CMO Impact
Achieving Personal & Career Success

CMO Club Spotlight: Ani Matson, recently of NEA Member Benefits

September 11, 2015

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Ani Matson_NEA Member Benefits

Ani Matson: CMO & Strategic Advisor at Digital Marketing Strategies, Former CMO at NEA Member Benefits, and DC Chapter President

This week, we’re turning the spotlight onto Ani Matson, CMO & strategic advisor at Digital Marketing Strategies, former CMO at NEA Member Benefits, and Washington DC Chapter President.

1. What was your first (or favorite) job?

This is a difficult question because if feels like picking a favorite child. I have been fortunate to work for some great companies and brands that have helped me grow.

I founded my own publishing company at a very young age, just two years out of college. I was fortunate to grow it and sell it before turning 30.

After the sale, I worked for a couple of startups following my entrepreneurial spirit through the dot-com bubble. Then, I found my perfect job. Working for McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week Group combined my passions for publishing, converting print to digital, running a business, and learning about aviation and aerospace. I thought I had the sexiest job of all my friends.

To top it off, I was super fortunate to have had a great boss, Anne McMahon. She taught me everything about the importance of creativity, analytics and honesty in running a business unit. Those fundamentals have stayed with me as I have progressed in my career to manage bigger businesses with larger teams and budgets. I still do the “Anne calculations” by trying to put the whole picture together with numbers in one place. She taught me that numbers tell the story in the clearest most succinct way.

2. What are the three most important components for your personal and professional success?

I am a hard worker. I think at the core of it I am a builder. I love building new ways of tackling challenges through innovation, creativity and team work.

I am very focused. That’s been helpful to me as a child and as a grown-up. No matter how hard and how hectic situations get, I always make sure I accomplish what I set out to do.

I genuinely care. I realized that very early on, perhaps because I had owned my own business. Throughout my career I always cared about the brands, organizations, budgets and colleagues I worked with. I take pride in being helpful and realize that at the end of the day I am the one who’s benefitted the most.

3. Name an “inflection point” experience that prepared you for your current position as a CMO or head of marketing.

I think my career path led me to the CMO role. I acquired competencies along the way, starting in publishing, acquiring and retaining subscribers and transitioning to serving members in non-profit organizations. When the NEA Member Benefits CMO opportunity opened up, I thought that was destiny opening up a door for me to pay both my educator parents back for everything they had done for me. I knew what it was like to grow up with educator parents, and believe me, they always brought work home and talked about their students as if they were their children.

4. What characteristics do you value most when hiring new marketing talent for your team?

Potential. I usually look for potential and passion to create great things. I don’t just look for job description qualifications; most candidates have those by the time I get to meet with them. I love hearing stories of how they overcome adversity and how they view challenges they face.

5. What technology are you looking forward to using or implementing for your brand?

Wrike.com – I am trying to explore how I can use the technology to stay on top of all ongoing projects and be able to collaborate freely.

6. Which book would you recommend to your fellow heads of marketing right now?

This week I am reading Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston. It has some interesting lessons from hostage negotiations to help you become a better listener in every situation.

7. Name one CMO who impresses you today and tell us why. 

Jiri Marousek, CMO of AOPA. He is leading his team to transform the AOPA brand from a pilots’ membership association and a group of several holding companies into a unified “lifestyle brand” that represents the romance, pleasure and absolute excitement of flying to global audiences. Plus, he is getting to fly some amazing aircraft in the process.

8. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote? 

Last week I re-read Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath and it reminded me again of how decisions can be fraught with confirmation bias. With all the decisions we have to make everyday, it’s a good idea to pause for a moment and, like Stephen Covey said, “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. I know, I know, you’ve heard that many times but it somehow it keeps revealing itself to me, described in different words in so many different contexts.

I’ll never forget Stephen Covey’s story of the little girl holding two apples. Her mother came in and asked for one of the apples. The girl looked at her mom and took a bite of one of the apples, then took a bite of the other apple. The mom was so disappointed of her daughter’s selfishness. Then the girl reached out and offered her mom one of the bitten apples and said: “Mummy, here you are. This is the sweeter one.”

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