The Times West Virginian

April 20, 2014

MM Consulting caters to unique needs

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — MM Consulting Services LLC is ready to help clients be successful by catering to their unique needs.

The “MM” in the name stands for Marianne Moran, who started this Fairmont-based business in January 2013. She offers a wide range of marketing and advertising consulting services.

Moran can examine the effectiveness of the marketing and advertising that a business has been doing and look at its current client base. She then presents her thoughts on a potential marketing plan that fits the company’s budget.

“Hospitality detective” or “secret shopper” is another service that Moran can provide.

During a visit to a client’s business, she gauges everything from the store’s appearance to the parking lot to the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. While browsing the location, she pays attention to whether the employees greet her and ask if they can help her. She comes up with questions and sees how the staff members respond.

Clients have also asked Moran to be a hospitality detective at competitor retail stores in the region that sell similar products.

In December of 2012, Moran retired as the director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Marion County after serving in that role for 20 years. If she thinks that the staff members of a certain business are likely to recognize her because of her former work, she will send in someone else as the secret shopper, equipped with her report checklist.

After doing her secret shopping, she writes a detailed report, which she provides electronically to the client.

Moran has conducted numerous electronic surveys for clients rating their customer service or getting input about products offered. She has done surveys for restaurants that want to find the answers to specific questions, get feedback on their current menus, or determine the effectiveness of their hosts and hostesses.

She compiles all that data into a detailed report, which also includes demographic information — like household income and age ranges — about customers. As a result of these surveys, some clients have changed the products that they carry.

“I really cater and detail my services to what the client needs,” she said. “But I do love the secret shopping. It’s a lot of fun.”

In addition, Moran can help nonprofit organizations in various ways. For instance, she can review and give feedback on bylaws, personnel policies and board of directors structures.

“Whether it’s a CVB or Main Street or any nonprofit, sometimes they like other eyes looking at their organization makeup to see if I have any suggestions for them,” she said.

Moran has provided these different services to several places in the state, but most of her clients are located in North Central West Virginia. Some of her clients are ongoing, as she does work for them regularly.

While she is able to do most of her job from home, she does not see her clients there. She always meets her clients at their place of business, or sometimes they go out to lunch. The initial consultation with clients is free, and there is no obligation.

“I want to make sure that I can help them, and if it’s something that I don’t think I have enough knowledge about, I tell them,” Moran said. “I don’t pretend to be an ad agency; I am not.”

She made a lot of contacts during her 20 years with the CVB, and can suggest other professionals who may be able to help with services that she can’t provide herself.

Moran commented that she hadn’t really thought about starting her own business until she announced her retirement to the CVB Board of Director in October of 2012. At that time, two businesses contacted her to ask if she could help with some of their marketing.

“I was surprised,” she said. “I didn’t expect that. But I thought, ‘Well, if people want that, I’ll provide it.’”

She told the two businesses that she would have to wait until after the first of the year to assist them, because she felt that this marketing work would have been a conflict of interest while she was still director of the CVB. She would also have to form her own company.

She said her husband, Charles H. Moran, encouraged her to go for it. Marianne then started researching the steps she needed to take to become an LLC, and it took her a couple months to get the business up and running.

She stressed that she didn’t retire from her previous full-time job to have another full-time job.

With MM Consulting Services LLC, Marianne can choose what work she wants to tackle on a case-by-case basis. She operates this business because she enjoys it, and she tries to limit the hours that she works each week.

This work keeps her mind active and keeps her involved in the business world, while also allowing her to spend more time with her four grandchildren, which was the main reason why she retired.

Marianne and Charles have two children. Their son Chris Moran and his wife Rebecca have two children, 16-year-old Jordan and 9-year-old Cecelia, who all live in Fairmont. Their daughter and son-in-law, Liz and Chet Tobrey, also have two children, 2-year-old Isla and 10-month-old Jack, who all reside in Bridgeport.

Marianne, a lifelong Fairmont resident, graduated from East Fairmont High School and went on to attend West Virginia Junior College and the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College. She has also taken online marketing classes from Georgetown University and continues to go to tourism conferences in order to stay up-to-date.

“When you stop learning, you stop growing,” she said.

Before her career with the CVB, Marianne worked as a legal secretary for a law firm inā€ˆFairmont, and then stayed at home with her children when they were small. She later helped with the Three Rivers Festival and served as the director for two years.

For more information on her business, call 304-777-3607 or find MM Consulting Services LLC on Facebook or LinkedIn.  

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.