Martin “Marty” Marion is a disrupter, digital marketing expert, and CEO of The Hempshire Group, Inc. (TSXV:HMPG), which is publicly traded on the TSX Venture Exchange. Marty has infamously represented multiple major New York ‘Madison Avenue’ big advertising agencies in New York as a senior executive and brand strategist.
Early in his career Marty had the privilege to learn the craft of advertising from legends like David Ogilvy, Ted Bates and many other legends of their time. Since then, the former “Mad Men” marketer has spent the next 40+ years providing a combination of online education and information, branding and positioning strategies, and private & group coaching for brand owners, marketers, and agencies to help accelerate their ability to dominate their niche, out-flank their competition, and generate new customers, sales and revenues.
For many years, Marty’s strategies were only available to his private clients. Marty is the developer of the world renowned thought leadership program called Master Positioning. He has also authored, taught, and deployed a highly disruptive program called The Positioning Matrix™, the world’s first mathematical model and structured program to create competitive advantage strategies for brands to generate massive increases in customer acquisition, lifetime client value, and revenue.
Today, Marty is the CEO of the non-tobacco and non-nicotine smokable alternative company MOUNTAIN® Smokes and its corporate parent, The Hempshire Group (TSXV:HMPG). The SMOKE SMARTER™ company is a natural evolution for Marty’s vast knowledge and experience in marketing, specifically his extensive healthcare and consumer products consulting background. Since coming on board as CEO, MOUNTAIN® Smokes have been seen being adopted and loved by consumers, by influencers, celebrities, and cigarette smokers from just about every walk of life. With plans to be amongst the first to successfully de-position ‘Big Tobacco’ internationally, there’s no one better to run the show than “Mad Man” Marty Marion and his team at MOUNTAIN® Smokes.
How did you get started in this business?
Having spent a decade as a senior executive at several of the world’s largest New York Madison Avenue ‘Mad Men’ ad agencies, I have developed an internal ‘sixth sense’ ability that allows me to see opportunities to create category disruptive brands and change the way certain industries and categories operate. I love being a disruptor. Every leading company in the world became a leader because they disrupted the market and reset the playing field for all competitors.
How do you make money?
Brands and products that truly satisfy the needs of their target customers and help solve their problems, needs and desires succeed. Period. Consumers only buy products and services that solve problems and fulfill their self-perceived needs and desires. By engaging and understanding our target customers and their needs, we can create the best experiences for them to fulfill their needs while also being a good steward of our shareholders’ investments.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
We started generating revenue right away, but only because of the due diligence put in during the 6 months leading up to launching our new website, and the almost 2 years it took for our founder to formulate and create what I truly believe to be the most amazing product in its class. I believe in measuring twice and cutting once, so we took that time to develop a premium product and a strategic plan that would satisfy the needs of our market.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Never. I knew we had an incredible product the first time I tried it, and that our team had the expertise to do what needed to be done. Of course, it’s important that we have engaged best-in-class partners such as our creative and marketing agency WKDN Digital.
How did you get your first customer?
MOUNTAIN® Smokes had been around for more than a year and had legacy customers when I came on board as CEO. We reached out to them all individually and let them know we’ve rebranded and offered to send them a free pack if they checked out our website. We got a lot of repeat customers from that. By offering every new visitor to our website a free pack, we give consumers the ability to experience the product for themselves with literally zero risk or cost. The strategy was so successful, we’ve integrated it as a permanent part of our marketing program.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Engaging deeply with your customers. We love our customers and communicate with them regularly, building a healthier and happier world that anyone can be part of it. There would be no business without customers. One was we engage with our customers on a deeper level than many consumer products marketers is that we created a unique loyalty rewards program that does not rely on hitting any milestones to gain rewards. It’s very powerful, and also free to join.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
There are so many things that I want to do but don’t have the time and resources to do all at once. Prioritizing tasks means sacrificing others, which isn’t always easy.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
A fanatic dedication to transparency and quality above profit by always prioritizing quality and the best customer experiences. It’s also critical to never forget that in addition to serving the needs of our consumers, we must be good stewards of our investors’ and shareholders’ investment and trust in us. Balancing those two requires some finesse.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Tasting our newest batch of product as it came fresh off the line and realizing we’d done it! It was amazing and everything we wanted and more. Our founder, who created our formula really hit a grand slam home run, and we are proud to bring it to market internationally.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Helping more people understand that they can get what they’re looking for in a smarter, alternative – all the pleasures and rituals and satisfactions of smoking, but without the dangers and risks and addiction of tobacco or nicotine. I’m most excited that our brand can be one of the first to market hemp as a legally allowable smokable alternative product in international markets.
What business books have inspired you?
Everything written by Seth Goden
Hook Point by Brendan Kane
Eating the Big Fish, by Adam Morgan
Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy
And perhaps most importantly, The Chaos Machine, by Max Fisher
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Read more and doubt more. People are quick to do things that make them feel connected, especially at times like the pandemic, but don’t believe everything you hear, read, or see without validating it for yourself.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
I am a mentor every single day to all my teammates, employees, and anyone else I talk to. I love watching those around me succeed, and I believe that the more educated the people I work with are, the better the outcome will be, so being a mentor is the greatest and most rewarding part of my life. I am always happy to talk about marketing, strategy and competitive advantage. Email: email@example.com