketing to bring you traffic

A Facebook Page can be a stand-alone lead generation tool next to your site, you don’t need to bring traffic from Facebook to your site to convert. In fact, your conversion will be higher, if you convert them on Facebook. Therefore, offer a lead generation form on the Facebook Page.

Show credibility on your website with awards you won, associations you belong to and certifications and diplomas that your business has.

Always respond to your blog comments and social media feedback. If you respond, they will come back for more. Don’t let a conversation be one-sided.

Invest in a good headshot. It should be professional, show your personality, and it should be a headshot: shoulders and complete head. Look the camera in the eyes.

Be clear on your goals. If you want to do social media to generate more sales, make sure you track it that way. Likes, followers or conversations are merely sub goals for your end goal. Make sure you know what that is and measure your efforts towards your end goal.

Interview mit Marieke Hensel: "Don’t look at the competition!"My homepage: