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10 Things Parenting Has Taught Me About SEM

Published: January 30, 2013

Author: Molly Shotwell

Today’s post is by Ruth Rich, sterling Account Associate and rather sleepless mother of two young daughters.
They aren’t always this happy.
Adding a second child to our family came with a unique set of challenges. Apparently, though, it wasn’t enough a challenge for me! Three months after our second daughter was born, I decided to give up the staid life of financial editing for the Wild West of SEM. Being new, I started using tools I’d learned throughout my career and quickly recognized how the high-speed, think-on-your-feet world of SEM had a lot in common with the break-neck pace of parenting. And if I could survive becoming a parent (twice), maybe, just maybe, I’d could survive this too!  Herewith are my top “learnings”:
1. Keep Calm – Kids count on you to put up a strong front and provide direction. Clients expect the same. Once the storm is over, then you go into a room, out of earshot, and freak out and throw things.
2. Keep an Eye on the Orange Shirt, But Watch the Playground – As with life, you need to have an overall sense of perspective within an account. If there’s a certain ad, KW, or other idea you’re trying out, you definitely need to watch that piece, but if traffic is tanking, there’s a larger problem. Much like when you’re at the playground, it’s important to watch that orange, green, pink, or whatever shirt your kid is wearing, but if you don’t realize that shirt is careening off a precipitous slide until it’s too late, you’re bound to have bigger issues.
Lots of moving pieces…keep your eye on what matters.
3. No Two Kids – I Mean, Clients – Are Alike – We’ve heard this phrase over and over, but it truly can’t be stated enough. One kid may jump into situations with full enthusiasm, while another may take a while to warm up and get involved. Depending on your clients’ industries and products, you’ll need to come up with strategies that take these differences into account.
4. Set Expectations –When an outcome is jarringly unexpected, especially if it’s negative, people, both big and little, can lose confidence and begin to question your choices. If you set expectations at the beginning of any project, it’s easier to account for nuances or outliers. Which brings us to . . .
5. Establish Definable Goals – Know what you’re trying to accomplish and make sure you understand what different clients find important. Define and communicate the steps that are necessary to accomplish these goals. Collaborating to define these goals and steps invests everyone, clients and kids both.
6. Nurture Your Relationship – It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day of managing an account or household that we forget we’re actually working with people. Quick check-ins – how was your vacation, is your sick son feeling better – go a long way.
7. Be Firm, but Know When to Give In – It’s easy to dig in your heels, especially if you are undeniably right. But this often leads to stalemates and resentments and, in the case of clients, broken relationships. Plead your case, but listen to differing opinions and try to find a compromise.
8. Own Up To Your Mistakes – None of us likes to admit when we’re wrong. But the sooner you acknowledge those mistakes, the sooner you can rectify them, setting a great example and precedent for clients and kids alike.
9. Get Creative – The road less traveled can often yield the best results. Don’t get frustrated when something isn’t working; get creative. Whether it’s getting a stubborn toddler to finally try a vegetable or raising a client’s average position, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
10. Trust Your Gut – Just like you know your kids, have the confidence that you know your accounts and clients. You’ve spent time with them. You’re invested in their ultimate success. If you have an inkling that some metric may behave a certain way, whether good or bad, as the result of a small tweak or major initiative, listen to that instinct.
These are just a few of my takeaways. SEM is one of the few industries where people can rely on both personal and professional experience to optimize results. Use that hard-won parental knowledge for all it’s worth!
– Ruth Rich, Account Associate

25 E Washington Street
Suite 420

Chicago, IL 60602(650) 539-4124


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