Stephens Still Marketing Ideas, People of Northwest Arkansas
Northwest Arkansas is no longer a gangly, developing teenager who blushes upon receiving national recognition.
“We’re not undiscovered anymore. We’re all more worldly and educated, and so are our expectations,” said Bethany Stephens, an independent marketing strategist with Magpie Marketing.
Stephens was vice president of marketing and director of advertising and promotions for the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce when honored in 2006 as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
She also held key positions with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas and the Ozark Natural Science Center, and parlayed her vast network of contacts and skills in business development into her own marketing brand.
Stephens now promotes bold and innovative ideas for a diverse array of clients, which includes a philanthropic organization, executive recruiting firm, supplier team, a coffee roaster and distributor, retailers and bloggers.
“They’re all really strong, established companies, experts in their fields, who need help telling their stories,” she said.
At the chamber, Stephens helped foster the explosive growth of Rogers in the early 2000s. She joined the organization in 2002 and soon was leading a team of 10, focusing on economic development, marketing, public relations, sales and memberships.
It was a perfect training ground for tackling the breadth of issues that now arise with her private marketing clients.
“Rather than being an expert in one niche, I really like being broad. This venture is allowing me to explore and support a lot of intriguing companies,” Stephens said. “I credit the chamber that I can walk into [the office of] any potential client and quickly understand their needs. Not much is foreign to me.”
Stephens sees herself as a connector — uniting customers with ideas, and resources to construct them.
“They’re busy doing what they do, so this is the stuff that falls to the end of the list,” she said. “Companies tend to use advertising to cast a really broad net — putting up a billboard, for instance. But they don’t know if the right person sees it. I help them make sure they’re reaching their target audience.”
Stephens is supporting Cameron Smith & Associates, an executive search firm for the supplier field, in developing social media and marketing strategies.
“Cameron Smith is one of the best known brands in Northwest Arkansas, but they haven’t been able to stop and tell their own story, about why they’re best in their class,” she said.
Stephens also provides marketing services to Bentonville-based Airship Coffee, owned by Mark Bray, which collaborates with farmers to import and roast beans using artisan methods.
Airship just added Fresh Market as a customer, and Stephens is helping to plan and execute a coffee and chocolate tasting event between Airship and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Despite having been away for more than five years, Stephens said she’s still a chamber girl at heart, and credits chamber CEO Raymond Burns with refining her as a professional and as a strategist.
“Outside of my parents, I consider him my best mentor,” she said. “He’d challenge me, call me out. He’s such an incredible leader, and people have no idea how much he does behind the scenes for our community.”
A resident of downtown Rogers, Stephens blends her professional life with that of a wife, and mother to 10- and 3-year-old girls, Sophie and Ainsley. She strives to be a highly intentional parent, and ran the family’s summer schedule like a day camp—with outings to a favorite family swimming hole, bike rides, and lessons in French (she lived for a time in Jamaica and studied a semester at the Universite de Bourgogne in France).
To keep current, she listens to books on Audible, follows those she considers to be thought leaders on Twitter, and reads Fast Company via NextIssue.
“I love Mashable and I use Evernote every single day, if not hour, and I rarely miss a daily dose of tidbits from marketing guru Seth Godin,” Stephens said.
To nourish her creative side, she turns to Where Women Create publications.
“I consider my involvement with the sharp ladies of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas a huge source of inspiration,” she said. “Most importantly, though, I speak regularly to my family and a handful of incredible mentors like Raymond Burns and Maxie Carpenter.”