CMO Q&A: Jill Balis, WhaleShark Media

WhaleShark Media marketing SVP Jill Balis talks to Lindsay Stein about the online coupon company's digital initiatives and focus on ROI.

Jill Balis, SVP of marketing at WhaleShark Media, talks to Lindsay Stein about the online coupon company's marketing tactics and social media efforts.

What are you doing in the social media space for the company and its brand?
Since I joined in August, we've grown our Facebook base from about 100,000 to 1.3 million, and we did that in a few different ways. We leveraged paid media to drive our fan base and we also had better placements throughout our site to drive likes.

We've been doing a lot of contests and promotions to engage and excite our consumers about the things we're doing and that's driven quite a bit of our likes. We've had great success in the past running promotions on Twitter and, again, we're leveraging a lot of contests, for which they need to be following us in order to enter. We're also doing some promoted tweets to help jump-start that even more.

How are you using emails to target consumers?
We've really been focusing on growing our email base – and it's risen about 50% since August – by promoting email subscriptions through placements on our sites and throughout social channels.

We have a couple different email campaigns. We have our newsletter program, which is where people sign up to get our best weekly deals and we send about 20 to 25 deals a week. We also have alerts, so users can self-select and sign up for alerts for their favorite stores.

In 2012, we want to advance our email strategy even further by better personalization and targeting so we can deliver even more relevant offers based on customer segments.

What are some of WhaleShark's main marketing practices?
For us, marketing isn't just about consumers; it's also making sure the merchants understand the value. We take a very data-driven approach. We want to grow in an ROI-positive way within the channels that will deliver us the most valuable customers over time. Our integrated marketing approach makes sure our campaigns work across all channels and drives the best experience for our users, as well as the most efficient ROI.

We've seen a tenfold increase in earned media coverage since we've started focusing on it. We've had some high-visibility placements on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Dr. Drew's Lifechangers, as well as a lot of pickup around the holiday shopping period.

What is your main focus for 2012?
Mobile will be big for us. We will focus a lot on social, viral, and content creation, and we'll be leveraging our brand advocates to get the message out. Our best brand advocates are the people who are saving every day and are telling their friends about us, so we'll be focusing on growing that even more.

We have a very active and engaged community that really contributes a lot of the content, tips, and offers on our site, so we want to expand it to get more people involved.

In addition, we do a lot of blogger outreach. Bloggers are an important part of the ecosystem and they are very influential, so we focus a lot on the mommy bloggers, coupon bloggers, and other retail bloggers, and we will continue to expand that.

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