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15 Nov

Mark Astone

published on November 15, 2013 - 12:13 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Mark Astone

CEO
Catalyst Marketing Co

What we do: We’re a full-service marketing and communications company. We have a wide variety of clients within the Central Valley, many of which have been with us for more than 15 years. We also represent destination and entertainment brands outside of the Central Valley including Indian gaming casinos, travel and tourism.


 

Education: OPM (Owner/President Management Program), Harvard University; MBA and B.S. (business finance), Fresno State

Age:  48

Family:  Wife Debbie; sons Andrew (21) and Matthew (12).

How did you first get involved in the marketing field, Mark?

I was doing mergers and acquisitions for a large propane company, and the CEO asked me to work with a local marketing agency, Panagraph. After I left the propane company in the late ‘90s, the Panagraph owners asked me to come in as a partner. Over time, that company evolved into Catalyst Marketing.

What are the advantages for a company hiring a marketing firm, like yours, over having an in-house marketing department, Mark?

Most companies need a variety of different marketing tactics and can’t usually hire people that have all of the skills needed. By using an outside marketing firm, you can get experts in every given area without hiring full-time employees. We have specialists in creative design, media buying, public relations, social media, online marketing, etc.  If you keep your marketing in-house and try to hire a few people to do all of these things, you’ll find that everything doesn’t get done well. With an outside firm, you can get the very best for what you need.  

What are some of the trends you’re seeing in the field, Mark?

Obviously everything is moving to digital. As consumers turn to digital and mobile sources, everyone is figuring out how to make that work along with social media. Companies are also increasingly looking for marketing firms with direct experience in their industry. It’s no longer a situation where companies think that you can market anything from cars to jewelry. Now they want to see what you’ve done in their specific industry.

What are some of the challenges of the marketing field, Mark?

It’s changing very quickly with the rapid development of a wide variety of marketing tools. The challenge is trying to keep up with all of the different marketing vehicles out there and understanding which ones work for what clients. You need to know how to communicate and segue with different audiences.  Rather than bombard people with marketing messages, it’s important to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Can you share some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on or clients you’ve worked with over the years, Mark?

We have had so many great clients and worked on so many great projects, it is difficult to narrow it to just a few. That being said, we worked on a project for WebEx that was really fun. To point out the ease of using their web conferencing services, we built a whole campaign around a rock, since the major premise was that prior to WebEx, people communicated in the Stone Age. The campaign was designed to be a spoof, using a bright green rock and was really fun. We actually got calls from people who wanted to be mailed one of the rocks. Sales at WebEx skyrocketed as a result.
We also built a great movie trailer for Express Jet to highlight the use of their 50 passenger jets. The movie was titled “50 and a Half Nuns on a Plane – The Movie.” It attracted a lot of attention and we got great results. The movie poster is still hanging in my office.  

What are some things people might not realize about marketing firms?

In most cases, using a marketing firm is more affordable, efficient, and simpler than hiring an in-house marketing staff. Having your own marketing staff will definitely cost more money, and you’re still not getting all of your needs met. Also, marketing firms can be very different from each other based on their processes and approach. For example, our approach is very holistic in nature – we look at the entire sales process from the first order to the close of the sale.  The bottom line business results are very important to us. Some firms see themselves as just creative agencies, not business strategists. We’re very much tied into business results.

What was your first job growing up and what did you learn from it, Mark?

When I was 14, I wanted to get away for the summer, so I cold-called mule pack stations and volunteered my time. One of them agreed to try me out, and after a week, they hired me. I worked as a backcountry mule packer for the Minarets Pack Station, putting loads of up to 200 pounds on mules, riding five hours in, and unloading them. Five people going backcountry camping for a week could need two mules just for their food with ice chests full of steaks, whiskey, and everything they’d eat for a week. I learned two valuable lessons:  that I didn’t like riding in the dark and people always bring too much stuff so you always seem to be a mule short.

What do you like to do for fun in your spare time, Mark?

I coach Little League Baseball, golf, and take horse trips in the backcountry. A couple of weeks ago, a group of us went out of the same pack station that I used to work for, camping at Hemlock Crossing on the San Joaquin River. 


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