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Why I Think Won Marketer of the Year

March 18, 2010

Up until Monday night, not many people took notice of a little pure-play online retailer in Houston called Though we’re well-known in online marketing and internet retail circles, we’d never been recognized as a top marketing company compared to traditional brick-and-mortar or even multi-channel businesses. We’re small in size, employing close to 100 people (though 23 of them are brand new), and our marketing department consists of seven, plus one intern.

When we were called to the stage at the Alley Theater to accept Marketer of the Year award from AMA, we were shocked, and rightly so. The other seven finalists employ incredible marketing talent. Some have marketing departments twice the size of our entire company.

In completing the application – which was all of five questions long yet ended up five pages in length, single spaced – I approached it from the standpoint of, “What do we have to lose?” Putting aside fear of loss enables you to do overwhelming things.

When I was 18, I applied to be a coordinator for a summer program I had attended a few years back. This summer program is a two-week leadership camp for high school students. Coordinators must be “graduates” of the program and have extensive background in the organization. I have no idea how many other applicants there were, but I knew my chances of being chosen to coordinate were lousy. Still, I decided to complete the application.

And boy, did I complete that application. My application (and mind you, I had to create two of them, and mail them across the country) was island-themed, though the reason why escapes me. It was more than a foot tall, more than a foot in diameter. I cut a Styrofoam ball in half to create the island, used a paper towel roll to create the trunk of a tree. I cut leaves out of green poster board, sewed them together to make little pockets, glued them to the top of the paper towel roll, and put the answer to each application question in its own little, leafy envelope.

I made tiny yellow boats. The entire thing sat atop a piece of blue foam board. Blue cardboard waves jutted out of the paper ocean. This thing was magnificent. Over the top? Slightly. But I wanted that position. My chances of getting it based on some sort of personal bias on the parts of the people doing the choosing were absolutely zero. They didn’t know me. They’d be judging me on my accomplishments/qualifications as well as how I packaged those accomplishments/qualifications. If I wanted it, I was going to have to make it impossible for them not to choose me.

I did get that position, and I don’t think I’ve worked as hard on an application since, until Marketer of the Year. I can’t tell you how many hours it took to write it, edit it, rewrite and edit it several more times, gather quantifiable results for nearly every single marketing campaign we did in 2009, and create an accompanying Power Point presentation. We didn’t log hours. But I know this: We went into it knowing (and ignoring) the fact that our competition included Shell, Halliburton, Gexa, Metro, and Igloo. Fortune 500 companies, along with some of the world’s most remarkable purpose-driven organizations: MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Children’s Museum of Houston.

Together, our team put together an outstanding entry, not to garner the prestige of winning (though that feels good), but because we accomplished incredible things at last year and we hoped to make it impossible for them not to see that. We had nothing to lose, and because of it, we won.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2010 2:43 pm

    Oh Esther,

    I adore you. Your passion, strength and wisdom to continue to swim upstream. The good news is you had those in your court that believed you, trusted you and let you run with the ball! Congratulations my dear and may this influence more of my generation to wake up and listen to the new coaches of today!

    • March 19, 2010 12:17 pm

      Sara –
      Your support means the world to me. To us, really. Having people like you in our corner makes it that much easier to succeed. Again, thank you, and here’s to more great things for BuildClean as well!

      • March 19, 2010 12:29 pm

        indeed is one of my favorite clients and projects our company built. I thank goodness for being able to watch your world of Social Media everyday, for that is exactly how was launched into hyperspace and made a trade association think twice about potentially harmful products!

  2. @mackphoto permalink
    March 18, 2010 8:27 pm

    Esther, these are the just the types of stories I love. Where your focus and heart meet to do meaningful things. You remind me of a story of my own, similar to your coordinator position that I went after. I was still in college and NIKE was opening a factory store at the outlet mall in San Marcos, TX. It would be a part-time thing, but it was NIKE, you know?!

    I called Beaverton, OR, and tracked down the regional director of factory stores somewhere in Kansas and on to the eventual store manager that would come to town for interviews. I secured the interview and got ready for closing the deal.

    Funny thing though: I butchered the interview. I’m not sure why it happened; it just did. But as I walked out of that interview, seeing the dozens upon dozens of other applicants, I still knew I had to make an impression, to stand out somehow. I didn’t consider it over…yet.

    So, I headed over to the supermarket, got a thank you card, wrote a thoughtful response to my meeting, and gave it one last shot.

    Then I delivered it to his hotel.

    Twenty years later, I’m still friends with that former manager, and he told me years later that I was one of the few that actually sent a thank you for opportunity–but I was the only one resourceful enough to personally deliver (read: desperately stalk, track down, recon) the thank you. And he concurred. I did flub the interview, but I connected with him with the effort.

    Never say die, right? 🙂

    • March 19, 2010 12:20 pm

      Keith –
      I LOVE your story. Now THAT’S determination. Plus, I’m pretty sure you haven’t changed, you still have that same drive to succeed that you had then. Thank you for all of your support, and for being a good friend 🙂

  3. March 18, 2010 10:19 pm

    Marvelous, Esther, simply Mar. Vel. Ous. This post showsinsight into not only marketing but also leadership, creativity, sticktoitiveness (that IS a word, right?!), courage, determination, and good old-fashioned chutzpah. Your rendering of the summer job island-themed application was pitch perfect: I can see it, practically TOUCH it, in my mind’s eye. You have a gift, gal: kudos, and Right-On! for you…

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