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top of mind

Mother-in-Law Knows Best It sometimes takes counsel from unlikely sources to get outside yourself and take your business marketing to the next level.


hen I was growing up, there


was nothing better than getting my mother’s glowing approval.

She was—and still is—the biggest fan of

I had just started the new design, and it was already being torn to shreds. Or was

Connect conference in January. It was ego-driven, not wisdom-driven.

it? “Mom, what do you want to see first?”

all things “me.” Then I met my wife, and

I started on my design again with a

she became a pretty vocal advocate of

pen and paper. I sketched it out, stopping

mine as well, always able to communicate

only when I reached a place of calm. I

she loved and hated about the design.

with love how I can make something even

finally got it! I started feverishly creating

She became my focus group of one—the


the coding for the Web design. Then, my

best money I never spent. As I developed

mother-in-law got involved.

the site from the initial sketch at her

But last autumn, something happened

I asked my mother-in-law. Over the next hour, she told me what

that neither the praise of my mother nor the support of my wife could fix. I had tasked myself with creating my company’s new website. It was a complete

Nothing I created satisfied me, and I was driving everyone around me crazy.

redesign from the bottom up. The problem was that nothing I

Now, unlike my mother and wife, my

kitchen table, I would send her updates

created satisfied me, and I was driving

mother-in-law is virtually unbiased when

weekly. I would listen and take notes. I’d

everyone around me crazy. I heard things

it comes to my abilities. She loves me, but

ask more questions. Then I’d act.

like: “It’s fine.” “It’s good enough.” “You’ll

she’s not vested in what I do.

never be satisfied.” That was all true.

“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to

Now, the creation I’m most proud of in my professional adult life—aside

an image I used to represent my com-

from my own brokerage—has been

Eve, when I found myself working away

pany. The image was a retro graphic of

realized. My company’s new website,

at my mother-in-law’s house. I was

a woman with a phone, which basically, gets nine times the clicks

positively fuming: After four months of

meant to say, “Contact us.” I explained it

that the old one did per week, and the

work, I wasn’t happy with the results and

to my mother-in-law.

average usage time is 6.5 minutes, up

I barreled through until Christmas

decided I would have to trash the site. “OK, who is making you do this?” my

“The image is wonderful,” she said. But there was one problem, she added: It

from one minute. And I owe it to my mom. Not the one

didn’t inherently get across the intended

who gave birth to me, but the one who

“I am,” I replied.

message. If I wanted the image to tell

came into my life 15 years ago. Next year,

“Right, but what’s the rush?” she

people to contact my company, then it

I won’t complain about the long drive to

countered. “Getting it right is more

should literally say so. “Don’t make me

get to her house. I think I owe it to her.

important than releasing something that

think,” she said.

wife asked.

isn’t ready.” Of course, she was right. My release date was arbitrary, based on my goal to launch before the Inman Real Estate

“You know, my focus goes here first,” she continued, pointing to another spot on the site. “Is it supposed to?” Holy moly—no, it wasn’t supposed to!

Darrin J. Friedman is co-CEO and cofounder of Chevy Chase, Md.–based real estate brokerage Real Living | At Home. []

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