Simply focus on the customer

November 26, 2011
in Strategy
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If you’re as gripped by your work as Bryan Mavrow, you don’t need caffeine. It’s 7 a.m. and after a decaf French press, First West’s senior vice-president of marketing is already at it, overseeing both the Valley First and Envision Financial regional marketing teams. His excitement, though intellectual, is palpable and it’s a constant throughout his career.

“I just love what I do. I don’t think the day ends,” says Bryan. “The line between off duty and on duty has blurred because I’m so excited about the opportunities going on right now.”

 “I really value organizations that have a clear mission focused on the customer,” says Bryan, citing his next campaign, which will simplify First West members’ experience navigating the usually complex financial planning arena. “When organizations really believe in serving their customers, it makes it exciting for marketers because they can explore things that produce great results.” In short, he’s a mastermind marketing strategist with a penchant for the people side.

Bryan recognizes that many organizations talk the marketing talk, but their service and product delivery is disconnected from their message. So when he got the chance to come to First West, a member-owned co-operative that takes pride in efficient, community-building advocacy, he felt like he’d struck occupational gold.

Bryan’s 18-year career reads like a novel by Douglas Coupland – renowned for documenting the technological culture of the dot-com era. In the early 1990s Bryan cut his teeth in direct marketing for BC Telecom, becoming a self-professed database marketer long before web-marketing existed. Around that time, a young fellow, Scott Brownlee, made a presentation on what the internet would mean for business, a game-changing moment for Bryan.

“Scott said that someday databases were going to connect to websites, so when customers visited a site, they could be identified for messaging. I don’t think I slept for two days after that.”

Fast forward to 1997 and Bryan was living the dream, keeping a sleeping bag in his office and laboring around the clock as the vice-president of marketing at Brownlee’s Columbus Group. This startup, which grew to over 90 employees in 3 cities, provided internet strategies to established companies as varied as Kraft and Canfor.

As the internet industry evolved, Bryan went from the thrilling frontier-like field, to holding key positions managing multi-million dollar online marketing programs for Intrawest Corporation and a stint with online research giant, Vision Critical.

Although getting in on the ground level of web marketing was a significant challenge, Bryan considers his time from 2007 to 2009 as the head of marketing at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, an international company with over 250 franchises, the most rigorous. He’d taken over marketing at the start of the economic downturn.

“When times are bad, everybody is looking to you as the marketing guy to be the savior; it really tests your mettle.” But Bryan came up with the solution. “Again, I fell back on my online roots.”

Bryan’s 1-800-GOT-JUNK? team took advantage of web searches for disposal, running hundreds of paid search programs across North America - i.e. Google advertising - decreasing the cost of acquisition through online advertising by 60 per cent in one year.

Now Bryan is hip deep in his most thrilling challenge to date: First West. “We’re creating an umbrella brand essence that can be applied to two already established local brands. This has never been done before” explains Bryan.

He is also striving to communicate First West Credit Union’s commitment to service and community giving to young members who might not understand what a credit union is all about. This is already being piloted in highly targeted Facebook campaigns.

At the same time he’s concerned with differentiating First West from the rest of the competition by streamlining the member experience.

“We’re looking at every facet of our business and breaking it down to understand how we can better serve our members and save members’ money,” shares Bryan. “We’re creating a dedicated improvement system the same way that Toyota did to become the number one automaker in the world, not from a production perspective but from a service value perspective.”

If that weren’t enough, the senior vice-president of marketing is aiming high for his department. Bryan will amalgamate the marketing teams from Valley First and Envision Financial into an integrated super-force of best-in-class marketing, contributing to the overall success of the First West model: to continue to grow local community credit unions and bring them into the fold.

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