Well, hello! Last week our Sr. Copywriter had a fun chat with Jen Jee, our Chief Relationship Officer. The two of them discussed a great many things, including Mickey Mouse versus Bugs Bunny and the history of ymarketing. You can read the interview below or listen to it in the embedded video at the bottom of this blog.
Okay, we’re gonna get started. Hey everybody, this is James Ninness. I am the Senior Copywriter here at ymarketing and we’re gonna do another interview. This time we are with Jen Jee. Jen or Jennifer? Do you even care?
If you’re mad at me you can call me Jennifer.
Okay, well then, Jen Jee. I’m not mad at you yet.
Oh, so sweet.
We’ll see if I call you Jennifer at the end. We’re gonna jump right in. First question: Who are you?
I am the Chief Relationship Officer, which is a fancy way of saying that I manage all of the Strategic Client Services teams for all the clients at our agency. I also have analytics teams that report up to me, as well as the marketing and business development teams that report to me.
So, just a small role?
Small role. Yes.
Second question: What is ymarketing?
Well, everyone has a little bit of a different spin on that depending on their role within the organization, but ymarketing is a bunch of marketing professionals that pull together the best and the brightest, that help solve problems for our clients, and not just “solve them,” but solve them sooner. We’re about making sure that not only are we delivering results, but making sure we do it in the shortest possible time.
Alright, this is, uh—My next question, this is a hard one. So if you need to take a minute before you answer…
I will deep breathe.
Yeah, you prepare… Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny and why?
Okay, don’t get me wrong… I like Disney. I do. Very much so and I have small children, but Bugs Bunny? I’m sorry. He’s a smart ass. Why else wouldn’t I like him? I definitely identify with Mr. Bugs Bunny.
Do you spend—When you guys go on vacation, would you rather go—Magic Mountain is the one with Bugs Bunny, right?
I think so.
Knotts? No, Knott’s has Peanuts.
Yeah, Knott’s has Peanuts.
I don’t know… I know Disneyland has Mickey Mouse!
But let’s be very clear, I’m more Marvel than I am DC.
That’s what I should’ve asked. Yeah, that’s my fault. I screwed that one up.
But I don’t turn down DC either.
No, no, no. I mean, they’re both fine, but if we’re talking movies, DC has had a rough go.
They need to hire us…
How long have you been at ymarketing, and how has your role evolved in that time?
I’m going on six years here at the agency. When I started there were between 10 and 12 people here at the time. It’s changed a lot, which began with making sure that we could bring on some of the great talent that we have right now. I started by making recommendations to the CEO and the COO, Ryan and Brian, that the first thing we do is bring on someone to manage recruiting and human resources. Partnered with her to kind of like, build out the team and start expanding. My role has always been, first and foremost, to bring a consolidated, white-glove-service approach to helping our clients, not just a pure account management aspect, which a lot of companies associate with things like “sales teams,” or, you know, “order takers,” or “project managers,” or, you know, “making sure the invoices are paid.” That’s not what we do. We are an extension of their business and we’re their business subject matter experts. So, we do strategically partner with them. All that other stuff comes along with it but its not really sales, it’s about helping them solve problems. That’s first and foremost what my role has been here, it’s just expanded over time and as we’ve grown.
What do you wish people knew more about ymarketing?
What people coming into our fold don’t know is that we have never done a full, active outreach program for trying to generate new business. The things that we’ve been weakest at is being our own best partner and going out there and telling our story. Right? Because organic growth comes so naturally out of just delivering results and being good partners. The story that we’re telling now is that story that we’re trying to work and let our current clients tell our story for us. We’re putting together marketing programs to be able to do that, with things like this—
Right? This interview. But really, everything we do is born of our ridiculous love affair with data, or data, depending on where you come from. But everything we do we collect data on. Even our creative — you, being a creative. It’s a process of understanding everything we can about consumers to make sure we’re developing things that are going to work in campaigns for our clients.
Helping them understand that at the root of this marketing agency – we’re not just digital – we’re data. And it drives everything that we do. And we are full service, so…
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? That, by the way, imagining you not doing this is very difficult for me because I see you doing this a lot. But what would you be doing if you weren’t doing marketing?
Yeah, stay out of the industry. Don’t just name another agency. Tell me, if you were out of this realm, where would Jen Jee be?
Did you hear Powerball is up to, like, 510 million right now?
I haven’t bought my ticket yet, but we might find out soon where I would be, if I wasn’t doing this…
That’s where my head originally went.
This is what I do. It’s not something I ponder. You know… And to a certain degree, coming into this agency when it was smaller has allowed me to do things that I thought I would want to do. As far as creating my own agency or helping an agency is something I wanted to do, it’s allowed me to do that. It also allows you to know all the not so fun things that come along with that as well. You know, not departing too much from making sure that I stay connected with clients and their business, and getting caught up in running a business – I’ve kind of already done that and come back.
What else would I do? I don’t know. Keep helping clients. That’s why I like the business: You get introduced to different types of clients all the time, different types of challenges in businesses… You just keep getting to apply that knowledge.
Nothing else. Other than sleeping. Does that count?
Or winning the Powerball.
Okay, you’re stuck on a desert island. And, for whatever reason, there’s an entertainment is fully functional. What’s the one movie you bring with you?
The one that still sticks with me when I was growing up that I identified with was Dead Poets Society.
Was one that just really, kind of, shook me. That and, I know it’s weird, but Good Will Hunting as well.
That’s a great movie.
So, those are the ones—I go to those types of stories that are very much character driven, deeper, motivational. If you look at my Strengthsfinder you know why.
Where would you like to see ymarketing in five years?
Definitely increasing to a level where we have more than one office. Would love to have some core representation closer to where some of our core clients are definitely a Midwest and east coast type of a position. Continuing to grow and make sure that we’re evolving our support to make sure our teams feel like they’re winning internally, which they are. I know that we can always do better. And so that’s kind of what’s fun being on the leadership teams is to say, let’s talk to our teams and see where we can invest internally and invest in them. Evolving to support the clients in different ways. I want to be more in a very proactive role of helping clients see a clear path to where they could be.
We’re gonna grow. And, you know, whether we refine our outbound marketing our not, it’s gonna continue to happen.
What is the single most important quality in a leader?
And you only get to pick one. This one I’m going to be a stickler on. What’s the one quality you value among all others in leadership?
Respect. Not the kind where you demand it of people, but that you understand that as a leader you need to give it to people. That there’s a certain amount of respect that is owed to people who have signed onboard your company, um, to become part of a team, to move forward and accept that you’re in a leadership position. It’s the only way you can gain it, if you know how to give it.
If you only allow me to give one, it’s that. But I will go to some of the strengths that I have, which is individualization–
Wait, what is that one?
That one is about understanding people and what motivates them and where their strengths are. And then being able to build effective teams cross-functionally. So, as you know, we do Strengthsfinder here. Everybody has talents and all of them are valuable. And you can really understand that and bring your teams together to say, hey, just because you happen to be not an achiever, check-the-box type of person, but you’re more a strategic, futuristic thinker—We just pair those teams of people together so those that think also have people who feed off of doing.
That’s another quality: You don’t judge teams, you have to look at them as individuals to understand how they best operate well together. Don’t just judge people on merits with a set of criteria.
Alright, last question: What, not in what we do, but what makes ymarketing different than the rest of the agencies out there. There are a ton of digital agencies. So why not go with them? Why would someone want to come to ymarketing instead?
When we were working on developing our core values, it was just that. We spent a really long time working through what makes us who we are. When it first started I said we need a mission statement. We need to know who we are. We need to know how to explain that to the people who are working for us, first and foremost. It wasn’t about attracting customers or differentiating ourselves in the agency. It was, we’re starting to recruit and people want to know more about why y, right?
We started having conversations about, who are we? Like, here’s why you want to work for us. Some of these people we were recruiting were people we worked with for years, so it wasn’t that big of a leap because they knew who you were, but they needed to know about the promise and the opportunity was to come to a shop that was smaller. We’ve all worked at bigger shops – much bigger shops – the WPPs of the world and things of that nature. Why come to this little place and take the risk on this, right?
It kind of started with, who are we? The few of us that are here, the leaders of the agency, the CEO, the owners, the COO, Human Resources and myself, when we were interviewing we just started talking about who we are. When I started here it was more of a welcoming you in, treating you like family, and trusting in the expertise you brought here to help everyone succeed. So, the core value of family was the first that popped out.
The core value of real that we have has always been a point of contention… There’s the “real” as it’s written, you know, in the speak of someone who created it, which was, “If we’re having fun it’s because we probably are.” But, the real that I’ve always projected is yeah, there’s fun, you’re seeing us being as wacky as we are, but the real is we’re transparent. What you see is what you get. While you’ll see fun, you‘ll also see honesty and you’ll also see, we’re not gonna mince words, we’ll do it professionally, but we’re gonna be honest. And that goes with each other as well. So, we have a very honest environment that we work in.
We have smart. And I will tell you, and after the folks that we have been recruiting over the years, it’s that’s born of the fact that there are a ton of smart people here. And for people that have even been in the industry for a while, we’ve recruited in here, they can say, “I thought I knew things until I got here.” And, it’s true. And we feed off of that with one another.
And we’re all pretty much exceedingly competitive.
We are driven to deliver for our clients. We are driven to do better than we did before. We are driven to do better than the guy next to us, but not at his expense. Highly motivated, highly competitive environment to make sure that we’re always bringing 110% every day. And the minute you don’t, someone will call you on it.
Yeah, it’s kind of annoying. There are days I come in a little tired and…
And I do not pity you.
No, I don’t.
From a caring perspective, another one of our core values… From the day I started, it was always about, hey, if we’re successful then we should be sharing that success. Literally, with only 10, 12, 15 people, committees were already starting about how we can give back. Whether it was a charity where we took the pants of our COO’s toddler son at the time and stapled them at the bottom and threw them up on a pin board and made sure we were throwing all of our spare change and cash into it—
Wait, that really happened? That’s a thing?
I think the first charitable event that we had was called Nolan’s Pants Charity. And Nolan is Brian Yun’s son and we just grabbed a pair of his jeans, stapled them on the bottom, and threw them up on a bulletin board. We were a very small shop at that time. There was no bulletin board so we had to buy one. Threw it up on the bulletin board and started stuffing dollar bills and quarters inside of it and made sure that we were giving that money back to families that needed it.
It’s always been the spirit of the agency to do that. And now we do it in expansive ways to make sure that we’re giving back. But truly, all of those core values, we didn’t need someone in, coming in and analyzing us and taking a marketing perspective to how we could differentiate ourselves. It’s just generally who we are.
And our existing clients that work with us, after we determined what these core values were and we went and did some interviews with our highest-level clients… Those things all came back without us saying who we were. And that’s how we knew.
So, why should another client or marketing firm or anyone who needs our services work with us instead of somebody else? Because it’s not just a bunch of advertising jargon. It’s not a marketing differentiator. It’s just generally who we are. And we have a lot of clients they can talk to who can attest to that.
Nice. That’s it. We’re done. You made it! Thank you for your time.
Oh, it’s always a pleasure to sit and spend time with you, James.