Getting Ahead

“You Don’t Learn by Being Perfect” and Other Advice From a Head of Marketing

person with straight brown hair smiling against a grey backdrop
Jeana Garms, Head of Marketing at Arc XP, a division of The Washington Post.
| Courtesy of The Washington Post

If there’s one thing that has remained constant throughout Jeana Garms’s career, it’s ”the desire to build and grow,” she says. This passion has manifested itself in various positions in marketing, spanning industries (such as healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, and retail) as well as types of organizations, from agency to startup to enterprise businesses.

“During my undergraduate days I aspired to build my own agency,” she says. “While that goal has evolved, my love of building has remained, and has been a key aspect of the roles where I’ve been brought on to either remodel an existing marketing organization or build one from the ground up.”

In mid 2020, she was hired to do the latter as the Head of Marketing of Arc XP, a division of The Washington Post. “I oversee all aspects of Arc’s marketing, from brand management and product marketing to lead generation and customer retention,” she says. “Right now the focus is on building the brand and marketing foundation that is going to be the launch pad for what is slated to be a tremendous year of growth for Arc.”

Here, Garms shares what it was like starting a new job during the pandemic, why it’s an exciting time to work at Arc, and how making mistakes can lead to growth.

First, tell us about Arc XP and why it was created.

A division of The Washington Post, Arc was created to solve The Post’s internal content management challenges. Shortly thereafter, The Post started licensing the platform to other publishers and broadcasters, growing to a point where today Arc has evolved from a content management system to a complete end-to-end digital experience platform (DXP) that supports customers in 24 countries and reaches over 1.5 billion monthly unique visitors across more than 1,400 websites. It’s been pretty incredible that this growth was all done with virtually no marketing, but rather on the strength of the platform.

What attracted you to work at Arc XP?

A mutual contact introduced me to Clancy Ryan, Arc’s VP of Sales. They had been discussing Arc’s search for a head of marketing to build out the marketing function. While I wasn’t looking to leave my current position, I walked away from that first conversation impressed and interested to learn more. Arc has really changed the game on how organizations create and distribute content, drive digital commerce, and deliver their digital experiences. As a complete end-to-end, cloud-based DXP, there is this sophisticated orchestration to how Arc has simplified what, for many organizations, can be an incredibly complex and time-consuming process.

With each subsequent conversation, I became more interested in Arc’s technology, the teams, and the position itself, including the collaborative leadership style, the ability to build marketing from the ground up leveraging my experiences from across several verticals, and how Arc views marketing as a key component to their growth.

What are you responsible for as the Head of Marketing?

Over the course of the past nine months since joining Arc, I’ve been building the marketing foundation that is going to support our momentous growth. This includes identifying our voice and building a presence in a somewhat crowded tech space and in what is the relatively new category of DXP. Most companies are still thinking about content management systems, so there’s a market education component to explaining what a DXP does and why companies should be looking beyond the content management system to a DXP.

This foundation also includes identifying how we connect with our target audiences—decision makers as well as influencers—across the verticals we are currently active in and those we are growing into. And that also means growing out the marketing team for which I currently have two positions open, a product marketing manager and a digital marketing manager.

Why is it a particularly exciting time to work for Arc XP?

One word: growth. Growth is what makes it such an exciting time to be at Arc. With support from the highest levels of The Post and its ownership, we are growing in all aspects of the organization—not only in terms of expanding just about every team, but also what we do and who we do it for. We’ve evolved from a content management system to an incredibly robust digital experience platform.

You were hired relatively recently. What was it like joining the company in the middle of the pandemic?

I remember when accepting the position and setting my start date for the end of May, we were aiming to be back in the office and I could onboard in person. Clearly that wasn’t the case. While this has extended far longer than anyone initially imagined, Arc’s leadership, and The Washington Post overall, has done an exceptional job supporting their employees during this time—whether you’ve been there for decades or a matter of days.

Not only has The Post provided additional resources to its employees throughout the pandemic, but there has also been transparency and an understanding from the top down of what people are dealing with, not only from the work aspect but with home life as well. This has translated into increased flexibility to help employees meet their work and home needs.

For me, building relationships across the organization has been the most challenging part of starting during the pandemic. When you’re on Zoom meetings all day it takes effort to make sure your interactions don’t become purely transactional. That said, I try to take a few minutes at the start of my meetings for some of that “water cooler conversation” and to leverage informal channels like Slack that have taken the place of the hallway drive-bys for the time being.

What skills and characteristics does it take to succeed in marketing?

Marketing, by nature, is social and grounded in relationships, so good people skills and emotional intelligence are essential. One trait that has made me successful in my career is building relationships beyond sales and marketing and into the operations functions, working to understand all aspects of the business. This awareness helps create more intelligent marketing strategies and achieve stronger internal buyer-in. Marketing also requires being creative, collaborative, and analytical. And while you need to be able to home in on the smallest of details, you also need to be able to see the forest through the trees.

What are some misconceptions about what it means to work in marketing, and how would you respond to them?

One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve encountered is that marketing results should be lightning fast. While there are often low-hanging fruit opportunities, achieving significant results—especially with how crowded the marketing/advertising landscape is and how transactional the buying process has become—takes an enormous amount of energy because you have to break through the clutter and build a connection that pays off. What’s more, quality always trumps quantity. Too often sales and business leaders want more—more emails, more social posts and more events—without regard for the impact doing so will have on opt-in rates, engagement, and attendance. Successful marketing requires a thoughtful and measured approach. It’s a long game that, when played as such, pays off dividends.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Early-ish in my career I was beating myself up over an error I made, and a manager at the time told me that you don’t learn by being perfect. Rather, you learn more through your mistakes. That has always stuck with me, and it’s an approach I’ve taken with my teams. While we strive for perfection, we understand that mistakes happen. And while we shouldn’t be okay with them, we use them as learning opportunities to do better moving forward. And sometimes through those mistakes you find better ways of doing things than if whatever “it” was had been done perfectly the first time.