Felicia Chiles, Director of Marketing – First Energy Home
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
In this episode,
- Felicia share’s the story of her career progression evolving from:
- Managing customer experience for all online consumer acquisition at America Online
- Through her progression at American Express, where she was part of one of the first Programmatic Ad-buys focused on customer acquisition
- And ultimately into Director of Marketing at First Energy Home – implementing eCommerce for products and services for First Energy Consumers.
- She provides specific examples of the importance of user research and content development to support the customer journey
- Lastly, Felicia offers some excellent advice for both recent college grads and experienced pros, on how to differentiate yourself in a job search
Full transcript of our interview below:
RON: Hello and welcome to the fourth episode of The Bell Falls Search Focus On Talent video series. This is the Digital Marketing edition.
Each week, we interview proven leaders to learn from their experiences and share stories with all of you. Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests, highlight the companies where they work, and talk about the products and the services that they offer. Share success stories from those experiences, and most importantly, provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
Today’s guest is a friend of mine, proven marketing executive with experience in companies such as AOL and American Express. She’s one half of a power marketing couple from Northeast Ohio. I’d like to welcome Felicia Chiles, Director of Marketing from First Energy.
FELICIA: Thanks, Ron. Nice to be here.
RON: It’s been a while, but I’m glad that we could share some of your stories with my listeners. So if you don’t mind, I know I gave a brief intro, but can you reintroduce yourself, talk about your current role, and most importantly, talk about the career evolution you’ve gone through to get where you’re at today.
FELICIA: Sure. I am the Director of Marketing at First Energy, but more specifically, First Energy Products and Services, which is, I think the best way to describe it is an innovation arm within First Energy in an effort to try to expand our relationship with our existing customer base in a way that is different in a way that we can start to introduce products and services to make their homes work better, more comfortable, more safe and secure from a brand that they already trust.
So that’s essentially the role that I have today. We’re essentially a basic eCcommerce company. We have a website called for First Energy Home.
So there’s a lot of principles within eCommerce that applied here for a company that is 100 years old and has done business in a very different way for a very long time prior to coming here.
As you said, I started my career at America Online, in the day when it was called America Online and then moved into American Express, all of which I’ve spent a lot of time in customer acquisition. And, you know, either for AOL, for subscription acquisition within America Online, both for new card acquisition and then also on the customer side, upsell and cross sell all within the digital realm.
And it’s proven to be a really good way. It’s been a very, very valuable experience. One from an AOL perspective, to be really on the ground floor of digital marketing and to learn as it grew and as it moved. And then to be at an organization like American Express that was marketing driven and had a lot of resources to put at my disposal, to learn a lot about that space.
And so from a career progression perspective. Those two things, you know, really have put me in the situation of being able to take a leadership role, like First Energy, that’s also trying to break into a new space.
RON: Got you. The burning question is, how many of those old AOL CDs do you have stacked up somewhere? (LOL)
FELICIA: There is absolutely a box in the basement that has a lot of old, some of which were tests that we put out in the market in direct mail that seem to move with us every single time we move. I can’t seem to get rid of them!
RON: I wonder if you could sell those on Ebay or something like that. They have to be collector’s item eventually.
Thank you for that. That’s very helpful from your experiences. Can you talk about a case study or two referencing a project or an accomplishment that you were pretty proud of? Or that would be a great example of kind of soup to nuts application of your marketing expertise?
FELICIA: Yeah, sure. A lot of things happen at American Express, and I think as a candidate, I think one of the things to start to evaluate when you think about an organization that made American Express really valuable to me, actually, as an individual and as a professional, is that they had a high tolerance for innovation.
And I think anytime you’re in an organization that allows you to innovate, you learned so much, and it gives you that space. So a great example of that is that while I was at AOL and now this is going to date myself. But we did one of the first programmatic ad buys within the advertising space.
And what Amex did that was really, really great is that there was one there was an expectation that we were innovating within the space, which I think is really good for organizations to do because it actually forces people to take risks where normally we all tend to be a little bit risk averse.
But they also allowed us to spend money in a way where we knew we were going to lose money initially in this, and everybody accepted it, because while we had to figure out that space, we had to understand, you know, how to buy cookies, how to place cookies, how to start to identify audiences, you know, how to start to evaluate those ad buys really early on, which meant we were going to fail a lot, and we were probably going to waste a lot of money.
Now there was a limitation on how much we were willing to waste. But ultimately, what was a very small portion of the buy became 70-80% of the buy, by the time I rolled out of that part of the organization, but, you know, to be able to figure that out, to be able to have really great agency resources.
Also to help figure that out was transformational to the business and something I’m very proud of. But I think as a candidate, that’s something to interview for is an organization’s tolerance for risk, and their tolerance for innovation is something that makes you better as a professional.
RON: Well, is there another one that you like to share?
FELICIA: I think the other one is the other thing that I was able to work on more, also within American Express is that we developed some of the first what we call instant membership customer experiences. So an experience where we would deliver an electronic card number to you upon approval, upon digital approval. And what is interesting about that and what was really innovative about that is that it gets people spending.
American Express, not surprising, is a spend-centric model.
- So how to use acquisition principles to start to think about how do you start to make your acquisition move a little bit further?
- How do you make it a little bit more valuable?
Those are the things that it isn’t just what you bring in on the front end, but it’s also how do you start to build that value on the other side?
And how do you immediately start to bring somebody into a new organization, a new subscription, a new relationship in a way that gets them involved very, very quickly. But we did everything from the technology roadmap to the user interface to what were people comfortable with in terms of delivering a card to them.
Do they feel like it was secure? Is it something they actually felt like was valuable to them? So a lot of really interesting learning from that. But also a lot of interesting UX learning from how do you take somebody through what could potentially be a really complicated situation and make it feel good, not confusing, secure, and feel like it makes sense.
So it was really and they still I actually signed up for a new card the other day and actually got thrown into the flow. So it was nice to see that still existed.
RON: probably some of the flow you once established when you were there was a lot of it that looked very familiar?
Yeah. Well, that’s actually a really good transition. You’ve been in financial services, you’ve been in all state technology. You’ve worked in professional services, big companies, small companies. You’ve clearly been on the cutting edge at least a couple of times of new additions to marketing and digital marketing.
For Talent, what you say to students in kind of the entry level category, still in College, or maybe 1 or 2 years into the workforce. What are you seeing as kind of the newer trends within marketing? And what would you suggest to that segment of the talent market as far as how to best prepare and think about from a career perspective?
FELICIA: I think for any candidate, I think preparation is obviously really, really important. One of the things that I think as digital marketers we’re starting to recognize is a lot of the importance of content marketing. Content marketing has become something that is extraordinarily valuable and making sure that, you know, that is what can differentiate you as a brand.
We’re starting to use it in a way that we can actually quantify it, and we can start to understand the value of it. I think that was some of its challenge at first. I think we all knew we needed to have a good content, that I think it was hard to actually put a price tag on it and say, well, this is what it actually does for me.
And not surprising. Like everything in digital marketing, the tools and resources start to follow some of those some of the consumer trends.
Sometimes that as marketers, we can start to talk about it more. But we’ll have roles on our team that are specific to content marketing that I never had on a team recently in the past.
That now it’s absolutely a need and something we definitely invest in.
RON: Yeah. And I would love your opinion, too. And it’s not just copywriting. It’s not just like you said, writing content, it needs to have an acknowledgment of data behind it as well of measurement of ROI, correct?
FELICIA: Sure. We know that different purchases have different purchase cycles, and they have a different research cycle associated with them. Some products are more or less considered. Those things that are more considered have a longer timeline. And we need to acknowledge that. And you need to allow your customers to know that they go through a journey in terms of first being aware that understanding and before they convert, and the more you can start to be present as part of that journey, the more likely you are to capture that sale and capture that trust, you know?
What are those tools that help you understand how long that journey is? So you should understand that and then understand what is the customer’s mindset as they go through it?
And can you have content that starts to answer those questions and starts to make them feel more comfortable? Again, the higher consideration your purchase, the more that journey becomes really important in understanding it.
Things that are essentially the moral equivalent of “gum at the checkout.”
Who cares? You don’t have to invest as much there, but those things that are higher price points, more of a commitment, those are the things that you have to really nurture that customer relationship, and that’s where content becomes really critical.
RON: Excellent. Thank you for that example. How about as a hiring manager, if you put that head on, how would you what would you suggest to candidates to differentiate themselves, to get into the interviewing process, and then within the interviewing process, what have you seen that works?
FELICIA: Well, I think I think being sometimes every candidate is as good as how well the job description is written, and I see a lot of really terrible job descriptions. And I think it’s hard as a candidate to try and figure out what the job actually is. I think what is important for candidates to recognize is that they can interview as well.
And after that clarity when you first start out, because your answer should be in the context of what you understand the role to be. So don’t be afraid to ask some questions at the beginning to make sure that you you understand what the role is.
We write job descriptions, you know, we try to be thoughtful, but let’s face it, it happens when you have five minutes on your schedule, and sometimes I go out and I’ll look back on it and think like, “Oh, God, how would anyone know what this was?”
And so don’t be afraid to do that. Listen, the more prepared candidate will sometimes have an edge, sometimes even over somebody who is even more experienced. You know, if things or even if those things are even somebody that actually demonstrated to me that they were interested enough in a role to do the research, to try and understand what our challenges are, even if, like from an outside, you know, looking in, you’ll never totally understand it.
But you made the effort. And that to me, tells me that you’re excited about the role because having somebody who’s excited about the role is better than somebody who’s experienced all day long and shows they’ve done their research and they care about where they’re trying to go, because that also tells me how they’re going to approach your job.
RON: So I’ve been looking forward to this question as it specifically relates to you, given our past relationship and experience.
Although you were from this area, you were primarily working outside the region. And I know you came back and wanted to focus on not being on a plane so much, if you don’t mind me putting words in your mouth and how to introduce yourself to the Cleveland market, and I know that took a little bit of time.
Can you share that, you know, that experience with the segment of people watching this video that maybe have been in the market for a while or looking for their next thing? What did you learn during that experience and what was the biggest success you had in entering into a role here in Northeast , I think, or any market for that sake?
FELICIA: Yeah. I think in particular, kind of reintroducing myself into Northeast Ohio. One of the things I did, which was not necessarily didn’t initially feel natural to me. And that was to take a role that maybe wasn’t exactly the right fit, but had other aspects that I needed for my next role.
So not to think of it as I had to come in, and I had to find exactly the right role when I started to do that. But to find a role that would, you know, in this particular case, it was an agency role, and it was to look for something that would give me exposure to actually a lot of employers to the area.
For me, culture is a really big fit, it’s really important for me. It gave me the ability to see a lot of different cultures and a lot of different organizations that we are very, very successful and really great places to work. That wouldn’t necessarily be great for me and understanding the kind of work that they had, the kind of challenges that they had.
And it gave me that ability. So while being on the agency side was not something I intended to stay in, it was very deliberate to get me to my next role. It wasn’t about my end all be all.
RON: Now, the thing I wanted to add to that is because I think I know you pretty well. I’ve seen lots of people make that decision and viewed it as a stepping stone. I would say I know you and I know you didn’t “mail it in” either. You gave it your all, and you made the most of that. And for the business you were working with, and I just see too many people kind of say, Oh, I’m going to do this for a couple of years, and then it will get me to my next thing. That doesn’t count. You still have have to go full go.
FELICIA: No, I figured if the worst, it actually accomplished what I needed to accomplish. But at best, it actually became a career opportunity that I didn’t expect. And you’re right. I did give it my all, but Yeah, I’m definitely I’m a client side girl and much happier where I am right now.
RON: Alright. Cool. Well, thank you for that.
Well, I think that hits on all the points I wanted to cover. I greatly appreciate your time and can’t wait to share this with my listeners and look forward to catching up again soon.
April 16, 2021