Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Sep 18

Marketers as Creatives

I scored better on the math part of the SAT than I did on my verbal. I love analytics. The first third of my career in marketing was spent only in paid search, conversion rate testing and Excel. I am a counter. A calculator. I have been in charge of the budget for most of my career, magnetically pulled to the numbers that make or break companies. On paper (or on LinkedIn, because who really uses paper anymore) I am a numbers woman.

But I’m not. I’m a creative. And, much to my own surprise, the past few years I have found myself identifying more and more with this role of creative. 

There are probably a million reasons for this. The web has steadily become more visual. It’s now a marketplace of ideas, an ecosystem of creative conversation, and an eruption of bold promises in beautiful colors. Or at least that is what it feels like to me. There are classes now to help us marketers learn design, and branding, and typography. Our teams are now heavily dependent on the bar to which we hold our design standards. Brands are built on beautiful foundations, and marketers’ campaigns are expected to deliver more than leads…they are expected to deliver experiences.

If you asked me 8 years ago what an ideal marketing team looked like, I may not have included a top-notch designer. I believed then the design team could live independent of marketing. But no more. Today, when I grab coffees with startup founders they ask who they should hire first on their teams and I say one of two roles – an amazing web designer, or a brand marketer that appreciates design theory. Every single marketing channel now requires a level of creativity that historically was not required for success.

It’s the new norm…marketers as creatives.

I know the school of thought out there around technical marketing. I adhere to it on many levels. I’ve taken Team Treehouse classes, MarketingMotive courses, and learned SQL just so I could hang with the technical cats around me. There is no denying that technical marketers are valuable. But I hope we don’t forget how hard it is to find a true creative. I also hope we don’t shut off our creative sides in hopes of fine tuning our technical skills. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but given how much there is to learn, it often ends up being the case.

Tomorrow’s marketing will be driven by creativity. We will all be playing in new mediums to a new generation on new devices with new expectations hoping for new outcomes. We will literally all be flailing in a sea of creative marketing campaigns, and the ones that stand out will have put in the time to understand design theory, conversation marketing, psychological theory, and the power of persuasion.

Continue reading →

Sep 11

Embrace Your 8 Mile Moment

I’m a big fan of the movie 8 Mile. For those that know me well…this may surprise you. I’m not exactly a rapper. Okay FINE, I am in no way a rapper. My friend Ruth Burr is, in fact, a rapper or at least she is when we end up at karaoke, but I digress.

I love the movie. I love Eminem in the movie, I love the struggles, and I love the story. For those of you that have seen it you might understand what I mean when I say “have your 8 Mile moment” but for those that haven’t lets run through the gist of it – a guy starts on the streets, has a horrible life, makes himself into something, is fighting to reach his dreams. He finds himself in the final “battle” (aka when two rappers…rap off) and the goal of these is to blast each other in super witty ways, with rhymes, and mortify the person so much they can’t come back with a rebuttal.

Rapping is hard, right?

Anyway, they get to the final battle (beware there is some uhmmm bad language in there). Eminem gets up there and rather than blast his competitor…he blasts himself. He calls out his own faults. He covers his own mistakes and failures. He does it so beautifully, so well orchestrated…there is nothing left for the competitor to do. It’s a “drop the mic and wait” sort of moment. I’ve watched the movie a dozen times…tearing up at that part…every time.

There is a power in being vulnerable. We forget it sometimes. Opening up about where you came from, what you failed at, your weaknesses not only robs your competition of ammunition (which can be very powerful, particularly in big brand building) but it’s also a kickoff to a 1-to-1 moment between you and someone else. Being vulnerable breeds authenticity. Authenticity breeds trust. Trust is at the heart of everything.

Whether you are a company or a person, you should have your 8 Mile moment. If you are a company you should stop ignoring where your product falls short and get in a room, face it, and learn how to spin it. Not “spin in” like as in “fake, manipulative, marketing.” Spin it like as in “honest, transparent, campaign marketing.” How can you share where you are falling short and ask your customers for feedback and help to improve? If you messed up your communications as a company and offended someone – don’t do press and say you’re sorry – build a campaign that makes a promise to do better. Opening up about being human is just that — being human. The last time I checked, every consumer in the world was human. So there is that. And it is powerful.

If you are a founder, or entrepreneur there is a good chance you appreciate – hustling. You are doing it. You are getting it done. You are also likely faking 50% of what you “know.” I get the fake it until you make it mentality. I’ve done it in the past. I’ve also traded it in for this 8 Mile moment philosophy. I’d rather be open about where I fall short, staff in people to support me, ask for help when needed, and double down on what I know. I find my startups have moved faster for it. Continue reading →

Aug 12

Busy Moments

I wandered Pinterest tonight for a quote to get up that speaks to how I’m feeling lately…because I am too busy to write a whole post. I then wandered Pinterest, unsuccessfully, for over an hour. What the hell?! That one didn’t quite work out as planned.

Nothing jumped out. Or rather all of them did. Everything seems to resonate these days. Quotes about leadership and resilience and priorities. Quotes about forgiveness and love and being scared.

Quotes about being bold. I’m not sure if it’s because I feel bold these days, or because I’m so inspired by bold friends — ones that chose to leave jobs and wander the U.S. and write, ones that uprooted their lives to start a new adventure in a new state, ones that handed in the easy gig for the opportunity to be challenged. It’s been a hell of a summer that’s for sure.

It’s amazing what a season can bring. One season that is full of busy moments. Moments that push us to our limits…ones that push us into wandering images hoping one speaks loudly enough to sum us up. To make sense of the noise. I did come across this one…

…and I couldn’t help but think…my days are so packed full of busy, challenging, amazing moments. I’m kind of in love with it.

Sure…I bitch about how tired I am. My to-do list is out of control. I haven’t been at inbox zero in four days. My apartment is a mess. I miss yoga. And running. And sleep. And crossing things off my freaking list.

But my cup runneth over. With moments. Great ones. I’m thankful for that.

I’m also thankful for Pinterest which gave me a chance to get lost among the words. One of my favorite things. Hope your Monday was a lovely one.

 

Jul 29

We All Skipped Steps, No Really We Have

Today was a good day. I mentored at the NWEN here in town (which is an amazing program we should all support if we can), I pushed through quite a few to-dos, I remembered to actually eat dinner (yay!) and perhaps my favorite thing today — I kicked off my executive coaching again.

Now I’ve done executive coaching in the past in a number of forms – calls, coffees, weekend retreats, etc. Not much stuck to be honest. It’s a hard thing to get right. You have to find the right person, you have to be in a place where you can really absorb it, you need time to invest in it…you need to not be jaded about personal growth.

I don’t say that last one lightly. There are times I’ve been jaded about personal growth. Jaded because I’m not sure “investing in myself is even working” or jaded because “I can barely keep up with my daily responsibilities to others” and so on and so forth.

Executive coaching only works if you can enter an hour long session with an open and clear mind and be [gulp] vulnerable.

Lucky enough for me I found an amazing coach here in Seattle – Stacey Sargent from Connect G & D. I’ve known Stacey for years through organizational trainings she has done, empowerment seminars she led, and more. I’ve sipped cocktails with her, and coffee (many times). She is a gem of a woman, and also the executive coach that finally pointed out to me…in the most perfect way…I need some freaking help.

That’s always fun to hear. But I do. We all do. I would ramble on about all these big goals I have, and all the challenges that are freaking me out, and I’d talk about these amazing people that inspire me, and so on and so forth. Stacey would always bring it back to – but what do I want? How am I going to get there? What tools do I have to overcome the inevitable obstacles.

Big stuff for sure.

So anyway, she’s great, we kicked off our official training again today and I am stoked. I’m hoping to blog after every session about at least one or two lines that came up. The ones that stopped me in my tracks. The ones I wrote done and underlined…okay maybe a few times.

So today’s standout: we’ve all skipped steps. 

Some context: Imposter syndrome is a real thing – for men and women (maybe more prominently in women, but let’s not make this blog post a gender discussion). Particularly in startups we spend a lot of our time kicking ourselves for what we haven’t done. I have never coded a wordpress blog – there I said it – I have only hired people and paid people to. I’ve never taken a design class. I’ve only hired in, worked alongside, absorbed theory and managed great designers.

We get pissed that we haven’t done X and Y, and we start to think – shit I wish I hadn’t skipped that step. But you know what?

Continue reading →

Jul 02

Sometimes You Have to Ask Twice…or Six Times

I’m three weeks into the new gig as CMO, and whoa…what a whirlwind it’s been. There’s a lot to learn when you start a new job. Admittedly, I underestimated how much there is to absorb and process. A new product. A new industry. A new team. A new set of processes. A new philosophy. So freaking much. While it’s been fun to completely envelop myself in newness, one thing has stood out as harder than the rest…

Asking for help. Yup. I said it. I have had to ask a lot of questions. And perhaps even more annoying to me…I’ve had to ask the same question twice, or three times…fine maybe even six (some of this is really hard!).

I like asking questions. Or I thought I did. I’m realizing I like to ask questions in tandem with people. I like asking questions for exploration sake. Like, “what are our options for the new homepage story” and then we banter. You first. Then me. Then you. Then me. It’s my favorite thing. That dance of creativity.

You know what I [apparently] don’t like? Asking for help, and then asking for it again. It disarms me. I hate interrupting someone else’s flow for my own reasons. I hate not being able to wrap my head around something when a smart person explains it well. But you know what I realized in the last few weeks? 

That’s so ass backwards.

Asking someone smarter than you to explain something (once, or twice, or in 100 bullets if need be…which I have in fact done this past week) is exactly what we should be doing, particularly in startup land – where time, and momentum are critical. Me slowing down to “go to the Googles” (as we have all done a thousand times) is detrimental for a number of reasons. One big one being — context in startup learning is everything. I think we like to generalize the path to success at a startup, and I think its dangerous. Continue reading →

Jun 18

In a Startup Messaging Spiral? Return to Your Values

I’ve spent the last week in meetings. The good kind of meetings. The “coffee fueled, big brained, lots of ideas, and so many questions” type of meetings. I’ve been running through a SWOT analysis, marketing positioning exercise and whole product analysis with my new team and its reminded me of something really important  - your values are more than just a cultural compass. They are more than the code on your wall, or the acronym you send around to new hires — your values are at the heart of your message, your product, and your promise. 

The values your team exudes are the exact words that you should want to share with the world. They should be laced in your headers, your bylines, and your positioning pyramid. I think too often startups think of their “values” as internal beacons, and then they go spend months trying to come up with a “sellable” story. Yuck. Not only is that poor marketing, thats just a waste of time.

Wondering how you should sell your product? Look around at your teams and ask them what they love about your product. Why do they work there? What are they willing to stand behind…no matter how f*cked up it is at times. I guarantee their answers are the ones that should fall in your “stength” column, they are your UVPs, and all that other marketing jazz.

Who you are and what you offer should not be fabricated. It shouldn’t be composed by marketing gurus, and pulled together like some mad scientist experiment. It shouldn’t be “just outside of reach,” or “sort-of-kind-of” the truth.

You are your values. Return to them and there is your messaging. That’s what you lead with. Continue reading →

Jun 15

Happy Father’s Day Dad…You Are One Hell of a Man.

Dear Dad,

I wish I could say there was a million things I wanted to say to you, but it simply isn’t the case. You’ve always appreciated honesty. You and I have been able to share every story, every question, every fear…always. I’ve said it all (okay, okay…maybe the wine helped, but whatever). We’ve said it all. Thank goodness for that.pic of dad I

I thought to myself – what’s left for him to know? He knows I love him. He knows I’m thankful for him. He knows that I consider him to be the most amazing father, and that he really is my best friend in this bizarre world.

He is the one that understood why I traveled to a different coast. He was the one that encouraged me to wander, and do startups, and explore. He gets that I put more pressure on myself than the world, and he loves me anyway. He slows me down, and reminds me just how lucky I am…just when I need reminding. So what’s left to say? Continue reading →

Jun 11

What I Did with a Month Off & What It Taught Me

Well that was interesting. A month off from work that is. As some of you know I finished my last day at SEOmoz Moz, back on May 15th, and I am kicking off the new gig at BigDoor, another Seattle startup, this Wed June 12th. Okay so it’s not exactly a month but let’s roll with it for our purposes here. 

So what did I do?

snack time on the beach

A few things—some more productive than others. Big things include spending a week in Kauai…by myself, traveling to Duluth, MN to keynote my first ever conference, and heading back to Vermont to enjoy over a week with the family. In between that I did a lot of pilates, running, sleeping in, and wine sipping. I called friends I’ve neglected for too long, I read a lot, and listened to some great music. 

Other random things include:

  • Staring out a window for half an hour…watching a squirrel. True story.
  • Played cribbage with my pops for the first time in half a decade. Best two out of three actually. If you MUST know…he won.
  • Painted my nails like 10 times in 30ish days. No really. Strange I know.
  • Got a massage/spa day in three different times in four weeks. Particularly gluttonous. 
  • Did a cartwheel (okay maybe a few) in my living room. I don’t know – it just felt right at the time.
  • I Vined for the first time ever. And the second, and third. Let’s be real – I’m hooked.
  • I read a book to my nephews before bed for the first time in years. I also was there to tuck them in three different nights. Goodnight kisses and all. #lovethemsomuch 

I also did a little work in there:

  • Loaded up over 20 post drafts up, expect some good ones coming your way.
  • I kicked off my stint with Entrepreneur’s Team Digital, and we’ve since published two posts. Honored to be contributing with such a crew of amazing people.
  • Went back and forth with my dev team on my ISITaYES app- which had its final build in TestFlight go out yesterday. Holy crap people, its almost time to launch.
  • I may, or may not, have done a ton of competitive analysis, and industry mapping in my new company’s vertical – customer loyalty and engagement– just don’t tell my new boss. I was supposed to be “recharging” and off the grid. Shhhh.
  • I revamped my daily feeds, killed a bunch of daily mailers I get (fine…I kept Gilt & Ideeli, stop judging me!), and enveloped myself in my favorite blogs again.
  • I watched SEOmoz launch into Moz, and took a deep breath of pride, and wished my old team the best of luck on this new chapter. They are going to kill it.
  • I keynoted my first ever conference –Zenith Social Media Summit in Duluth. I was a bag of nerves if we are getting honest up in here, but it went amazingly, and I’m really thankful for the day. Subsequently, I was asked to keynote two more shows this year. Wowzers. #stoked

Then what?

After travel, random things, and some work…the only other thing in there was the purpose of the break itself – the recharging. I did a lot of that. I ate a lot of whole foods, I slept a great deal, I laughed a lot. I practiced gratitude meditation (a new fave of mine) and I hugged a lot of people (sorry if this got weird for anyone). Continue reading →

May 13

Life Bitch Slap #6: “Be Thankful”

It’s been a crazy two months as I finish up my tenure at SEOmoz. I’ve met with dozens of entrepreneurs and had more coffee meetings than I thought humanly possible in that amount of time. I’ve talked about big ideas, following dreams, and getting after it. I’ve been inspired to say the least.

During all of that I’ve watched as my team at SEOmoz nears the big launch we have been working on for a year. It will be, in many ways, a new beginning for our awesome company, and I’ve been lucky to see it through. I’ve been fortunate to see all those hours come to fruition, and truly couldn’t be prouder of what is about to go live. The team has worked so hard, and we’ve built something pretty special. I’ve been honored to work with that team to say the least.

I’ve also spent the last two months asking myself what I really want, and perhaps more importantly what I don’t want from the next move. I’ve weighed a lot of opinions from very smart people. I feel like I learned more about myself in the last two months, while asking myself hard questions like who do I want to work for and around? What industry excites me? What do I want my day to day to look like? How big or small a team do I want to join? It’s been enlightening to say the least.

The best part is through all of this I was some what of a hot mess. Okay, okay…quite the hot mess. I was here and there and all over the place. I would wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if this leap was a crazy one, I’d roll into weekends tired and weighing all the offers and options. Settled was not a word I can say I felt the past two months. Somehow I managed to turn these amazing opportunities into something to stress over rather than something to embrace and be thankful for. 

What the whattttt.

I was lucky enough to grab coffee with Andy Sack, a local entrepreneur and VC, and he brought up this idea of “serendipitous clarity” and how if you just open yourself up to it, it will find its way to you. Things will make sense. I love this idea. I’m a planner. I’m Type A. I calculate and spreadsheet the hell out of my life. But I am also a dreamer, a creative, a wanderer in many ways.

My moment of serendipitous clarity over the past few weeks came unexpectedly about a week ago. I’m not sure it’s exactly what Andy had in mind, but I certainly think it had the impact he spoke to. A moment that made me go “whoa. yes. be thankful.” Continue reading →