Jhara Valentini is the president and founder of the Valentini Media Group (VMG), where she applies her vast experience and skill in digital media marketing to help build successful e-commerce businesses, or help develop the e-commerce division of already thriving companies.
As president of Valentini Media Group, Jhara Valentini has already created partnerships with several major enterprises. These companies include Disney, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Louis Vuitton, Diane von Furstenberg, among many others.
For her work, Jhara Valentini uses an “analytic and engagement based approach” to make sure every marketing campaign delivers optimal returns for her clients. She nurtures productive relationships with audiences. Her skills in “management, merchandising, creative and optimization” has helped her become a profitable asset for every significant social and digital media platform that has linked up with her company.
Jhara Valentini says that “digital marketing is a continuous adventure that gives us a glimpse into such an interesting human dynamic.” Her extensive marketing experience has given her important insights into “the way people think act and react” both in real life and online. She understands why people act the way they do online, which is how she helps brands capitalize on these behaviors through marketing.
Prior to founding her company, Jhara Valentini was the Director of Digital Media and Marketing for Lover.ly. She was also the Digital, Social and Mobile Media Manager for Diane von Furstenberg.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Jhara Valentini: Sure. Thank you as well for having me—excited to be here!
Well first, I am a Wife and Mom of two incredible little boys and got my start in media about 12 years ago when I was working for Kenneth Cole. At first, I really had nothing to do with the marketing team or social media. I started as an intern and then a coordinator in the sales division but I got more and more interested in the dynamic of social media when Facebook started getting popular and saw an avenue that I could use to connect with consumers and make revenue. That’s what started this whole journey.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Jhara Valentini: I don’t know if it was exactly an aha moment because becoming a consultant was something I had always envisioned doing but I would say the moment that made me pull the trigger was in December of 2015. I was pregnant with my second son (almost 6.5 months) and I was thinking about the next year ahead and I realized the job that I was in was never going to allow me to live the life I wanted to live and grow in my career the way I wanted to. I couldn’t start the next year without making a change. So that Friday I quit my job, following Monday set up an LLC and VMG was born.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Jhara Valentini: I would say the first six months to a year were full of doubt. Going independent has so many benefits but the biggest caveat is security as in- there is none. Things can change so fast. You can lose a contract faster than you got it and there’s nothing you can really do about it. It was really hard for me to be OK with the unknown and not to take things personally when they didn’t work out.
I think what drove me then is what still drives me now and that is the life I get to live as an independent consultant and the career I am capable of having because of it versus what I would be going through being in-house somewhere.
Being independent is hard but right now I get to dictate who I work with, how I work with them, and most importantly how much time they take from my day which allows me the flexibility I need from a family perspective but also leaves so much room for potential and growth. I don’t do well with caps or boundaries when it comes to my career- I think that type of hindrance is so unproductive. Having VMG has allowed me to think bigger, be better, and grow more than I ever thought I could- I am never going to let that go.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Jhara Valentini: Things today are going exceptionally well. I am so thankful to have incredible clients and to have found a niche where I can really bring value to other businesses. Grit and resilience have definitely helped me get to my success- once I set my mind to something it’s very rare it doesn’t come to fruition but I think it’s also because I love what I do and clients see that.
Digital media is such a fascinating piece of the world and I am honored to be a part of it. To be learning from it every single day it’s something that I genuinely enjoy and I think that shows in my work and in my partnerships and it’s a big reason for why I’ve gotten to where I am.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Jhara Valentini: I would definitely say most of the mistakes I made were on the business side. I had never started an LLC. I knew nothing about taxes when it came to being a business. When I moved to an S-corp too- what it meant to set up payroll and unemployment insurance and all the other things that come with having a business.
Takeaways would be to do your research for sure when it comes to the business aspect because that’s something that I could’ve definitely spent a little bit more time on in the beginning. I was so anxious to get started and be a strategist, I forgot that I had responsibilities as a founder and CEO as well.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Jhara Valentini: Not sure if I would call these empowering but I know of some that make the process easier. Platforms Asana for project management, Swydo for reporting or Salesforce and Shopify for analytics tend to be my go to’s these days but there’s nothing wrong with the old staple- Google Analytics, especially if you set up your events and your tracking correctly, it can be an incredible tool.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Jhara Valentini: The idea of the conversion rate is sometimes confusing because you can’t scale your business and get more people to your site and always have a high conversion rate there’s going to be points where you’re bringing people to the site solely for retention or maybe you are scaling your prospecting campaign that’s introducing new audiences to your website so you can’t always look at your conversion rate as a major KPI- it’s more about a month over month and year-over-year revenue growth for me.
To grow revenue and conversions, audience building is key. Finding qualified interests and behavioral groups that meet the conversion objective and then going back out to find more people like them to scale. Add that to a strong retargeting campaign and you’re good!
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Jhara Valentini: With e-commerce multiple touchpoints are key. Repetition is essentially your reputation online. The more consumers know about you, your brand, what you stand for- the stronger that brand relationship is going to be which eventually turns into customer loyalty.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Understand where and how your audience consumes all of their media- not just social.
- Know the importance of owned data and a strong CRM and always have a strategy is to scale it.
- Social platforms aren’t going to meet every objective- have backup platforms running campaigns at all times.
- Never stop listening to your consumers. They will tell you what they want and how they want it- you just have to pay attention.
- Be open to change! There is no way the same strategy will keep working. Over time perceptions will change, the competition will increase and the digital landscape will evolve- make sure your strategies evolve with it.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!