Lead(H)er - Jeanne Hopkins, EVP and CMO at Ipswitch
“I’m a cheerleader for my organization, I’m a cheerleader for my school, my neighborhood, whatever it is. And I was a physical cheerleader in high school only because you could hear my voice for miles,” Jeanne Hopkins, the Executive VP, and CMO at Ipswitch, laughed.
Jeanne first started getting interested in content creation at a young age. Her father was the editor of the Springfield Union News, a major publication in the western Massachusetts area, and she was intrigued with his work.
“Growing up, we had a typewriter. It’s hard to believe there were typewriters in those days. When I was about seven, I started writing a newspaper for the houses on our street. I would type it up and there’d be one copy that I’d pass around. If I was lucky, sometimes I’d be able to get a piece of carbon paper to put in between it.”
When she went on to college at Western New England, her father advised her to not pursue journalism as a career. Being a newspaper man, it might seem like a strange piece of advice but Jeanne explained his reasoning.
“I’m basically a very positive person but if you read the news it’s not typically very positive, right? Nothing sells a newspaper or an online article better than a disaster, whether it’s politics or the weather.”
So instead of journalism, Jeanne decided to get her degree in accounting. Although it might seem like a strange transition, she had her reasons.
“I figured no matter where you go, having a background in being able to add things up and reconcile things would beneficial. I like when things are balanced and orderly so going into accounting seemed to make sense at the time,” Jeanne explained.
After graduation, she took her first job in the accounting department at Baystate Medical Center.
“I had fun working there but it was also semi-boring because there wasn't enough work to keep me busy. They just kept giving me more and more projects. Eventually, when I had my annual review, Pam, the controller, told me I didn’t have a career in accounting. When I asked her if I was doing my job right, she told me that I was doing everything well but I was too loud for the accounting department. I thought oh… okay,” Jeanne laughed.
Deciding to make a move, Jeanne went on to work at the Milton Bradley Company’s in-house advertising agency, MB Communications. She was the editor of the in-house newspaper that went out to seven thousand people, including shareholders and every employee in the seven subsidiaries.
“It was a great experience because I got to travel. I also got to create individual story ideas, lay them out and get them printed and mailed.”
Jeanne was then recruited to another giant in the toy industry: Lego.
“Lego was great because I had a lot of fun there. I was in marketing programs and oversaw all the advertising as well as the PR aspect of it. While there, my husband and I also went to grad school. We went to Suffolk University at the Sawyer School of Management for the Saturday MBA program. It was 11 week semesters so for two years, we spent every Saturday in school and we spent our weeks studying to get our MBAs.”
A few years later in 2000, her husband, the president of an internally funded startup in Lexington, needed some help with his digital media push. He was using a PR firm out of Boston but they were charging a steep monthly fee and he wasn’t seeing any substantial results.
“My husband was frustrated, so he asked me to take a look at what was going on. I found out that they had assigned an intern that was working on their digital strategy for maybe 30 minutes a month and I told him to fire them because he wasn’t gaining value. That’s when I stepped in and created an online newsletter and a database so they could get some visibility.”
Transitioning from print to digital, Jeanne moved into software, digital marketing, and lead generation.
“I was building websites, getting leads and managing an internal sales organization using tools like a very early Salesforce.com. I was able to manage, get leads and close the business. One thing led to another and that’s how I transitioned from consumer products into B2B and digital.”
Getting into the digital side of things, Jeanne had a lot of new goals to focus on.
“You needed to have a digital footprint, capture people’s interest and follow up with them. I built blogs and started working with the head of sales to start this online newsletter. I remember the president of the division calling me up really concerned and asking me what a blog was. Seriously, it was like it was an offensive word. When you really think about it, we take it for granted now as part of our vernacular,” Jeanne laughed.
Working to generate leads via email, Jeanne had the challenge of breaking through the noise.
“Doing email marketing was a little bit like the wild wild west then. Now we have spam regulations. Back then, in essence, everything was spam. So trying to make sure that you’re sending information that had value was difficult. I took entire databases and put them into Constant Contact, built the HTML and tracked the links to see how effective they were.”
Jeanne then ended up working at MarketingSherpa down in Florida for a couple of years. In 2009, she came back to Boston to join the team at HubSpot where she was one of the first 100 employees.
“The cool thing about HubSpot was, I was trying to glue together the website, the blogs and all of this stuff and HubSpot was doing what I was trying to piece together! Look there’s metrics! Because you know it was the worst when you went to a board meeting and you had to pull things from all these individual places to have something that was viable,” Jeanne explained.
During her time as the Vice President of Marketing at HubSpot, Jeanne worked for Michael Volpe doing budgeting, media buying and demand generation. She also helped to align the marketing and sales organizations.
“I had a blast. I really, really had a good time there and I learned a lot. I still have many strong relationships with the folks there because it was a very intense period—everybody worked hard and everybody played hard. I was married, had twin daughters, a mortgage and a car and I was definitely an edge case as far as the personalities and the young people there. I would come in super early and most of them would come in at 9 or 10 and when I would go home at 7, they were just revving up.”
From HubSpot, she was recruited to SmartBear. Joining as their Executive Vice President and CMO, she helped to grow their revenue and provide demand generation programs. She then went on to Continuum Managed IT Services where she recruited partners to resell their software. After a few years there, she started in her current position at Ipswich.
As Ipswitch’s Executive VP and CMO, she’s responsible for the global marketing and demand creation for their products. She also oversees the content team, product marketing, website, analytics, and marketing operations.
“You have to stay ahead of the curve, and I think that many marketing people are kind of stuck in one area—they might be brand people, they might be product people. It’s funny, the stuff you knew five years ago is not relevant today. There are parts of it that might be relevant but you have to constantly be searching for the next thing that is going to be able to take you to the next level. There are a lot of cool tools out there that you can make part of your tech stack that could deliver better results at a lower price, helping you to fund the marketing programs that allow you to get the leads for the sales team.”
“My role is the fuel. The marketing organization is the fuel and if I don’t have high octane fuel, the sales organization isn’t going to be able to hit their objectives. It’s important to test, experiment and fail. I’m really lucky to have worked with a lot of really great people and had a lot of interesting things to do. I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I think I’ve had some pretty big wins too.”
Rapid Fire Questions
BS: How do you manage stress?
JH: I laugh a lot. I like to find the humor in everything because I always believe that there’s a good story somewhere. Even if things are looking kind of down, you’ll always have a good story. I can tell you so many good stories, some people might dwell on the negative part of it but I have a tendency to find the humor pretty much everywhere.
BS: How many cups of coffee do you typically drink in a day?
JH: None. I’ve had coffee but it doesn’t really sit well with me. I switched to tea, I buy it from a place in Newton, I love that tea. I also drink unsweetened iced tea from McDonald's during the day. I’ll buy a thing of that for a dollar and other than that, it’s water.
BS: What do you like to do in your free time?
JH: I like to be with my family, I like to travel, I sound so mundane but we live in Mattapoisett, MA on Buzzard’s Bay and I like to read a lot and I like looking out windows. The concept of people able to see things that give you an element of peace is very important to me.
BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?
JH: I love South Station. I think South Station is beautiful and as an architectural element. I spent years taking the commuter rail from Lakeville to South Station and its physical location and just seeing the people coming and going was always very interesting. You never knew who you were going to meet. People always came out there with a map and if you looked there were 50 streets meeting. I always used to ask, “Can I help you?” And right across the street, there was the farmer’s market. Boston is just great, there’s no one favorite place but I think South Station is an interesting intersection of all sorts of people that are going somewhere. There’s always a destination and a story. It’s very interesting.
BS: If you had to choose one thing, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
JH: On the personal side, my twin 19-year-old daughters. They’re prepared for life because they’re hard workers. They've had horses, they’ve been taking riding lessons, cleaning stalls, taking care of the horses. I know a lot of people might laugh at me and think I’m absolutely absurd, but giving a kid a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow for Christmas really teaches them hard work because cleaning a stall is not a pleasant thing to do.
They’re also both talented musicians. One daughter plays the guitar, she’s learning the fiddle and she sings. The other one plays the banjo and is learning the guitar now. They’ve been part of a band and they’ve been performing and actually getting paid for their gigs. They’re also excellent students so their first year in college they both got straight A’s. One is in applied mathematics and the other one is in engineering.
BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?
JH: Sure. I’m not doing anything different than I was ten years ago. It’s just the tools that I have changed. I like mentoring teams and mentoring organizations and helping them to identify talent. I’m doing similar things, anticipating and trying to stay ahead of the curve—adapting.
BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?
JH: I like it when young people get internships. I’m always willing to pay a rising sophomore or a rising junior. I encourage students to really go after an internship as much as you can because that type of experience helps to inform your college education.
If you’re graduating, plan on being in your first job for at least two years. I know it sounds like a lifetime and be careful about what you’re choosing. And even if it’s kind of painful to stick it out, don't just go into a job and say, I can leave after six months. Hiring managers want to be able to see that you’re able to stick it out. A four-year degree is the price of entry, they want to see that you’ve been able to go into an organization, grow in that organization and make a difference. You can't do that in six months, you can't do that in 12 months, but you can do that in two years. Two years will inform the rest of your career.