How Motherhood Made Me a Better Marketer (and Vice-Versa)
Nina Wooten is the senior manager of outbound demand generation at DiscoverOrg. Just in time for Mother’s Day, she shares the parallels of her journey in marketing and motherhood.
I began my journey in marketing similar to how I started out as a parent; young, inexperienced, and afraid—but optimistic. As a full-time college student and full-time mother of two young children, I was already operating on little sleep and a full plate. After graduation, I came across a marketing job and applied.
Fast-forward three years and I’m still on the demand gen team and raising happy kids. In fact, the experience of motherhood helps me be a more effective marketer—and vice-versa. Here’s what I’ve learned that I apply to work and life.
1- Prioritize and pivot—quickly!
I oversee our outbound channels: email, webinars, and tradeshows and events for my company, DiscoverOrg. Running multiple channels in a fast-paced environment has forced me to be less reactive. There simply isn’t enough time to freak out about every little thing that goes wrong.
The same is true at home. I like to occasionally spend time with each of my kids separately. I recently planned a fun mommy-son date night … but it turned out the Groupon I had purchased for our activity wasn’t valid 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—and we couldn’t. After some tears, we went to an arcade where we played foosball, ate pizza, and he 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 launched a new product. To kick it off, we planned to host an invite-only dinner and panel discussion. With help from the sales team, we were ready to launch… until our moderator experienced a family emergency and could not attend. Then, one of our panelists fell ill.
Did I mention that I was managing the project from Washington state—and the event itself was in Manhattan?
It was time to improvise.
Our senior VP of sales agreed to moderate, so we gave him some background info, and he jumped on a plane. We adjusted the panel questions, made sure the on-site staff was ready—and then it was show time.
We maxed out the capacity, received great feedback, and generated leads for our new product. 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 as important as the message itself, whether you’re talking to prospects or ten-year-olds.
When I want my kids to clean their rooms, I bake my request into a message that speaks to what they want: “If you can clean your room in 20 minutes, you’ll have an hour to play on your iPad before dinner. The longer it takes to pick up your room, 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!
At work, I write a lot of email copy. Prospecting emails are judged harshly, so my request has to be concise, engaging, and address the WIIFM (“What’s In It For Me”).
3- Show empathy
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 what motivates them.
At times, I have felt let down by my bosses and my peers. I have done the same to them. I try to approach conflict by trying to understand where they’re coming from.
Raising children has been my greatest teacher of empathy. Recently, my daughter was writing a persuasive writing essay on deep-sea technology. She told me it was done, but later I found out that wasn’t true. I was upset, but I wanted to understand why.
After some prodding, she finally said she didn’t understand the assignment and felt anxious about completing it. So we got to work: We rewrote some sections, and ultimately put together a pretty convincing argument. She got a good grade and learned a valuable lesson: 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 understand why, and to 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. Teachers, daycare providers, family members—it takes a village to bring ideas to reality.
My son struggled with fine motor skills—things like handwriting and using scissors—so I asked his teacher what I could do at home. My son happily learned that playing with Legos is encouraged to build fine motor skills, and our combined effort is making a big difference.
Likewise, the most innovative marketer cannot drive the business alone. We need the support of our sales department. When planning an event, I’m concerned about booth design, the promotion activities, and logistics; but I also have to remember sales targets. When we generate leads from trade shows, the type and quality of leads affects the outcome. Alignment is the most effective approach to achieving revenue goals, for both sales and marketing.
5- Progress, not perfection
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). 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.
When I first started in marketing, I could never seem to find enough time for my kids. When I took time off from work, I felt guilty. I couldn’t be successful, let alone “perfect” in either area of my life.
My company’s CEO, Henry Schuck, has a mantra: Strive to get 1% better every day. The idea is 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.
If my channel’s performance isn’t there yet, it’s okay. It’s okay because every day I do a little better than the day before. My team measures and iterates over and over again, until we achieve results. I am proud of my team because we give 110%, even when we miss.
I take the same approach with my kids. They have to read 30 minutes every night. I used to give the kids books to read, but rather than encouraging a love of reading, it became a chore. So we changed to rules: They’re free to read the (age-appropriate) book they want. Now I can’t get them to put the book down.
Sometimes, the stars align and I crush it at work and cook my kids a home-cooked dinner. Other days, I drop the ball at the office, dinner comes from a drive-thru, we skip homework, and bedtime is a battle for our souls.
Good or bad, I’m aiming to get 1% better tomorrow.
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