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“To avoid burnout, It’s okay to say no” with Hannah Mans

Asa part of our series about “Marketing Strategies From The Top” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Mans. A wordsmith with an affinity for strategy and high conversion rates, Hannah oversees the marketing and sales development department for Directive, an enterprise and mid-market search marketing agency. Thank you so much for doing this with us! […]

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Asa part of our series about “Marketing Strategies From The Top” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Mans. A wordsmith with an affinity for strategy and high conversion rates, Hannah oversees the marketing and sales development department for Directive, an enterprise and mid-market search marketing agency.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, or readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

On a mission to change the world, I began my career with the United Nations where I functioned as a national communications officer for the World Food Programme. I then pivoted into the private sector about six years ago.

I learned early in my private sector career that marketing is oftentimes overlooked and underappreciated, which is not a formidable combination for buy-in or resources. Out of necessity, I became data-driven and ROI obsessed. Focusing on business objectives and delivering on the bottom line ensures that marketing has a seat at the table.

For almost the past two years, I have been with Directive, a mid-market and enterprise search marketing agency. I spearhead the marketing department and, starting last December, our sales development team as well.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Not sure if it’s funny, but a mistake that surely taught me a lesson occurred during the planning for a conference about five years ago. We decided to forgo the leading sponsorship and opted to buy two booths and combine them into one behind the lead sponsor space which we had previously. The cost of the space was about $25,000 and had approximately the same exact diameters.

I worked with a vendor in the city where the show was to design the booth. This was about another $15,000. I connected with the conference coordinators to go over our booth plan a week before the event. It was then that I found out that our design was going to block the viewpoints of the booth behind us and would not be permitted at the event. They would have torn down our whole backdrop. This would have negatively impacted the organization from a brand perspective but could have jeopardized our leading field marketing event that was responsible for generating over half a million in revenue the previous year.

In the end, we were able to change the layout that resulted in some upcharges and overtime. But had I taken the time to read and review the exhibitor information in detail. The whole situation would have been avoided. The devil is in the details!

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I suppose if I had to identify a tipping point it would be taking complete ownership of my career and its trajectory.

Before I joined the company I am with, I found myself in a very toxic environment. It took me a lot longer than it should have to realize that something had to change, and it had to be me. I felt like I would be quitting or giving up. But there is a clear distinction and difference between quitting and realizing that you aren’t set up to be successful. It requires taking an inventory of yourself and your environment. If you can honestly look at yourself and know you are doing all you can, then the environment might not be structured for you.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The Directive mission statement is “Directive does beautiful search marketing for mid-market and enterprise companies that share our values. We re-define the global standard for how marketers work, live, and grow.”

What I love about this statement is the last sentence. The statement is applicable to the marketer at Directive but also the marketers we work with, our clients who first experienced the Directive sales process. I even tried to hire Directive back in the day. The thoroughness and dedication to the success of the client (me) were ones I hadn’t experienced and haven’t experienced since that time.

I saw the opportunity to possibly be part of something great with the company, and I told the CEO I was looking for new opportunities. Within a month I left my home, Panama, and moved to California to join the team.

If you look around, every service, software, and profile on LinkedIn are people-centric, innovative, and data-driven. The industry has become a boilerplate with little evidence to back it up.

At Directive, our communication and stories are backed by facts; it’s not an option. We deliver industry-leading search marketing consultancy to our clients. Additionally, last year we launched the first comprehensive database for search marketing and earlier this year we debuted our online education course, Institute.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, the Directive Institute! Many schools don’t offer up-to-date programs for digital marketing, and if you look online for help, there are thousands of videos and articles, making it impossible to know where to start. Institute offers step-by-step training that teaches marketers, from any level of experience, how to build essential skills required to accomplish growth goals, for any business.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

  • Start the day with music that makes you happy and gets you pumped.
  • Prioritize and have a daily to-do list. There is always going to be work to do, and it doesn’t need to get done in a day.
  • Take breaks and work in sprints.
  • Create barriers for yourself. Try not to bring too much work home with you. What you do after work hours, let that be for your own development. It takes time to become proficient or an expert. So, you will have to work overtime to continue to develop if you want to be exceptional. But that is much different than trying to knock off tasks on your to-do list.
  • Keep informed and inspired. This looks different for everyone. I am a people person and I love to talk with people who have a similar job as me, as well as talking with those who are ahead of me in their career journey. For others this might be reading, writing, or listening to podcasts. Understand how you like to learn and do that often!
  • Take time off. You need to recharge and energize yourself.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say my parents. If it wasn’t for the upbringing I recieved, I would not be the person I am today.

Through my father’s example, I learned what a solid work ethic looks like. I also learned the reality of life, that while nothing comes easy, countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears really do pay off.

Because of them I developed a true love of life, sense of humor, excitement for every experience, ability to befriend a stranger, and courage to look fear directly in the face until it backs down.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?

I would say that my favorites are a string of campaigns from Under Armour starting with Misty Copeland 2014 I Will What I Want. The purpose of this campaign was to increase women’s sales and re-establishing their brand as for women, which they certainly accomplished. This campaign was followed by others that told powerfully inspirational stories, for example Michael Phelps in their Will campaign.

As an athlete myself, I loved seeing people like Copeland, Phelps, and Curry, all amazing athletes that also looked like people I could have known. They looked like people I went to high school with.

Through the power of story, Under Armour shined light on how ordinary people, like you and me, do extraordinary things.

If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

I think a successful blueprint starts with the objective being defined and building the structure backward. Often times, marketers are given a budget and told to achieve a result with it, which hardly ever yields the desired results.

When you start with the objective required you can build a strong data-driven strategy to achieve success, which should be tied to revenue.

A change that I hope to see from marketers is a shift in communication, which will change the mindset of marketers but also how marketing is viewed and valued. As marketers, we communicate in inputs (budgets and campaigns). When we can make the shift to focus solely on outputs (revenue) we will be seen as a revenue generator, not a cost center.

Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?

The proliferation of digital information has created a new buying environment. The average consumer is now exposed to thousands of brand messages daily. Deciding what brands are trustworthy is complex, and buyers’ basis of trust has evolved. The full availability of information coupled with the amount of competition, installing confidence, is not ideal but required.

To succeed in this buying environment, organizations must focus on being discoverable through the digital watering holes prospects utilize, such as third-party review sites. In the Amazon era we live in, people don’t make decisions without looking at the reviews of their peers. This is being deemed superior in the buying process than interacting directly with a brand.

At the core, we need to focus on providing information and data that is specifically designed to help our audiences complete their purchasing decisions.

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. It’s okay to say I don’t know. Early in my career I struggled with not having the answers or not knowing something that I assumed I was supposed to. I still do. From the core of my assumption this was wrong, no one assumes you know everything. Be honest, people can smell bullcrap a mile away. If you don’t know something, have the humility to say so. However, be the person that finds out in a timely manner. You will earn respect from your peers and your superiors.
  2. It’s okay to say no. It’s hard to say no as most of us have a desire to want to help. We function as a member of a team! But at the end of the week, month or quarter, when your team reviews results and you don’t hit yours, there are no excuses, the responsibility falls on you. By saying “no” to situations where I cannot be of maximum value has been the biggest game-changer for me.
  3. Success is not an accident. You will fail; it’s going to happen. If you are doing things right, it will happen often. There will be times when everything will look like a disaster, and you will be absolutely confused as to what the future holds for you. However, this just means that you are on the right track. It’s normal. The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that people who are successful embrace failure and learn. It is a wonderful thing that you can become better from what you learn.
  4. Master soft skills as early as possible. The majority of your success, regardless of job, title, and department, is based on your ability to deal with and manage people. Managing people is not only the job of a manager. As an individual contributor you manage yourself, your peers that are critical to your success, and you manage up with your manager.
  5. I wish I knew what imposter syndrome was earlier. I struggle with a feeling of inadequacy. I have felt this my whole life, and it stems from much deeper-rooted issues and causes than just my work. However, my negative internal dialogue and expectations have brought such a heavy toll in terms of my professional work. At times, because of this, it has taken the love out of what I do and clouded my passion and purpose.

As with everything and anything, life is about perspective. l had to come to terms with my unrealistic expectations. I am working on letting them go as I can be so unfair to myself. Reflect as much as you can and be brutally honest, but most importantly give yourself grace. Your future self will thank you.

Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?

As far as tools go, I would suggest having a solid marketing infrastructure built on a marketing automation tool, such as HubSpot or ActiveCampaign. Both have options for small businesses that won’t break the bank.

Having a solid foundation will allow you to build upon it with minimum wasted spend from your lead generation initiatives.

What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

As far as marketing books go, I enjoy Made to Stick. To continue to sharpen skills, I recommend keeping up with successful marketers on LinkedIn and Twitter and listening to podcasts such as B2B GrowthMixergy, and Marketing Over Coffee.

Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?

I don’t really have just one hero. I respect and look up to a number of people for different reasons.

Last October I joined a group called the Revenue Collective. The purpose of RC is to help each member realize their professional potential. It’s a group of revenue-focused executives that’s sole purpose is to be direct and honest resources to support one another’s careers.

This group is a collection of heroes in my opinion, while the purpose of the group is to support each other in our careers. We do discuss equity, salary negotiations, and the sort. However, the majority of conversations that make up our daily Slack conversations revolve around sourcing input from the community to help the development of their direct reports; how they can make an impact on their lives. I find that to be heroic endeavors, supporting those who are struggling, encouraging and being part of someone’s path on the way to their dreams, becoming better each day, and leading by example to inspire others to do the same. These are modern “everyday heroes”, in my opinion.

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? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Leaving the UN was hard because I wanted to change the world. But the truth is, every day we wake up, we have the ability to impact someone’s day for the better, and change the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

I love LinkedIn! You can find me by using my name.

On Twitter, I’m found at @marketermans.

And I just launched a website, hannahmans.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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