Jake Finkelstein – Founder and President of Method Savvy

Jake Finkelstein is the founder and president of Method Savvy, a brand marketing and business development consultancy located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Jake began his career in the music industry; most notably for Sony Music Entertainment, where had the pleasure of working with such well-known artists as Johnny Cash, Incubus, Modest Mouse and Ben Folds Five. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, Jake left Sony to lead strategy and business development activities for the New York City-based creative advertising agency, Universal Buzz. Rising to become the company’s vice president of strategy, Jake has worked with such brands as Diageo, Coca-Cola, Olympus, Nokia, Verizon, Virgin, Disney and 2K Games to increase brand awareness and improve sales.

When not at work Jake can be found listening to and/or playing music, cooking and spending time with his wife and pets.

What are you working on right now?

Much of my time right now is taken up with client projects. Most notably we’re working with Dollar Tree (the nation’s largest single price point retailer) and Burkhead Brand Group (their agency) to provide strategic and operations guidance in support of their social media marketing activities. We’re also leading brand marketing and lead generation activities for Viovio.com, a custom photo book printer, as well as Projected Frame, a SaaS accounting platform designed specifically for creative professionals.

Beyond client services, I’m in the process of developing a mobile and Web app targeting individuals with a specific type of food allergy. I hope to have the application available by the end of the year.

3 trends that excite you?

1. I’m fascinated by watching how technology is continuing to change, and in many ways speed up, the way we as humans communicate. Much has been said about how technologies like mobile and Twitter have effected our business communications, but this trend has extended to all aspects of society, including politics and religion. The world has become a much smaller place with infinitely more information available to us at our fingertips. The democratizing power of information, and such easy access, is a trend that will only accelerate as we move forward. It’s a fun time to be living and working.

2. Purely from a marketing and advertising perspective, I’m excited to have access to increasingly powerful analytics tools that allow me to measure what’s working and what isn’t. This allows me to streamline the free-flowing process marketing to become something much more “lean.” Constantly optimizing marketing not only allows me to help my clients spend their monies wisely, but it also allows me to adapt to marketplace conditions and customer needs ever more quickly.

3. Complex and expensive business models are beginning to erode, which makes it much easier for companies to speak directly with their customers, often in a two-way fashion. Coming out of the music industry I saw this firsthand when Napster disrupted the traditional capital-heavy infrastructure of the record labels. No longer did you need manufacturing facilities, a storage warehouse or even physical retail storefronts. You now see a similar scenario playing out with print media, television and film. While there are certainly benefits to customers coming out of this process — from lower prices to better customer service — what’s really exciting is what it means for the creators. With the barriers to entry all but gone, it’s significantly easier to innovate, both creatively and operationally.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I try to keep my process as simple as possible. I start with what I think is a great idea, do as much research as I can to understand how the target audience makes a decision and then ideate on ways to add value throughout all steps of that decision making process. I believe you have to have a framework for operation, but that for many products and services it’s best not to come up with a complex marketing plan of action. Rather, start with the basics, evaluate feedback and optimize your communications and brand positioning activities moving forward. This will not only minimize cost, but it will allow you to move a hell of a lot more quickly than most of your competitors.

What is one mistake that you made, and what did you learn from it?

Early in my career I had the misguided belief that others knew more than I did. While I do believe one should be deferential to others who may have wisdom, I took it a step too far by thinking that just because someone had more years in the business world than I, that he or she inherently were correct when it came to a disagreement. Fortunately, I learned rather quickly that if you believe in something, fight for it. Make sure you’ve done your research so you can back up your stance, and you may have to be willing to put your neck on the line, but if you believe in something, don’t back down. ‘Cause you may just be right.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The future of marketing and advertising is little more than exceptional customer service. If you make a great product, make it easy to find and go out of your way to make sure every single customer as a smile on his or her face when they use your product, then you’ll have a huge hit on your hands.

What is one tool or book that helps you bring ideas to life?

I’m not sure if this is the type of answer you’re looking for, but I’m a voracious reader. I find that RSS feed readers are an invaluable tool for me — Google Reader in particular. I use Reader to stay on top of hundreds of blogs, quickly consuming new ideas and information that allow me to grow my business and better deliver for my clients. There’s no way I could stay on the leading edge without such as tool.

What inspires you?

Entrepreneurs and product innovators of all types. I love working with, and learning from, creators who are trying to make their impact on the world. I find it incredibly inspiring and a great resource of creativity.

Who would you like to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Nathaniel Talbott, founder of Terralien (a custom Web and mobile software development firm; www.terralien.com). Nathaniel is a product innovation genius and uses lean startup methodology to help entrepreneurs and product innovators not only build great software build build great companies. I can’t speak highly enough of Nathaniel or his company.

What’s the most difficult part of working in the advertising and marketing industry?

When I have to turn down what could be a significant monetary deal because I don’t believe the product will work in the marketplace. I don’t care how much money you throw at something — if it isn’t good, it won’t sell. This is especially true in the age of the Internet where word spreads quickly. You may be able to fool a few people, but many more will catch on quickly.

What’s your favorite memento from working in the music business.

Ever since I was a teenager playing in bands, I only wanted two things: a platinum record and to be thanked at an awards show. I got both over the years, so I’m officially a happy camper.


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