How I Made it in Marketing

B2B Brand Marketing and Culture: The higher up you go, your priority becomes the people (episode #88)

February 21, 2024 Ashley Levesque Season 1 Episode 88
B2B Brand Marketing and Culture: The higher up you go, your priority becomes the people (episode #88)
How I Made it in Marketing
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How I Made it in Marketing
B2B Brand Marketing and Culture: The higher up you go, your priority becomes the people (episode #88)
Feb 21, 2024 Season 1 Episode 88
Ashley Levesque

If a podcast plays in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Bit of a cheeky thought experiment, I’ll admit, but here’s one thing I’ve noticed – we marketers don’t always create content for an audience, sometimes the audience is an afterthought.

We’re too focused on an algorithm. Or a lead generation goal. Or a calendar. Or a process.

So I love this lesson from a podcast quest application – ‘there is no content without an audience.’

To hear the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson-filled stories, I talked to Ashley Levesque, Vice President of Marketing, Banzai (

Banzai is a public company traded on NASDAQ and currently valued at $100 million. Levesque is currently a team of one, but she manages five functions in this newly public company.

Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Here are some lessons from Levesque that emerged in our discussion.

  • Data is more compelling than anecdote
  • There is no content without an audience
  • Overhiring is a real thing
  • Say ‘yes’ before you’re ready
  • The higher up you go, your priority becomes the people
  • There are three things to solve for in times of unmet expectations

Related content discussed in this episode now has expert assistants – copywriter, project planner, marketing professor, and social media pro. It’s totally FREE to use, you don’t even have to register (for now). MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa.

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing (

Growth Marketing: Give a choice of "yes" or “yes” (podcast episode #37) (

Get more episodes

This article is distributed through the MarketingSherpa email newsletter ( Sign up for free if you’d like to get more episodes like this one.

For more insights, check out...

This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages ( free digital marketing course.

Apply to be a guest
If you would like to apply to be a guest on How I Made It In Marketing, here is the podcast guest application –

Show Notes Transcript

If a podcast plays in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Bit of a cheeky thought experiment, I’ll admit, but here’s one thing I’ve noticed – we marketers don’t always create content for an audience, sometimes the audience is an afterthought.

We’re too focused on an algorithm. Or a lead generation goal. Or a calendar. Or a process.

So I love this lesson from a podcast quest application – ‘there is no content without an audience.’

To hear the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson-filled stories, I talked to Ashley Levesque, Vice President of Marketing, Banzai (

Banzai is a public company traded on NASDAQ and currently valued at $100 million. Levesque is currently a team of one, but she manages five functions in this newly public company.

Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Here are some lessons from Levesque that emerged in our discussion.

  • Data is more compelling than anecdote
  • There is no content without an audience
  • Overhiring is a real thing
  • Say ‘yes’ before you’re ready
  • The higher up you go, your priority becomes the people
  • There are three things to solve for in times of unmet expectations

Related content discussed in this episode now has expert assistants – copywriter, project planner, marketing professor, and social media pro. It’s totally FREE to use, you don’t even have to register (for now). MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa.

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing (

Growth Marketing: Give a choice of "yes" or “yes” (podcast episode #37) (

Get more episodes

This article is distributed through the MarketingSherpa email newsletter ( Sign up for free if you’d like to get more episodes like this one.

For more insights, check out...

This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages ( free digital marketing course.

Apply to be a guest
If you would like to apply to be a guest on How I Made It In Marketing, here is the podcast guest application –

Ashley Levesque: We should not be guessing on the outcome. We should not be guessing on their ability to get to those outcomes. This is why we have a hiring process for employees, right? Often questions. There are a lot of marketers who give them homework. We want to evaluate their likely hood to be able to get there and set citations, objectives and KPI with them in the organization.

We don't simply hand them down and say, Figure this out.

Intro: Welcome to how I made it in marketing from Marketing Sherpa. We scour pitches from hundreds of creative leaders and uncover specific examples, not just trending ideas or buzzword laden schmaltz, real world examples to help you transform yourself as a marketer. Now here's your host, the senior director of Content and Marketing at Marketing Sherpa Daniel Burstein, to tell you about today's guest.

Ashley Levesque: Speaker and.

Daniel Burstein: If a podcast plays in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? David Cheeky thought Experiment Element. Okay. Here's one thing I've noticed. We marketers don't always create content for an audience. Sometimes that audience is an afterthought. We're too focused on an algorithm or a lead generation goal or a calendar or a process.

So I love this lesson from a podcast guest application. There is no content without an audience, though. True. Here to share the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson filled stories is Ashley, the VEC vice president of marketing for Banzai. Thanks for being here, Ashley.

Ashley Levesque: Hi, thanks for having me. Very excited.

Daniel Burstein: So let's take a quick look at your background. Just cherry picking around here. Ashley started her career in theater where she was assistant to the producing artistic director at Bad Habit Productions. She was in the E.R. at a private equity firm. A senior marketing manager at Soft Robotics. And for the past three years, she has been at Banzai, where she is a vice president of marketing.

Banzai is a public company as a publicly traded company on Nasdaq and is currently valued at $100 million. And Ashley, right now, team, the company just went public. So she's a team of one, but she manages five functions in this newly public company. Sounds very, very busy, Ashley. So give us a sense, what is your day like as VP of marketing?

Ashley Levesque: yeah. So you hit the nail on the head. Five functions is a lot for one person, but they're all interplay and they all kind of leverage one on top of the other. So over the course of the day, I'm really dealing in a lot of communications, but that covers internal communications. It covers external communications. So I'm looking at investor relations, analyst relations, internal marketing, public relations, and of course that connects to brand and storytelling.

And I'm going through messaging, brainstorming sessions and finalizing positioning, and it's a lot of different pieces of a big puzzle that I kind of all, you know, all blows up to to marketing. But my day ranges from talking with vendors and team members around how do we best tell the story? What is the key story that we have to tell right now?

How can we make sure that our external brand and our internal brand are aligned? How do we get our internal investors, you know, our employees jazzed and just as excited about what we're doing and telling to the market? So yeah, it's a lot. It changes from day to day, but I wouldn't have it any other way to that.

Daniel Burstein: So I got a little whiff of that when I was researching your company and I saw your name on the press release, the contact, and I was like that this is a marketing leader who rolls up our sleeves and gets involved. But let me ask you this. This is a challenge I've faced recently. How do you brainstorm as a team of one?

Right? Because something I found, you know, we went we used to be all in the same office, pre-COVID. And boy, if I want a brace, I walk into someone's office, we whip out a whiteboard, we get going. And now, yes, I can reach out remotely, but it's kind of not the same remotely. And one thing that's really helped me in my life is I like I use I to brainstorm now, just like bounce ideas off of What do you think of this?

What do you think that, you know, just like almost another person. So is there something you used to, like brainstorm, like being that team of one so you're not just in isolation?

Ashley Levesque: Totally. So I leverage communities a lot. I'm in the 80,000 marketing communities and they all have kind of different individual ME shares a lot of the same people are in a lot of the same communities, but they are so excited because they're very similar to me. They they need other marketers to be able to bounce ideas off of, and they're either small marketing teams or there's a there's a special there's a special honor of being a marketer in a marketing technology company where we really want to kind of model and represent what it means to be a marketer when we ourselves are our own.

ICP Right. So being able to talk with other marketers, especially in the MarTech space, is also really helpful for me because they are my end user. So I'm like, Does this resonate with you? Did you buy this? Does this look good? That's really helpful. I am lucky. The inbound guy in the organization, we have a number of other marketers.

They just sit in other departments. So I have one demand gen marketer and I have one customer marketer. I also have an incredible sales team customer, best team, customer experience team, all customer facing, all talking to our end users all the time and getting them in a room is another, you know, another great opportunity. Sometimes I bribe them with coffee, taking them away from their, you know, their day job.

But it is incredibly valuable for me.

Daniel Burstein: That's great. And if anybody is looking for a community to join, may I recommend the AI Guild from Mech Labs, Marketing Services, parent organization. But also we are in a similar position. We're like, I'm marketing, creating content to marketers and entrepreneurs. And one thing I found that's really helpful, I kind like you mentioned, is just try to get as much feedback from them.

So one small thing we send our email from reply emails, it always makes my mind explode when a company will send from a no reply email when they're saying like, Hey, we want to get this message in front of you, we can care less what you say just sending from a reply email. I've gotten so much self help from our audience.

Make what we do better. I you know, I appreciate it so much. So let's jump in and take a look at some lessons we can learn from the things you made in your career. That's something we get to do as marketers, right? I've never been anything else, a podiatrist or an actuary, but I'm sure, like everyone gets to make things work.

We make brands and campaigns and logos and often it's so much fun. So your first lesson here, data is more compelling than anecdote. How did you learn this lesson?

Ashley Levesque: I was working at a robotics company, which is traditionally a very risk averse industry, dare I say stuffy, perhaps heavy manufacturing, right? It is. It's a very old industry and we were a company. Doctor Biotics is a company that's really pushing the envelope on that. They're sort of inventing new ways of using robotic technology in the field, and I wanted our brand and marketing efforts to reflect that.

But I was told over and over and over again, don't be too cheeky, don't be too funny. Follow the norms. Our end users want it a certain way. And I was told this over and over and over again. And as a marketer I know I have to tell you this. And so I did. I created a top of funnel campaign using videos of my team inside the company doing cool stuff with robots.

And they were funny, they were short and they win out In an opt in newsletter, people asked to see these videos. It wasn't part of a big ole monthly share to everybody in our database, and I branded it. It had a very specific name called the Gripper Guys. These were these were the the guys in my company who were doing these awesome videos on a robotic gripper that looks off robotic self.

And we had an incredible open rate, 50% open rate on this email, tons of great response. And people who would come into the office more than once, I would see them say, my gosh, I recognize that guy. He's the guy. Our company became like famous almost these these awesome engineers were on video and being recognized in the office as having this momentous video career and how can you remember everyone comes to the table with ideas and opinions.

And it's not that the anecdotes are always inaccurate, it's just that you have to test them. You have to leverage the data that proves that something does or doesn't work, rather than continuing to go off of ideas because the reality is that market changes so fast, our buyers change so fast, buying cycles changed so fast that old data becomes anecdotal, it becomes old.

We have to continue to keep up by retesting and reevaluating what's actually working. So that's something that I still do to this day and encourage all fellow marketers to do.

Daniel Burstein: But to do that, we need that idea to begin with. And so my hat's off to you. That is is a wildly creative idea for what could be a boring B2B company. So let me ask you, like, what triggered that idea? How did you come up with that idea? Because here's something I'm hearing constantly, especially from B2B marketers, like, you know, they got to hit a certain lead number that quarter.

They just throw their hands up or I'm going to buy a list. I'm going to be cold, outraged, you know, get my buyers going on LinkedIn, you know, reaching out to whoever is in our, you know, ideal customer profile. And you know, what else can I do? And especially B2B, they're like, well, I'm a boring B2B company. I don't have anything interesting to say for content, but you found something really interesting.

And one piece of advice I give and I want to see how you came up with this is like, don't stay in your office, so to speak. I mean, we all work remotely now. Could be hard, like get copied on a lot of emails, you know, get involved in a lot of calls. And if you can, if you have a facility, get in the facility, because what you're going to see, if you take that kind of journalistic approach to content marketing, you're going to see things that make good stories.

If you don't, those things that value is still being created. It's just hidden in those four walls, right? It's hidden in your internal outlook. So you have to find that value and then that's what you broadcast externally. And whatever you're doing, if it's a B2B robotics company, the most boring B2B company in the world, if you're making like sewer conduits that go under the road, you know, there's something interesting in there, right?

I mean, think about Mike Rowe, what he did. He took some like boring, dirty jobs, for lack of a better word. He made that compelling and dramatic. So you actually like, again, like many people in your role, it would have been like, all right, I'm going to buy a bunch of lists. I'm going to spam a bunch of people.

But you didn't you came up with a really wildly creative idea and you served people something they enjoyed. So how did you come up with that? What would spark that idea?

Ashley Levesque: It's humor, honestly. It's I'm a firm believer that humor is a gatekeeper to getting in the door. So soft Robotics is Challenger brand. They're they're solving a problem that the industry doesn't even know they have yet. It's the what is the Henry Ford quote that says if you ask people what they want, they're going to say a faster horse.

They don't know yet. The cars are a thing that they can even wish for. Right? That's kind of what soft robotics are struggling with. But in order for people to get paying attention to the company, we have to hook them with something first. And humor is a universal way to do so. So I went to the subject matter experts, the engineers who are literally working with these robots, with these customers day in and day out.

And I, I said, you guys are funny people. I know that. I hang out with you in the office. I know how to create scripts. I know how to make this theatrical, you know, how to work robots. Let's come together. And we have weekly brainstorming sessions. What kind of story do we want to tell? What kind of things do we want the robots to do?

What are the fun little bits that we want to pepper Throughout each video? It became something they themselves got really excited about. It was no longer a my marketers asking me to do this campaign that I hate. I want to go back to my day job. They realized that these videos were serving them all, so it was helping us get more business.

It was helping us get the industry excited and paying attention to what we were doing, which benefit all of us.

Daniel Burstein: So if you're listening right now, if you're in the most boring B2B industrial company out in logistics, I'm just picking on one industry. If I actually can do that, you can do that too. And not to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you were looking at the people on the other side, not just as leads, right?

You look at them as people what they wanted. And that's why I love this this next lesson. There is no content without an audience. And I love audience, too. They're not potential customers or not prospect, They're not leads. It's an audience. So tell us how you learned this lesson.

Ashley Levesque: So I grew up in theater. I am an I'm a trained professional actress. Oddly enough, I have a masters in musical theater. So my whole life I spent years standing on stage telling stories. That's all that it is to be an actor. Stand on a stage and you tell a story and you tell the story to an audience that is a part of the experience with you, right?

So marketing was a really easy transition for me because it's the exact same thing. Some people get confused. I think theater and marketing is the exact same thing. You're telling stories to an audience who is a part of your experience because you're telling a story that does not land with your audience. Your stories are relevant. You might as well be talking to yourself behind the walls of your bathroom right when we're on stage and we're acting, we're passing for laughs.

We're looking to see if people in the audience are crying, are affected. Are they getting the story that we're telling them the same thing and marketing. If our story isn't landing, what is the point of us doing the story? The point of our jobs is to make sales easier. So if the people that are buying the thing don't think the story is making sense to them, then we've failed at doing our job.

So, so often I see marketers focusing on the ME My business does this. Here's why my business is cool. Here's why you should read this content piece that I created instead of the value. It's going to bring to the audience. So we can. Marketers know this, right? But it's an interesting analogy to bring to theater, which is the difference between doing a scene in front of people and doing a rehearsal by yourself.

You could be doing the exact same words by yourself in a room reading your lines, practicing to go on stage. But as soon as you step on stage and there are people witnessing that those lines, it's a very different experience. And same thing with marketing practice, your messaging, your writing, your content in your little office, behind your computer.

You've got your perfect e-book, then you put it out with the world and either it lands or it doesn't. And as marketers, it's our job to know if it's landing or if it isn't.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I love that example. I always like to say to stand up comedy, that's a great one right there where it's a live audience, you know, you've got the conversion, you're going for the laugh, either get or you don't. But actually the challenges, like you said, we're behind these computers. We're not often in front of a live audience.

We're not doing in-person sales and stuff. So can you think of an example of how you got feedback from an audience and then what that like how you shaped or changed something based on that feedback? And I'll give you a quick example for me. When I first came to marketing experiments, the content was very focused on a B testing landing page optimization, conversion rate optimization, right?

But I tried some larger marketing articles, you know, maybe more general marketing topics. I got that feedback and then I went this far. I did something I called the last blog post that was based on the last lecture, and it was just looking back at a career. What lessons did you learn? I made it a group blogging effort.

Reach out to all these other bloggers like Guy Kawasaki. We published all at the same time, but I never would have gone that far if I hadn't first taken some steps and tried more general marketing content and seen how they reacted. And frankly, the last blog post I did, really how I made it marketing kind of came out of that because I learned there's two things we learned from the things we made and from the people we made and with.

And we often in our careers are so busy with our campaigns and heads down and trying to hit our quarterly numbers, we don't stop and look back at our careers and think those people and see we learn and share with others. So for you, like how did you like get out from the street? One of the thing real quick was, well, I started watching the founder.

I did. Have you seen the founder? We're talking about Ray Kroc. Yeah, it's about McDonald's and Ray Kroc and how that started. And I've always started watching it. But he was a traveling salesman, Ray Kroc, and he was going to all these different restaurants in person and trying to sell these milkshakes. And that's how he discovered McDonald's. And I was thinking like one, I thought like, wow, he's got so many less conversion opportunities.

And we do because he would have to, like, drive across the country to one restaurant, try to find he couldn't then drive to another one, you know. But you know, the other thing I thought was like what feedback he was getting. He discovered he found McDonald's because he was going he was seeing these people face to face. He was seeing their locations.

And like you said, often now there is a screen, you know, but between us. So how do you how have you in the past learned from an audience and how did you pivot based on that?

Ashley Levesque: I do this on every single webinar that I run. Any two way communication channel is really powerful for this, but particularly webinars. And there are a couple examples I can give. One, I run a monthly or quarterly, ask me anything about webinars called buyers and Webinar Fears because everyone's really scared of webinars. So when they drink beer it usually makes it a little easier.

And on this AMA, on the registration form itself, I ask them to submit a question. What question do you yourself have about this topic that we're talking about that you want answered? So right away, before I even get into my webinar, I have a list of hundreds of questions that my end audience, my target audience have about the topic.

I'm talking about Perfect. That's bull, right? So I'm going into the session now. I'm going into the session with content designed specifically to talk to those talking points. I'm not guessing what my audience wants me to talk about, and I'm not also making up topics that I think my audience should know about. I am simply addressing the questions that they asked, the real questions that they asked.

One they are way more likely to attend because I'm going to answer their question live. So the audience rate increases dramatically too. During the session itself, I continue to ask questions, pull. I provide a handout, I provide chat questions for them to answer, and I change the content of my session based on what they tell me. So I'll give you another example.

I in in a recent AMA, I asked people there were two different case studies that I had available to share with people. One was about carpal tunnel content and one was about middle level content. And I simply asked them via a poll we could look at either one of these now. But what's most important to you all? And they voted.

And the winner is what we looked at. They felt like they were part of the content. They weren't simply observing it or witnessing it. They were changing it in real time because that's what that's what content sports for them. Why are we putting it in a little pot without actually knowing what it is that they want to here?

So this is something I do on every single event that I run. And with practice, I recognize right now that there are marketers who maybe are not super comfortable in front of a webinar camera who are cringing and like putting a pillow over their head with the idea of changing their content on the fly. But with practice, this actually becomes really easy and your audience is wholly engaged because they are really invested in what you're presenting.


Daniel Burstein: It's like choose your own adventure. Remember those books? Choose your own adventure.

Ashley Levesque: That is exactly what it is. And we should be giving them that control. And doesn't that teach us something? Then at the end of that webinar session, I can go back and say, Wow, look at these buckets, these categorical questions that people ask. They want to know about how do I promote, how do I engage, how do I follow up?

Now I've got content for my content calendar for the next three months. I got blog post topics, I've got other webinar topics, I've got social media content. Just from this one session, I'm spending one hour with the people that are most important to me.

Daniel Burstein: You know, I'll say one of the thing that helped me with the polling feature and webinars is it's really hard for me to get a sense of the audience and what level they're at and just simply asking like, what is your level of maturity in this topic? Beginner, intermediate, advanced and boom, that can pivot what you present in the webinar after that, right?

Because if they are just beginner and you're getting deep into all these industry terms and stuff, you lose them, right? But if it happens and you're saying the basics, it's like they're like, Yeah, I know this stuff. You know, a very funny thing and kind of is the first time you hear something like blows your mind and the second time it's like, Yeah, come on, I know that.

I remember specifically. I'll go back to I interviewed it marketing experiments and then marketing, sure. But it's all the same organization or 15 years ago. And I remember 15 years ago I was early in Twitter use and I went on one of the Web clinics to like, figure this company out that was going to work out. And they were talking about hashtags, right?

15 years ago. In fairness, I never heard about this. I was like, That is brilliant. That is so these people know Twitter. I got to get these people. Mind you, this second time I saw a webinar and they presented about hashtags. I was like, Who is know what hashtags? Come on, that's embarrassing.

Ashley Levesque: I'm advanced in this. I get it.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. Like, come on, what do you encounter? Let me say one other thing that, that, that I thought of when you were mentioning that, because I've also found that chat in a webinar can be really helpful. And if you can get your audience not just chatting with you, but chatting with each other, getting a lot of chat, conversation going, then one thing we've did, and I think I published a blog post on this is you take the chat category, a lot of chat, and then you go to I and you saying today I hey, here are some questions I have based on this chat, right?

Like what are people's top challenges? You know, did they enjoy this? What were their pain points? All these things. So you can take that. I mean, if you have time, it's great. Go through it. But what an hour of a lively chat is is a lot. There's a lot there. And I can really help you sum it up and kind of kind of pull out some some key points there.

Ashley Levesque: Right idea.

Daniel Burstein: All right. Here's another lesson. And this this is a very timely lesson, I feel like in the kind of economic environment we're in, you say over hiring is a real thing. Now, I've worked in start up high growth startups and sometimes one of the biggest marketing challenges were h.r. Would pull me in. I'm a marketer. I'm not. Nature is recruiting because, boy, when you're growing like you need throughput.

Sometimes your most important marketing is just getting those those employees in. Something i've noticed in the past year. Some of these behemoths of tech, we've never seen it before. They're cutting back. They're having layoffs. I mean, just a few days ago, Salesforce had a 1% layoff after having a 10% layoff last year. So tell us, how did you I mean, I think everyone's catching up to you and learning this lesson now.

Right. But how did you learn this lesson over hiring is a real thing?

Ashley Levesque: You know, it really wasn't until I got onto an executive team as a VP where I started to really appreciate that hiring people does not solve all of the company's problems. As a as an entry level marketer, I was sure that if I just had more people, a lot of the problems I was experiencing could go away. And I remember being really frustrated that my my executive team didn't see it the same way.

Now, that's not to say that resources can't solve some problems. Absolutely they can. I'm not saying don't build out a team. Don't make your team robust and meaningful. But I am saying it is not explicitly the solution to all challenges. What I often find is either one businesses are preemptively hiring for challenges that haven't yet come to pass.

They're kind of getting ahead of the game, so to speak, and and then they find themselves with too many people after the fact. Or two businesses are not doing a great enough job understanding the actual roles and responsibilities of people inside the organization. And they are throwing people at problems only to find that this person, once they come in, is struggling to meet expectations, is struggling to understand their true responsibility of the company, and it's because they were hired to solve one thing that might not be large enough to warrant an entire human.

Maybe it needed to be outsourced, or maybe it can be handled by someone part time. Maybe someone else in the organization can simply pick up that slack and manage it very easily within the bandwidth of their their scope that they're already doing. But all of those things need to sort of be evaluated together. There are a lot of different pathways to solving resources, problems that extend beyond just hiring full time employees.

It's kind of at the back, and I'm not sure that a lot of businesses in the growth stage who are moving quickly are evaluating those other options and not sure they're taking the time to do that. And they will often find themselves in situations like we're seeing now with tons of layoffs and slashes in budgets, specifically marketing budgets.

We saw marketing budgets slashed significantly in 2023. But the goals don't change, right? The objectives don't change. Marketers still have to hit the same number. They're just now doing it with less money and fewer people. So kind of backing themselves up to kind of look at some of that. How does how do we solve this problem without jumping to full time employees might help to mitigate some of that down the road?

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I think part of the challenges and FTE is almost some sort of badge of honor or some sort of metric that some CMO is judged themselves by. Right. I have 2540, 100 FTE, either ever. Right. Okay. So we're talking theoretical, actually, but I want to get inside your brain here. As much as you'll let us know, you've got to keep some stuff private.

What are you considering right now, today, while we're sitting here in terms of this, when to get make your first hire? Right. So as we talked about your team of one, right. So your next hire will be your first hire on this team. You guys went public recently, I imagine. I would hope that means some capital infusion, some some more opportunity for growth, Some I mean, the street's going to demand that you grow and hopefully you're getting some resources to do that with a new capital flowing in.

So right now you're sitting there. What's going through your mind right now as you're thinking, okay, when do I make that first hire? That second hire, how do I grow this out beyond me? Because I just probably got to go behind you if it's really going to grow, right?

Ashley Levesque: Absolutely. There are actually two main hires that I'm thinking about. I've been spending a lot of time going back and forth on. One is a content hire. Now that we're public, the number of content pieces that we put out into the world from press releases to investor webinars to good old blog posts on our website significantly has quadrupled.

And just needing to keep up with all that content is is one item. Product marketing is another big one. So Bandai has a really significant acquisition strategy and part of that means bringing in a ton of new products over the next year, having someone who can kind of seamlessly go through messaging and positioning and sales enablement across multiple products at a corporate level could be really, really beneficial to help those go to market teams on those business units get up and running even faster, which of course we want them to do.

So what I'm left with and kind of toying with this is making business cases for either one or both of these options. And what that means for me is putting pen to paper and looking at not only what are roles and responsibilities of these two potential employees, but what are the expected outcomes and how does that impact the business?

Does every single marketing hire have to have a direct line to revenue? I would argue no. Is my content marketer going to be judged on the number of e-book downloads that turn into customers? Absolutely not. However, I do need to identify what are the outcomes that I think are going to most impact the business and then draft that into a job description and go find the right person to do that.

It is not going to be output based. It can't be. That doesn't help us impact the business. It can't be generating X number of press releases, generating X number of ebooks, X number of blog posts. That helps us with a penetration number perhaps, but like we were talking about earlier, content is useless without the audience. So how do we holistically look at the value of that content?

Those are the things that I have to create to present to my CFO and get full executive buy in on. Yeah, we agree that these are going to be what helps us move the needle, and every other single executive on my team is doing the same thing. Any hire anybody wants to bring in to the organization needs to have a business case and and that should be true for everything, right?

I mean, we need to really get clear on why are we hiring, what are the expectations of the hire and how do we hold them accountable to that? How do we know if they're meeting those expectations or not? We can't have, you know, again, over hiring. This goes back to our other point. We can't have suddenly ourselves flooded with axes and no understanding of is this working or is it not working?

We have to do that upfront. So that's that's literally what I'm working on right now.

Daniel Burstein: Thanks for letting us into your head there about it. And if anyone is listening and I'll make the statement to maybe ask you what I'm thinking of looking for our current content marketing role or a product manager product marketing role. And they're listening. They're saying, Well, actually seems so cool. I love to work with her either on LinkedIn.

She she might be putting one of us right there.

Ashley Levesque: Please. Yes.

Daniel Burstein: Well, and people are the lifeblood of marketing those people we hire. And so in the first half of this episode, we talked about lessons from the things you made. But in the second half, we're going to talk about lessons from people, the people you collaborated with. But before we get there, I should mention that the How I made It in Marketing podcast is underwritten by McLeod's Institute, the parent organization of marketing Sherpa.

McLeod's A I can write your headlines, value prop competitive analysis and more based on a methodology built on the results from 10,000 marketing experiments. It's totally free. You don't even have to register for now, so just go to McLeod's ICOM and start using it. That's MSE L ABC icon Aim to get artificial intelligence working for you, especially if you're really busy right now and you can't hire anyone.

Mechagodzilla I can help you out. All right, So let's take a look at some lessons from people you collaborated with. AI Your first lesson, you said, Say yes before you're ready. And you learn this from Carl Voss, who was the CEO of the Software robotics company we were talking about.

Ashley Levesque: Yeah, exactly. So I was I was employee number ten at this company, and I was hired to be Carl's executive assistant. And we started to grow quickly. And as an employee, number ten, I can tell you, it is so cool to see how these growth companies grow. And as expected, at some point it was it was time to really build up our go to market function.

And he turned to me and said, Do you have any interest in learning how to do this? He said, We need a marketer, we need a marketing function. We need to start getting serious about this. What do you think? And I said, Sure and no idea how to build a marketing function. I had no idea what it meant to be a marketer, but I said yes and figured the rest of it out later.

I've done this a few times in my career. I did this at a at the private equity firm I worked at as well. But yeah, before I was ready to say yes and I find that I know how to learn. I'm a really good student. It's a skill that I have honed over time. I know that I can teach myself how to navigate situations that I don't know by leveling myself up, talking to incredible people and learning from incredible people who have done it in the past Now, does this mean I'm going to be a neurosurgeon?

Absolutely not. I am not talking about things like this. Obviously, I am not encouraging anyone to just get behind a scalpel and go out. But I am saying that it has served me well in pushing me before I was ready to be pushed. I am the type of person or had been the type of person who very comfortably would stay within the zone of safety and wait for someone to say to me, I think you are ready for step number two.

It doesn't happen that way. We need to advocate for ourselves and say, Hey, yeah, I can do this, let me go figure this out and I'm going to come back to you. And that's exactly what I did. Did I learn how to be an incredible marketer in that first year? Absolutely not. But then I learn a lot more about marketing in that first year than I had the year before.

Absolutely. 100% over. And I continue to do that over and over and over again. Still, I like saying yes, I don't know how to do that, but I'm going to figure out how to do that for you.

Daniel Burstein: You know, it's something I've learned in my career, especially when it's early in my career. You know, they always say that don't meet your heroes. Yeah, I always had this idea that, like other people had it figured out. Right? And early in my career, I got to work for major tech company, huge tech company. And I found out, like, not a lot of people really don't have it that forget it.

There are some brilliant people. Don't get me wrong, I still don't have that figured out. And there was a great quote from President Obama where he said, you know, I was a community organizer and then I held the highest office, you know, in the country. It's like the people in the room, they didn't really change that much. They still, you know, like no one has it totally figured out now.

So I feel like with this, I hear you actually don't let that idea that I don't have it 100% figured out yet. I can't take this role. But what other factors should we consider when looking at a role or an opportunity to say yes? To give you an example, I interviewed Jo Carson, the CMO of Circle, on how I made it marketing.

And one of his lessons was You need to believe in your product or service, otherwise you'll burn out quickly. And he was talking about his current role when he joined that startup. You know, he was comfortable with what he was doing before when he found out what that company was doing and it involved had something to do with the legacy you leave behind after you die.

And then he had that, like personal experience. He felt like, I need this, I need this product. Like I feel I need this product. I need to do this opportunity. So that's just one example. But for you actually like, okay, I hear you like you're never going to be ready enough, like jump in. But what are some factors you do consider when you have a role or opportunity in front of you that need to be there for you to say yes?

Ashley Levesque: I think it's a lot of self awareness. It's a lot of knowing what you yourself can do and can't do. And that doesn't mean that I know that I could be a marketer know. Did I know that I could still fully learn how to do something new? Yes. Do I actually think that I could do sales? Sure. Do I think that I could do customer success?

Sure. I think I could actually. They could effectively learn the skills needed to move into different departments. Now, am I interested in doing all of those things? No. Am I interested in being a neurosurgeon? No. But I think it does take a lot of self-awareness to know how to learn, how to manage your energy, manage your time, manage your expectations, choose what your own goals and desires are for your career and your life.

How does how does staying, yes fit into that? It takes a little bit of self-reflection. And for people who find themselves continually climbing the corporate ladder after titles or salaries, they may find themselves less happy than those who are focusing in on. What do I love most about the the new challenges your your example that you brought up around loving the product, loving the service?

I think that's a yes for a lot of people. I think for a lot of people, the challenge is to being faced with something new. I don't know how to do this and I want to figure it out. That's a yes. That's what it is for me. But I think it's the knowingness of that ultimately that leads you to success.

It's the knowing what is it that gets you excited. And if it's fleeting or temporary, like titles and salaries might be, it may not ultimately provide you the excitement that you're looking for.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I think I've heard that called external versus internal motivations, right? Or some versus intrinsic motivations. And and I like what you're saying about the knowing yourself. So I think the two things you need to know and there's this great Chris Rock, but I won't try to do a Chris Rock impersonation, but it's like what you're passionate about, what you're good at.

And he has this great bit where he talks about like going to some high school orientation with his daughter and they're, you know, and he's like a lot of the kids there, he's like they say, you could be anything you want. And he's like, you can be anything you want. He's like, You can be anything like that. You are good at, you know, amazing.

And even then it helps to know someone. But it's like, what are you passionate about? What are you good at? What drives you? And if it's external, like you said, like titles or budgets or having a lot of years, I problem with that stuff is it's fleeting, right? It's going to be gone down. So but as you grow in your career, one thing that you get to do is manage people, right?

And this can be a challenge for some because, you know, you have a specific skill set that you're really good at, which is why you grew into that role, right? Which is a very different skill set than a people management skill set, let's say being a software engineer or being, you know, very good technically or something like that.

So I love this next lesson from you. You said the higher up you go, the priority becomes the people, right? You know, I remember really early my career, I was interviewing at a an ad agency and Guy just became a creative director. He was interviewing me and I said, well, what's what's you know, what's it like being a creative director?

Just seemed like a dream back then. And he's like this boy. It's really hard cause I don't get to make things anymore. Just manage people. So I love what you said. The higher you go up, your priority becomes of people. You said you learn this from Lisa Donnelly, your VP of Marketing at the time. How did you learn this from Lisa?

Ashley Levesque: I was feeling frustrated in my role. I was a senior marketing manager. I was very hands on. I was executing all of the campaigns. I was looking at all of the numbers and for some reason I still was feeling disconnected to the larger corporate objectives. I wasn't sure if I was meeting expectations, I wasn't sure if I was providing value.

And so I went to Lisa and I said, What are your priorities? Like what? What are your objectives? What are you focused on this quarter or this year? And she looked me in the eye and she said, It's you, you're my priority. And I was like, my gosh, I, I, I didn't appreciate that her responsibility was to keep this team executing the way that they were.

Now, she helped me, of course, feel more connected to the corporate objectives and what I was working on and helped me better see the impact there. That's her job and she wanted me to know that she cared about that. She cared that I was feeling discontented and unclear. She wanted to help me bridge those gaps because retaining me was really important to her.

It was helping her with her objectives and making sure that the business was able to continue operating the way that it needed to operate in the business goals. But I didn't appreciate it until I got higher up and started managing full time myself, where I was like. yeah. I see your point that you said I am really moving out of execution mode here.

I'm really moving into coaching and enabling the execution team, the operations team, keeping their wheels spinning, keeping them going in order to facilitate the needs of the business. That became a very big shift for me as I got higher up in my career, thinking through hiring the right people and retaining the right people became a much bigger focus.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, And I mean, really, you can't grow in your career without the right people, right? And you can't focus on it without the right people. You're always in what Covey would call the bright, urgent and important, right? The fire drills drill. You're never in the important, but not urgent. And think of that long term strategic stuff. So if I hear you focusing on the people on your team, you've got a great team.

Let me ask you about the bigger company, because I know you also have an internal communications role. And you know what? What do you think of how you make sure, like, is there anything you've done specifically, any examples you have specifically of how you've made that larger company feel that priority? Like the entire people in the company, people in, you know, product development, technical customer support, all these things that that don't report to you directly.

Because, you know, when I've worked in internal communications myself, that was such an important thing. It's not overlooking that internal audience, making them feel special, making them feel important. And really the big thing too is making them understand this essential connection. Here's the customer experience we're trying to create, and here's how you and your role play a role in that and create that customer experience.

Sometimes it's very disconnected. One of my favorite stories I ever had to read this Time magazine or something is when the iPad first came out, a reporter went to China and was interviewing a worker in one of those factories there who's working, you know, 14 hours a day, six days a week, who's taken this little chip. And she was just gluing it to this motherboard all day long.

That's it. No idea what she was building. And then the reporter showed her an iPad and she just cried, realizing that she she helped make something so beautiful. And to me, I thought has the perfect analogy for internal communication. That's what we have to do. So for you now, you're in that internal communications role. It's not just the people on your team, everybody in that company.

So any tactics you've used or anything you've learned in help making them feel that they are the priority?

Ashley Levesque: Yeah, great question. One of the things I really believe strongly is that brand and culture are two sides of the same coin and that conflict arises when there is a gap between them, meaning we are telling an external story that does not match the internal story we're telling our culture is dependent upon our brand success. And so we have talked before as an organization, we have done all hands meetings, talking about our brand pillars.

What are the things that we want our our customers, prospects, partners, vendors to feel when they interact with us on every level, when they touch our products, when they reach out to support team, when they talk to the CEO, when they listen to a podcast. All of that is a reflection of our brand and how do we want our brand to feel, how we want our people to feel.

We turn that into brand pillars that can then tie back to every single person in the organization. Even those who are not customer facing can understand the value that they're making, the impact that they're making based on the touchpoint that anyone might have with our organization. Software engineers, UX designers customer experience. Every single person in our business can be tied to what did I do that might influence the way someone feels about our company?

We talk about it. I mean, we have we have a full on all hands about it. I also do an internal newsletter which is a little bit more customer facing that just sort of rounds up the day. Here are some of the items that our brand pushed out into the world this week. In case you didn't know, some of them are blog posts, some of them are PR, but some of them are also highlights of successful customer interactions.

Thank you's coming from people conversing with chat saying, Thank you so much for calling. My problem is I was asking about X, Y, and z. You really made a difference in my day. That is a brand moment. That is that is a moment of recognition and validation. So continuing to reveal those surface that was up to the team members makes an impact the same way that your iPad example did.

It helps them remember, yeah, I am part of this. I'm part of a much larger whole and I am impacting this directly.

Daniel Burstein: That's great. I mean, I think, you know, people stay at a company for financial reward, obviously, but I think part of it is feeling like we're making something that's in the world, right? I feel like we're making a difference. So, I mean, that's the whole idea behind the name of the podcast, How I made it in marketing. All right.

So we talked about a lot of good things, right? A lot of positive examples, things going well, you know, getting 50% open rates. Congratulations. That's all great. But actually, sometimes things don't go well, right? So here's the lesson. You said there are three things to solve for in times of unmet expectations. You learned this from Marc Jupiter. What are these three things and how did you learn this lesson?

Because I'm guessing was on those hard fought, painful lessons to learn it.

Ashley Levesque: Once I came to him and said I'm ready to fire someone on my team, they're not meeting expectations. I'm really frustrated. And it was my first fire. I was looking for advice on how do I execute this, how do I do that? And instead of providing that advice, Marc said something even better, which was there are three things to consider here in unmet expectations.

Yes, it could be the perfect. It could be that the person is the wrong fit for the job. It could also be that the expectations provided for this person were not clear and so that they were not set up for success. That's number two. Number three is they were not provided the resources and tools to do the job that was expected of them.

Did we set them up, especially with onboarding? Did we help give them all of the tools they need to do their job? This is a marketer, so, you know, did I did I give her access to everything she needed to have access to in order to successfully execute? Was I clear with her about what her outcomes were supposed to be, and did I help her identify ways to get there?

The answer was no. The answer was flat out no. She was not onboarded. Well, she did not have a great first impression with our organization. I did not set up expectations for her well, nor did I, nor did I offer feedback or criticism in the moment when she was missing expectations. So when something happened in real time that I witnessed, that would have been an opportunity to reset or realign expectations, I didn't take the opportunity.

I instead added it to my list of reasons why she was not the right person, and he forced me to reframe every single time that I feel disappointed, let down with a team member who is not meeting expectations. And I now go through those items way before I go to is this person the right fit? And I just sound more likely than not.

It is one of those two first items either. I didn't set them up for success. The company didn't set them up for success. This can be as simple as writing a job description for someone applying for a job that turns out to be way different than what the bullet point on the paper said that it starts that early, right?

It can be as simple as that too. Withholding information at a company level, only giving them a small little piece of the pie. They don't have enough context to be successful. All of these things come into context here when we're when we're looking at how do I meet expectations? And it really forces us to go well beyond well, they're just not cutting it.

You know, maybe I made a wrong hire there are there are tons of things to look at. Well, before we get there. And they are hard because they force you to look at yourself as a manager instead of just saying, well, this person just isn't the right person. No, no, no. You are responsible as well for what's happening here and have an opportunity to course correct if you would, if you take that opportunity.

I did not in this example. And now I do.

Daniel Burstein: That's good. First of all, that's great because again, it's taking that responsibility versus just blaming someone else. That's not just hard as a manager, that's hard as human beings. One of the biggest. All right. So I want to get a sense, how do you then create and set up the right value proposition for a job? And are there any similar similarities and differences between setting the right value proposition for a customer?

Because the thing that strikes me what you said idea hired the wrong person. Same thing as a marketer. You got to find the right ideal customer. If you don't have the ideal customer, we're not going to serve them well, right? Can't just try to insult everyone even though we want to hit our numbers. You set the wrong expectations yet.

To me that's a value proposition. The brand promise, the marketing. Are we saying the right expectations with it? Right? Sure, we get people in, but if it's a failure, once they buy, you know, forget it. And the last thing, you didn't set up a pathway to success. Anything for our customers. We need to onboard them. Even if it's something as simple as an app, like they need to understand how to use it or they're going to bounce.

So is there something you learned in your marketing career to, you know, set up that right value proposition to find that right person to begin with for the job? And what are the similarities and differences you found in a value proposition to a potential employee, which is a type of customer and, you know, a customer purchasing a product.

Ashley Levesque: To start with outcomes. That is what I have found works best on both sides. Start with outcomes upfront on the employee side list out KPI and expected outcomes in the job description. Literally listed out here is how we will be measuring progress against your this. We will be holding you specifically to these metrics to these KPI. You will be reporting to this person.

Get specific on the customer side outcome first, help them identify potential value, put them high in front on your home page website, Help them identify not all the features of the product, not all of the you know, here's the hand-holding you get during onboarding, but here's what you can expect at the end of this journey. Then work backwards on both sides.

Employee side, customer side. You start with these are expectations, the outcomes are the expectations, right? Then you work backwards on the product side for outcomes. Identify trying the case studies and opportunities that your product actually provides. Does the ICP of your customer base meet those outcomes? Is that relevant for them? Make sure you're targeting the right people, then work backwards.

Okay, how do we set them up for this value onboarding trial messaging experience with the brand? What does their demo look like? How do we set themselves up for that, for that outcome? Are we understanding their actual pain points? Are we asking them about what is happening around? What is the rest of your staff look like? What KPI objectives are you held to in your job?

Are you trying to get to promotion? All of these things become relevant to them. Finding success with our product, right? Those are the questions we should be asking on the employee side. Same thing. Here are the outcomes and KPIs we expect from our team member. Okay, how do we get them there? What are the tools they need? What is the onboarding experience they need?

Who are the people they need to be in contact with at the organization? What team do they need to join? What access to things? Do they need all of these things help inform their ability to provide outcomes? And all of this also requires direct line of communications to all of these people. We should not be guessing on the outcome.

We should not be guessing on their ability to get to those outcomes. This is why we have a hiring process for employees, right? We ask them questions. There are a lot of marketers. We give them homework. We want to evaluate their likelihood to be able to get there, and we set expectations, objectives and tie with them in the organization.

We don't simply hand them down and say, Figure this out. That's another key part of building them towards success on those outcomes. That's about giving them the tools and resources that they need. From the customer side. We need to do that same thing. We need to make sure that we're having direct line communication like we talked about on the webinar example.

What are your pain points, What are you trying to solve for? What are your questions? That's how we can evaluate. Okay, well, that's going to help you get to this outcome rather than saying, Well, I know because now we're talking to the wrong people, the wrong target audience, we don't know what they need and our messaging becomes wishy washy.

So direct lines of communication constantly, if you repetitive repeating the same information over and over, realigning expectations, realigning pain points, starting with those outcomes is always the way to go.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, and I know what you need is usually turns into Here's what our company needs to meet our goals, right? It's not what.

Ashley Levesque: The customer needs in know a relationship that I have personally, Has that ever worked where I've said, No, no, no, I know what you need to bring up. It never goes well.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So as we've talked about so many different things about what it means to be a marketer in your lessons or in your stories, but just tell us directly what are the key qualities of an effective marketer in your opinion?

Ashley Levesque: For me, it really comes down to communication and storytelling. Can you help people see value that they on all sides, internally and externally? Can you help them see where the magic lies for them? And this takes a lot of work. And this is not just about repeating value proposition statements over and over and over again. That does not help people see value.

It's about making the connections between their experience and the value that our experience can provide. We have to make those things hand in hand, and too often I think we are missing that. Their value part we are too often focusing on, I can do this for you, I can do this for you. But we're not taking the time to understand what value does that actually have for them?

How is that going to impact their life, their job, their experience with their boss? We want to make them look good. That is the ultimate goal and that is what we should be focusing more on. I think it all comes down to communication and storytelling. If we can do those two things really, really well, I think the rest of it kind of falls into place.

Someone is going to LinkedIn me and say, That's crazy. I can't believe he said that. But I'm I'm I'm going with that as my final answer.

Daniel Burstein: What about data and metrics, actually? Well, thank you. Yeah, well, I got a lot of value from this conversation from your lessons and stories today, actually. Thank you for sharing your career with us. Thank you very much.

Ashley Levesque: Thank you for having me. It was such a pleasure. I really appreciate the time.

Daniel Burstein: And thank you to everyone for listening.

Outro: Thank you for joining us for how I made it in marketing with Daniel Bernstein. Now that you've gotten inspiration for transforming yourself as a marketer, get some ideas for your next marketing campaign. From Marketing Sherpas. Extensive library of free case studies at marketing Sherpa dot com That's marketing s h e RPA dotcom.

Ashley Levesque: We've been.