Case Study: Virginia Council of CEOs Embraces Marketing Automation to Grow Beyond Richmond Base


Virginia Council of CEOs

The Situation:

The Virginia Council of CEOs has more than 200 members, mostly from the Richmond area. When the Council’s Board of Directors decided to expand its membership to the Charlottesville area, the organization’s Executive Director turned to Pinch Hit Partners.

The Challenge:

The Council’s brand awareness was limited to the Richmond area. They needed an efficient way to connect with busy executives in a new market. The Council’s Executive Director also doubles as their primary salesperson, so frequent travel to another city would be limited. The Council also relied on three separate programs to manage membership, sales and communications. These programs lacked new capabilities like marketing automation and demanded abundant staff time to manage.

“Pinch Hit Partners has transformed the way we market our organization.”   

                                 – Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, Virginia Council of CEOs

The Solution:

Pinch Hit Partners consultant Mark Cipolletti implemented a LinkedIn campaign targeted at Charlottesville CEOs and business owners. Sponsored posts would only be seen by the target audience in the target market – no waste, no extra cost. The campaign’s call-to-action was an invitation to a series of informational lunches and cocktail parties. These group sessions allowed the Executive Director to consolidate his time in the new market and to demonstrate the Council’s skill for hosting excellent programming.

Cipolletti also identified a single marketing technology, Hatchbuck, to replace the Council’s three legacy tools. Hatchbuck collects online leads and automates emails, campaigns and sales tasks that would have been done manually in the past. These efficiencies will become even more important as the organization expands to additional markets in the future.

Virginia Council of CEOs LinkedIn post

The Result:

As a result of Pinch Hit Partners’ work, the Virginia Council of CEOs has successfully gained about two-dozen new members from the Charlottesville area. The tools and processes that were developed for this market expansion are now being considered as the organization looks at additional Virginia cities for membership growth.

The Reaction:

“Pinch Hit Partners has transformed the way we market our organization. Now our sales, marketing and communications are nicely integrated and we have a single platform like Hatchbuck to manage everything. We’re so glad we followed Mark’s recommendations. It’s been a game-changer for the Virginia Council of CEOs.”   – Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, Virginia Council of CEOs


About Pinch Hit Partners

Pinch Hit Partners is a Richmond, VA-based company that’s disrupting how marketing gets done for small and medium-sized companies by providing them with a cost-effective alternative to hiring their own marketing team or contracting with an expensive full-service creative agency. Learn more at Contact Mark Cipolletti at

A conversation doesn’t cost you a thing. Contact us today to learn more about how Pinch Hit Partners can transform your marketing and sales.


We’re looking for Pinch Hitters in Richmond, VA

Pinch Hit Partners, the premier resource for fractional marketing consultants, is looking for new pinch hitters to join our team in Richmond, VA.

If you are a senior marketer interested in a flexible schedule, we can connect you with small and mid-sized companies looking for experts like you. As a fractional head of marketing, you’ll provide your clients with a cost-effective alternative to hiring their own staff or contracting with an expensive full-service agency.

Pinch Hitters typically work with CEOs and business owners to develop strategy and to assemble a team of remote specialists to execute on the plan (if an in-house team isn’t already in place). If you are interested, please send your resume to Mark Cipolletti at

Evolution Divorce Selects Pinch Hit Partners to Launch New Legal Brand in Richmond

Veteran family law attorney Christopher Macturk has selected Pinch Hit Partners to help launch his new family law practice, Evolution Divorce & Family Law, PLLC in Richmond’s West End. Evolution Divorce will assist clients with separation, divorce and child custody issues, but that’s where the similarity with its competitors ends.

“I wanted to create a firm that’s built around the clients, not around the lawyers,” says Macturk. He plans to differentiate the firm by offering pre-agreed pricing instead of hourly billing as well as providing his clients with a service guarantee. Evolution Divorce and its clients will enter into an attorney-client relationship only if they have first agreed upon the work to be done and the price for that work.

“I see Evolution Divorce as a disruptor in my industry and it’s important to me to work with someone like Mark who has a similar approach. He’s disrupting the local marketing scene with Pinch Hit Partners,” says Macturk.

“With hourly billing, clients never know how much they will spend by the completion of their case. This creates unnecessary anxiety during an already stressful period in their lives,” says Macturk. During his 20-year legal career, he has often experienced clients who have been reluctant to contact him or share important information for fear that the conversation would add to the overall bill.

Evolution has selected Pinch Hit Partners to develop its brand and implement a strategic marketing plan. Pinch Hit Partners’ founder Mark Cipolletti serves as Evolution’s fractional head of marketing and oversees a virtual team of marketing specialists.


Pinch Hit Partners’ first assignment was to help create a name that would send a clear message to potential clients that Macturk’s new firm was unique. “Chris said from the beginning that this firm isn’t about him and he didn’t want to use his last name as most attorneys do. We tested several names and landed on Evolution Divorce. The name, the pricing model…it’s the evolution of family law,” says Cipolletti.

“I see Evolution Divorce as a disruptor in my industry and it’s important to me to work with someone like Mark who has a similar approach. He’s disrupting the local marketing scene with Pinch Hit Partners,” says Macturk.

Pinch Hit Partners was created to provide small and medium-sized companies with a cost-effective alternative to hiring their own marketing staffs or contracting with expensive creative agencies. Each Pinch Hit Partners account is led by a fractional, senior-level marketer who selects a team of specialists to meet a client’s unique needs. “You get the best of both worlds but without having to pay for all of the overhead,” says Cipolletti, a former head of marketing and communications at Allianz Global Assistance, Connexions Loyalty and Sheltering Arms.

About Pinch Hit Partners

Pinch Hit Partners is a Richmond, VA-based company that’s disrupting how marketing gets done for small and medium-sized companies by providing them with a cost-effective alternative to hiring their own marketing team or contracting with an expensive full-service creative agency. Learn more at Contact Mark Cipolletti at

Tell us about your marketing challenge.

Going on the road this week to the Virginia Council of CEOs retreat

Pinch Hit Partners is a proud sponsor of the Virginia Council of CEOs. This week, we’ll be attending the Council’s annual CEO Retreat at the Homestead Resort. We’re looking forward to connecting with CEOs from Richmond and Charlottesville as well as our friends on the Council’s staff. Over the last few months, we’ve been working with the staff to expand their marketing capabilities. Check out the video to learn more.

See you at the Homestead.

Breathe new life into your brand using these 4 market disruption techniques

Over the last decade, the internet has fueled the growth of disruptors in every market segment. For many years, I worked in the travel industry where travel agents, tour operators and hoteliers saw their businesses forever changed by brands like Expedia, Travelocity, Jetsetter and Airbnb. Hailing a taxi cab has been replaced with Uber, Lyft and Safr. And buying a car has been transformed by the likes of TrueCar, Carvana, Beepi and CarLotz. The list goes on.

Market disruption is a form of differentiation, a way for a brand to stand out amongst its competition. Disruptors understand that simply focusing on price or service just won’t cut it anymore. They use a multi-dimensional approach to differentiating their offerings to gain adoption from buyers and attention from the media and investors. Try taking a page from the disruptor’s playbook to breathe new life into your company’s brand.

Here are four techniques to consider:

Refresh Your Branding

Disruptors are master branders. They develop clearly articulated brand personalities and visual identities. Most disruptors do very little advertising, instead they are community builders that rely on their customers to share their brands through word-of-mouth. So, consider a brand refresh and look for ways to encourage sharing by your customers. Disruptors love one-word company names too. Some may sound a little silly but Uber certainly works better than ABC Cab Company.


Legacy providers have spent years, and lots of money, building systems and processes to support their businesses. Most were built to serve the business, not necessarily the customer. Disruptors exploit this weakness, building customer-centric companies. Look at your business through the eyes of your customer and simplify your processes whenever possible. And don’t forget to take advantage of smartphone capabilities when selling and servicing your customers. These devices will soon overtake desktop computers and laptops when it comes to how people access the internet (and your business).

Collaborate with Customers

Disruptors know their customers and their competitors very well. They dig deep into data to unearth what drives their buyers to action. Survey your customers, engage with them on social media and create feedback opportunities during every interaction. Invite your customers to contribute to product development, marketing and other aspects of your businesses. Consumers love brands that build relationships with them and collaborate with them to provide a customized product or service.

Experiment and Iterate

Disruptors don’t spend years building new services. They experiment and iterate. Their services are constantly evolving, keeping what works and getting rid of what doesn’t. Launch new services with a select group of customers and make modifications quickly. Once you feel confident about your offer, ramp up your marketing to gain market share.

In a world where consumers are overwhelmed with the amount of marketing messages they see and hear on a daily basis, having a strong differentiation strategy will help your businesses stand out. What works today may not work tomorrow so it’s important to not become complacent and look for new opportunities to differentiate.

You may also like:

5 Ways to Grow Your Business (with the Customers You Already Have)

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Great Customer Experience Can’t Overcome an Inferior Product

About the author

Mark Cipolletti is the president of Pinch Hit Partners, a Richmond, VA-based marketing company that’s disrupting how marketing gets done for small and medium-sized companies by providing them with a cost-effective alternative to hiring their own marketing team or contracting with an expensive full-service creative agency. Learn more at Contact Mark at or on LinkedIn.

Photo Credit: CarLotz

7 Indispensable Tools for Becoming a Successful Solopreneur

So, are you thinking about leaving your comfortable corporate or agency gig to go solo? There’s a lot to consider – will you need to obtain health insurance?, do you have a home office?, do you have money in the bank to supplement your earnings until you build up your business? Being a solopreneur can be a little scary but the rewards can be great too.

In 2016 there were 55 million Americans working independently according to Freelancers Union.

I made the leap about a year ago with no prior experience working “virtually”. In the beginning, I needed to figure out a ton of things that I used to take for granted – things like how I would create a contract or how I would track my mileage and business expenses. I am not alone. In fact, in 2016 there were 55 million Americans working independently according to Freelancers Union. That’s about 35% of the total workforce. With so many people joining “freelance nation” a host of companies have created tools to make their lives easier.

Here are a few of the tools that I have come to rely on to run Pinch Hit Partners, my virtual marketing agency. Most of them are free and all of them are easy to use (which is critical since you no longer have access to an on-call IT help desk). And these solutions aren’t just for solopreneurs. As your business grows, many of these technologies will easily scale up to accommodate more customers and employees.

Good luck!

G-Suite/Google for Business

[Starting at $5 per month]  Nobody will take you seriously if you use a free Yahoo address or an old AOL email. You want to look professional right? Use Google to set up an email using your business name. You’ll also get a ton of free cloud storage and free G-suite for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Sorry Microsoft Office.


[Free]  Turn every email you send into a small ad for your business by creating a custom signature from Wisestamp. Go beyond a sterile text-only signature and add your logo or one of the many “widgets” offered. My signature automatically includes a link to my newest blog post.

[Free]  Like it’s name suggests, is like having an assistant to help you set up meetings. This tool integrates saves you and your client from going back and forth through email trying to settle on a date and time. Just offer your attendee up to three meeting times in a single email. They choose one and adds it to their calendar and yours too. Bonus: it prevents double booking too.


[Free]  Having a lawyer create your contracts will eat into your profits very quickly. Built for freelancers, Bonsai helps you create your contracts by asking you a series of questions and then generating the final document that your clients can e-sign. But that’s not all. Bonsai will also send branded invoices and payment reminders to help you get paid on time. The service is free but processing fees will apply if you want to accept payments via credit cards or bank transfers.


[Free]  Tracking your mileage is a pain in the neck. Everlance is an app that automatically records all of your trips. All you have to do is “swipe” to mark each as business, personal or charity. Everlance also helps you record your business revenue and expenses. I love the ability to take photos of my receipts and my accountant appreciates receiving detailed CSV files for completing my taxes. Use code sunrise689 to receive a discount if you upgrade to the paid premium service.


[Free]  Small companies probably don’t have the luxury of employing project managers but, with Bitrix24, you can easily manage and collaborate on projects with employees, vendors and clients. I primarily use Bitrix24 for project management and client communications but there are other cool features like a built in intranet, CRM and even some basic marketing automation functionality. There’s even a mobile app for staying on task while on the go.


[Starting at $59 per month]  It’s time to put on your sales and marketing hat. Use Hatchbuck to add forms to your website and send emails to clients and prospects. Hatchbuck will automatically record their activities into an easy to use sales CRM. Marketing automation features allow you to set up drip marketing campaigns. Sure Hatchbuck doesn’t include some of the fancy features of big name marketing automation tools like Hubspot but it also only costs a fraction of what those companies charge. One of my clients recently consolidated three technologies (member management, email and CRM) into one by using Hatchbuck. They saved a few bucks but, more importantly, they’re now saving a ton of time by working in one system.

I’m always looking for ways to work smarter. If you have other tools that make working solo more efficient, I hope you’ll share.

About the author

Mark Cipolletti is the president of Pinch Hit Partners, a Richmond, VA-based marketing agency. Pinch Hit Partners provides small and mid-size companies with a virtual in house marketing team, led by a senior level marketing executive. And unlike so-called full service creative agencies, our low/no overhead model is efficient and affordable while still providing access to the highest quality talent and technologies needed to grow your business. Contact Mark at or on LinkedIn.
Interested in a free, one-hour marketing consultation? Fill out the form below and tell us more about your marketing challenge:

CEO Playbook: 18 Resources for Getting up to Speed on Marketing, Fast

It would be a huge understatement to say that marketing is changing at a rapid pace. Keeping up with all of the trends and technologies can seem like a full time job. Just when you’ve figured out that SEO and SEM aren’t the same thing, something new comes along leaving you scratching your head.

If you are a CEO or business owner who does double-duty as your company’s primary marketer, you may not know where to turn for useful marketing information. Fortunately, there’s a ton of marketing content just a mouse click away. To save you valuable time finding the best resources, I’ve compiled some of my favorites. Most are free (but not all) so this may be the most economical degree in marketing that you can get. You can thank me later.

Websites are my #1 source for marketing information. These website are some of my favorites and also a good place for you to get started. And don’t forget to sign-up to receive their emails. That way you’ll receive their content without having to remember to visit on a daily or weekly basis.

  1. MarketingProfs
  3. Content Marketing Institute
  4. OpenView Partners
  5. Inc.
  6. Entrepreneur

Many of the biggest brands spend millions with consulting firms like Gartner and McKinsey, but did you know that these high-power firms also give away a ton of free research on their websites? Now you do.

  1. Gartner
  2. McKinsey

I’m a huge fan of Flipboard. The Flipboard website and mobile app can be customized to display “magazines” on very specific topics such as customer experience and content marketing. The content is curated by other users who take the time to select the best articles.

  1. Flipboard

You may have already signed up to receive Google Alerts to find out when you or your company have been mentioned in the news or on a website, but why not set-up alerts for marketing topics that you’d like to learn about. Tweak the settings to tell Google how frequently you want to receive your Alerts email.

  1. Google Alerts

There has been an explosion of marketing technologies in the last few years. According to’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic 2015 (and it is super) there are 1,876 marketing technologies in 43 categories (think social media, marketing automation, etc.) – that’s double the number of technologies found in 2014. Here are four marketing technology resources I turn to when I want to get my geek on.

  1. ClickZ
  2. Hubspot blog
  3. ChiefMarTec
  4. Venture Beat

Your local university is always an option for continuing education but with online options available through providers like Coursera you can take classes from Wharton, University of Virginia, Northwestern and other top schools right at your desk. LinkedIn’s recent acquisition of is another online resource to consider with over 100 marketing classes available.

  1. Coursera

Most mid-sized and large cities have a chapter of the American Marketing Association that you should considering joining. While each chapter is different, almost all provide educational programs to help marketers like you. Memberships to AMA will run you about $300 (dues vary by chapter) but you can also participate in most programs at a non-member price. My local chapter in Richmond, Virginia, also offers smaller special interest groups for members interested in marketing strategy, content marketing and social media.

  1. American Marketing Association
  2. LinkedIn Groups

So there you have it, my not-so-secret list of 18 indispensable resources for getting up to speed on marketing, fast. I’m sure that, as you explore my favorites, you’ll discover some of your own. I hope that you’ll report back when you identify your top picks.

Pinch Hit Partners

Need the experience of a Chief Marketing Officer but can only afford a minor-leaguer? Call in a Pinch Hitter. Our flexible and affordable solutions provide your business with an experienced executive to oversee existing programs, vendors and employees. Turn to Pinch Hit Partners to grow your company through customer experience management, digital marketing, social media and sales lead development. For more information, visit  and follow us on Twitter @pinchhitCX.