Meet Jennifer Sanford, Marketing Executive and Founder of Sanford Marketing Group
As a little girl, Jennifer traveled a lot. The daughter of a United States Naval officer, she spent time living abroad in Panama and took to learning and immersing herself in different languages and cultures from an early age; an aspect of her development that would directly impact her career later on.
“I was exposed to so many different people, it was something I carried with me throughout my life.”
Jennifer studied Chinese at the College of William & Mary with the intent of living and working abroad. “At that point, I also spoke French and German, my expectation was to move overseas and develop my career.” Jennifer would gain international exposure, working in Europe, but her career trajectory would be influenced when she met and married a young Naval officer. Remaining stateside, Jennifer began her journey into early technology.
Laying her foundations in hardware peripherals, Jennifer would move into advertising, specifically television before launching an internet website in the recruitment industry. She would go on to spend over two decades at Trader Publishing (aka Dominion Enterprises) and work with companies like Hyatt, Marriott, UPS, McDonald’s, and Walmart on developing employment branding strategies before the opportunity to move into the automotive space presented itself.
The next decade would see Jennifer build the Dominion Dealer Solutions brand, “we took all these businesses that we had acquired and pulled them into a single platform.” Jennifer had the opportunity to build a corporate marketing program that supported all of those businesses.
Alongside setting up a product marketing team, lead generation team, and a PR events management team, Jennifer was asked to create an OEM program. “I quickly realized that I was out of my depth and so I hired some very smart people; and, we were able to establish great successes for the various businesses.” Working as the Director of Strategic Marketing and eventually the Vice President of Marketing and Industry Relations, Jennifer led the team that achieved $14 million in revenue in 2018 from OEM-related business development campaigns.
Her sales and marketing background, marked by a decisive early-bird tone in terms of technology, had allowed Jennifer to build and contribute to automotive for a decade. Having earned over 45 product excellence awards through a multi-year product marketing and PR strategy, and after 22 years at Dominion, Jennifer took an opportunity in healthcare, during the height of the COVID pandemic.
The opportunity was daunting given the timing but “it was interesting sitting in the front row of the healthcare reaction to COVID in the marketplace,” Jennifer shared. “The regulatory aspect of working at a healthcare insurance company meant that everything I did, from keywords to specific advertising campaigns, had to be approved by about 25 people, including a handful of lawyers who normally didn't agree.”
While creativity was not prioritized, Jennifer had the chance to establish good digital best practices that the company still implements; “I was able to build a team there and I'm still in touch with them today. I'm grateful to have had that exposure, but so happy to be back at Automotive."
In the Fall of 2023, Jennifer launched her own marketing practice, Sanford Marketing Group. Working with small and large companies on their product marketing needs and organizational planning, Jennifer is helping her clients pull their marketing operations together.
“It is so exciting to continue the learning process. Companies all have unique needs and I have a unique skill set. I've got tools and a toolbox, but they don't always fit the problems. So I'm learning how to research and develop new tools or apply my tools in different ways that solve the problem at hand.”
Jennifer is focused on engaging with the market, understanding the attitude towards marketing and communications within automotive, and, most importantly, identifying how she can help others.
“There are some giants in our industry that paved the way for me to do this. People like David Kane, Brian Pasch, Laurie Foster, and Nick Zulovich. Greg Noonan said, “You need to do this. How can I help you?” I mean, so many people, when they heard what I was doing, reached out to support me."
It's all about adding value to the industry through working with companies and figuring out how to help others. "I wouldn't be here without all the prior experience I had and being able to contribute to it. So I value every one of my employment opportunities."
When asked about her goals for 2024, Jennifer smiles and answers like a true marketer:
I am still figuring out how I can make the best impact, I am thinking about and engaging the industry to best understand the challenges that I can solve. I am thinking about how I can develop myself and partner within our space.
“It really comes back to problem-solving. And really good marketing is understanding the customer's problem, being accessible to them, and providing them with a means to use your solution.”
We welcome Jennifer Sanford to the DMM Expert Panel and look forward to her contributions to Dealer Marketing Magazine.