This week we sat down with Erica Wassinger, the new Director of Customer and Community Activation at AIM.
Erica is only about a month into her new role, but we wanted to get a good grasp of the proactive vision she will be contributing to AIM in the upcoming months.
What is your new role at AIM?
I was brought on to lead customer and community activation. That entails making sure that [AIM] is providing the most value to the people we work with.
Describe yourself with 3 adjectives:
Purposeful, aggressive and collaborative.
What are you most excited about regarding your new position?
I think the articulation of what this organization can do for not only the Omaha/Lincoln community, but the broader technology community, is really exciting.
I think peeling back the layers of this organization and understanding its relationships with its customers and community, and really enhancing and improving that, is really a fun job and a challenge.
My goal for the team is for us to help improve the customer’s experience, help find new customers and define and deliver value to the community.
What will be the most challenging detail?
Right now AIM is somewhat of a vague organization, and we have a really interesting storyline behind it.
I think the biggest challenge is going to be scaling the projects to a national or even international level as well as helping AIM articulate their “Tom’s story.”
[For example, when an employer uses Careerlink to post a job it helps fund our youth in IT initiatives.]
When did you decide you wanted to take on this opportunity?
It happened very organically. I have an interesting hybrid role because I am the co-founder and managing director of the Omaha Startup Collaborative (OSC).
AIM partnered with OSC in June and since then we’ve moved 25 startups into the AIM Exchange building. We’ve also started to craft the vision of being a tech hub in the community and a resource for startups.
Through that partnership, we’ve recognized there are so many shared skills, resources and leads between the two organizations. We’ve also found that AIM can and should act more like a startup.
So, in short, it just sort of evolved.
Can you give me a quick rundown of your experience in business development?
I’m a journalism grad. I got my dream job right out of school working for the Richards Group, which is the largest independent branding agency in the country.
There I had the opportunity to work on local accounts like the nearby Children’s Hospital as well as national organizations. I ended up developing my writing skills and started working on social media at a young part of my career, so I was able to blend traditional PR with digital PR.
I also helped Cooper Aerobics unify their brand. They had seven different health and wellness corporations that had shared interests but not a shared story or customer. They were operating in silos so we unified them and helped them recognize their full potential. We also helped them drive their customers from one unit to the other.
After that I moved back to Omaha with my husband and worked at Bailey Lauerman for a while in their PR department and a cross-functional team to set very integrated marketing campaigns.
From there I started working on my own in hybrid PR work. I’ve worked with startups and customer activation most recently. Basically how to create, groom and keep those customer leads when you’re a new company.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned this year?
Validate your customer over and over and over again. Make sure you know what they want as well as what you want to give them.
You have to find that engagement with them and the vulnerability figure out what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.
How do you stay focused?
Aligning to business goals helps me stay focused. Being able to shed projects and initiatives that don’t line up against those goals helps me.
Defining the goals, the plan and being able to admit when something didn’t work and to walk away from it also helps me stay focused.
What are your 5 favorite apps or people you follow to keep up with business development?
Asana is a great tool. Slack because it cuts down on email. Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares and their book on traction is also a great resource. I really like their approach to customer development and acquisition.
How do you reward yourself?
Trunk Club. It’s like my out of control pleasure right now. God bless my stylist, Elizabeth. God curse her too. But I love getting my trunks! That’s definitely how I treat myself.
What else should we know about you?
I value transparency above everything else.