On Tuesday, April 25, Cait Vlastakis Smith will be presenting at #TMCtonight. Her presentation will be focused on journey mapping and how marketers can use this tool to improve how they interact with customers. So, if you haven’t RSVP’d yet, go ahead and check out the TMC Meetup page. This will be an awesome event that you will not want to miss!
As most of you know, we conduct an interview for each of our TMC speakers. We do this each month in order to help you all, our awesome members, get to know the presenters and relate to them on a more personal level prior to sharing their message. In preparation for our next event, I was given the opportunity to interview Caitlin Vlastakis Smith and learn about her career.
Once we arranged a time to conduct the interview, I began creating a list of questions to ask Caitlin. On the day of our virtual meeting, I placed my laptop in front of me, grabbed a bottle of water, and had my questions ready to go. After everything was in position, I called Caitlin to begin our interview.
If you don’t mind sharing, could you tell me a little about yourself?
I went to college for art and creative writing, and even as my career has evolved to focus more on the business side of things, I still believe creativity is what drives us forward. I love creative problem solving because it’s both art and science. So, throughout my career, I just followed that same truth: chase down interesting problems, try to look at them differently and, most importantly, work with great people.
Do you have any cool hobbies that you love doing outside of work?
I like to hang out with my daughter and husband, which means going to the playground and acting like a big kid…I try to go down the slides with my daughter, even though I’m much too large. You’re never too old to play!
I also do a little bit of art on the side. I like to sketch and draw. I also like to write whenever I can. Not working within the constraints of a business problem, just drawing and writing for fun.
What led to your desire to have a career in marketing?
I never had a moment where I realized, ‘Hey! I want to be in marketing.’ I just followed what I was interested in and that has led me through various roles that are either within marketing or tangential to marketing, like technology, design and content strategy. I love figuring out what makes people tick and understanding the “why” behind their behaviors. Humans are interesting creatures, and I like studying them.
What do you enjoy most about working in this field?
I enjoy the blend of creative and analytical thinking. I enjoy not living in just one area but being a connector across different disciplines. That allows me to flex different muscles, and I really enjoy that.
In your opinion, what does it take to become a successful marketer?
Relentless curiosity. I believe the most important trait for a marketer—and any professional, really—is to remain curious and to always ask, “Why?” The answers will often take you down many different roads, and you’ll realize how much everything is interconnected. As marketing, technology, and business become tangled together even further, it’s going to be important for people within neatly categorized departments to expand beyond their siloed group and remain curious about the larger ecosystem. One of my personal favorite pieces of writing is this one, where I wrote about obsessive curiosity and uncompromising idealism.
I saw that you have been published in Advertising Age and Content Marketing Institute. Could you tell me a little about that?
For the Content Marketing Institute article, “Content Planning: How to Use UX Research to Uncover Hidden Needs,” I was writing from the perspective of a user experience strategist and seeing the really important overlaps across UX research and content marketing, and how understanding customers better can help marketers with their work.
For the piece in Advertising Age, “Four Lessons from Losing a Pitch,” it was an interesting moment for me because it required taking a risk: being vulnerable and sharing a failure. I’d recently read ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown and recalled reading about the strength and importance of being vulnerable and talking about failure openly, so we can learn from it. I had no vision of actually submitting the article to Advertising Age. I credit two awesome people, Erin Grohs and Brittany Kotary who saw the potential in the piece and submitted it. I’m very grateful to them for that, as well as to my team who submitted insights that I packaged into the article itself.
At the TMC event in April, you plan to speak about “Journey Mapping for Marketers.” What do you consider to be your favorite thing about journey mapping?
It is a way to bring people together and get them focused on solving problems for the end customer or end user. It drives really important collaboration internally and gets cross-disciplinary teams rallied around the customer to create meaningful experiences and content. Journey mapping helps us get out of our own way, get out of our own mindset and focused outward on our customers.
Do you have any specific advice for marketers who may have never created a journey map before?
You can do it! That is my only piece of advice.
Where do you see journey mapping and marketing going within the next five years?
Journey mapping within some organizations turns into, ‘Oh, look at this pretty map or this pretty artifact that we created,’ and there isn’t any action applied based on the activity of actually building the map.
So, my hope is that we continue to focus more on the insights and the actions from the journey mapping activity and focus less on just creating a really pretty artifact. Speed over perfection is important.
What is one major key takeaway that you hope the TMC audience leaves with after hearing your presentation?
The one key takeaway I hope they take home ties back to question five about becoming a successful marketer, and it’s that in order to truly understand your customers you have to be genuinely curious about who they are as humans. Journey mapping is one activity that can help you remain curious, and it’s a springboard for asking smart questions.
Caitlin is an awesome person to network with, and she has a lot of great advice and experience to share. If you’d like to reach out to her before the event, check out her website, Medium, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I can’t wait to hear her presentation and learn about journey mapping on April 25. I hope to see you all there!