Featured Member – Amanda Cook, Marketing Simplicity

Any entrepreneur will tell you that starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart. They all agree that you must have a certain level of “crazy” to get comfortable going on your own. Or at least that’s how Amanda Cook, founder and CEO of Marketing Simplicity, describes it.

“I didn’t really entertain the idea of owning my business much, but people kept asking me why I don’t own my own company yet,” said Amanda. “I am fairly risk-averse, and it did seem crazy that I could build something. I didn’t even think it was a possibility – until suddenly something clicked, and it became something I just knew I was ready for.”

It all changed after seeing the inner workings of a marketing agency, giving Amanda a perspective from the side she hadn’t seen before. Most recently, she served as a fractional CMO and marketing director for a growing marketing agency. When Amanda was in previous roles, she had hired agencies like the one she worked for to manage large-scale projects, events, and product launches. Working for an agency gave her a whole new perspective and an understanding of both sides of the coin.

“I understood what a client wanted because I was one at one time, but I also understood how an agency operates and makes money, so marrying those two views turned into Marketing Simplicity,” Amanda said. “At the core, though, was simplicity. I didn’t want to over-complicate anything. Everyone wants less complexity and simple solutions. Whether doing business with each other or creating marketing strategies that work.”

Amanda grew up in Richmond, Indiana, and went to Ball State University. She thought she wanted to be an attorney, so she got a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. After spending time with lawyers, she quickly realized it was not a good fit for her personality. She went on to get a Master’s in Marketing and Public Relations.

After graduation, she started her marketing career in property management, development, and new construction in Seattle, Washington. After four years, she returned to Indiana. She spent the next decade learning the ins and outs of association management as the Director of Marketing for several non-profit trade associations. During that time, she also obtained her Certified Association Executive (CAE) certification, an esteemed credential in the association industry. She credits her experience in association management as giving her a strong foundation for strategy development. 

“Associations live and die by their strategic plans, so going through so many planning experiences and seeing what works and what doesn’t helped shape my experience in strategic planning. I also had a lot of really great mentors that pushed for autonomy and growth during that time,” notes Amanda. “Creating the strategic plan for an organization and then design marketing around the overall goals is how growth and scale happens.”

Following that, Amanda spent some time managing the marketing portfolios for a commercial real estate firm, including well-known properties, like Salesforce Tower and the development of Midtown Carmel. To gain a global perspective, Amanda moved on to a growing manufacturer with North American headquarters in Indiana as the North American Marketing and Brand Director. This experience gave her a global perspective. And finally, most recently, at a marketing agency.

“I think I have a valuable background because I’ve tactically handled so much marketing but also the strategy and global experience,” says Amanda. “I finally feel like I have enough of a holistic perspective about business and marketing that starting my own marketing firm seems to make sense now.”

Amanda has collaborated with zWorks for three years now and often works out of the Pine Street location. Getting to know zWORKS startups and graduates has highlighted the struggles many startups face – not only in marketing but from a business lens. This has helped her on her own journey.

“Startups and small businesses in growth mode have unique challenges. They need to grow fast, but they don’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles or the money to do it,” Amanda notes. “That’s where I think simplicity really resonates. I like to start simple with a crawl, walk, run approach. I like to meet companies where they are and help them reach the next level with simple, easy activities that can drive results.”

She recommends nailing down your business goals and identifying where you want to take your business next before contracting for any marketing services. Many marketing leaders can help with strategy, but Amanda mentions a real challenge facing companies today is the lack of strategic planning and dialogue. Plus, it’s important that the marketing serves the larger business needs. She recommends a marketing strategy consultant to help outline your needs. Then find a partner to take the next step.

The people Amanda has met through zWORKS have added tremendous value to her personally and professionally. Now that she is a startup and small business owner, the network at zWORKS has been a launching pad for her success. Access to people who were once in her position has been helpful so that she doesn’t make similar mistakes.

“I have marketing and strategic planning expertise, but I don’t have a business background or know all I should about starting a business. I can unequivocally say that the relationships I have built through zWORKS helped launch my business,” says Amanda. “I have gained several new clients through referrals, know who to turn to for financial guidance, rely on other small business owners to bounce ideas off of when I come to a dead end, and seek guidance from others that I consider mentors.”

When Amanda isn’t focused on building her business or helping clients, she spends most evenings as a taxi service to her two sons and watching them play sports. She has a passion for travel, and she can be found planning her next trip before the trip she is on is over.

Amanda is accepting new clients for both strategy and execution. Please contact her or refer her to colleagues if you want to learn more about her marketing consulting services and strategy development.

Fun facts:

  • My favorite trip this past year was to Mexico to see Dave Matthews Band play three nights in Riviera Maya.
  • My favorite US beach is Clearwater Beach. I started going there in grade school with my parents and have visited every year since.
  • I’ve been a tourist to 45 of the 50 states and will hit the remaining 5 in the next few years.