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Work, Love & Family: How 7 Marketing Couples Balance It All

Get to know seven digital marketing couples and how they share professional space with their respective partners.

Friday Focus

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be super fun to host a Q&A with some marketing couples!

As one half of a marketing couple myself, I know that it can be both incredibly rewarding and challenging to share professional space with your partner.

Rather than simply sharing my perspective, I thought it would be great to hear some perspectives of other couples in the industry as well so I reached out to a few and I’m so glad that there was such a positive response.

I hope that you enjoy getting to know these couples a little bit in this special Valentine’s edition of Friday Focus.

For those of you that are also in a relationship where you share professional/industry space with your partner, I hope that you see yourself a bit in these stories as well.

Now, let’s meet all seven of our marketing couples and then hear what they have to say!

Jesse McDonald
(Global SEO Strategist, IBM – Twitter: @jesseseogeek)
Jennifer “Kiza” McDonald
(Digital Media Strategist, Texas Workforce Commission | Founder of Plentiful Earth – Twitter: @kizamcdonald)

Sarah Carling
(Sr. SEO, Bruce Clay Inc. – Twitter: @sarahcarling)
Scott Polk
(Sr. SEO, Bruce Clay Inc. – Twitter: @scottpolk)

Dave Davies
(CEO, Beanstalk Internet Marketing – Twitter: @beanstalkim)
Mary Davies
(President, Beanstalk Internet Marketing – Twitter: @beanstalk)

Amy Hebdon
(Founder, CEO at Paid Search Magic – Twitter: @amyppc)
James Hebdon
(Founder, CTO at Paid Search Magic – Twitter: @jphebdon)

Motoko Hunt (ハント肇子)
(President, International Search Marketing Consulting | AJPR – Twitter:@motokohunt)
Bill Hunt
(CEO, Back Azimuth Consulting – Twitter: @billhunt)

Robyn Johnson
(CEO, Marketplace Blueprint – Twitter: @bestfromthenest)
Nate Johnson
(Chief Advertising Analysts, Marketplace Blueprint – Twitter: @Johnson7Nate)

Dave Rohrer
(Founder, NorthSide Metrics & Co-Host, The Business of Digital Podcast – Twitter: @daver)
Carolyn Shelby
(SEO Manager, Disney DTCI/ESPN – Twitter: @cshel)

Now let’s get to the Q&A!


Q: Were you both in digital marketing when you started dating?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: We were not. We met when we were teenagers and didn’t even think of digital marketing as a career path. I wanted to be a musician and she wanted to be a baker.

Jennifer: No, we weren’t! We were in high school when we met. Jesse was excited about music! I was excited about culinary arts, but I hadn’t decided if I wanted to cook and bake as a hobby or as a career. It’s pretty funny – I opted to keep it as a hobby to avoid long nights in a kitchen or bakery; instead, I got long nights as a marketer!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: Yes, we actually met when I spoke at my 2nd ever conference in London, and Scott was there speaking for the billionth or so time.

Scott: Yes, we met while I was speaking at the London Affiliate Conference in 2010, Sarah was speaking as well at the same conference.

Dave & Mary

Dave: Nope. We both kind of wound up in it, and it turned out pretty well.

Mary: No. I was useless on computers actually. I had some old hunk of junk that I had no idea how to even use past turning on.

Amy & James

James: Nope. Amy was. I had been working as a developer with a huge interest in artificial intelligence and data analysis. At the time, AI hadn’t really come into its own, but I saw a lot of the technologies that made up the online advertising ecosystem evolving along those lines. I started helping Amy with some projects she was working on and after moving up to Seattle, pursued it full time as a career.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: No. We are celebrating our 35th anniversary this year, so we were together long before the Internet became available to everyone.

Bill: When we met, Motoko was a university student and I was in the Marine Corps at that time there was not a public Internet. Our first real immersion to digital marketing was when Motoko helped me with getting Japanese language content in NiftyServe, Japan’s version of AOL, to promote my disaster preparedness company.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: No, when we were first dating we had no idea this is where we would end up being.

Nate: No, neither of us were in digital marketing when we started dating, we entered the digital marketing field together.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: Yes. I believe I was working for an agency and she was in-house in a Dev/Tech/Marketing role.

Carolyn: Yes, though I think he’d been at an agency pretty exclusively at that point and I had been 100% in-house.

Q: Do you work for the same company?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: We do not.

Jennifer: We do not; we have different work styles. Additionally, we favor the stability that comes with being at two different companies.

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: After I moved to Vancouver from the UK we worked for different companies but within about a year we were working together at our own agency. In 2019, we got the amazing opportunity of merging Marketing Nomads with Bruce Clay, and we have been loving it there ever since.

Scott: Yes, we have worked together at 2 different companies, Marketing Nomads, and Bruce Clay.

Dave & Mary

Dave: Thankfully yes. Not sure I could do it without her.

Mary: Yup! We are co-owners so we succeed and/or fail together. We are both in all the way!

Amy & James

Amy: Yes, we are our company’s only two full-time employees.

James: Not when we started, but about two years ago we both quit our in-house and agency gigs to start our own agency: Paid Search Magic

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: No, we don’t. We each have own business to run, which works well for us.

Bill: We have individual companies. Motoko has had her company much longer with a specific focus. I created my company so I could focus on different areas of Search.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: Yes, it is great getting to work side by side with your best friend (almost all the days).

Nate: Yes, we have our own digital marketing agency Marketplace Blueprint.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: No and we have always tried to avoid working at the same company although there was this one time where it was almost a possibility.

Carolyn: Oh my glob, no. That would probably be BadTM… seriously though, while working together is tempting, we discussed it and didn’t think it was prudent to put all of our financial eggs in one basket. Gotta stay diversified!

Q: Do you focus in the same areas of marketing or different?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: Professionally I am SEO while she is currently social media. We both have worked in the other’s field to some degree previously but not at the same time, funny enough.

Jennifer: When I was younger in my career, I was winning awards in graphic design, but I had this urge to understand what was working within the designs, how the public perceived the work, and which pieces drove traffic to our goals.

From that, I began studying with other members of our marketing team to form a holistic troubleshooting view of what we did as a full marketing team. From there, I moved into email marketing, social media marketing, paid advertising, web development, sales, and then SEO (from Jesse) in order to gain a holistic view of how the entire marketing machine worked.

I ended up as a Vice President of Marketing for two companies at a single time. Now, I passion project for a state agency, doing social media and high-conversion strategy, while I build up my ecommerce business. So, we’re in different areas, and I think they directly reflect how our brains work!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: I have moved around a little more. I did PPC in-house for a couple of years before we met, so I’ve worked on a lot of PPC accounts for clients over the years. I also do a lot of analytics.

I’ve never met a question I didn’t want to research and learning new things is my favorite hobby (which is why I have about 3,000 other hobbies, and a mountain of hobby equipment to go with them), so when a client needs something, I love diving in to learn what I need to know to help them.

Scott: We both work as technical SEOs, but Sarah has better skillsets with areas I do not work in.

Dave & Mary

Dave: Different. I focus on PPC and SEO and Mary on UX and social. Basically, I drive traffic and she makes sure they like what they get.

Mary: What he said. I really love the people side of things and Dave really likes the numbers, it’s a great balance.

Amy & James

James: We both focus on Paid Search, but we have different, if overlapping, areas of interest. Amy has broad, strategic expertise along with a healthy mix of creative and client-management skills. With my background I’ve tended to focus on scaling, using a more process/systems-oriented approach.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: I offer both SEO and PPC mainly targeting Japan and Asian markets.

Bill: I focus more on broader global search strategies and process improvement as well as specialty tools like HREFLang Builder.

Robyn & Nat

Robyn: We each take different parts of the business. We found it was better for our relationship if each of us had our own domains. Then when we split up the work accordingly, we found that it worked perfectly since we had such different skill sets. I am more creative while Nate is much more analytical.

Nate: I focus mostly on Amazon SEO and PPC, while Robyn does a lot of the customer strategy, sales, and agency marketing pieces.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: I say same-ish. Technical SEO and General SEO overlap for sure but she is more Content/News/Editorial focused where I am more PPC/Data focused beyond that.

Carolyn: I focus exclusively on SEO and probably more technical/enterprise. I feel like Dave is much more well-rounded than I am in that regard.

Q: If you have cross-over work, what is the biggest challenge that you face?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: In college, our professors would always make sure to tell us that we could not pair with each other on projects which was always a relief to us. We both have different styles of working that has a tendency to not mesh well together. We definitely understand our limitations on collaborating professionally. In our personal lives, we complement each other’s styles very well.

Jennifer: Oh man. We just mutually think differently and have different ideas of completion that work perfectly for each of us. Professionally, working differently is great; we never have to worry about outshining the other, and our different styles of thinking help each other see a new perspective on any given issue. When they say opposites attract, it’s so true! It works perfectly in our personal lives!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: Our biggest challenge has always been that we tackle the same SEO problem from completely different directions. Scott shoots from the hip, while I’m more likely to compile a 12 sheet excel document with nested IF statements and VLOOKUP. Sometimes that means that we start discussing a problem and just can’t understand how the other person’s approach could possibly work even though we know it usually does.

Scott: One of my favorite statements is: If you put 100 SEOs in a room and ask them the same question you will get 200 different answers that are still correct. We generally do not agree on how to get from point A to B, but we both know B is the destination.

Dave & Mary

Dave: The biggest challenge is probably just respecting a difference of opinion when we’re both experienced in our areas.

Also, trusting the person who has more experience, even when you have some.

I honestly think I’m worse for this challenge. The Dunning-Kruger Effect kicks in and just because I know analytics, somehow in discussions that makes me a UX expert.

I am not.

Mary: For me, I think it’s impatience. I can get frustrated if I can’t properly explain my perspective sometimes and instead of taking a big breath and trying to reword it I’ll just have a mini-meltdown. It’s always super fun times when that happens. 😉

Amy & James

Amy: A lot of our interests are complementary, but sometimes they aren’t. We’re both pretty protective of our creative ideas, and it leads to a much more personal discussion than just having your boss veto a suggestion.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: We have had many occasions to work on the same clients and projects. We work well together, but then when we do, the work takes over our lives. We talk about work a lot at the dinner table, etc. When we have a cross-over work, we seem to bring that everywhere with us and constantly brainstorming.

Bill: The biggest challenge to cross-over work is turning it off after work. However, our specific cross-overs can be a big advantage. For example, I had a project to develop an Asia Pacific regional growth strategy where I found some significant challenges in Japan.

When it came time to present to the Japan team, Motoko came with me to ensure the complexity of the challenges was explained correctly in Japanese.

Motoko did such an amazing job delivering the bad news and educating the team, that they chose not to implement my plan in Japan, but to hire Motoko to fix the problems directly with the Japan team.

The better news was her scope was twice the size of mine and multiple trips to Japan.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: I think the biggest struggle I face is making sure I am completely clear on what I am asking. I find that since we can shortcut a lot of communication compared to the rest of our staff because we know each other so well, sometimes I don’t articulate what I want as clearly as I do with our other staff.

Nate: I think the biggest challenge we face is the expected results.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: Travel for work and speaking schedules is likely the biggest thing for us. In the past when I was at a large agency, it was known that I couldn’t always just travel to a pitch or something at the drop of a hat. Now with Carolyn’s work and speaking schedule and mine, we just plan things out in advance as much as possible to avoid conflicts but the still can and will happen.

Carolyn: I think we’re good at keeping things separate. I try to stay out of his business.

Q: If you work together, do you have rules in place to try to keep your business and personal lives separated?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: The few times we have collaborated on projects together, we have had some level of expectation setting early on. Not necessarily “ground rules” but understanding where the line is drawn on certain things. After 16 years, you kind of just know what not to do.

Jennifer: Not really, actually. I could see how that would be necessary if we had started dating when we were already professionals. However, since we’ve been together since our foundational years, we both just know when and how to give insight and then taper off into some spiral of silliness.

We’ve learned how to keep things light when they need to be. That being said, we’ve built our relationship on being conversationally open; that’s the key. Jesse taught me that. I’m forever glad he did.

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: We keep our personal lives out of SEO, but SEO often leaks into our personal lives. We prefer to work with different clients wherever possible to avoid one of us managing the other.

I find that when that happens it kind of shifts the power balance and we both end up struggling to take the lead. On the other hand, we regularly discuss John Mueller’s tweets at the breakfast table.

Scott: We 100% keep our personal lives outside of our work lives.

Dave & Mary

Dave: I think we both wish we stuck to it a bit better, but we don’t. That said, when we get away we do tend to do a pretty good job.

It’s just hard when you’re at the end of your day and you want to talk about what it was like (as most couples do) but find that since you work together it ends up not just being telling someone, but rather discussing solutions or to-dos.

Mary: I think this is the biggest challenge that we face honestly. One trick we discovered is that when we have time to read a book that helps in that we each can share the stories we are reading with each other which offers us that non-work thing to talk about. The only downside is that we never end up reading the books the other reads because of this but that’s easily worth the trade-off. 🙂

Amy & James

Amy: We don’t have time and space boundaries to leave business discussions “in the office.” We get a lot out of talking through problems when we’re out and about.

But we do keep planning sessions separate – it gets too overwhelming when work and life bleed into one monster “to do” list.

James: Ha! This is a difficult thing to do when you’re building your own business. Our work frequently stretches into evenings, weekends, holidays, etc.

On the other hand, it also affords us the freedom and flexibility to do things that are difficult to coordinate when you both work 9-5s.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: We need to do a better job with this. When our kids were home, we tried not to talk about the work too much in front of them, but since we became empty-nesters there’s nothing to stop us.

Now that both of our children are in the digital marketing industry, the work-related talk has been sneaking into the conversations over the Thanksgiving dinner, too.

We don’t necessarily view it as a bad thing. It’s helpful to have a family who understands what you are dealing with and provide inputs.

Bill: We need to get better about this especially for family events. I think the one rule we do have, and tend to respect, is no work talk when sightseeing or at nice restaurants. Our home offices are on opposite sides of the house and we try to leave work there when possible.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: Our business is a part of who we are. So it does intertwine with our personal lives. Most of our close friends are industry friends. We do try to make sure that when we are doing something with the family, it doesn’t become a staff meeting.

Nate: Not really, but we enjoy discussing work together. Sometimes we get ideas for clients as we take a walk or make dinner. I think that extra time we can process our client’s strategy gives us an advantage.

Dave & Carolyn

Carolyn: While I try to stay out of his specific business, I don’t think we really keep work/personal life separate. So much of what we do for our jobs affects us in “off” hours, it’s hard to keep those truly distinct and separate.

Q: Are you competitive with each other?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: When it’s appropriate. If we are playing video games together or playing something like Top Golf then we definitely compete. In most other aspects of life, we try to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses to help create a better end result.

Jennifer: You know, it’s interesting. When many people think of competition, they think the end goal is one winner. With us, it tends to lean more to the side of the end goal being growth.

So, if we play Top Golf together, we each want to have the highest score, but we spend the entire game giving each other tips to improve each other’s scores. I never consider shooting him down to win; the winner will come out naturally.

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: Nope. I’m not even sure how you can be competitive over SEO, we would spend two weeks arguing over the value of each contributing variable (actually that’s what I would do, Scott would lose interest after 10 minutes and just let me win anyway).

Scott: No, Sarah is just better than me, so I do not like to lose. 🙁 (Sarah’s comment: Can I put this down as the most romantic gesture?)

Dave & Mary

Dave: No.

Mary: Only when it comes to who loads the dishwasher better.

Amy & James

Amy: No, but we both have strong opinions and sometimes we’ll try to steer the other person to our POV. When we feel vindicated, it’s tough not to revel in that at least a little.

James: I wouldn’t say that we’re openly competitive, but I’m pretty sure that we’re both aware of the other person’s achievements and it spurs us to want to achieve more.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: We don’t have any clients that are competing, and that keeps us from competing with each other. I’m happy with his success as I know it didn’t come easy.

Bill: Yes, Motoko and I are very competitive but not in our jobs as that impacts the family. I think we are very collaborative especially with search. If either sees something working or reads about something that the other may not see, we will share it and discuss how we can introduce it to our clients.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: Yes, that is why having roles that boost each other instead of competing has been helpful for us.

Nate: Yes, but not really at work.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: I don’t think so really. Also, did you mention that I got my answers in first? #firstcommentFTW

Carolyn: Not really… I mean… I win all the time, so there’s no reason to be competitive. 🙂

Q: If you work for different companies and you have clients in competition with each other, how do you manage that?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: This has only been an issue once and it didn’t last for long. When that potential competition came into play we were honest with each other about it and just didn’t talk about those specific projects to each other in a direct way. But like I said, it only lasted a month or two.

Jennifer: We treated it like we do everything else — we talked about it! I remember coming home and saying, “Our new client-base is comprised of loan officers! Uh oh, what do we do?”

We discussed staying cognizant of not talking about those clients, which tough at all because they weren’t problem clients. If they were problem clients, I probably would have just scheduled a therapist to have a constructive outlet.

Amy & James

James: Fortunately this isn’t a situation we have to deal with. But if we did, I doubt it would be a problem. We would respect the confidentiality of each client and we’d both do the best job we could for them.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: No, we don’t. When a potential client contacts me who are direct competition of one of my existing clients, I turn them down. If they may compete with his clients, I inform that to both potential clients and him. I try to be transparent with my clients and potential clients.

Bill: I think we have only had competitors a few times but our focus for them has been different. I do have a somewhat funny competitive experience. In the past, Motoko has done a lot of outsourced work for agencies around the world.

I was consulting for a multinational that was bringing their Search program in-house except for Japan. I got a note from my client asking if I knew a Motoko Hunt as she had been introduced as the Japanese Strategist for 2 of 3 agencies pitching for the business.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: This hasn’t been an issue or at least not a large issue in recent years. Carolyn has spent time at a newspaper and more recently for one of the largest Sports Brands/Publishers. Most of my clients are in the B2B, Small Local Sites, or maybe some content sites but certainly not in competition with her employers.

In the past, when I was going into a new job with an agency, I did make sure that in all offer letters and emails that I raised the issue and flag. It was a non-issue, but I wanted to get it in writing that upfront it was known (for the exact reason you are asking this question).

Carolyn: I think there might have been one time where we had clients who were competitors… we made a point to not discuss those clients either directly with each other or even within earshot of the other.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in both working in the same industry?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: Sometimes I get really eager to help and can probably overstep the boundaries. If she is dealing with something that will affect SEO I will chime in even though I know she has a brilliant SEO mind.

I’m just so used to having to defend SEO decisions or shut something off before it gets out of hand that I forget to shut that off when I’m off the clock.

Luckily, we have a fantastic line of communication with each other so it has only been an issue once. Every other time I catch it and immediately shut myself up.

Jennifer: For me, the biggest challenge that I face working in the same industry as Jesse is that I feel inadequate to his expertise in SEO.

I’m a big problem solver and have individualist tendencies, so I push myself to be an expert at everything.

There’s this tango in place where I have to let my VP guard down and remember to ask him for help; we can’t be experts in everything all the time.

I’ll be honest, I had to dig for that answer — I absolutely love working in the same industry as this dude! It makes our evening chats always eventful! We perpetually have things in common and speak the same language!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: I honestly can’t think of one. I do sometimes worry that if the internet disappeared we would both be out of work at the same time, but I also worry about zombies invading about as often

Scott: No challenges at any point in our relationship by working in the same industry, it is actually the opposite.

Dave & Mary

Dave: It can be hard for us to support the others as well as we might if we weren’t generally under pressure at the same time, generally from the same thing.

Mary: Similar answer to the inability to remove work from our personal lives. Everything that happens in the industry affects both of us whether it’s personal or professional. So we share the same stresses often and it is hard to let go in those harder times and just be together as a couple/family.

Amy & James

Amy: I think our world can feel very small when we read the same articles, see the same posts from the same people on Twitter. It’s really hard to overcome that selection bias and recognize a world neither of us experience.

James: Coming to consensus on issues that are mostly subjective.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: When we both work in the same industry, it’s easier to let the work take over our lives. But I quite enjoy my life and I’d much rather have this life than the life we had when he was in the Marine Corps.

I am very proud of his career in the Marine Corps. But it was really difficult not knowing where he was, whether he was safe, when he’d come home, etc. especially with two small children.

Moving all the time was adding stress to our children, and it pretty much prevented me from having a good career. Now, I know exactly where he is, and I know he is safe. Internet and the work in the industry gave us stability.

Bill: The work talk creep into meals and relaxing time is a problem.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: Since I do most of the speaking and writing, I worry that Nate doesn’t always get the credit for the vital role he plays in our business and its growth.

Nate: I am more than happy that Robyn is able to be more of the face of the agency. The work she does isn’t something I enjoy. However, there have been quite a few times I have been introduced or known as Robyn’s husband.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: Travel conflicts and flipping a coin to see who pitches a conference. We haven’t yet gone for the same job, but we have talked to recruiters about the same role many times, especially if it was based in the Chicagoland area.

Carolyn: Juggling who gets to go to the conference when there’s a child care scheduling issue.

Q: What is the best part about working in the same industry?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: I get to tap into her brilliance 24/7. Plus, when she has a huge win at her job or with her personal ecommerce store I know exactly what she is talking about so we can actually celebrate each other’s victories.

Jennifer: Literally everything. I always see couples who try their best to be interested in their significant other’s workday but have a difficult time following.

I love that if I say, “Wow! The store’s ecommerce clickthrough conversion rate is at 32% from a segmented, targeted database of 20,555,” he knows exactly what that means!

I love that if he mentions a success around prepping a client for an impending Google update and that client’s site gains a massive uptick in traffic, post-update, I need to grab a reservation so we can celebrate!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: This industry has given us so much flexibility, we work from home together and we’ve been able to live in so many diverse places, and now we own a small ranch with cows and horses and goats (oh my!). We couldn’t have done that if one of us was an engineer or banker.

Scott: We have the same industry friends, which helps quite a bit.

Dave & Mary

Dave: The best part is easily getting to sit near her most of the day, and share a part of my life with her I get a great deal of fulfillment from.

Mary: We get to share our experiences. I love that we both go to conferences and speak together. It would be really hard to be away from each other that much so it’s great we can go on those trips together.

I also think we are able to understand the work-related stresses and joys the other is experiencing much better than if we weren’t in the same industry. And it’s awesome that we get to share so many awesome industry friends 🙂

Amy & James

Amy: Feeling and being understood is key. There’s almost nothing I’m experiencing or exploring that James can’t relate to on at least some level.

James: Being able to talk about and share new information, get excited about new ideas, etc. It’s honestly pretty great being able to share a part of our life that people often don’t get to. I’ve heard other people talk about how it’s a negative if you both work in the industry – that honestly hasn’t been our experience.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: One of the perks of working in the same industry is that we get to go on some of the business trips together. We even try to spend the weekend at the destination after the work.

Bill: It’s great to be able to travel the world together. Another benefit is the understanding that comes from the changes and stress of the same industry. This has been very beneficial for me with my decision to shut down some of my tools. Motoko could provide insights from a user, advisor but more importantly from the view of how much wear and tear they were putting on me which made those decisions much easier.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: Being an entrepreneur can be so isolating. Having someone that completely gets it makes celebrating the wins more fun.

Nate: We are able to share our wins and upsets and understand what the other person is going through.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: Crossover of reasons to go to the same cities for conferences and lots of crossover of longtime (and new) friends.

Carolyn: Having someone who truly understands the frustrations, problems, and victories associated with our type of work.

My mother would never understand my absolute grief when a site would fall out from #1 for a competitive term… she would be like, “gee that sounds awful, go vacuum your stairs, you’ll feel better.”

Dave gets me though and I really value that.

Q: What is the nerdiest romantic gesture your partner has ever made?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: It depends on your definition of “romantic”. From a traditional standpoint, we are a super nerdy couple that can both be a little awkward so romantic stuff is a bit of a challenge in our relationship. We both laugh about it a bunch.

There have been countless sweet gestures made over the last 16 years. For example, to tell me that we were pregnant Jen planned out this super sweet Addams Family reveal (we got married on Halloween so Gomez and Morticia are kind of an inspiration to us).

It didn’t get to pan out but the gesture was so amazing. If you see me at a conference in the future hit me up and I’ll tell you in way more detail.

Jennifer: When I was a teenager, and still now, I loved anime. That was my thing! U.S. anime, undubbed Japanese anime, I was there.

Rurouni Kenshin in Japanese on a borrowed VHS from a friend; those were the days! So, I loved plushies! I wanted an Inuyasha plush; I wanted a Duo Maxwell plush — anything that I loved, I wanted it in plush form.

I’ll never forget the time and love that went into this little replica plushie that Jesse made for me of himself!

Guys, it looked JUST like him, with his signature removable beanie! Even though he gave it to me in high school, it was a perfect memento when our relationship was long-distance during parts of college!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: We don’t really do romance in the Polk-Carling household. I guess linking your name and reputation to some random person you’ve known for less than a year and starting a business with them was pretty romantic (or totally stupid), so I think that warrants an “aww”.

Scott: We joined the conference couples group of Facebook.

Dave & Mary


Mary: He got me a cat. Cats are nerdy right?

Oh also once loooong ago he set up a huge scavenger hunt all across the city for me.

It started with an ad in the newspaper and then I followed the clues. I went to a bunch of different stores and they had little gifts for me to pick up along with a next clue until eventually I finally met him at a restaurant for dinner.

It was super fun!

Amy & James

Amy: When we were dating, his nephew encouraged him to propose at MineCon, which would have been incredibly nerdy. The fact that he chose not to made it much more romantic.

James: She made me a choose-your-own-adventure website to cheer me up.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: What? Like him giving me a “.edu” backlink for Valentine’s Day? Hmmm, it’s usually nerdy or romantic, and not both.

One that fits into the criteria would be that he has a notification set up for my favorite artist’s news so that he can add a visit to the museum with the exhibition in our business/leisure trip itineraries.

Bill: Not sure how nerdy and romantic can be linked but I can never thank her enough for giving up third-row tickets to the Scorpions farewell tour so I can receive the lifetime achievement award at the U.S. Search Awards.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: Nate knows I love Disneyland and the history around Walt Disney. One year he got me a spot on the Walking With Walt tour at Disneyland. I got to tour Walt’s apartment above the firehouse.

Nate: Robyn knows I love cooking and kitchen gadgets. Last Christmas she got me a Sous vide immersion cooker, which I totally love.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: One of the first Christmases we were together despite a “no presents” rule she went and got me a watch that I had been eyeing forever. At the time it was a rather expensive present for both of us and to this day I still wear it all the time.

Carolyn: I think when we were first dating, he submitted something I wrote to Digg and I recall tearing up and thinking that was the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for me.

Q: What is a helpful relationship tip that you would like to share with other marketing couples?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: If one of the most important skills as a digital marketer is effective communication then make sure to bring that same skill to the relationship. Communication is key.

If something upsets you bring it up in a constructive clear way and talk about it. If something makes you happy let the other person know.

After a while, you will establish the dos and don’ts of the relationship and find that the time you spend together is much happier.

Jennifer: Communication, hands down, followed by gentle, constructive solutions.

Relationships are about making the best version of your unit, so by being open and open to growth together allows for you to become a true power couple!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: Get your own office. No matter how much you love your partner, looking at their face all day, seeing their bad habits, listening to them say something stupid to a client, and worst of all being subjected to their music choices; eventually, you’re just going to want to run away.

Scott: Have your own space, but also have a common area to see each other 🙂

Dave & Mary

Dave: Be kind. I’m not as kind as Mary is … but I can sure see its value.

The same would be true of any other couple, but in a field as competitive as marketing and with both doing it, it’s doubly important.

Mary: If you work together, and even more important if you work together from home, I think it’s crucial that you get away together as often as you can.

A night or two away at a hotel or bed and breakfast or camping or whatever you can make work really helps you be able to take the time to be with your partner as your romantic partner rather than your working partner.

Ideally, two nights is best so you have that whole day to just wake up and enjoy a full day unplugged and soaking in the loooove.

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: It’s OK if you talk sometimes about work on the weekends or at the dinner table. No need to get stressed over it. Just find the balance that works for both of you and the family.

Talking about the challenges and the work in general to someone helps. Be the person who listens to your partner.

Bill: My best tip for relationships is to marry your best friend and find ways to have quality time together.

Amy & James

Amy: Budget a good amount for professional development, and encourage each other to pursue your interests.

We hear lots of horror stories from people whose partners discouraged or disapproved of investments, and in contrast, it’s really nice to have a cheerleader who is generous in emotional and financial support.

I guess that’s good advice for anyone, not just marketers.

James: Always step back and be grateful. Think more about what you can give than what they can. If you can both pull that off most of the time, it can be pretty magical.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: We really struggled, and our business interfered with our marriage until we found the right division of work. Honestly, I didn’t think we would ever get there.

However, once we found the roles that highlighted our strongest skill sets, then hired out our collective weaknesses, it has been a whole new world for us.

There are still stressful days and occasional cross words, but now I feel like we are the perfect partners for business and life

Nate: Take time to listen to your partner’s concerns and upsets.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: Unless we are stumped or just want a second opinion on something work/SEO/marketing related we really don’t talk a ton about “work”.

We likely do more than I think we do but overall, we try and mix it up and not dwell or focus on “work” related things 24/7. When you factor in that 40-75% of the time we are both working from home we could really drive each other crazy.

One of the better decisions which made our house hunting a huge pain a few years ago was the need for 2 home offices.

It didn’t matter if I ended up in the basement, attic or a spare bedroom but whatever house we were going to buy was going to have 2 spaces we could use to give us each our own “work” space.

Carolyn: Maintain your own space. You’re a couple, not conjoined twins.

Q: Last but not least, Star Trek or Star Wars?

Jesse & Jennifer

Jesse: Star Wars 100%. It’s been in my life since I was 3 and I even have an Ewok tattoo. We already have rules established for how we are going to introduce our soon-to-be-born daughter to the saga (a.k.a., she doesn’t get to see the prequels until she’s in her late teens lol).

Jennifer: Star Wars! Though, the new movies have rekindled my childhood love for Star Trek; I wouldn’t mind going back to re-watch what I grew up with! Jesse introduced me to Star Wars, and their closed stories work better with my ADHD!

Sarah & Scott

Sarah: Star Trek

Scott: Star Trek

Amy & James

Amy: Battlestar Galactica

James: This caused me considerable stress, as I’ve been a fan of both series since I was a kid. I think I could argue the merits of either of them pretty effectively. If I had to go with one or the other, I guess I’d go with Star Wars, but only if I pretend the prequels were a bad dream.

Dave & Mary

Dave: Trek. Nothing more needs to be said.

Mary: Captain Picard all the way!

Motoko & Bill

Motoko: Star Trek! I grew up watching it in Japan on every Saturday afternoon. It was the only foreign TV show with someone who looked like me at that time.

When we lived in Los Angeles, I got to know George Takei’s mother well through one of the Japanese American organizations. She told me some stories about George, which made me more attached to the show.

Bill: Honestly not a fan of either but since I have to pick, I would stay Star Trek since Spock has been one of the few people on TV I could relate to.

Robyn & Nate

Robyn: Both! I love the Star Trek and have loved getting to rewatch the Next Generation with my 12-year-old. However, I don’t know that my life would be complete without the romance and adventure of Star Wars.

Nate: Star Wars all the way. Even though Robyn says, I might be part Vulcan.

Dave & Carolyn

Dave: Oh, look at the time, I think my pen has run out of ink! Nothing against Star Trek but I was raised on Star Wars, so I must vote for early Star Wars (none of the past 6 or whatever movies they are on now though).

Carolyn: Star Trek, naturally…

To Sum Up

I’d like to say a huge thanks to all these couples for sharing their stories!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our SEJ readers, whether you’re rocking this day solo or as a couple, we ❤️ you all!

More Resources:

Category Friday Focus
Mary Davies President at Beanstalk Internet Marketing

Mary began her career as a web designer in 2002 and quickly began to see the importance of SEO and ...

Work, Love & Family: How 7 Marketing Couples Balance It All

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