I think if creativity were in everybody’s home, we would be so much happier as a society and realize our potential.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Jay Atcheson.
Jay Atcheson is Senior Vice President of Marketing for R2integrated, a leading full-service digital marketing and technology agency. Jay has marketed products and services throughout the U.S., Canada, Asia, and Europe. Under his leadership, teams have consistently challenged their industry peers and won multiple marketing awards. Jay started his marketing career in Canada, holds degrees in both marketing and communications, and currently resides in Maryland, drawing his inspiration from his wife Jill and daughter Emilee.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
One of my first marketing jobs was with a Nike program. The company had just bought Bauer Hockey and was eager to expand into the amateur ranks leveraging a well-known Esso program for young kids. One of my responsibilities was to send the youth teams their medals after their tournament wins.
At that time, “attention to detail” maybe wasn’t my highest priority. So instead of sending 11 medals to one junior hockey team in British Columbia, I actually sent 1,100 medals. My boss made me hop into a truck and drive seven hours, one way through the Rocky Mountains to retrieve those extra 1,089 medals. He showed me you can’t get results without being accurate. I still carry that lesson around with me.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Yes, later in my career I was working at Allegis Group, one of the bigger global staffing firms. One of my responsibilities was to teach marketing techniques during new recruiter training. Quite often I wasn’t getting buy-in from the class because I didn’t completely understand what they did. So, I asked my supervisor if I could step out of my corporate role and recruit for six weeks. He said, “Absolutely, nobody has ever asked to do that before.” After making my first placement and learning the ins and outs of recruiting, I now had buy-in from the students and the attention of our organization. That knowledge led me to introduce an account-based marketing investment to our leadership team and establish a close relationship with the sales team. That was 15 years ago before ABM existed — I’ve aligned marketing with sales ever since because we need each other to be successful.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Ground yourself in whatever excited you about this career path. For those like me, it’s creativity, or maybe you’re analytical and want to dive into data. There is a reason your life choices led you to marketing and you should celebrate that as often as possible. You will undoubtedly find new value for your team a purpose and an ability to thrive.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
With all the tools we have as marketers — predictive analytics, programmatic ads and so on — we can’t lose sight of the human experience. It’s important to use these tools to create a connected experience for the customer.
For example, my wife and I were recently in the car with our four-year-old daughter at the end of a long day, so we ordered Chick-Fil-A for her on the way home. Thanks to the chain’s app, the restaurant not only knew when we would arrive, but what color car we had and who exactly to look for to bring us our food in a touchless, COVID-compliant experience. It was just an incredible, connected full-circle experience.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1.) Find a mentor in every phase of your career. I have reached into other departments and far beyond that to other industries in companies around the globe to find mentors that inspire me and can act as an unbiased source of insight. One of the most inspiring was a mentorship from the former CEO of Evernote, who had also been a leader at Google X. His guidance led me to pitch a new innovation leadership role into the stagnant automotive industry.
2). Look outside your four walls. Groupthink is a real thing, so when I wanted to be great in the B2B space, I borrowed from B2C. My team in the staffing industry actually launched the first successful mobile job app to North American job seekers by repurposing the user experience of multiple consumer apps.
3). Never assume. Just like Marketing Automation is anything but automated, there are other areas where the tendency is to blindly trust but they can catch up with you. I once interviewed and accepted a leadership role in financial services and had been educated ad nauseum about their closed-loop reporting capabilities. Once onboarded I was surprised to find out that was the name of a software module they had recently purchased and it had yet to be implemented, let alone provide reporting.
4). Make Big Bets and play offense. I kind of built a career on this, but I think it’s critical to continually raise the bar to remain relevant. If COVID is forcing budget reductions, build a metrics-based case that supports proactive investment in marketing. Choose a hypothesis, a visible strategy, make it known across your organization and place your bets accordingly. There is a lot to learn and great opportunity earned when you can rally a team behind a shared goal.
5). Make customer value your top priority. I use a model from a company called Force Management. It’s simple, but brilliant in its simplicity. It helps us continually focus on the critical factors in the sales process. That’s the key and the background for everything we do. It’s all driven by customer value.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
Two books, in particular, have always resonated with me — Outliers and The Tipping Point, both by Malcolm Gladwell. I often reference Outliers, even with folks who have kids and young children. It provides an interesting way to think about shaping your kids’ lives. I also like Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, which makes me think differently about how we got all got here. Marketing strategies tend to be repeatable. We all run the same plays, so getting inside someone else’s head on how we can be doing things differently helps us stay relevant.
One other book is a classic by Edward de Bono called Lateral Thinking. I use it for dealing with everyone — from my daughter to top executives. It doesn’t describe a super complex way of thinking, but it’s a technique that we definitely don’t use enough.
One more question! You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I may have established a theme here, but I’d love to inspire a movement to encourage creativity in everyone’s home. The concept of having a Great Idea Book in everybody’s house, sitting on the edge of the dining room table, is really powerful to me. The world has a lot of issues and challenges, and quite often we refuse to think differently. Our school curriculum or their funding doesn’t always support that side of the brain.
At home, we focus on keeping creativity at our core. Our family creates a new obstacle course on our driveway every other day during COVID to have fun as a team. We have hermit crab races once a week to keep the competitive spirit alive. We watch Nailed It on Netflix and attempt to replicate that fresh originality in our kitchen. We have a lot of fun and we’re super creative with it. I think if creativity were in everybody’s home, we would be so much happier as a society and realize our potential.
Thank you so much for sharing so much value with us!