For this special occasion, we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled marketing matters to catch up with BMD’s Founder and Chief Marketing Strategist, Jen Renshaw.
Q: So Jen… Three years—how does that feel?
A: Holy Sh**. I mean, we’re really doing it. It’s so hard to believe that it’s actually been three years. When I started Brand Mark Digital, my family actually thought I was crazy—and if we’re being honest, they still do. But the truly crazy thing is, over 50% of startups fail in the first two years, and yet, we’re still going strong. I’m just so happy to be here on this journey with this amazing team and our incredible clients—and I’m looking forward to many more years to come.
Q: Think back to April 2019. So much has changed about our world. But before we get into that, can you remind us why you decided to start Brand Mark Digital?
A: Oh wow. There were several reasons but I would say one of them is… I saw the need. As someone who was a director of marketing, I understood exactly what someone in that position needed from a marketing agency. When the right moment struck, I took that understanding and decided to form my own marketing agency that could step in and truly be a resource for marketing directors at any company.
Q: Can you speak a little more to “the right moment?” What happened in your life that let you know it was time to start the company?
A: Of course. So, I’d been working for a startup. When they achieved their goal and decided to sell the company, I stayed on for the transition and relaunched the product, and then they laid off the Nashville team. This moment I’d always feared—being laid off—actually felt shockingly freeing. I knew this was my opportunity to start the business I’d been dreaming of. What I thought was going to be one of the most challenging points in my career, turned out to be the biggest opportunity once I finally gave myself the space to take that risk. The joy I’ve experienced since then has been immeasurable.
Q: Nashville is a pretty competitive market for marketing agencies. Can you share a little bit about what sets you apart from the competition?
A: When I looked around, I didn’t find any agencies with in-house marketing automation services—teams who know the strategy behind all of the different components, understand how they work together in order to truly be successful, and offer expert implementation services in order to provide a truly comprehensive service line. My goal was to offer a beginning to end marketing services— from strategic planning to implementation and iteration—and I’m thrilled to say that the BMD team is doing that with our recent launch of the marketing automation service.
Q: Can you speak a little about growing a business during COVID-19? What has that been like?
A: COVID was challenging for me personally. I’m such a people person, and I use this strength to meet with and find clients. Having to change my strategy for prospecting clients into something virtual—losing the ability to connect in person—was extremely challenging. I tried to do this as well as I possibly could, but I still can’t say I’ve mastered this art. Luckily no one else had figured it out either, so I know I’m not alone in that.
Also, I struggled in terms of knowing the right time to bring on new talent. It’s vital that I know I can provide continuity for my team, and COVID made it really difficult to gauge what was going to happen with the markets—there is no blueprint for this. Because of this, I probably waited too long to hire full-time team members in a few instances, but making that commitment to invest in people was something that had to be acknowledged and accepted. While there are some formulas of finances and capacity limits, a lot of my hiring came down to trusting my gut.
Q: To that point, how do you choose employees and create your company culture?
A: I’m very intentional about the type of people that work with us – full time or contract. I’m drawn to self-motivated and self-driven individuals who are supportive of each other—and that includes the clients, especially the clients. It’s also very telling that the majority of our employees have “strategic” as one of their top five attributes on StrengthsFinder. At the end of the day, I know that no one on the team is going to cut corners or make short-term, short-sighted decisions without thinking of the long-term effects. Everyone really sees the end game for success, and doesn’t just seek immediate gratification.
Q: What role has your community played in BMD’s success?
A: Oh yeah, a huge role. I would say that the community I created during my 10+ years in Nashville is a huge part of what gave me the courage to start BMD. They referred clients, agreed to take a chance on my new agency and offered endless mentorship and support. I’m so glad I joined AMA as soon as I moved here. Without my involvement in this organization and the amount of networking that I’ve done, I don’t know that BMD would have been successful, or if I’d even have had the faith and support to start it.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how you manage business/life balance?
A: What is work life balance? Haha—just kidding. I really enjoy what i do, so it doesn’t feel like I have to draw a hard line between the two. For example: I love being out with friends, talking about work and discussing how we can do things better. But I also love that I have friends that will tell me, “hey, this is friend time and you need to turn that off.” Honestly, it’s just knowing yourself enough to realize when you’re stretching too thin and then taking the break you need.
If I’m being real, this has been a process to figure out. Especially when you consider how working remotely during covid impacts your life—it’s so easy to let work and life crossover. My biggest takeaway is that once the computer is closed at the end of the day, don’t open it back up or your entire life becomes work. Make time for friends and leave the house—go on walks and support local restaurants, even if that’s just through pick-up windows which I did a lot during the pandemic. Really, it’s about knowing yourself and knowing what you need to do to recharge.
Q: How have you ensured that you continue growing your skills while running a company?
A: I make a point to diversify opinions/outlooks around me. One of the ways I do this is through professional organization involvement. Several of the organizations I’ve been a part of have been fundamental in sourcing those various outlooks, including Nashville Emerging Leaders, AMA Nashville, and EO Catalyst. I also think it’s important to surround yourself with mentors, and I’ve been lucky enough to have several of those—some very intentionally curated, and other relationships naturally turned into that. Finally, I always strive to be a life-long learner, and this is one of the principles I include with employees as well by offering paid opportunities to upskill and learn emerging marketing trends.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the past 3 years?
A: Companies ebb and flow, so you’re constantly analyzing what is the best next move for the business. Whether that’s how we find our ideal clients to when and why we hire specific talent, and where we make intentional investments. This will always be a challenge. I absolutely rely on my network and mentors for feedback. I’ve found the best way to get through this is openly talking about this – sharing with others to hear their input so i can make the best decision. At the end of the day, you have to come to terms that this is a decision that have varying outcomes, but you have to trust yourself and your team to move forward and ultimately believe it will all turn out okay.
Q: Flip side—what are some of the biggest wins or successes you’ve seen over the past 3 years?
A: So. Many. Wins. For starters, I’ve hired a rockstar team. They constantly support each other and our clients in a way that continues to amaze me. I learn from them every week. I’ve also made amazing partnerships with members of my community, especially through Catalyst. These people, you know who you are, constantly lift up me, the team and the business. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with some really fantastic clients who offer endless support and constructive feedback. We’ve been able to retain some of our largest accounts from the very beginning, which really speaks to who we are and how much we believe in them. Over that time, we’ve seen their growth as well as ours—and that’s the whole goal. These mutually beneficial relationships are at the core of Brand Mark Digital.
Q: Last but certainly not least, what do you want your clients and potential prospects to know about BMD?
A: We truly want to be your long-term partner, dedicated to your success and helping you achieve your goals. We won’t cut corners or make short-sighted decisions that will negatively impact your long-term future. We’re always honest, and that means sometimes we have to tell you the things you don’t want to hear, but that comes from a place of respect for you and your business. We want to ensure that we are always bringing value, and we can best do that by working with clients that share our values.
We honestly enjoy the work we do—we want to make sure people enjoy working with us just as much as we enjoy the work we do. Life is simply too short to do work that you don’t like.
We can’t thank you enough for supporting BMD over the past three years.
If you’ve made it to the end of this interview, we know you care about BMD, and we sincerely appreciate you. If you’re looking for more ways to connect with us, we invite you to: