The day her boss called her into a meeting room with the news she was being let go, Jen was excited. Her severance package provided the seed money she needed to start her first venture, a digital marketing company.
A Content Marketing Pioneer
While “content marketing” is a buzzword today, when Jen first started on this journey over 10 years ago the term was unknown. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
“We [Jen and her team] saw an opportunity to start educating clients with content,” she says. “I really believed with the technology that was now making this possible it would eventually be the primary way companies would reach out to customers, and we built a business on that premise.”
While businesses were beginning to recognize that creating relevant content was the way to reach customers, they were also asking the question, how do you measure its effectiveness? Jen was determined to find the answer.
“We were working with a large Canadian telecommunications company and using web analytics to measure the content,” Jen explains. “We looked at data, social, digital but the missing piece was context.” Jen’s team created a program to measure all aspects of the content, including context, to ensure they were delivering the right information to the right target audience at the time they need it.
Realizing that more companies could benefit from this software, Jen secured an investment to develop the platform, SqueezeCMM. She now has eight enterprises on board and the business is still growing.
A Talent for Trendspotting
With her finger always firmly on the pulse of the market, Jen has a talent for spotting the trends. How does she do it?
“[Expose] yourself to as much information about what is happening in the world, in the markets, and industry in general,” advises Jen. “In 2007 we estimated content marketing measurement would be mainstream by 2010. We were six years early. Timing is such an important factor in entrepreneurship. … It’s a risk to do things early, and [I’ve] done things early pretty much my entire career.”
A self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, Jen sees opportunities everywhere. She also started B2B News Network (B2BNN), a website that combines journalism and content marketing. B2BNN helps B2B marketers and entrepreneurs develop effective content marketing and digital programs to reach new audiences and generate more qualified leads.
“B2BNN is starting to take off and we’re really proud of that,” says Jen. “Now we’re building a new business, B2B Comix, graphic novels for business that explain complicated technical subjects to a younger generation.”
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Jen has been fortunate to have the support of family, friends and other entrepreneurs throughout her career. “I have female entrepreneur friends I talk to,” she says. “Once I was meeting a friend and I just had a terrible quarter and thought, how do I tell her? She sat down and said ‘I’ve just had the worst time!’ It makes you realize you aren’t alone and we can help each other out.”
Looking back over the last ten years, what advice would Jen give herself when she was starting out? “It’s very important to really assess the opportunities you’re given and make sure they’re a good fit,” says Jen. “Do your due diligence, make sure you’re clear on a fit with an investor, a partner, an opportunity, an employee. Those will be the differences between success and failure.”
Hire Against Your Weaknesses
While people are often advised to try to improve on their weaknesses, Jen has different advice for young entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting a business. “Know yourself. Know what you’re good at and what you’re not, and hire against your weaknesses,” she recommends. “It’s very difficult to get good at something you’re not good at. It’s a lot easier to hire someone who is actually proficient in that area.”
What’s the best part of being an entrepreneur? “Being the master of your own destiny,” says Jen. “And being able to reward your team for a job well done. I’ve taken people on vacations and retreats, and once I bought everyone an iPad. That’s fun.”
After launching three businesses, what’s next for this serial entrepreneur? “I will never stop starting things,” Jen says. “My job now is to start creating a new generation of entrepreneurs.”
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