If you’re selling into the marketing function, you should get to know Jodi Watson. With over 20 years of marketing leadership experience for organizations like Eddie Bauer, Williams Sonoma, and Petco—where she served as SVP/CMO—Jodi knows a thing or two about what it takes to sell to marketing execs.

This month, we sat down with Jodi to learn a little more about her experience on the frontlines of e-commerce growth, how marketing has changed (and how it hasn’t), and what kind of advice she’s been giving salespeople since she started working with us as an Emissary.

E-commerce: From Fad to Force

While Jodi graduated college with a degree in Marketing, she also studied Marine Biology—and it’s this love of science and data that helped her succeed in the early days of e-commerce. At Eddie Bauer, she approached her initial catalog marketing duties with the same methodical rigor of a scientist: testing hypotheses, analyzing results, and adjusting strategy accordingly.

As catalogs began to take a back seat to e-commerce, the online experience would seem like a logical next step for Jodi and her expertise. Once data took on a more prominent role in the space, Jodi found that it wasn’t much different than what she had already been doing in world of traditional catalog marketing.

“E-commerce became very data-driven,” she said. “What I’ve seen change over time is that, as more and more people have gotten involved from a consumer standpoint, the requirements to be more data-driven continue to evolve. The data is driving the decision-making for the consumer, but also for the marketer.”

And while digital marketing has grown at a tremendous pace over the past 20 years, Jodi noted that a surprising amount has remained the same, a testament to the great work done by pioneers in the field all those years ago.

“Digital advertising and email marketing have remained the most constant. Email marketing was something that we were doing back when e-commerce first started,” Jodi said. “It was very much following the tenets of direct marketing and catalog marketing, and those tenets haven’t changed dramatically.”

Listen to Lead

Throughout her career, Jodi has served as a marketing leader for a variety of companies of all shapes and sizes, and she’s seen the unique benefits each have to offer. At startups, she was exhilarated by the fast pace of change, where the freedom to fail faster led to big breakthroughs. But larger organizations, too, brought their own set of benefits, with their larger customer rosters enabling Jodi to work with a more diverse portfolio of brands at once.

It’s this diverse experience that makes her so well suited to offer advice to organizations looking to revitalize their online presence, regardless of size. To get started, Jodi stressed the need to attack the issue from all sides.

“Strategy needs to work from the bottom and the top,” she said. “There need to be strong relationships created with the C-level team, and you have to engage people in the middle, as well. You need to lead everyone around that vision, so keep it simple at first to rally everyone around it.”

It’s this people-centric approach to problem solving that has made Jodi such an effective leader. For her, the best managers are coaches—mentors, rather than bosses, who identify and bring out the best of their employees by listening to their needs. According to Jodi, it’s how you build a strong team, and it’s also how you build business.

“Listen to people, and they will give you the answers,” she added. “ To get to the truth, watch what people are doing, rather than asking them what they’re doing. Watch the consumer’s behavior to identify patterns and blocks—you have to get engaged and really look at what’s happening.”

Sellers, too, should take note, as Jodi has found the best salespeople to be the ones who knew both their targets’ brands and businesses inside-out.

“Potential partners need to be a fly on the wall and do the work to understand a brand,” she said. “If you’re pitching to a company, have you called their customer service line? Have you bought anything? Have you interacted with this company at all? I’m surprised at how often a vendor will come in to pitch without spending any time getting to know the company.”

Jodi the Sea Shepherd

In 2017, Jodi set sail with Sea Shepherd, a non-profit marine conservation organization. Her missions were to bring relief to islands affected by hurricanes in the Caribbean and to protect the endangered vaquita, a species of porpoise, from extinction. During the journey, she wore a number of hats, ranging from cook, medic, and deck-hand to quartermaster and diver.

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Photo: Sam Rose Phillips @samrosephillips

“My goal was to do whatever job I need to do. I’m going to be an individual contributor, work my heart out, learn a lot, and just be part of the crew,” Jodi said. However, she couldn’t suppress her natural leadership qualities for long, and she soon found herself becoming the crew’s advisor, helping to improve communication between the ship’s diverse international crew.

“We had 18 crew members from 12 different countries,” Jodi noted. “So there needed to be someone who could broker the conflict that arose between some of the different cultures and personalities. I found that I was just naturally drawn to that, and I enjoyed it.”

At home, Jodi’s also dedicated herself to addressing another endangered species—women in tech. Women are still the majority of buyers in the consumer world, yet they continue to be underrepresented in the leadership roles tasked with targeting those segments. And while she’s seen change in recent years, she admits there’s still a long way to go.

“Young women can’t apologize for their ambition, and they can’t apologize for how they’re going to operate in their organizations. It’s going to be challenging, but I think it will change, and we’ll do it by modeling great behavior and strong behavior every single day.”

“No matter who you are in your work life, your personal life, and your extracurricular life, you ought to carry your strengths into all these spheres.”

Jodi the Emissary

Having always felt a sense of responsibility to help others who are doing great work, Jodi’s transition to becoming an Emissary was a natural one.

“My biggest motivation for working with Emissary is to help people achieve their professional and personal goals. I love talking to the different clients and hearing about their challenges and offerings and what they’re trying to achieve.”

Jodi’s vast experience has enabled her to help B2B sellers improve their preparation and better shape their messaging by learning all they can about a prospect’s businesses and needs ahead of time. Her experience on the buyer side has made her a valuable resource for salespeople looking to get an edge in penetrating accounts, and Jodi has proven time and again that she’s more than happy to assist any way she can.

“I have so much to offer to these companies, and I want to help them improve,” she said. “I think everybody has a unique perspective. Everyone just wants to do the right thing and to be successful at whatever they’re working toward, and my biggest motivation is to help them reach those goals.”

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Executive Insights

Jodi Watson, former SVP/CMO at Petco, has served as marketing leader for organizations both big and small and was a witness to e-commerce’s emergence as a major player on the scene. Over the years, she’s taken her fair share of meetings with unprepared salespeople and emphasizes the importance of doing your homework before pitching. For sellers looking to stand out in a crowded marketplace, she recommends offering up a proof of concept to show what your solution is really capable of.