Ten Marketing Lessons We Learned From Mom

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Yesterday, while thinking about the edge that my mom provided our family, I paused to consider how much she influenced the marketer in me. “Don’t forget to say please and thank you,” she told us, and “always tell the truth” was a value she consistently modeled and expected. Like most mom's, she was a brilliant communications strategist capable of pulling out gems like, "If you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all."

Yes, we marketers can learn a lot if we think back to the lessons our mother’s taught us. I invited the marketing professionals among my Facebook friends to consider and share the marketing lessons that their mother may have taught them.

1. Be polite, friendly, and honest.

There was no shortage of reminders about saying please and thank-you when mom was around. She knew the importance and value of well-mannered requests and in showing respectful appreciation. Misleading, omitting, or altering the truth was simply not tolerated. Like consumers today, mom could always tell if we were anything less than forthright.

2. Keep your room clean.

There were a number of wise submissions from marketers whose mothers kept the environment and safety at the top of their list. “Wipe your feet… Clean your room… Wash your hands… Be home before dark…” As in marketing, it was all about respecting the community, being aware of our surroundings, and doing the right thing.

3. Get your homework done?

Mom’s are among the first to have helped instill the importance of knowing and setting priorities. “No (playing) until your homework is complete” remembered one marketer who grew up when video games were becoming the rage. Successful marketers, both brand and agency, will learn the lesson and do their homework before pitching for a new clients, launching new campaigns, or establishing consumer incentives. “Lot’s of things are arty, fun, and creative, but mom would really buckle down when the less glamorous tasks needed to be completed.”

4. I have eyes in the back of my head.

Somehow mom always seemed to know exactly what was going on. As marketers, even-though we don’t have eyes in the back of our head, we’re reminded to “take a 360-degree view of things in order to really know what’s happening.” Translation: Invest in research and, oh yeah, did I say do your homework?

5. Your differences are what make you special.

There is a world of things you can’t control: where you were born, how pretty you are, and what talents you have. What you can control is how hard you work – and that is how the people who matter most will judge you. “Be proud of who you are.”

6. Well that’s enough of that.

Successful marketers know that there are times to keep trying, times to push harder, even times to keep an important debate alive. But what’s really important is knowing when to say, “well that’s enough of that.” Moms seem to know when it’s time to move on to something new. They’re masters at gaining perspective and not getting stuck on the little things. “Every situation, properly perceived becomes an opportunity. When one door closes, another opens. Be ready to walk on through it.”

7. Don’t make me tell your father.

Moms are big fans of sharing. Like some crafty CFO, they appear to view sharing as another way to make the budget stretch a little farther and to keep peace a little longer. Whether it was your snack with a sister or your toys with a neighbor, sharing was clearly a good thing when you were around your mom. And if you didn’t want to share, well that’s the type of decision that may have caused one young marketer to remembered hearing their mother say “you know your actions have consequences.”

8. You can do anything if you try.

Never accept that someone is right just because they are older or have done the task before. We are all capable of discovering a better way to do things. Effort matters. A mediocre strategy brilliantly executed will nearly always win over a brilliant strategy, poorly executed. “Believe in yourself!” This is so true when it comes to marketing. Believe in what you have to sell.

9. There’s no substitute for a great story.

“A story worth telling is worth telling well.” Moms are great storytellers. They tell us stories that comfort, stories that inform, stories that entertain – even stories that make us curious. “If you tell a great, honest story – and tell it with clarity and passion - people will follow.

I received two short stories that I’d like to share with you as I wrap up the list of marketing lessons we learned from our moms. Both are lessons of authenticity, generosity and selfless respect.

10. Listen with your ears and give from your heart.

My mother is a former nun and has been a Montessori teacher for over 60 years. Nothing about her screams marketing per se but she draws people magically. How? I think it stems from the way she treats children - she always kneels down or bends to speak to a child. She makes sure they know she is paying attention to them and truly listening. No one is ever more important that the human before her. She taught me to respect every person that comes into my life - and to find serendipity with each encounter.

My mom is one of the most empathetic and giving people I know. She is the kind of woman who bakes homemade cookies (for every occasion) and sends handwritten notes (very lovely ones) and remembers everybody's birthdays and anniversaries. She is so thoughtful and selfless, always there to help when people need her, and really with no agenda except to be there and to give. I had never thought about it before, but this is so present in the work I do. To me the best marketing comes from the heart, with a deep care for and understanding of the people you're trying to reach, and a fundamental generosity of spirit. I think this is why I am always striving for real authenticity and heart in my work.

Regardless of their era, training, or passion, mom's really do get it. And they passed it along to us!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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