Be Inspired | Do Good
Christina Garnett didn’t always imagine herself as the marketing maven she is today, “within a week of dating, [my husband] said I should go into marketing. His reasoning is that I would fix things.” It took her awhile to get to her path today, or as she describes it her ‘yellow brick road.’ From English major, math teacher to stay-at-home mom (the hardest job she’s had!), it took ten years for Christina to “ignore his correct assumption for many years and eventually had to say, yes, you’re right.” Along with her husband of 10 years and her muppets (aka her kiddos), Christina has called Roanoke Valley her home since 2010.
Christina holds dear her convictions. She was voted most likely to succeed in high school and was what she terms a nerd. When headed to Davidson College for English, she longed to find her tribe, “those being like-minded people or those with a similar passion, a core group that may or may not be people [I] went to school with, people that follow the same people, books, love the same things.” With her verbal and math SAT scores comparable, Christina planned to go into teaching. By chance, Christina ended up teaching math for five years in both private and public schools.
As a math teacher, Christina adored her students and could see she was making a tangible difference, facilitating a “lightbulb moment. The lightbulb exists for different things, sometimes they finally believe in themselves, finally understand something or have that great universal epiphany. Being a part of that journey […] and being able to be that […] light for somebody, […] is important and something that isn’t easy to put a value on.”
This lightbulb moment came apparent when was approached by the brightest and hardest working student she had ever had. “I had a student for two different years, both geometry and algebra. She wanted to go into pre-med and needed help looking for colleges. At a very young age, she was told by a math teacher that she was not good at math. That she was not going to be a doctor. It shattered her dreams.” It was only through the success in Christina’s math classes was this student able to gain confidence in her skills and realize that her dream wasn’t broken. Christina then moved to Charlotte, where she taught students who with learning differences. She loved that she could teach students who needed support, “A lot of [students] had given up, they had lost their faith in themselves. When you can tell them they can do [it], it wakes them back up.”
Despite the success and hope that Christina provided, she was disheartened, “I didn’t love that my ability as a teacher and my student’s ability was dictated by how they did on a test for 3 hours.” She was also grappling with a job that she didn’t like. Despite working hard, she didn’t receive appreciation for her efforts. She decided to move forward and emphasize a philosophy to help, to empower, to want a seat at the table but never be in competition as solidified by the quote, “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”
Now as the Acting Marketing Director of the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center, Christina has been working in marketing for two years. Not only does she have the ‘9-5’ but she also has a side hustle. With her work, she loves being a part of something bigger than her, but she finds the biggest challenge to be “[like] any business, to figure out where you fit in and where you don’t fit in.” Her strengths are both her unique perspective and ability to constantly stay on top of the trends in marketing through blogs and setting up Google Alerts for areas of interest. For her business, she invests very little in her advertising because word-of-mouth always wins, “I want to work with people who understand my value and understand what I can provide for them.” As for competition, Christina is a huge believer in showcasing her strengths and finding strategic partnerships with people who can fill those other gaps, “if you’re really good, there’s enough work for all of us.”
It’s not rare to catch Christina on Twitter. Why? Because she is her truest self and found her tribe. On Twitter, it’s easy to read the room, to build community and to find a tribe from across the world, “If you’re out there and you feel alone, and you feel like you’re the only person that likes something, I bet if you go on Twitter you’re going to find some like-minded people who will love who you are.” Twitter is an engagement and community building platform. Putting on her marketing hat, Christina does not like Twitter for sales, “If I see an ad on Twitter, I delete it. I’m not buying anything. This is not why I came to play.” Finally, the opportunity for Twitter to disperse resources is invaluable, “In marketing, you have to believe that you’re not the only one out there creating good content. You’re not an island. We can all learn from one another.”
Working with small businesses, Christina has gained some serious knowledge on how the small business owner or entrepreneur can succeed. Her advice?
- Customer Service: “Businesses are based on relationships. It doesn’t matter how good your product is, where you’re located and your price point. If you mistreat your customers, you don’t follow up with them if they call you, you’re rude, or they give you a good review, and you just let it sit there, you’re fizzling a relationship. If you treat every person who comes through your doors (no matter your size) like you genuinely care about what you need, you will be fine.”
- Love What You Do: “I can tell when someone is tired versus when they’re tired of it. Having a business is hard. It’s not going to be hard. There are just some days that are easier than others. It has to be something you love because that’s what’s going to get you up when you’re not making any money or what’s going to help you pick up the phone when you get blissed out by someone who’s mad.”
- Know Your Audience: “Don’t be afraid to be picky. You’re going to have to find your audience, and you’re going to have to empathize with that audience. What do they want, what do they need, what is their pain point, what is important to them? Price is not always the deciding factor. As an inbound marketer, I give people what they want, so they’re going to bite. You need to know your audience so you know what they want, what keywords they’re going to use to find you, what content they want and then you can build a strategy around them. You can have the best product in the world, but without an audience, you’re out of business.”
Marketing might keep Christina’s brain wired all day, but her husband, the Hokies, the muppets, and Twitter keep her grounded. If you’d like any further information or consultation about small business marketing, feel free to reach out to Christina personally through the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center, on Twitter @RoanokeMaven or via her personal email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to Christina’s full podcast here.
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Written by: Emma Shulist
Photo credit: Marketing Media Maven