038: Harnessing your Authenticity in Business to Accelerate Growth with Mallory Musante

Mallory Musante

Mallory Musante, affectionately known as The Small Business CMO, is a fractional CMO and marketing strategist for small businesses and online service providers.

After working in a toxic agency environment and then walking away from the branding, web design, and social media agency she spent 5 years building, she not only realized she was completely out of alignment in her professional life but also that there was a massive disconnect in how small businesses market themselves.

She decided to combine her 12+ years of experience with her experience of starting 7 different businesses herself to help small businesses create sustainable and effective marketing strategies. Her focus is on harnessing her client’s authenticity and strengths and pairing it with strategic marketing foundations to create a magnetic presence that naturally attracts and connects her clients with their ideal audience for easier and more effective marketing.

💝 Key Takeaways

  • What can happen when you don’t lead with your authenticity.
  • How leaning into your authenticity can accelerate your business growth.
  • Learn how to infuse your authentic self into your brand by identifying your unique value proposition, brand values, and developing key messaging..

📚 Resources Mentioned

Brene Brown’s Living Into Our Values

🔗 Where You Can Find Mallory

🌹 Rose’s Resources

📖 (Imperfect) Transcript

We use Descript to provide this transcript which isn’t always perfect but wonderful all the same. (affiliate link 😃)

Rose: Hey, it’s Rose and welcome to another episode of the Sensitive CEO Show. And in this week’s episode, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Mallory Musante. Mallory, affectionately known as the small business CMO is a fractional CMO and marketing strategist for small businesses and online service providers.

Welcome, Mallory. It’s lovely to talk with you again today.

Mallory: It’s so nice to talk to you. Thank you for having me on.

Rose: Oh, you’re most welcome and I would love, before we get into your topic today, I would love for you to share your background and what got you into what you are doing today with your clients.

Mallory: Of course. Well, my background is quite long, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but I am an entrepreneur through and through. This is actually my seventh business. I’ve started, I’m currently running two. and yeah, I just kind of, I actually stumbled into entrepreneurship in college. I joined a club because all my friends were in it, which was a collegiate entrepreneur’s organization. I went to their international conference, met somebody that campaigned sneakers, and I said, Hey, does anyone do this for women? That was my first business. So I kind of just like have been stumbling through entrepreneurship, to be honest, up until this point starting a bunch of different businesses and kind of seeing what sticks. My background is in marketing though, I went to school for marketing through all of that, entrepreneurial journey, I had jobs where I was primarily doing social media marketing, but also helping with some just kind of overall digital marketing as.

Rose: Wow. I love that background. I love that you were in a group and your first job was, or your first, business was painting sneakers for women.

Mallory: Amazing. Yeah, it was, it was totally opposite. I went to such a business school, so it was very different than what everyone else was doing. I love it.

Rose: Very yin yang. Very creative. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that it was the people that you were hanging out with because of the saying, you know that saying, I can’t remember who said it, but the six people that you. Most spend the time with who you become like and how, how you live your life. So that’s, I think that’s a really good lesson for people.

If they wanna be more like an entrepreneur or more like some, you know, fill in the blank, is to just spend time with that group of people in that network.

Mallory: Yeah, absolutely. I really joined it thinking it was gonna just, I mean, which it did, but helped me with marketing and I, I really thought I was going to corporate America and everything shifted, from there and, and then I started pretty much only hanging out with entrepreneurs.

Rose: Brilliant. So before we, again, before we dive in, I just wanna ask you, what is a fractional CMO? Can you explain that term please?

Mallory: Yeah, so CMO short for Chief Marketing Officer. basically I’m kind of a part-time chief marketing officer primarily for small businesses. and I kind of started getting into this because, I, one of my previous businesses was a social media branding and web design company, and we were helping with those three main pieces of a marketing strategy, and I was really, After, you know, closing down that businesses and stepping away, I really realized there’s, everyone knows that they need those pieces, but they don’t always know how to put the pieces together.

And I wanted to be kind of that strategic piece that. I could come in and help people and guide them and help show, hey, here’s maybe where there’s a disconnect or a gap in your marketing. Here’s a great opportunity, and kind of pull that all together. So I’m kind of like a strategic guide essentially for small businesses when it comes to their marketing.

Rose: Beautiful. And I know a lot of small businesses wouldn’t necessarily have the capacity or the funds to hire a full-time chief marketing officer, so having someone like you in their back pocket sounds perfect.

Mallory: Yeah, definitely. it’s much more affordable than having a full-time CMO.

Rose: And you get to work with small business owners, which is, as I know, really rewarding, isn’t it, rather than the big corporates.

Mallory: Yeah. I prefer small businesses.

Rose: Yeah, me too. Me too. So, Mallory, can you share what happened when you weren’t leading with your authenticity?

Mallory: Absolutely. So as I mentioned before, I had that business that was, social media branding and web design, and kind of how that came about. I had a job. I worked for a small boutique PR firm in New York City and essentially that was a really toxic work environment. I knew I was gonna get laid off very soon.

I was looking for more jobs. I didn’t. Really like anything that was out there. And my coworker and I just kind of got talking and she was like, you know, we can do this on our own. So we hadn’t essentially started that business, just really out of the survival mode. so kind of jumped right in. She already kind of had the idea.

So the name for the company, she already had the branding, everything. She already kind of. I am pretty easygoing, so I was like, you know, I’m good at marketing. It’s fine. Whatever. I can do this. Not realizing how much not feeling represented in that company would actually affect me and how I showed up. So that became really difficult for me and not that there was anything wrong with the name and.

And the branding or, or anything along those lines. It just wasn’t me and I didn’t feel like I could continue it. It, it felt like a sherod, like I was just like, I’m not, I, I feel like I’m duping people. This is not who I am. I’m not this bright and colorful person, and that just, it just was not great. So I just got really, really frustrated.

Stressed out. Burned out, and essentially finally just basically blew up the company by telling my business partner, listen, I think it’s time for me to move on. And you know, at that point I didn’t really know kind of what was, why I was feeling this way. I, I mean, I kind of. An extent, but I also was just like, I don’t even know if I like marketing anymore because I was so disconnected with who I actually was and what, you know, lights me up and brings me joy and, you know, some sense of purpose and fulfilment.

So I really had to take a serious step back actually when we shut down and for probably six to seven months, like luckily I just had savings that I could live off of. Because I was not making much money at that time. Kind of stumbling through to figure out what my next steps were. And you know, it was an unnecessary but difficult part of my journey.

But yeah, that disconnect and not feeling like you know who you are, feeling like your identity is just wrapped up in this business that doesn’t even represent you. It was a real identity crisis essentially.

Rose: And that, I think that’s really common. I know that that’s happened to me many, many years ago as well.

You, you do kind of get caught up in it, don’t you? And then one day you just realize, hey, hang on. This isn’t actually me. So what did you do after that period, and then how did you sort of move on and get into your authentic self?

Mallory: So, A big part of this was actually, and, and this probably led me to realizing that this business wasn’t the right fit for me personally, was during that time I also was spending a lot of time actually working on building my confidence back up, learning to trust my intuition.

Not really like question those gut feelings, just like kind of go with it. So I had been spending a lot of time, you know, doing that like personal growth aspect even while we were working on the business. and I, and I, I’m sure that contributed to me finally being like, listen, like this just really does not feel aligned with me.

So in that aftermath of actually shutting the business down, I was still doing a lot of that. But now that I had unlimited time, I actually have a friend that also is a business owner and we decided to build a bed in the back of her Exterra, which is an SUV. And we just went and road tripped for a month into remote areas in the southwest of, the US.

And I was just kind of out there and I was like, you know, I could move out here and just be like a guide. Like I was having an identity crisis. so I’m just like, you know, do I move out to Arizona or Utah? Like, is this what’s happening with my life? And finally when we came back I was like, okay, I need to, I need to make some money and marketing is what I’m good at.

I had actually a couple of people reach out to me that were previous clients. And, I was like, all right, let me just, let me dip my toe back in. Maybe I just needed a break from marketing and you know, I’m good at this. Let’s just see it’ll be, at least you can make some money in the meantime. And I dipped my toe back in and I realized, wait, I actually do love this, but I need to do it on my own terms and a little bit differently.

So that’s kind of how I did it. which obviously isn’t super helpful cuz not everyone can take a month off to just travel.

Rose: No, I think that’s wonderful. All of that sounds  amazing.

Mallory: Yeah, it was, it was really what I needed.

Rose: Yeah and getting into nature can be so cathartic, can’t it just sort of, you do.

It gives you that ability to listen to your inner guidance more and really tune in. So what a beautiful way to do.

Mallory: Yeah, that actually, I was talking who, I don’t remember who I was talking to the other day, but I realized that a lot of my big life decisions I have made actually have stemmed from a trip where we, we spend a lot of time out in Utah and Arizona.

That’s kind of where we choose to, to go on trips and everything. And a lot of big life decisions have happened after those trips because, Well, for me at least, we’re going into like the back country, so we don’t have self-service. So I can’t even check my phone. Like I don’t even have the option and I think I physically have to force myself into situations like that to fully unplug.

So, so anytime I need to make a life decision, I guess I just need to go out there.

Rose: Yeah, that’s brilliant. And getting away from devices and social media and emails is, it’s not so easy to do these days. So, so I think, having, you know, being forced into it in that way is perfect. It sounds wonderful.

So I’m really curious what some of the, Some of the changes you made to do it your way were, if you were open to sharing that with everyone today.

Mallory: Yeah, definitely. so this was kind of a process for me because I still wasn’t super clear on how I wanted to do it. I knew the biggest thing for me was I started a business because I wanted that flexibility like a lot of business owners do, and I think we had unintentionally recreated the work environment that we had.

Left. not so much it being toxic, but it essentially, we were working the exact same hours we worked and I just, I never felt like I could even like, run to the grocery store. Like that was just like, there was, there was no, there wasn’t the flexibility that I really, really wanted. So that was a big change that I knew I wanted to make and that really, the way I kind of looked at that was, okay, let me start taking on clients slowly and seeing how, how does each level feel at, at what, you know, income level? How does that feel? Does it still feel like I can go and paddleboard in the afternoon with my friend if I feel like it, or, you know, run to the grocery store or just sit on the couch with my dog? I want to, and I was constantly evaluating what my capacity was, knowing that I’m just starting out, you know, I, I can increase my pricing.

Build in more capacity, essentially. So that was a really big piece of things for me. And then it also was just finding my voice again, really bringing out some of that, the, the personality side of things. So in the previous business, of course, it’s bright and colorful, and not that I don’t like color, I’ve just not, you know, bright yellows, pinks, and, and things like that.

I’m a little bit more muted. And gentle toned is where I tend to go when it comes to color. and so I was playing with some of that, seeing how it felt, and then I was like, you know, I swear a lot. This might be ill advised, but I’m gonna swear in my copy because that’s just like who I am. Let’s see what happens.

So I was really experimenting with a lot of things and slowly trying to break out different pieces of me, like infusing a little bit. My musical taste, which is like fun because I’m not like a huge music person, but I still didn’t, and, and I, you know, use a lot of hiking photos because that is a big part of my life.

So I was trying all these different things and constantly refining, just to kind of see like, oh, does that feel good? Does it feel aligned to me? And, and really kind of honing in on what felt really good and really aligned. And that actually ended up bringing the right clients to me. So like, I loved the clients that we had at our previous business, but they weren’t really always the best fit for me.

Again, because we’re attracting those like really bright, colorful, type clients. And I feel like I’ve, and I like stepped into this like a whole new world of absolute dream clients for myself and that especially feels really good.

Rose: Yeah, that feel, that feels good to me too. Yeah. Just you saying that. And I can see we’re on video even though the podcast is just audio.

I can just see how good that feels for you, so that’s beautiful. How would you suggest your, your clients, or anyone listening today, what advice could you give them on how they can infuse their authenticity into their brand to their messaging and everything like that.

Mallory: Yeah. So I would say we’re gonna take a strategic approach, but also doing part of that where I was talking about just like experimenting and playing and see what feels really good. So, the strategic part of it is understanding like what is your unique value proposition. And this essentially is kind of like the intersection of what, do your customers want and what does your brand do really well?

So kind of identifying that and a lot of the times that comes down to your key competitive advantage. Your experience and personality, I’d love to infuse those, to bring through that authentic feel, the way you deliver your offer. So that might be your messaging, your brand voice. Maybe you have a really unique process that you bring, customers and clients through and your brand values.

I think the brand values are also a really great way to, to bring that authenticity in because a lot of the times those brand values actually align really closely with our personal values. And if you’re not sure how to identify those, Brene Brown has an amazing exercise, on how you just kinda like go through her exercise and helps you identify, probably more your personal values, but again, you can infuse those into your brand, because a lot of the times, if you are especially a service provider, that’s gonna align really well with you.

And then again, using all of that information and developing your key messaging, so kind of utilizing your unique value proposition, your brand values, and then also the ideal client avatar that you’ve already developed to kind of come up with, I like to call, I know these would be like your key messaging, but essentially they’re kind of these like broader themes or talking points that you can use.

And you want them to kind of just like, again, be semi broad, but like unique to you utilizing kind of all of those different brand elements that I just talked about so you can keep your messaging, not only consistent, but again, it’s gonna feel like you bring through all of those values and, and illustrate what makes you different from your competition.

So I know this one’s a little bit tricky, for my clients to grasp sometimes. So one example is I have a client that does, like nutrition, but also likes adventure coaching. So she helps people kinda just like get out there and one of her key messaging like elements is stacking bricks. And essentially this means just do a little bit at a time. So if you can’t run five miles, you’re not gonna start up running five miles. You need to start up, maybe you only run half a mile and move up to one mile. or you know, you’re lifting and you’re adding all these different pieces. So you’re essentially stacking bricks so you can build the house.

So that’s kind of one of the key pieces, key messaging pieces that we developed for her, just to kind of give you an idea, like that’s not necessarily something she only uses for exercise. She can also use it for the nutritional side of things. So it’s versatile, but within your kind of world in sphere.

So yeah, that’s, that’s a strategic part of things. But then just like playing with some things that feel good to you, you’re gonna know. And, and this is hard to do sometimes, but trusting. Yeah. Like this might be the right way to go. And just kind of following that curiosity and kind of just experimenting.

Marketing is, as much as we would love for it to be, the science, a lot of it is experimentation. And then we’re using data to back up whether or not that experimentation actually worked. So, you know, kind of just having fun with it, playing with it, but then using that kind of like strategic framework that I just kind of like talked through to actually, you know, be strategic, help you kind of bring out some of those elements as well.

Rose: Brilliant. I love that. And I’m gonna add the Brene Brown link in the show notes as well. That sounds, yeah. Wonderful. and obviously if people want to reach out to you, where is the best place they can do that Mallory?

Mallory: So you can do it. I’m on Instagram way more than I probably should be, so you can reach out there. It’s at Mallory Musante and or my website, which is also mallorymusante dot com.

Rose: Great. I’ll pop those links into the show notes as well, but before I let you go, I have one question that I ask all of my guests.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

Mallory: I love this, because I have felt somewhat unfocused and a little all over the place this year. So I have been trying a lot of things to figure out how to pull myself out of that. And you know, we kind of talked about some of it getting out in nature as much as possible.

That’s a really big one for me. Not always possible. especially since, you know, we’re just coming out of winter here in the US now it’s starting to get nicer, so it’s much easier. I’m also. I like to process my feelings out loud. So if I can find someone to do that with, so either my therapist, a friend, I’ll call my mom sometimes.

Kinda just like process things. Just like tell them like, I don’t need you to say anything. I just need to like talk this out and like get it out of my head because I wish journaling did that for me, but I have to actually like say it out loud. and my dog isn’t that’s good, pat, listening to those things.

So those are usually the two things that help me the most.

Rose: I love those. I love those. I sometimes talk to my cat. I’ve got two cats and one of them listens more than the other one.

Mallory: I definitely talk to my dog like all the time, but she doesn’t sit still long enough to get all of it out.

Rose: I love it. Well, it’s been so wonderful talking with you today, Mallory.

Thank you so much for coming on the show. Yes, thank you. And thanks everyone for tuning in to another episode.

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