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Meet Amy Bohutinsky, CMO, Zillow

Amy Bohutinsky embraces challenges head-on. Before building the Zillow marketing team from the ground up, Bohutinsky ran communications at Hotwire, where she led the discount travel site’s PR launch in 2000. She and her Zillow team developed a base of 30 million monthly users—despite not spending a penny on advertising for the first five years.

Marketing strategy: I started my career as a broadcast journalist, so my approach to marketing comes from that perspective. We use storytelling and data as a foundation for everything we do at Zillow.

Winning ways: Last year we launched our first TV advertising campaign, which was a risk for us. But in doing it we were able to maintain the core of what we do, which is all about impactful, product-driven storytelling. For the first six months we tripled our category share leads over the number two brand in the space, and our Web and mobile traffic went from 45% growth year-over-year in January to 75% year-over-year growth in August.

Defining moment: When I first joined Zillow eight and a half years ago, before the company launched, our cofounder Rich Barton walked into my office on my first day of work and said, ‘By month six I want you to be attracting one million users a month—without spending any money.’ Then he turned and walked out. I almost fell out of my chair. But that planted a stake for me; it forced me to swing for the fences and not hold anything back. When the site launched in February 2006, we had one million unique visitors within the first three days.

Trend watching: One of the most interesting things happening now is the partnership between data science and marketing. We use data to create nationwide housing reports that drill down to the neighborhood level. We can do this because we’re looking deeply at the data in our own products and use it to tell a story that helps our consumers understand what’s happening in the world around them—and that’s not something marketing can do on its own.

Words to live by: One thing I say all the time is something I stole from my boss, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff: “Hire better than you.” I hire people who are smarter, deeper, faster, and more creative than I am and I make it my job to empower them to knock it out of the park.

Good read: I like reading books that are a vacation for my brain. Recently, my family and I went to Hawaii and I read the whole Hunger Games series in three days.

Good advice: Playing it safe guarantees a mediocre career and a mediocre life. Take big swings.

Meet the rest of the 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honorees and read their inspirational stories.

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