The new economy is digital, independent, entrepreneurial.
As many of us operate globally and interact remotely with our clients, partners or vendors we spend increasing amounts of time on the phone or in video conference rather than face-to-face. This obviously changes the balance of how we present ourselves visually and verbally, so we turned to digital marketing expert Tere Stouffer to find out more about how to present yourself in a video conference and how to dress to meet clients. Of course, Tere is bursting with ideas and gave us far more insights into business, dress and digital marketing than we had bargained for.
Who is Tere Stouffer?
Born an engineer, raised in publishing and emerging as a tour de force in digital marketing, Tere has carved out an enviable career, breaking gender barriers, winning prestigious awards and earning a reputation as a leader in her field, all while maintaining a beautiful work-life balance, flying across country to meet clients, running her digital marketing business from her home office and spending quality time with her dog.
Tere's success reads like a text-book of good moves, but is a story of hard work, long hours and a dedication to excellence. Starting her ground-breaking reputation in 1990 Tere was hired as an engineer at Alps (the company behind Alpine) a company with over 10,000 employees as the first female engineer that they had ever employed.
After a leap into publishing, she found herselfhired to oversee the publishing of new materials for Girl Scouts of the USA which evolved into a position as Digital Content Strategist and the brand began to flourish at a tremendous rate. After her work being selected as the “Overall Grand Champion” of the inaugural Global Social Media Leadership Awards run by the Wharton School of Business and Ernst & Young, Tere realized that she was really doing something right and a few months later she set out as an entrepreneur.
Do you think this is representative of a new economy?
Yes. The contract economy is a thing and it is here. It is a good fit for me I get to combine all the things I love and this is more and more how people want to be running their lives. But it is not a good fit for everyone. I think it is a younger generation who are less afraid of a life without security, but see the gains of flexibility and the opportunity to define yourself in a new way. As a GenXer, I see Millennials chaffing at job titles that do not adequately define them – they don't want to be pigeon-holed, we are multi-faceted as humans and we want our work-lives to fit in with who we are, rather than fit in with a job title. The contract economy allows all of us to piece together a career that fits fits all those facets.
As an entrepreneur how do you interact with most of your clients?
I try to fly out to meet them in the beginning to put faces to names. After that, we use phone, email and video-conferencing.
How do you dress for a video-conference?
For the most part, I can get away with jeans or a fun skirt, a jacket and nice jewelry. But my clients work in a great range of industries and I need to be cognizant of what is appropriate. When I fly to meet a client I now call and ask “how do you dress there” and pack accordingly. Image and perceptions are very important, but not always in the way you may think.
What do you mean by 'how you may think?'
When I was working at Alpine, I went for an interview at a competing company. I had an interview with the CEO and thought I had nailed it. I looked the consummate professional in a suit, silk shirt, I projected well and had great answers to all the questions.
At the end of the interview, the CEO told me, 'Well this has been one of the most enjoyable hours that I have spent. You are an excellent candidate but...you haven't got the job. I was astounded, but decided to take the opportunity to find out why. He told me “your fingernails aren't dirty. I just don't see you working on the manufacturing floor here, you're too clean” and I realized that I had dressed very professionally, but for the wrong job – he wanted to see how I would fit in with his employees, so if I gone straight from my current position in a greasy work smock I would have appealed as more suitable for the tasks ahead.
How do you suggest dressing appropriately?
Call and ask. I learned that as much as under-doing it, you do not want to over-dress either. In this entrepreneurial economy you want to fit in and stand out, but every company and industry has its own culture and you want to be aware of that before you approach them for a first meeting. First impressions really do count.
Coming soon...Tere Stouffer's digital marketing strategy advice to small businesses