Today’s interviewee, Jake Athey, has 15 years of experience in digital asset management at Widen.
We catch up with him to ask the usual questions about his skillset, typical day, goals and career path. As well as some advice for new marketers out there.
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Hi Jake. Please describe your job. What do you do?
Jake Athey: I’m the VP of Marketing at Widen, a provider of enterprise digital asset management (DAM) solutions. My primary responsibilities include driving business growth by leading our global go-to-market strategy, building our brand, and managing customer experience teams. I guess you could say I do a little bit of everything – both trailblazing and leading by example in driving the company forward, but also supporting others in doing the same. My main goal is to lead with freedom rather than fear, and encourage others to live and work to their fullest potential.
Whereabouts do you sit in the organisation? Who do you report to?
Jake Athey: I’m just one of 160 ‘Wideneers’ growing a freedom-centred culture and an industry-leading self-funded tech brand. I sit on Widen’s 20-strong leadership team, and am one of four members of the executive team. I report to Matthew Gonnering, the company’s CEO – he’s the person who actually recruited me as a marketing intern back in 2004!
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Jake Athey: First and foremost, active listening skills and effective communication with others are crucial. Secondly, the ability to try, perhaps fail, and admit when you’re wrong goes a long way. Thirdly, I’d say be scrappy. Act like a start-up business owner. Share your purpose with the wider team, instil fairness and uphold integrity – both within your teams, and with customers.
Tell us about a typical working day
Jake Athey: At Widen, no day feels ‘typical’, and that’s what I love. I start each day by checking in with our UK team members – their efforts on new horizons energize me to follow in their footsteps. A quick check of the usual email and news channels, and then I’m off to school to drop off my two daughters. Once ‘Dad duty’ is done, I’m drilling into Slack channels for updates on leads and customer support, followed by a review of LinkedIn news and new connections. I’ll meet with teams, direct reports and specific departments to review action plans. I may have a number of partner or analyst meetings, which means preparing and delivering presentations or webinars. I have a few HR and administrative duties too – whether that’s hiring or onboarding new team members, providing forecasting, budgeting and pricing updates, or attending a relevant workshop.
Whatever each day throws at me, I ultimately aim to accomplish five key tasks in the week. When the day is done, I then head home for dinner and ideally some time with my girls at the park.
What do you love about your job?
Jake Athey: There’s never a dull moment at Widen! We have a higher purpose that’s bigger than any one employee, and that’s to unlock the human potential through the power of story. This is about empowering some of the most recognized brands, charities, prestigious universities, cultural institutions and life-changing businesses to tell their story through more compelling, meaningful and measurable customer experiences.
This purpose has stood the test of time for the last 70 years, and will guide us for the next 70; it’s a mission that everyone in the company is committed to delivering. I also relish the opportunity to understand and apply my own purpose in life. I always wanted to be an architect or an engineer growing up. Now I’m a marketer who still works as a bridge builder to connect people.
What sucks? Public speaking – it always sucks until it’s game time. Then it’s a thrill! All companies hate losing new business opportunities or customers – it’s a par for the course, but when it happens it still hurts nonetheless.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Jake Athey: Speaking personally, my main goal at Widen is to build our brand awareness in new markets. This means getting our company in all the places where people will look for digital asset management, with a view to generating more customers, and retaining existing ones. Building strong team morale is also really important to me. And ultimately, I want to be able to leave my work in the office, once I’ve left for the day, and maximise the time I have with my family.
In terms of measuring success, there are a number of useful metrics I use, whether its something as objective as a Net Promoter Score, through to customer satisfaction and retention rates. For building the Widen brand, we’ll look at website visits and our social following, or even the amount of leads we’re generating from marketing and PR initiatives.
What are your favourite tools to help you get the job done?
Jake Athey: Salesforce CRM, HubSpot Marketing Cloud, and our own Widen Collective are three platforms I can honestly say we can’t live without. I’m also an avid user of Zoom, Slack and the G Suite. I’m a big fan of my only scheduler, HubSpot Sales. Also, Zapier and Workato – I get a ‘tech high’ by integrating tools!
How did you end up at Widen, and where might you go from here?
Jake Athey: I was hired as an intern at the age of 21, by our fearless CEO Matthew Gonnering (at the time, he was the Director of Sales and Marketing). I remember vividly a comment he said to me during the interview: “You could go to Kohler and make coffee and file papers, or you could come here and do some real marketing.” (I had another opportunity with Kohler Company at the time). Unless something unforeseen happens, I intend to stay with and eventually retire from Widen. Unless the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club call me up in need of a new third base coach!
Which customer experiences have impressed you lately?
Jake Athey: One of my first live customer experiences in 2005 was representing “The Trek Marketing Builder” at the Trek World show and having the opportunity to show bicycle dealers how they can be more effective marketers and retailers by building localized materials and signage. Bikes are one of the eco-friendliest popularized modes of transportation in the world. At that point, I connected with a higher purpose in realizing that if I can help sell more bikes, that’s a good thing… Not only for the joy of family bike rides or competitive cycling and wellness, but because we can help reduce our carbon footprint by getting more people to ride bicycles.
New Balance always catches my attention. I love the company’s ‘Fearlessly Independent’ tagline in business since 1906, something we’re also very proud of at Widen (since 1948). From my visit to the New Balance store, to their website, social media, and my inbox, they’re a great example of a brand which aims to provide meaningful, relevant, and consistent experiences across channels. I’m thrilled to know Widen plays a part in powering their omnichannel marketing strategy by providing the central content hub serving the right content, to the right people, at the right time for product launches, campaigns, events, and retail channels.
Do you have any advice for marketers starting out now?
Jake Athey: Be helpful, not hype-full. Push the boundaries of what’s possible, take chances, but embrace the scientific method in the process – hypothesis, test, control, assess.