Call Your Parents More, It’s Good for Them and You

momdadpicv2I recently returned from a Midwest holiday road trip.  When you live over a thousand miles away from family, you quickly learn to cherish every face-to-face minute you get. Despite having just driven through four states to reach my parent’s house, on Christmas Eve I volunteered to tag along with my father as he made the 90-minute trek to pick up my brother (he was flying in from Florida).   We talked about the weather, jobs, past family vacations…. even made a pit stop at a local sporting goods store we would frequent together when I was a kid, it was quality 1:1 time.  My heart was full. It was such a wonderful time that I started questioning why I do not talk to him more regularly.  Same with my mom.  I used to call them every day. But as my career advanced and family expanded, finding time to make a call {regularly} has been tricky.  How pathetic does that sound?  Tricky, seriously!? Sure, we text and keep in touch thanks to social media but there is something special about hearing a parent’s voice – it is calming, comforting.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Child Emotion Lab says that even just hearing your mother’s voice over the phone can have the same stress-reducing effects of a hug.  Knowing this, for those of us fortunate to still have parents around, why don’t we call more often?

It is hard to believe I’ve been working in hi-tech for over a decade. Tack on that my roles have been in sales and marketing where lead goals, pipeline goals & revenue goals can be compared to riding a fast moving roller coaster ride with lots of twists and turns – to say my stress levels are high, is an understatement.   All good of course.  I heart sales and marketing, but let’s be real, it is an emotional career where you experience incredible highs and intense challenges.

My first taste of working in hi-tech was for a software start up in Tampa.  I would work 65 hours (easy) a week.  I had a good 45-minute commute and would call my parents at least once a day either to or from work.  Some that have a long commute might decompress by listening to podcasts or music.  Not me, I would decompress by sharing my day with my parents and the advice they gave was invaluable.   While I don’t miss the commute, I certainly miss those regular conversations.

A few years ago, my husband introduced me to best-selling author Jon Gordon.  Gordon has authored many motivational books on the power of positivity.  He is also known for encouraging people to select #oneword at the start of a New Year.  The concept behind choosing “one-word” is to select a word you can incorporate into your daily activities to help drive inspiration to reach both professional and personal goals.  In 2018, I chose Driven and this year I selected Create.

There are so many things I want to Create in 2019.  Create another well-oiled team that excels at pipeline creation (which we are off to a great start).  Create more time to focus on maintaining a positive physical health state.  Create more time for my family.

I am thankful we decided to pack up our party of five and head east to spend the holiday with family.  The encouraging conversations I had during that week were just what I needed to kick-start the New Year in high gear!  Creating more time for family, and that includes ma and pa, is a top priority for me.  And now that I know a published study shows how positive the effects can be by hearing your mom’s voice…..I can’t wait to get back into the habit of decompressing with my parents, having more family dinners with my littles/husband and killing our team’s pipeline goals.  Happy New Year and cheers to a healthy, prosperous 2019!


Shaping The B2B Buying Experience One Broccoli Experiment At A Time

broccoliAccording to a series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, it takes a tenth of a second to form an opinion of a stranger’s face.
W-O-W.  We judge people quickly, or at least their appearances.

I will not attempt to blog about opinions formed around people and their beauty levels (phew!), but it did surface [a lot] while researching topics on forming opinions.  I’ll stick to what I know best – shaping b2b buyer opinions of marketing ads.  There are three tough critics I use as guinea pigs to sharpen my opinion shaping skills:  my littles, ranging in age from 6 to 2.

When selling my littles on how delightful and oh-so-tasty green vegetables are, I quickly discovered I have approximately 5 seconds to convince them. And in those 5 seconds I better nail my pitch – there are no second chances.  For example, saying “It’s time to eat broccoli and chicken for dinner” doesn’t influence their opinions in the least.  I get groans of all kinds and nose wrinkles.  BUT, experience tells me to position it more like this, “You need big muscles to play outside.  Eat your broccoli and you’ll have more energy to play 15 more minutes.”  Whether we like it or not, we live in a what’s in it for me world.  We know in a matter of 7 seconds (or less) if what is being presented will help us get what we need.  I like to think that my re-spin on eating greens is somewhat getting them to understand the benefits of eating healthy.  When they eat healthy it allows for more time to do what they love the most – play outside.

In business, you’ll often hear marketers talk about an “outside look in” versus an “inside look out” approach. What’s the difference?  When you look outside first, you’re putting your opinions/beliefs on hold and instead choosing to listen to the needs of your audience.  Listening to feedback gathered from the voice of your customer and letting it guide your go-to market messages is a good summary of embracing outside-in.  When you answer the what’s in it for me question in your marketing messages, you begin earning trust and credibility – two attributes that lead to success.

Elisabeth Lagerstedt is a retired CEO from Inquentia Group that understands the importance of answering what’s in it for me.  She shares a few questions you can ask yourself to evaluate whether your organization leans more towards an outside-in approach.

1) Do you know what your targeted customer segments are, what needs and behaviors they have, how to best solve their relevant problems and what kind of value you provide them?

2)  Is there a strong fit between your target segments’ needs, your value proposition, your overall business model, internal processes and a customer-oriented organizational culture, with focus on creating value for your customers? And do you feel that it is a fundamental necessity of running a successful business?

We have less than 7 seconds to shape the opinion of buyers and make an impactful impression.  Understanding what motivates your audience by turning up your listening ears (a phrase I use with my littles all the time) is what has helped increase click and conversion rates in my marketing efforts. If positioning a statement to be more outside looking in gets my kiddos to eat their greens because that will get them more energy to play outside – why would the same concept not apply in business to buyers?  They need “x” to deliver “x” results that fulfills a need to make their jobs easier and yield greater success for the business.


Bring magic to your life with gratitude.


Someone recently asked if I had any stress in my life.  They went on to expand that I never seem to sweat things and have actually been given the nickname “Zen Jen.”  My response:  with ever increasing pipeline goals, three children 6 years old and younger and a spouse that is shaping the future of America – I got stress.  One way I combat stress is by expressing thanks and showing gratitude.  Research shows the more you give recognition (when it is actually deserved) you will lead a healthier, happier and less-stressed lifestyle.

A colleague in Europe shared her appreciation for how I “bring magic to the team.”  What a flattering and kind compliment.  I like to think of it this way:  strong leaders mentor, encourage and empower teammates to go out and make the magic happen.  Magic comes when you care about people – serve and empower them.  It’s really that simple.

At a recent Quarterly Business Review (QBR), I ended my presentation with positive quotes I kept in my journal that sales reps had said about marketers on the team.  Reminiscing on the good the team was empowered to do not only offered encouragement to the do-gooders but also encouragement for me on the results leaders get from the power of praise and expressing gratitude.

Expressing gratitude can lead to more optimism, but thankful people should never shy away from the negative. Robert Emmons, a gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, says that “while we often associate gratitude with focusing on the good and avoiding the bad, the key to leading a thankful life is embracing setbacks as part of your overall journey.”  How do I interpret this and apply it in my leadership style?  Celebrate the wins and analyze the losses.  Losses are negatives that need to be embraced and learned from.  Always keep your win count ahead of your loss count….but never fear losing or negative situations.  Those situations make us wiser and drive us to be better.

Why write about gratitude?  One chapter of my professional life is quickly coming to a close as I move on to another opportunity.  I can’t help but reflect on the last three years and study what went well and what went not so well.  Lately I’ve noticed I am becoming a slight hoarder.  I keep things that many would probably trash.  While cleaning out a desk drawer I found a stack of thank you notes from the last several years.  Notes from vendors, friends and colleagues.  Reading those cards reminds me how much empowerment and encouragement really does leave an impact.  An impact that builds confidence levels, respect and trust amongst a team….amongst a family.  Shining a light on gratitude will always take you further then dwelling on weaknesses.  One thing I’ve recently changed in my vocabulary (thanks to John Gordon’s The Carpenter) is saying “I get to….” Instead of “I have to….”  It is amazing how changing one little word in a phrase we use often can greatly impact how we view things and find appreciation in situations that may not always be ideal.

As I embark on a new adventure later this month I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude.   I am thankful for a family that has supported my career progression.  I am thankful for leaders giving me opportunities to grow and expand my skills.  I am thankful for my inner circle of professionals (that has grown in three years) that make me a better leader every day.  I’d encourage you to express more gratitude and I guarantee you will see the magic unfold right before your eyes.

Bring magic to your life with gratitude.

Lessons From The Playground.


We took our family to the park this weekend to get outside and enjoy cooler temperatures. I was sitting on the park bench (basking in the sun) when my daughter asked to play on the swings.  I told her to run through the jungle-gym tunnel and I’d meet her on the other side.  As I walked around the tunnel, I noticed she stopped running half way through.  She saw an unexpected opening to the left.  Instead of continuing her sprint through the tunnel – which was a straight shot to the swings – she climbed out the middle opening and around the top of the tunnel.  It took her much longer to get to the swings.  She had to climb the steps out of the tunnel and then balance walking over the tunnel.  I asked her why she did not keep following the path directly to the swings.  She responded, “Mommy, it was more fun going the long way to the swings.”

When is the last time you took the path less traveled? In our professional lives we often forget how rewarding it can be to go on a journey that may not always be easy.  A journey that takes us away from day to day routines and pulls us out of our comfort zones.  My 4 year-old reminded me how important it is to take the path less traveled to a) keep life interesting b) stretch myself to be the best I can be and c) live life with zero regrets.

Keep Life Interesting – Never Get Old

Throughout my career I have been pushed by a handful of great leaders to step up and challenge myself. They encouraged me to take on new responsibilities and explore areas I never would have considered if I had not been nudged.  I recently heard Nina Vaca (CEO of Pinnacle Group) speak at the Colorado Technology Association’s Women in Tech Conference. She shared to never get old, just get tenured.  My interpretation of this is to never lose your curiosity.  Explore new areas to keep yourself in the always-be-learning mode and cash in on the experiences.  I find when I’m learning, life is much more fascinating (and fun).

Stretch Yourself – Be Curious

The digital team I lead is a curious team. They are full of new ideas and networks to pursue and test.  One of the best digital leaders I work with encouraged me to approve a new Google program.  That Google program generated some much needed demand – that helped build pipeline rather quickly.  As leaders, we must always encourage ourselves and our team to take risks and be curious.  Try something new, take a different path.  You will never know if a new program you go out on a limb for – will pay off and score you a homerun if you don’t take risks and channel your inner child-like curiosity.

Live With Zero Regrets – Be Gritty

For the longest time I had a pinned Tweet on my Twitter account that referenced being a leader who lives with no regrets and takes chances. Grit: Lead when no one else follows. Make mistakes, look like an idiot and try something new without even flinching.  One of the biggest fears amongst adults is not taking enough chances and living with regret.  I certainly know it is one of mine.  I once had a manager share they had an opportunity to work for a start up in Silicon Valley that was offering them more equity options than salary. They turned it down and regretted the decision.  Especially when that little start-up (Ebay) exploded 3 years later.  Take chances.  Be gritty and have zero regrets.

Summary and Thank You Ava

My daughter thought she might miss out on something by not exploring that hole in the tunnel on her way to the swing. Despite it taking longer, she still chose the path less traveled and had a ton of fun along the way.  It always amazes me the lessons we can learn from our children if we pay close enough attention (thank you my adventurous Ava).  I am in a fantastic life season right now and really enjoy seeing my daughter’s sense of adventure and curiosity grow.  This whole experience reminded me of the ending from Robert Frost’s, The Road Not Taken: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Coffee, Chicken and Software – all winning big with personalization.

This morning I made time for the drive-thru at Starbucks.   When I pulled in, the line was incredibly long.  I decided to be patient and as a result was car number 12.  The line moved quickly and I had “Jen’s chai tea latte” in hand, after about 4 minutes of waiting.  The barista was warm, kind, quick and called me by name – my kind of service.  I noticed on her screen it said something to the effect of “be kind, be personable – make their first experience of the day wonderful and memorable.”  I’ve had similar experiences at my go-to lunch of choice, Chick-fil-a.  Being called ma’am and hearing please, thank you and my pleasure Jen – always puts a smile on my face upon exiting the drive-thru line (and is a big reason why I return).

Both of these organizations understand the value behind a positive customer experience.  They know how special it makes us feel when they use our name and good manners.  These positive experiences reminded me how fortunate I am to work with a talented group of sales and marketing professionals that understand the power behind exuding a personalized, helpful experience for buyers.  We’ve recently gone through social selling training where the most successful sellers know how to personalize messages that make a buyer feel valued and willing to take the time to chat.  How do we know this?  We closely track our results (thanks to dashboards), daily.

In February we implemented a different type of buyer-engagement approach in our marketing and business development efforts.  Many have heard me use the term Smarketing; which simply means when you start thinking in terms of Sales AND Marketing and not Sales VERSUS Marketing – winning gets easier.  By personalizing our messages to buyers and serving up an experience that brings trust and value to buyers, we have exceeded our appointment setting goals by 48% over the past 90 days.

Marketing a challenger brand has many hurdles, but we have not let that stop us from transforming our team into a value-driven organization that understands how to win when you personalize the buyer’s experience.  It isn’t rocket science and we certainly have kinks in our processes that we continuously work on, but hearing that sales bell ring more and more – reminds me we have made the right decision to focus on the buyer’s experience and ensure they feel valued and trusted the very first time we engage them.


Cowbells and Culture. Why we ring the bell.

We have brought back the sweet sound of the cowbell. For those that sit near it, we apologize for the excess noise it brings to our open desk floor plan. But in actuality we are #SorryNotSorry. Why are we not sorry? Every time it rings, it means more opportunity is generated for the business. Opportunity in two forms: 1) Deals for the company and 2) Positive reinforcement for the sales and marketing culture.

As I prepare for an upcoming trip where I’ll be speaking about Smarketing, I am reminded how the magic really does happen when the marketing and sales organizations align. Hearing that cow bell ring, tells the broader business the two teams are becoming one and joint efforts are paying off. Self-doubt can sink in very quickly when prospecting results do not arrive quickly – whether you are a marketer or a seller. Countless hours are invested in marketing programs designed to generate pipeline. Multiple outreach efforts, loads of rejection, mountains of no responses….can all lead to self-doubt. But those that choose to persevere, succeed. Succeed by growing more pipeline for the business and encouraging one another that each meeting we set, each call we connect with, each social response received gets us that much closer to hitting our goals.

Best-selling author Jon Gordon says it best, “Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” The next time you hear a cow bell ringing, stand up and give that seller some positive reinforcement – and know the bell helps generate positive energy needed to build confidence levels and create a healthy culture. Positivity is a competitive advantage.

Smart People Inspire Me. But can infographics inspire?

Fact: infographics are on my mind.  Talking to smart, confident people inspires me.  Let me clarify: I define smart people as subject matter experts that understand confidence is arrogance under control (thank you Walter Bonds).  They are such a joy to speak with and learn from.  When I start a new project I like to reach out to my smart people and get their 2 cents.

When I started researching the “punch” infographics add to a marketing asset I found my smart people had varying opinions.  Several shared they felt infographics are best used when serving up powerful statistics. Others felt good digital storytelling (cool name I love for infographic), with heavy pictorial elements, can really pack a punch.  One thing is for sure, well-made infographics are 30 times more likely to get read than text (Source).

Historically, I have only created infographics that hone in on 3-4 points that show statistical data supporting each point.  But to be honest, mine have had minimal clicks and views. When I spoke to social media smart people, I was told a mistake I made was not taking that infographic and making 2-3 social grams out of it.  Social grams are more — you guessed it — social media friendly, even easier to digest and share than a traditional infographic.  I’m currently taking a stab at storytelling infographics that are still easy to digest but have relevant imagery to drive home specific point(s).  In addition, I have added a few social grams into the production mix to see if that helps the asset perform better.

My friends over at The Dialog Lab are helping me on this latest project and convinced me to give social grams a go!  So as my son says, “green means go” — I am going for it!

Here goes nothing! Cross off my bucket list “create a therapeutic but helpful marketing blog site.”

Writing has never been therapeutic to me.  Until now.  I am a good writer as it is in my blood as a marketer. I am hoping to enhance my overall professional writing skills with this blog site and share what I learn (which makes me happy – achiever and learner).  I like to tell stories.  Stories are experiences and experiences are what we learn and grow from.  This blog will focus on a variety of things.  From current marketing projects I am working on professionally (as much as I can share), to conversations I have with friends that stimulate a marketing idea, to ideas I feel have merit and have either researched or just decided to go rogue and put them to the test.  I’ll share good and not so good results.  Feel free to comment, like and share what I am sharing. Cheers to me — for crossing an item off my bucket list!