Monique Sherrett CEO, Boxcar Marketing & Internet Marketing Consultant for B'stro |

Monique Sherrett CEO, Boxcar Marketing & Internet Marketing Consultant for B’stro

Monique Sherrett is the CEO (Chief Everything Officer) of Boxcar Marketing, a Vancouver-based internet marketing consultancy. Monique also serves as an internet marketing consultant for B’stro, a marketing and design company located in Vancouver and San Francisco.


Monique, you’ve been involved in the internet (and even internet marketing) since 1999, which is before most people even knew what the internet was. What kinds of work were you doing than and how does that compare to what you’re doing now?

It’s true, I remember when Google launched in 1998.

In my university days when my fellow Arts students were taking biology for their science requirement, I decided to take computer science and learned how to code.

My early web experiences impressed upon me the need to build an audience and respond to their needs, to use the tools available to ensure your intended audience finds your work, and to give back through participation beyond your own website. These remain great lessons.

I built my first website in 1998 for Jesse James Press, which was my first entrepreneurial adventure with, my now husband, James Sherrett. Jesse James Press was a small publishing company that we ran with two other English majors.

The second site I managed was Treeline, an online literary magazine. I was the graphic editor and also the wine columnist from 1997 to 1999.

Those early experiences really set the stage for the work I did for Raincoast Books as their internet marketing manager, including launching the first Canadian publisher blog and one of the first publisher podcasts in 2006, then handling community management and outreach for the Harry Potter titles.

My early web experiences impressed upon me the need to build an audience and respond to their needs, to use the tools available to ensure your intended audience finds your work, and to give back through participation beyond your own website. These remain great lessons.

What are the first few things (work/business/personal) that you do each morning?

Morning is my favourite time of day. I often get up early and work out at the gym. As a non-gym person, I like to be only partially awake when engaging in exercise.

Once I’m suitably awake with all those great endorphins from my workout, I grab coffee at one of my favourite shops and am online by 7:30-8:00.

Having a mix of East Coast and West Coast clients, as well as clients and partners in Europe means that I need to be tapped into what’s going on well before 9 am PST.

My first stop is usually Twitter, Google Reader, email then back to Twitter. Somewhere in there, I fit in filming and uploading to YouTube my 1 Minute Marketing tip for the day. My goal for 2012 is to post one per business day.

Next I check the Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages that Boxcar Marketing manages on behalf of clients.

And between meetings, phone calls, and more email, I work on writing and posting content or engaging on other sites depending on the day of the week.

Since there are so many social media sites and so many different things to do for each client, we use an editorial calendar to keep us on track. As Boxcar Marketing, Crissy Campbell and I set two priority outcomes each week for ourselves, plus we have weekly goals for each client.

Having a mix of East Coast and West Coast clients, as well as clients and partners in Europe means that I need to be tapped into what’s going on well before 9 am PST.

“We plan so we can measure, we measure so we can improve.” Knowing what success looks like for our clients means we can ensure we are staying on track by doing a little check in each morning.

You’re an Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University, you run Boxcar Marketing and consult for an SF based design company as well, what does your typical day look like?

There are typical weeks but not typical days. Because Boxcar Marketing’s approach to online marketing is about responding to people and interacting as much as possible, it means that the daily schedule we have in mind can quickly go out the window.

Setting the two priority goals for the week and keeping in mind our client goals means Crissy and I can adjust our schedules as needed. As one of my SFU professors used to say, “we’re aiming for results, not effort.”

On that note, my role as Adjunct Professor at SFU means that I also have to be flexible in where and when I work. In the Fall semester, I teach an undergraduate course in online marketing, PUB355, and I co-teach the marketing course for the Master of Publishing program. In the Spring semester, I supervise the distant education version of the undergraduate course and do some guest speaking in the other publishing courses.

Teaching is something that I really enjoy. I find it incredibly rewarding to see a group of people come into a class with a certain set of knowledge and leave 13 weeks later with even greater knowledge—and often as people I’d want to hire.

With all that going on, what is your approach to productivity? Do you use any tools to help you get things done?

Setting the priority goals for the week is an important tactic that I mentioned earlier. Aside from that I use Basecamp for project communications, Harvest for time tracking, and Google calendar for appointments.

I also work in 90-minute blocks as I find that my concentration wans after that point. Those 90-minute markers signal my need for a mental and physical break so I get up, have some water, go for a little walk, break for lunch, take 10 deep breathes or run up and down the stairs.

The regular breaks from sitting keep my brain active. For me, productivity is actually about taking breaks so I can work more effectively during the times I am working.

As you consult with companies on their internet marketing are there one or two common mistakes you see companies making?

When I consult with companies, there are two things that I typically flag:

  • Lack of clarity on the business goals the marketing activities must achieve
  • Too little time spent in too many social networks

Not knowing why you are doing something is a barrier to success, specifically because how will you know if you are successful if you haven’t set any goals?

Before running a campaign or setting up a new social network, I recommend people do some planning first. What is the business goal you hope to achieve with the Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest or even your website? If you figure out the goals first, the right tools will fall naturally into place. Choosing the tools first, “because everyone else is on it”, doesn’t lead to a good outcome.

Choosing the tools first, without setting any goals, is usually what leads me to flag #2, which is doing too many things and none of them well enough.

Joining a social media site might be free in terms of dollar cost, but there is certainly a time cost to participating in and managing your business presence in these spaces.

To encourage people to think about the time commitment, I start by asking how much time they have per week for managing social media. I then recommend they estimate spending 2 hours a week per tool. The number of tools they can manage becomes clear quickly.

I would rather people feel rewarded and successful than spread too thinly. If that means only adding Facebook, or only having time for Flickr, great. Just become a power user with that one tool, and when you can take on something else, go back to your business goals and choose the next tool to add to the marketing mix.

Do you have a good work-life balance? If no, why? If yes, how do you achieve it? What are you beliefs around this?

Work-life balance. Those are magical words. My belief here is that my to-do list will always be longer than the time available in a day, and that’s ok. As my grandmother likes to tell me, “work will always be there.” So when I’m working, I’m working, and when I’m playing, I’m playing.

Instead of trying to find a perfect balance and plan, I think about how I can manage my time and energy. At the beginning of the work week, I think about how I want to feel at the end of the week. Then I do little check-ins throughout the week to adjust. At home I reflect on the same things and guide my actions accordingly. Sometimes I need to veg out in order to feel rejuvenated; sometimes I need a great party to refuel. Balance for me is about being self aware and correcting as required. Like everything, it’s a work in progress.

Can you share a personal or business challenge that was hard to deal with and how you overcame it and what you learned from it?

In 2007 Boxcar Marketing was still in its infancy and I didn’t really know how I was going to do everything. I knew what I needed to do, I just wanted someone else to be responsible for keeping me on track.

When you run your own business, it’s easy to get caught up running the day-to-day business and not doing enough big-picture planning. I think this is why the odds are that most start-ups will fail.

So through a business network I was connected to Henry Catalino. Henry and I had a regular call and he’d give me the gears for not doing what I said I was going to do for the business. He’d assignment homework and, because I’m a diligent student, I tried to do all of my tasks before our next meeting. Sometimes it was minutes before! But that third-person perspective on my business was really valuable. It also helped that the advice came from someone I didn’t know previously. Henry didn’t feel compelled to tell me what I wanted to hear because he was my friend. He just gave me the best advice as he saw it. I learned a lot from Henry, it was a fantastic experience.

What’s the most recent book that you’ve read and would recommend to others?

Well the most recent book that I’ve read is The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. I review almost all the books I read on my blog So Misguided, and I’d certainly recommend this one. It’s a great modern take on the classic Western.

When it comes to business books, I recently re-read Eric Reis’ book The Lean Startup. The lean startup movement is about how agile businesses use continuous innovation to create rapid feedback loops that guide their business development.

When you run your own business, it’s easy to get caught up running the day-to-day business and not doing enough big-picture planning. I think this is why the odds are that most start-ups will fail.

There are a ton of points I agree with so I’d certainly recommend anyone in business give it a read, whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the sales guy for a mom & pop.

What is your favourite quote of all time?

“Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.” Regardless of who said it first, I always associate this quote with Ralph Hancox, who was my management professor at SFU. Now he is a wise, wise man. I credit him with any business savvy I have, and any faults are certainly bad habits I formed on my own.

For someone that wants to get a job in internet marketing what would you say to them? What can they do to increase their chances of landing that job?

If you want a job, let the barriers be exterior ones not interior ones. There’s no reason to fear technology. Just use the tools. The best way to learn is to do.

Start by marketing yourself. Use those social media tools for business. Understand how it differs from personal use. Create your own plan. Set some goals. Measure them.

As humans, we get better at the things we practice. Nike is on to something with “just do it!”

Also read. Read as much as you can and then implement what you’re reading.

Plus join some groups. There are great meet-ups for UX design, content management, search marketing, the list goes on. There are LinkedIn groups, there’s the Social Media Examiner forums, and a ton of other sites where people share knowledge for free.

If you have some cash, attend a conference like The Art of Marketing.

Landing a job is often who you know and what you know. I recommend networking and constantly learning.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be doing?

There’s an alternative?

I suppose my alter ego would be making perfume. I’ve always been fascinated with science and art. Perfumery is definitely both. One of my side projects is Botany of Delight, which is my perfume line. At the moment I have a series of scents based on the Harry Potter characters.

Imagine me handpicking roses and lavender in the South of France and coming up with perfumes to match literary characters. Oh, I’ll also be indulging in wine, bread and cheese. You’re all welcome to visit.


  • Anonymous

    Thanks for taking the time to interview me Michael! It was a pleasure.

    • Monique, my pleasure! And appreciate you sharing so much with our readers and the community!

  • Anonymous

    Great interview. Solid advice comes from having good experience. What does experience come from again? 😉

  • Enzo

    This was a great read. Thanks for sharing Monique. Also, great quote!!