While most students arrive at Harvard Business School (HBS) with decor for their new apartments or dorm rooms, I came with an 11-month-old baby and my husband, also a first-year HBS student. There were some challenging times that first year of B-School, but I learned a lot along the way about managing my time and the importance of “working smarter” vs. “working harder.”
Fast forward to 2021: We now have five kids, with almost a decade between our oldest and youngest (the youngest by only 11 minutes as we had twins at the end!) While some might view motherhood as a potential roadblock to a career in business, I can confidently say that being a mom of five kids has made me a better marketer. Here are the top 7 lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Get to the Point Quickly
Choose your words wisely. I remember back in 2013, my son told me “Anything longer than 7 seconds is not worth watching.” Turns out he was right as Microsoft conducted a study that shows the average person’s attention span is 8 seconds. A recent study by the Technical University of Denmark suggests global attention spans are narrowing because the amount of information presented to us is overwhelming. The most successful marketers are adept at getting their messages across quickly.
2. Contingency Plan. Always.
Maybe this has happened to you. You get to the client location—ready to take them through an important presentation the team has spent hours crafting—only to find they don’t have the correct video hookup so you can’t project onto the screen. Or, you’re traveling and find your checked bag is now lost, and you are left wearing leggings and an old sweatshirt. And your meeting with the customer is at 8 am the next morning. The key takeaway? Expect the unexpected and plan for it.
3. You Might Make a Mess or Two Before You Get It Right
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Successful marketers are able to pivot quickly based on new information or changes in the competitive landscape. When trying something new, be sure to set up and monitor the results and KPIs prior to launch. Use data and results to determine whether a tactic or campaign is successful—and do not base it on emotions. If it turns out you have it wrong, quickly admit it, learn from it, pivot, and keep moving forward.
4. Remember: Sometimes Done is Better than Perfect
Marketers are often confronted with unique market dynamics that require launching a campaign or product quickly. For example, there might be a window of opportunity to displace a competitor or execute the go-to-market strategy sooner than planned to gain “the first-mover advantage.” Companies can lose months of potential revenue because the marketing team keeps revising content, images, or stats instead of just launching with a V1. Do not underestimate the importance of acting quickly to drive revenue and results.
5. Find Inspiration in Unlikely Places
A lot of great marketing ideas come from people in the company who are not in the marketing department. Encourage associates on other teams to bring you their ideas or inspiring creative findings. And as equally important, do not just look at what your direct competitors are doing—look for what is getting your attention. While competitive insights are extremely important, get inspired by creative campaigns that are completely outside of your target market.
For example, my team was recently inspired by the simplicity of an email used in a B2C subscription beauty campaign. Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you work in the automotive industry! But in 2021, more than ever, it is about finding what captivates and draws people’s attention.
6. Listen More than You Talk
My dad used to jokingly say, “If you want to talk to someone smart, just talk to yourself.” But of course, you cannot learn new things when you are the only one talking. Everyone has their own story to tell and when you speak less and listen more, you have more time to expose yourself to innovative ideas. Actively listening is a skill and not one that always has come easy to me. Take the time to practice it. Listening not only helps you better connect and understand what is being said but also helps you consider points of view that are different from your own.
7. Hope is Not a Strategy
Some people think marketers are only doing arts and crafts and saying things like, “I love sparkles!” or “Hey everyone! I have unicorn cupcakes!” With today’s MarTech stack, this is far from true. Effective marketers “run the numbers” vs. “running from the numbers.” Like I tell both my kids and my team, “Math is our friend.” Establish what success looks like and what the expectations are before you launch the product or execute the go-to-market plan. Be sure you have ways to capture the data that you will need and monitor the KPIs.
As a working mom in 2021, I am fortunate to work for a company that has established a “Work from Here” program, allowing all associates to work wherever they are. Being a CMO and a mom sometimes means less sleep and more action-packed days, so I’m grateful to have a level of flexibility that helps me achieve a greater work-life balance.
To the working moms out there reading this: as you continue your own personal journey, remember that the days are long… but the years go fast! Every day we’re given new opportunities for growth and development both personally and professionally, we just have to stay open enough to receive them.
Culture | June 15, 2021