What Marketers Can Learn from Motherhood (and Vice-Versa)

Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day. –Beth Comstock, Former Chief Marketing Officer and Vice Chair of GE

I love this quote because a mother’s job is never done either, nor is it ever static.

I began my journey in marketing similar to how I started out as a parent; young, inexperienced, and afraid – but generally optimistic. Venturing into the “real world” to find a corporate job was scary, even though I majored in Marketing and did well in school.

As a full-time college student and full-time mom of two young children, I was already conditioned to operate on little sleep and a full plate. I wondered how I would ever be able to balance being a good parent and being a good employee, because I knew I’d be losing perks like summer/winter breaks, a relatively flexible schedule, and the afforded slack that comes with being a student.

motherhood marketingI came across a job posting for a Marketing role at a local company, DiscoverOrg, and I decided to apply. Fast-forward three years and I’m still there, working on the Marketing Demand Gen team and raising happy kids. I’ve come to realize my experience as a mother helps me be a more effective marketer, and vice-versa.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Prioritize and pivot – quickly!

Sometimes things just don’t go the way you planned.

I oversee all of our Outbound marketing channels: email marketing, webinars, and tradeshows and events. Having multiple channels to run and working in a fast-paced environment has forced me to shift my thinking to be more proactive and less reactive. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to freak out about every little thing that goes wrong. Spending too much time focusing on problems can prevent you from realizing and acting on pockets of opportunities.

I make a point to spend time with each of my kids separately, so we have our time to bond 1:1. I recently planned a fun mommy-son date night … but it turned out the Groupon I had purchased for our activity wasn’t even valid on the night we went (seriously, read the fine print on those). There I was, with a little boy all fired up to play laser-tag on his special night with me – and I had to tell him we couldn’t. Bummed and frustrated, we sat and talked for a bit, and I realized the activity isn’t what matters: It’s the result. So instead, we went to an arcade where I taught him how to play foosball and ping-pong, we ate pizza, and I let him beat me at a racing game.

Was it what we planned? Nope. Was it a fun mommy-son date night? Absolutely.

At the beginning of this year, my company,DiscoverOrg, launched a new product, a Legal & Compliance Dataset.

To kick it off, we planned to host an invite-only dinner and panel discussion, featuring industry legal and compliance executives, to uncover what the buying process looks like from their perspective. Thanks to the support from my team and our partners on the sales team, things were plugging along and we were ready to launch.

… Until, four days before the event, our moderator experienced a family emergency and could not attend. Then, the morning of the event, one of our panelists fell ill and informed us he couldn’t attend, either. (Did I mention that I was managing the project from Washington state – and the event itself was in New York City?) My well-planned event was unraveling!

It was time to improvise.

Our Senior VP of Sales, David Sill, jumped in to take the moderator role – so we passed him all of our plans for the evening, along with background info we had on the panelists, and he jumped on a airplane. Instead of panicking, we got to work. (As Dave called it, “drinking from a firehose.”)

We adjusted the questions for the panel in a way that suited two rather than three, made sure the on-site staff was prepared and aware of the changes – and then it was show time.

We maxed out the capacity of the space, received great feedback from our guests and panelists on the topic and content, and generated leads for our new product. Overall, it was a huge success … although it didn’t play out as originally planned.

2. Know your audience

 

The way you deliver your message is almost more important than the message itself, whether you’re talking to prospects or ten-year-olds.

Does it address what they really want? Does it address the “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me)? And does your audience take the intended action you have laid out?

When I want my kids to clean their rooms, and they don’t want to (every time, btw), I bake my request into a message that speaks to what they want: “I know you really want to play on your iPad right now, so if you can get your room cleaned up in 20 minutes, you’ll have a whole hour of play time before dinner. The longer it takes to get your room picked up, the less time you’ll have to play.”

Suddenly the issue is not whether they want to clean their room. The issue is how to clean their room fast enough! The message creates value for the recipient and a sense of urgency, while promoting the intended action.

PRO TIP: If they’re still slow to act after this offer, walk by and update the Time-to-Clean : Time-to-Play ratio: “Only 30 minutes of play time remaining!” (This works in marketing, too.)

At work, I write a lot of email copy and I love doing it. I’m in a unique position where my target buyer is in a similar role to my own: sales and marketing. Prospecting emails are judged harshly, and for good reason – I am taking time out of someone’s day to make a request, so it better be worth their time. The emails I write must be short, concise, engaging, and address the WIIFM.

My role forces me to be empathetic because I must keep the challenges and pain our buyers experience every day top of mind. I have to think about how I can present my company’s marketing and sales intelligence as a solution to that pain, and talk about the value it adds to their role.

I have to think about what motivates them.

3. Show empathy

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Empathy helps me build a strong relationship between our solution and our buyer, as well as with my internal teammates.

At times, I have felt disappointed and let down by my bosses and my peers. And I have done the same to them. We move a mile a minute, and every single person on my team is juggling many tasks and wearing a lot of hats, so I try to approach conflict by trying to understand where they’re coming from with the intent to find a resolution.

Raising children has been my greatest teacher of empathy. I am constantly reminded that these little humans that will become adults one day, and my conduct will be regarded as an example – whether it’s positive or negative.

My daughter had been writing a persuasive writing essay on increasing funding for deep-sea technology. When I asked her how it was coming along, she told me she didn’t have any more work to do on it. Later, I found out wasn’t true. I was tempted to assume that she didn’t finish writing her paper because she doesn’t care about her schoolwork, or that she wanted to upset me. I was upset, but I wanted to understand why.

After some prodding, my daughter finally told me she didn’t understand the assignment very well and felt so anxious about completing it that she just wanted to put it aside.

So, we got to work: reviewing the criteria for the assignment, what she had already written, and the areas where she was struggling. We rewrote some sections, moved some things around … and ultimately put together a pretty convincing argument to increase funding for deep-sea technology. She got a better grade than she was hoping for – and learned a valuable lesson in writing: Your first draft is never great.

I learned a lesson, too. Just like when a co-worker misses a deadline for a collaborative project, it helps to get to the root cause of why a project didn’t happen the way it should, address it, offer help, and move forward together.

Showing empathy creates an opportunity to build trust.

4. It takes a village

The most committed parent can’t raise children alone. The teachers who educate our children, the daycare providers who care for our children while we work, the family members who jump in to make dinner or bring kids to ball practice – it takes a village to bring ideas to reality.

My children’s education and daily well-being is only possible because of the support from school staff and after-school care providers. Our goals are shared, though we may have different responsibilities. Both I and my kids’ teachers have a vested interest in seeing them grow academically and socially, so I try never to miss curriculum night, share night (where the kids present what they’ve been learning to the parents in class), and parent-teacher conferences.

My son struggled with developing his fine motor skills – things like handwriting and using scissors – so his teacher and I met to discuss what I can do at home to support the school’s work with him. My son was pleased to find out that playing with Legos is encouraged to build fine motor skills (and somewhat less pleased to find out I bought more handwriting practice workbooks than Legos). Our combined effort is making a big difference for him.

Likewise, the most innovative marketer cannot drive the business alone. My team’s success is possible because of the support and collaboration of our sales department. When planning an event, I’m concerned about our booth design, the promotion activities, and the logistics; but I also have to keep sales targets and priorities top of mind. Ultimately, sales is the ones on the trade show floor – not me. When we generate leads from trade shows, the type and quality of leads affects how sales will perform against them.

My marketing goals at shows are typically lead gen, conversion rate, and pipeline. None of these can be achieved without collaboration with our partners on the sales side of the house. Alignment is realistically the most effective approach to achieving revenue goals, for both departments.

5. Progress, not perfection

There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. – Jill Churchill

The Mom guilt is real.

I didn’t volunteer to chaperone a field trip. I didn’t help out with homework enough. I was too hard on my kids for forgetting to put away their toys after I asked (yelled) 10 times. I yelled.

The marketing guilt is just as real. Sometimes campaigns don’t launch smoothly, there’s a typo in an email, and I forget to add tracking to links. I am constantly thinking about what I could have done differently in these situations. Anyone who knows me personally knows I have high standards and am a harsh critic – saving the highest and harshest for myself. I take my job as a mother and a marketer very seriously.

When I first started in marketing at DiscoverOrg in 2015, I felt like I was drowning in work and wasn’t spending enough time with my kids. When I took time off, I felt guilty for not being able to catch up at work. Something had to give, or I couldn’t be successful (let alone “perfect”) in either area of my life.

I’m learning to accept that I won’t be perfect, in the office or at home.

A DiscoverOrg mantra, provided by CEO, Henry Schuck, is to strive to get 1% better every day. The idea is realistic, achievable, and applicable to both home and work. It allows me to be human, and fallible. In exchange for giving up my pursuit of perfection, I strive for positive, incremental change.

I may have an idea of my channel’s true performance potential – and if we’re not there yet, it’s okay. It’s okay because I plan my roadmap to getting there, and I work every day to do a little better than the day, or month, or quarter before. My team measures, tracks, analyzes, and iterates over and over again, until we achieve what we’re looking for. I am so proud of the work my team produces because we give 110%, even when we miss.

I take the same approach with raising my kids. With kids in two different grades, with unique personalities, and with opposite work schedules between my husband and I – there’s a lot to stay on top of! I and my kids have historically dreaded homework time equally, so I’ve tried different methods of getting it done without tears and frustration.

We use our family calendar to note when bills, schoolwork, and activities are due, and we have a baseline expectation of 30 minutes of reading per night. I used to give the kids books to read, but rather than encouraging a love of reading and building comprehension skills, it became a chore. So we changed to rules: As long as it’s an age-appropriate chapter book, they’re free to read what they want. Now they come into my room and ask what what certain words mean or how to pronounce something, because they want to understand the story.

Sometimes, the stars align and I crush it at work, cook my kids a home-cooked dinner, jam through homework without any meltdowns, and nobody fights me when it’s time to go to bed. Other days, I totally drop the ball at work, pick up dinner from a drive-thru, skip homework, and bedtime is a battle for our souls.

Good or bad, I’m aiming to get 1% better tomorrow.

Nina Wooten

Nina Wooten is the Senior Manager of Outbound Demand Generation at DiscoverOrg. Nina oversees all things outbound, ..read more