How I Made it in Marketing

Product Quality: Marketing's job is to help the product win (podcast episode #97)

May 07, 2024 Daniel Burstein Season 1 Episode 97
Product Quality: Marketing's job is to help the product win (podcast episode #97)
How I Made it in Marketing
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How I Made it in Marketing
Product Quality: Marketing's job is to help the product win (podcast episode #97)
May 07, 2024 Season 1 Episode 97
Daniel Burstein

I’ve been watching the new Steve Martin documentary, and it includes a clip of him accepting the Mark Twain Prize.

He calls it “The only significant American award for comedy…except for money.”

It reminded me of our own industry, but in a different way. We have many awards for creativity, and I am a creative person so I love them, but ultimately this art we do is a business art. And the ultimate measure of success is often monetary.

So when I saw this lesson in a podcast guest application – ‘make people money’ – I wanted to dive deeper.

To hear the story behind that lesson – why he left another job function to join the marketing department – along with many more lesson-filled stories, I talked to Brad Gillespie, GM of Cvent Consulting, Cvent (

Cvent was a public company, until it was acquired by Blackstone for $4.6 billion last year.

Gillespie estimates that over his 20 years in marketing his campaigns have influenced $1 billion in revenue.

Stories (with lessons) about what he made in marketing

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

  • Top-down vs. bottoms-up
  • Marketing's number is the sales' number
  • Marketing's job is to help the product win
  • Make people money
  • Be the cause
  • Get it done. Do it right.

Discussed in this episode

Marketing Research Chart: What information do marketers ask for on list registration forms? (

Marketing Career: How to become an indispensable asset to your company (even in a bad economy) (

Get even more ideas by pasting the URL for this episode into the Analysts – Video Transcript expert assistant in MeclabsAI ( It’s totally FREE to use (for now). (Meclabs is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

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

I’ve been watching the new Steve Martin documentary, and it includes a clip of him accepting the Mark Twain Prize.

He calls it “The only significant American award for comedy…except for money.”

It reminded me of our own industry, but in a different way. We have many awards for creativity, and I am a creative person so I love them, but ultimately this art we do is a business art. And the ultimate measure of success is often monetary.

So when I saw this lesson in a podcast guest application – ‘make people money’ – I wanted to dive deeper.

To hear the story behind that lesson – why he left another job function to join the marketing department – along with many more lesson-filled stories, I talked to Brad Gillespie, GM of Cvent Consulting, Cvent (

Cvent was a public company, until it was acquired by Blackstone for $4.6 billion last year.

Gillespie estimates that over his 20 years in marketing his campaigns have influenced $1 billion in revenue.

Stories (with lessons) about what he made in marketing

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

  • Top-down vs. bottoms-up
  • Marketing's number is the sales' number
  • Marketing's job is to help the product win
  • Make people money
  • Be the cause
  • Get it done. Do it right.

Discussed in this episode

Marketing Research Chart: What information do marketers ask for on list registration forms? (

Marketing Career: How to become an indispensable asset to your company (even in a bad economy) (

Get even more ideas by pasting the URL for this episode into the Analysts – Video Transcript expert assistant in MeclabsAI ( It’s totally FREE to use (for now). (Meclabs is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

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 –

Brad Gillespie: But marketing ultimately has to be the space in a company where we're pushing the envelope to try new things. Challenge the status quo, where usually the tip of the spear. Sometimes that's just information that we can share with product to lead us in a different direction. And sometimes it's let's try a new tactic or let's try something we haven't for an audience that we think it's time to really go out and experiment.

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.

Daniel Burstein: I watched the new Steve Martin documentary, and it includes a clip of him accepting the Mark Twain Prize. He calls it the only significant American award for comedy except for money. And it reminded me of our own industry, but in a different way, right? We have many awards for creativity, and I'm a creative person, so I love them.

But ultimately this art we do is a business. Art and the ultimate measure of success is monetary. So when I saw this lesson in a podcast guest application, make People Money. I wanted to dive deeper here to share the story behind that lesson of why he left another job function to join the marketing department, along with many more or less fun filled stories.

Is Brad Gillespie, the GM of Event Consulting at the event? Thanks for joining us, Brad.

Brad Gillespie: Hi, Daniel. Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

Daniel Burstein: All right. So let's just go through your background so people understand who I'm talking to. You just cherry picking here from a long career. start as a human resources generalist at HCA healthcare. Worked as a customer success manager at Paychex, but fortunately made a wise decision. Join the marketing industry. vice president of marketing at Role to India Limited.

CMO of serious decisions. Now part of Forrester Research. I'm sure you guys have either used or heard of them. And in addition to that corporate marketing experience, a two time co-founder for the past seven years, Brad has been at the event where he is now the general manager of Steven Consulting. So event was a public company until it was acquired by Blackstone for $4.6 billion last year.

And Brad estimates that over his 20 years in marketing, his campaigns have influenced over $1 billion in revenue. Very nice. Brad. Before we jump into lessons from all of that, just give us a sense. What is your day like as GM of Event Consulting?

Brad Gillespie: Sure. So. So Event Consulting is a professional services team. And we get to work with our largest 250 to 300 or so corporate clients. And so most of our my day as the leader of that team is monitoring our the progress of projects. Are we on time? Are we delivering what we set out to deliver? We're also a panel within the company.

So we're measured based on our financial performance as a team. So we have an entire sales component to our team and how we take our services to market. So I'm looking at both the top line, how we are effectively growing our team and how we're delivering on the projects where we're clients have entrusted us to work with them.

so I bounce back and forth between two views of our organization most days, looking at how our projects are performing and what's next to do for the next client that we work with.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, we have a lot of CMO, a lot of VP of marketing on, as you would expect. But I like having a GM because we can get that broader view and see what we can learn from you. And that really ties into the first lesson you talked about top down versus bottom up. So what does that mean to you?

How did you learn that?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah, this lesson came from one of the startups I had an opportunity to be a part of back in the early 2000. It was a consumer safety product device that we were taking to market through a two step distribution, which really means you have to get the channels above the consumer to believe in and buy into the product and all of its capabilities, and spend money doing that, which we were very successful at doing.

So the the top down view of this opportunity was very rosy. We had national distribution partners that were willing to stock the product. they were willing in turn to sell that to their retailers. The problem came when retailers began to sell this to the consumer. And the consumer, in this case, was a home buyer. And most of the time these are product would be presented in a model home.

And the decision in front of the home buyer was, do I opt for the safety package which would include our product, a fire escape ladder, or do I opt for marble, or granite countertops? Or do I opt for the upgraded, bath fixtures? And what we saw there was consumers didn't really believe that this risk of a fire occurring in the home was large enough for ultimately, for them to decide to choose our product over other options.

And so the big lesson there was, you can get a lot of validation from parts of the market and the top down view, and I think this can happen, in the inverse, you can also get validation from and consumer demand for something. But if you're selling in a system like we were, a distribution network, you have to have both sides in alignment.

And while that was a consumer product and it was sold through a two step distribution, I think a lot of those principles apply to most products in most industries today. And I still use and try to have both views of the market. the opportunity at any given time, for really anything that that I work on these days.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's a great example. I've worked in channel marketing in my career and believe me, it's the same thing. And one thing I learned is like, it's that enablement you need you need to enable the channel marketer to sell directly to their customer and also obviously incentivize them with, you know, however, the, you know, is going there.

But I want to ask you that question in a different way, right. Because I've also seen this top down versus service up. It's very true in a lot of services and consulting or even software or other purchases where there is a decision maker who buys something, right? But then when you're ultimately implementing IT services or consulting software, whatever it is, it's different people within the organization that have to implement it.

So do you ever sense, like what do you do in that situation? Let's say after an implementation is sold to make sure that it's not just the decision maker, and then you're turned over to this team who doesn't see the value or use it, is there any specific thing you've learned to do there?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah, that's an excellent point. And so, you've likely had guests on that have talked about the differences in B2B that have kind of evolved over the last decade around buying groups. And, most marketers are now thinking in terms of different personas and the roles they play in not just the buying decision, but the all of the steps in the customer journey that come after the buying decision.

So yes, it's one thing to be able to understand what a buyer needs to make a decision. But these days, just as important if not more important, is the view of the user. So we've seen the rise of user review sites as an example to help fill that void where, the voice of the user is more prominent, more available.

Today, we should, be factoring into the sale and the downstream steps. You know, the problem that's trying to be solved. And oftentimes the buyer does not have the full picture of what the user's point of view is. And so it's a it's a really good, a different way to think about top down and bottom up. back when I was, buying software more regularly than I am today and I over the, you know, of course, of my career, I bought a lot of different ones, including all of the marketing automation platforms that have been on the market.

over time, I would buy things based on my evaluation. I would hand this shiny new toy to my team and I'd say, congrats, you're going to love it. Knock yourself out, let's go. And that just doesn't fly anymore. our our users expect to be included in those conversations. They expect their need to be understood. And thus we see the formation of these buying committees that attempts to bring all the right voices into the equation, which is a good thing for all of us.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. That's great. And just like I like what you say about the user reviews and that sort of thing, because as a brand, you know, you feel like you're winning when you're when you reach that decision maker, you want a really happy and excited and satisfied tribe. So like, you know, we talk about marketing. I think we can learn a lot in our personal lives.

In my personal life, I have a few friends who work in it and networking and some of these things, and it's always a funny conversation with them. For me here, I'm going to branding perspective on words like those jokers, what do they pick? X you know, I don't know. Everybody wants to use why why do they pick ax.

You know.

Brad Gillespie: Exactly. You know, I sit and, our team is embedded in a field sales org. And so when I'm in the office two days a week, I'm sitting outside of our SDR function, and, we have the traditional ringing of the gong when a commercial goal is met, which is great, but one of the, one of the things I've always wished to see more of is the ringing of a gong when the customer goes live, and the ringing of a gong when the customer gets to that first kind of point of value.

And we need to celebrate customer success just as much, if not more, than we do our sales success. So, great point you bring up there.

Daniel Burstein: Are we're nearing 100 episodes, I think, Brad, you are the first person to advocate for the new use of gongs. I like that to change the use of gongs. all right, let's talk about another, kind of analytics numbers. Revenue perspective. You say marketing's number is the sales number. How did you learn that lesson?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. So when I was really making my pivot into marketing leadership, it was post com bubble. And so the market was in shambles. I had, lost a job at an internet agency. I needed to do some consulting projects to make ends meet. And I found a little niche working with, contract electronics manufacturers of all things. And these are engineer led businesses.

The CEOs of these companies invariably were engineers by trade and training. And so when they were thinking about the topic of sales and marketing, they were very suspect of what was the art, what was gray, what was, unmeasurable. And so they were process thinkers, and they wanted to see a process orientation of sales and marketing, just like they would think about any other part of their operation.

And so that really challenged me to think about a defense, possible way to associate, the activities and spend in marketing with outcomes. And it was a really valuable time for me to, you know, not by design to be challenged by this type of business leader that thought very differently about marketing than any, any other exposure I had had at that point.

And simultaneously to that, I discovered serious decisions which, much like your organization brings, structure and framework and process to what had previously been, poorly defined or, difficult to repeat. And so at that same time, I was able to put some structure and language and terminology g to the entire process, identifying, acquiring, onboarding and scaling a customer.

And so in that journey, my own kind of personal journey to understand what marketing could be, what I realized is all of the metrics that marketing had up until that point that it could stand on to demonstrate impact where good and important. But there were some pretty big gaps in terms of what other stakeholders wanted to see for marketing's efforts.

And so that was that was how I kind of started, where I first started to apply that new thinking in an engineering kind of environment. It was very well-received. It made sense, and it was kind of a proof point for me that this way of thinking would be the future. And this was mid 2000 at the time when I first took a corporate marketing leadership job.

Around 2008, I had a chance to test this with sales leaders that were more of the traditional sales leader skeptical of marketing variety. And my early conversations were, well, what is your booking target and what historically have you needed in terms of pipeline to meet your bookings target? And those were conversations that and I could tell that sales leaders hadn't had with their marketing fear, and it was refreshing to them.

It was refreshing to me that we could start to align on how sales leaders would be measured and the priorities they would have, and how they would be staffing and thinking about sales coverage and how they would be looking at sales activity. And it was those were the building blocks of what would be conversion of the work that marketing was doing to real qualified pipeline and ultimately revenue.

But it started with, you know, a different type of mentality, an engineer's mindset, that wanted to see it concrete and in a process, those early days working with sales leaders, were I, I got lucky, I think I had sales leadership that really bought into that early. That's one of the reasons why I was hired, as I had proven out this process approach enough that they wanted to try it in in our first few attempts, it was successful that third, it took a full year for me to go from, what is the number to what are all of the changes in process and systems and data that will be required for

us to be a data driven marketing organization? and that's, kind of a cautionary tale that I still tell that if the if the culture and the mentality and sales leadership is not aligned there, that it's going to take some time for the marketing leader to prove that out and establish it, make all those changes and, that we can't give up when, when the going gets tough on that.

That path. So, that's that was for the key initial lessons in my corporate marketing career. I would say that really shaped my expectations for what marketing could be.

Daniel Burstein: I, like you said, how you say it took a year because, you know, we used to you might have it might have been the same thing at Serious Decisions. But in the 20 tens, we used to joke about sales, marketing, alignment because it became such a buzzword and everyone said they were doing it so well. And but I always kind of felt like it was a bit of like that.

Kumbaya. like, yeah, sales marketing alignment works until they're wrong. The other side is wrong. And then, you know, then it all breaks down. So let's I want to present you with a specific challenge, okay? And get your thought on it. You know net sales mark online. That sounds good. What would you do in this situation. What have you done in this situation.

Right. So you know, for example, marketing. Sure. But we had data on we asked what is included on forms. Right. What do you include on forms we had in our benchmark reports? I know it was 100% said email address, 33% said telephone number. And I think forms is a great example because this is where a very specific pain point where sales marketing alignment can break down, right.

For marketing, hey, we want as few things on the form as possible and as light, if you will, of information as possible, because that's going to increase our conversion rate for sales. They want as many things as possible. They want that, you know, information that customers might be anxious about like phone number because then they're like, this is a more qualified lead.

Even better, I can get my sales team boom, picking up the phone, dialing for dollars right away. So have you ever come across that example of, like, you know, a form of, let's say, and can you guide us through, like how you handled that to balance, you know, the sales and marketing needs?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. Great question. There have been form fights. There have been definition fights. There have been market fights, segment fights, lots of different, I think healthy debates. and and think about where we are these days, where there's, we have more available information as marketers than ever before. So in addition to the explicit, demographic and, thermographic information company role title email, we can also see behavior.

And so now the the next version of the form, if you will, is what what do we also know about where this company or individual is with respect to their interest in my topic, my product, etc.. So this is one that when I see others talk about, lessons, I cringe a little bit because and I want to be careful because every scenario can be different.

high volume transactional selling environments that are kind of somewhere between product lead growth and inside sales, could likely require less information than something that is the more complex, lengthier sales cycle. So I don't think there are hard and fast rules that apply to every marketer. But I think there is a hard and fast rule that needs to be established inside of your organization, and that requires sitting down with sales leadership.

the the form is essentially a off. We like to think in terms of handoffs. marketing should help sales not only be more efficient and doing some of the early steps that are best done by marketing at scale. But marketing should also help sales be more effective, providing insights that perhaps the seller, might not have gotten on their own, or it's easier to get, buy marketing so that sales doesn't have to ask the question that perhaps the buyer would expect the sales person to already have.

So we like to talk in terms of handoffs between each touchpoint and the buyer's journey. pulling all the way back to that marketing hand, that first marketing handoff, whether that is to an SDR function or whether it's to directly to a sales, person. So the argument, ultimately have to, I think, result in a thesis that gets tested.

the best examples that I've seen, both ones I've done and ones I've seen in an industry, if we're in kind of scientist mode all the time and always thinking about ways to improve that versus, let's set it and forget it, then good things usually happen. But we come up with something to test and then let the data tell us what, what the outcome was the result was and what our opportunity opportunities to take that to the next level.

fortunately for me, most of those arguments felt like debates that landed on a more aligned place that we could work with together. And I think that is the key. at the end of the day, we need good open dialogs with our counterparts in sales and product and success. That's an ongoing dialog.

Daniel Burstein: That you mentioned, that ongoing dialog with product. Let's talk about this lesson. Marketing's job is to help the product win. I love hearing this because as a marketer always felt like, hey, I'm making a promise out there, right? Value proposition, brand promise, whatever it is, I'm making a promise. I want to make sure that product delivers, right? I won't be able to sleep at night.

So, tell us how you learned this lesson.

Brad Gillespie: Yes, I first learned this lesson way back in boom. I was working for an internet agency that was building first generation websites, moving companies from brick and mortar online, and the type of company I was in was a new breed of consulting firm. We had, marketing chops, but we also had engineering chops, and we're able to build websites.

What the industry lacked and what buyers really wanted to see was a process. How are you going to take me from point A to point B? And if you could demonstrate that you had a methodology to take a business online, even if you were less qualified, perhaps, or had less experience than the competitor, that could not demonstrate that you would win more deals than more qualified vendors.

And that was my experience. We won projects because we had a really solid process that I, I was able to help put in place and, and some of those deals. I was like, we have no business winning this. How did we win it? And so the lesson there was, sometimes it's not the product, sometimes it is all of the things that surround the product and making the buyer successful.

Fast forward and going forward. I've worked in companies as a marker marketer with clearly the market leading product, and one where we were in second, third or fourth place and beyond, where if you're if you're trailing a market leader, you've got to out market and out sell the leading product, the leading leader in the category. I don't think that as a sustainable strategy, especially is where we sit today, looking forward, going back to what we talked about earlier with with now the rise of the users voice and just available data and ratings on vendors and in particular in an environment like SAS, it's never been easier to switch providers.

And so all of those things that have worked for marketers in terms of out marketing and out selling and finding things that are not the product to help you win, I don't think they have the, the impact that they used to. And so with that lesson in mind, we want to put the product in a position to win.

We want to work with product to understand what what it will require to win in any given market for any given buyer, and really be in partnership with marketing to highlight the things that are, unique capabilities or any given market and base. The concept of winning more so on something that should be more sustainable and having the right product, the best product.

I think that's where I see the market going. And with fewer opportunities to do, do like I used to rely on things that were outside of the product. The win.

Daniel Burstein: So it seems to me that to make that work, working with product marketing's role is to know the customer better than anyone in the organization. Right? Know what is working in not with a current product. Know what the customer wants, but they're not getting it from us that they can get from it. Anyone else? Do you have any specific examples of learning what the customer wants and working with the product team?

Because I think this is where I interviewed, Christian Zhivago, I mean, many years ago. And one of the things he told me that always stuck with me was that if you want to be an indispensable asset within your organization, know the customer better than anyone else in the organization, right? Get on the phone, get face time, do whatever you can to interview the customer, and know the customer better than anyone else.

So you mentioned SAS. You mentioned services, organizations. Both of those are organizations where you can make fairly quick changes to the product. There's a lot of cycles of change, a lot of cycles in innovation. So marketing really can have a role there and not have to wait for like, you know, a five year rollout. So have you had any examples where you've been able to bring the customer's voice into those conversations with product to make that better product?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. And Christian was absolutely right. That is that is so key. And, something I recommend for any marketer if you're not close to that customer conversation. So when we were when I came to see event back in 2017, after being a customer for five years, I came in part to be able to see that owner and user of see that with an event, because I thought being the user, being the customer, being customer zero would be a huge advantage as a marketer.

And it was it, let me say, all of the ways that we were adopting our own product in a way that we could tell stories to the market to help, create the right behaviors that weren't going on. that exposure allowed me to spend time with customers very early on because customers wanted to hear how our team was benefiting.

But it also revealed some pretty major gaps in how we as a vendor were supporting those customers, which ultimately led to the creation of the team that I now lead. One of the things that we get to do on my team is, host and manage a version of a customer advisory board that we call Industry Forum. these are, more senior buyers and decision makers that are informing priorities for the users of the product.

And we meet with them, in a program that that our team created about four times a year, where we are talking about things that are important to them in their organization and their industry, but also helping them connect the dots to how see, then, as a vendor can support those initiatives. And so this was a team that in a program that did not exist until we saw the opportunity to go create it.

Most organizations have some version of a customer advisory board program. So I would say the two the two opportunities that, I can speak to directly see then is if marketers don't have a formal customer advisory board program, that's the first opportunity to go create that in partnership with all the other stakeholder teams. if it is in place, make sure you're joining that in a meaningful way, because that interaction with customers at regular touchpoints throughout the year will be a terrific opportunity for you to see and hear firsthand, what's going on?

We also have the advantage these days of having product analytics, product in if we're if we're talking about technical products of various kinds, most are now instrumented with product analytics. So we have this new feed of information that should be democratized across an organization. Product analytics should not be just the domain of the product team. It should be shared the right way with sales and marketing, so that the entire organization can see how customers are using and adopting, where they're getting stuck so that there's, consciousness of the challenges that are facing our buyers and our users so that we can turn those insights into actions.

but the two things I think are that are important is taking advantage of, programs like a customer advisory board, whether exists or whether you have the ability to create it. and product analytics. And that's, that's on top of, by the way, the feedback that users are giving to review sites and obviously monitoring what, our, our customers are willing to share, about our product is also important.

So it's another one of these where, again, we have more sources of information than ever before, that as a marketer, you can tap into an input to get used.

Daniel Burstein: That first of all, I love as a writer. I love the review sites because you hear the customer's language. It's not just what they're saying about your product, it's how they say it. And that was so helpful. But I want to ask you, customer advisory board, are they fun for you? Like they were fun for me. Like, not only do you get a nice steak dinner, but like I would always be thinking of like, like for three months until you get to meet with them, like all these questions and like, what do they think of this?

What do you think of that? And so you're out in the desert and then there's just a V6 and you could just sit down and like pick their brains and they're excited to tell you. Right. Like yeah, that was fun for you. They were fun for me.

Brad Gillespie: We love them. We love we love the opportunity to build it from scratch. And this is a two year old program for us. So we built it in a time when we had all been a part of ones that weren't as great. I don't know about your experience, but I they can be two commercial. They can be about understanding what the next opportunity is in today's customer sees that a mile away.

it's obviously a chance to spend quality time. That means you get only a few times a year. And so being really thoughtful. But yeah, we we, we love getting the opportunity to build this program and manage it and all the things that's contributed.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I mean, that's why I mentioned the steak dinner. I feel like the got to be socializing. It can't just be a zoom meeting. You know, I interviewed, someone from RingCentral in France, and I forgot his exact title, but I remember him telling me, like, you know, we're French. We'll have, like, a six hour dinner. And so having these, you know, meals with our customers and our clients, it's the best thing ever because you just you learn everything, you know, everything kind of unfold.

Right? That good French wine helps. so people are key to our job as marketers. We talked about some lessons that we learned from Brad, from things he maintenance crew. Next, we're going to learn some lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with. But first I should mention that the how I Made It a marketing podcast is underwritten by MC labs, the parent organization of marketing Sherpa Mac Labs.

I now has 13 expert assistants like copywriter, project planner, marketing professor, social media pro. There's even a video transcript analyst where you can put in the transcript for this episode. Ask it all sorts of questions to give you ideas for your own marketing. It's totally free to use. For now, just go to OBS That's MSL, ABC, B.Com to get artificial intelligence working for you.

All right. Let's take a look at one. These first lessons from people you collaborated with. you mentioned this was from C Lynn Redman, the former CEO of MRC incorporated. And I love this lesson. It's three words. They're obvious, but it's brilliant. I mentioned in the opening he used it in a different way than you'd intended. But tell us how you learned this lesson.

Make people money.

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. Isn't that great? It's, It's terrific. So Lynn is a serial entrepreneur that I was fortunate enough to meet in a, during my university years, and he was in the health care management space and exposed me to health care as an industry, along with, I was doing a college job at the local hospital. I was an orderly, which is a phenomenal college job.

You're all over the hospital. You get to know how each department works. You see, six sick people come in and leave healthy. And sometimes you say, not so healthy people come in and not leave. And just it was an incredible life lesson. And it it, motivated me to seek out health care as an industry. So I targeted at the time what was the largest health care company in the world, a company called Columbia HCA, which is now HCA.

And I decided that health care was going to be my future, and I would literally take any job, in Columbia to be a part of that company. And so I prospected Columbia for months and finally convinced somebody to hire me. And then air a role in the Atlanta market. So I picked up and moved to Atlanta, as an HR generalist.

I was, kind of first job out of college, making $26,000 a year for your young, younger listeners. And I, I got to know the HR function pretty well as a company. HR, Columbia started to have some challenges. was eventually broken up by the federal government. And I, experienced after a handful of close calls, I experienced a layoff.

And so I was back home, licking my wounds and reached out to Len and asked him for, a lunch. And he sat down with me, and I told him the story, and he started smiling, and he said, hr very important function. but here's what I've learned, Brad, you're either in a function that is costing your employer money, or you're in a function that's making your employer money.

And most of the time you want to have a story that is about making your employer money. So think about ways that you can take what you learned and go apply it in a way to make people money. And that resonated with me. and I took that knowledge that I had gained from the HR function to paychecks and paychecks at the time was a payroll processor that was, second or third in the market behind ADP, I believe.

But we had also gotten into, various other HR services. And so I was able to take what I had learned in a cost center and join a team that was for really the first time, customer facing and market facing. I was the, kind of the subject matter, I won't say expert, but I would say repository for the sales team when they were going out to meet with customers, to explain all the different HR services that Paychex would provide.

And so it's a great, example of I think I took that, that, recommendation from land to heart and was able to apply what I had learned in a way that I was on a revenue facing team, and it really shaped my career, because I had always had a curiosity about marketing. But this was my first role where I was talking to customers and business owners.

Back then, it was small businesses talking to business owners and, applying what I had learned on the revenue side of the equation. So it was a terrific lesson for me.

Daniel Burstein: But we're glad to have you in the marketing industry, Brad.

Brad Gillespie: Thank you. It's great to be here.

Daniel Burstein: so let me ask you now, in the open, I mentioned the, that lesson can be used in a lot of ways. I mentioned to you know, I love creative awards, but as marketers and advertisers, we have to focus not just on that award winning creative, but on actually the goal of it is to make money. Right.

But let me ask that lesson on the flip side. Right. So you're the GM now, right? You're overseeing functions. You're overseeing some functions that are cost centers that aren't. You're also overseeing, you know, marketing activities that some have instant impact to, say, generate a lead, a revenue and some that don't. So I wonder how do you balance that measurement between this thing makes money right now in this doesn't especially I'll bring up in the event industry marketing Sherpa.

We had a lot of events, a lot of summits, you know, and after some you'd see, well, this much in ticket sales and sponsor revenue and leads and what have you. But, you know, there would be I mean, I'm still talking to people who eight years ago went to like our event at the Aria in Las Vegas, and it had an impact on them.

So they're talking to us now, which did not show up in the, you know, revenue projections from that specific event. So how is a general manager do you balance that? Okay, here's what's making us money and our marketing activities or whatever activities versus hey, I cannot tie revenue to this right now, but I know these are the type of activities that we need to do to be, you know, a successful business in the long term.

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. I'm glad you have this, because we can talk about all of the things that tend to get cut that are still important, that in my experience, and what I really believe is if you attempt to skip steps on things that are, farther from revenue, do so at your peril. I still believe in doing brand marketing the right way.

I still believe in doing, category positioning work the right way. Those are two examples of investments that we have to really believe in and commit to, because they're going to take a longer time frame to yield results. And frankly, I think, one of the traps that CMOs find themselves in these days and the famous statistics around 18 month or so, I'm not sure where it is today, but it seems to not go too far from 18 months for CMO tenure.

we we as a CMO, we go into a situation where we are told that we want the full marketing stack that our seniors believe and doing all the things the right way and and value events and value brand. But at the end of the day, what they need from us is short term production. That is much closer to qualified pipeline.

And so one of the things I've learned is, again, you know, we got to give our organizations what they want while also giving them what they need, which could have been a lesson to talk about and to itself, giving our leaders what they want. is usually in that category of what are the shorter term things that we can do and spend money on that we are confident will be quicker to convert to real impact while also giving them the things they need, whether they truly believe in it or not.

which we know as marketers are important, but are going to take some commitment, may take some creativity in terms of, how to get it done effectively, with fewer resources. But I, I don't I don't think a marketer can be nearly as affected by skipping steps and focusing on the things that are most closely related to pipeline and revenue, without having all those other things in place.

And it, the the road is littered with CMAs that have been in those situations and failed. And so it's a balancing act. It's, prioritization of the things that we know, the business really needs while finding a way to get done. the things that we know we're convinced are important, that may take a longer time frame to, to yield results.

Daniel Burstein: So let me ask you to, because this is one of the pressure points I see here as well. And I respect if there's only a limited amount of information you can say here, is there a difference in in that question for public companies versus private companies? Because something I saw earlier in my career, I got to work on the presentations for earnings calls, analyst calls and these types of things.

And the thing that just shocked me, I mean, being younger, but still today is it was a high growth company, software company. And if they grew at 18% that quarter, but analysts called for 20%. And even if it was because of exchange rates or whatever it was, those executives that sales lead that marketing, they were getting beat up on that call.

And like they did pretty well on the exchange rates. And so I don't know if you know how much you can speak to. I understand some of these things necessarily have to be kept private. Yeah. Do you notice any differences between being a public versus a private company in this area?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah, absolutely. they're, you know, close is not good enough. and I've been a public company employee three times in my career. one of those being that, so, yes, there is such a difference in the pressures that when stakeholders are, outside of your organization, let alone outside of your customer base, this is one of my takes that I think may be a little contrary, and I may never get hired by a public company again, but, I'm a believer in if you really focus on putting the customer's needs first, truly being customer centric, it's not easy to do.

But if you are able to do that, all of the right ways to measure performance happen naturally. And so there are there are examples of this, I think, in the market where, the public numbers don't indicate the value that is being built by a company. And you see examples of that where CEOs have convinced their boards that even though it's not, apparent in the stock price currently, that that vision ultimately will translate into shareholder value.

And there's unfortunately, there's many more examples where the shareholders perspective, quarter by quarter, drives decisions that, in my view, are oftentimes at odds with putting the customer first. So yes, I've experienced it. we we've had great investors, see that with two private equity companies that are super sharp and are bringing a lot of things to our discussions to help us focus on the right things.

but I truly believe that, those organizations that can effectively put the customer first and operationalize it in a way, all of the ways to measure that, including stock price and all of the things that, our shareholders care about will naturally fall in line.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And in fairness, it's easy to blame the markets. It's easy to blame someone else for it. But I like what you say about how, you know, there are the CEOs that can tell that story, and they're the CEOs that cannot. And that really is a function in role marketing can play as well. Right. Because that's what our job is to carve out a value proposition and communicate it well to influence a decision.

Yes. For customers buying products. But that's true for investors and anyone else. and that ability to take an action and not just feel like a passive victim of something, I think ties into your next lesson. You mentioned that this lesson you said be the cause and you learn this from Bill Schwartz, the founder and CEO of the CEO Alliance.

So how did you learn this from Bill?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. So Bill was bill is a prolific CEO, coach and advisor and has advised CEOs of a bunch of, fortune 100 firms that, you know, of, we were lucky enough to work with Bill, and first time I worked with Bill was in a startup that I co-founded, and we were having some typical co-founder conflicts.

And one of our, board members who had worked with Bill and his professional, life brought Bill in to work with the co-founder team. And be the cause, ultimately, is about finding a way to create alignment between, not only leaders and team, but company, vision and mission and customers. And this is based on some research and work that Bill had done.

that goes all the way back to, the Holocaust. Bill studied, the Holocaust. He, he read man's search for meeting, and that book inspired him to really understand individuals that were able to survive in the worst possible situation. What was it that they did differently? And this may sound like a, gosh, a huge leap from marketing, but I'll make the connection.

what what he found through you, through that book was the individuals that got up every day, and they had a purpose to fulfill. Their attitude was about serving others, invariably lived longer and invariably survived more often. So Bill was able to translate that principle to empathizing with your team servant leadership as a leader of teams and being customer centric, putting the customer's needs first.

And that was really the first time I had heard customer centricity. positioned that way. So as a coach, getting a team to align around something that, was beyond ourselves, bigger than ourselves, much bigger than any one of our points of view around our small little issues and problems that we were having, to think bigger and to think beyond, ourselves and to really think about putting our organization that we were building first, the people that we were hiring and asking to join our journey, putting them first and ultimately putting the customer first.

so he refers to that concept as you're either the victim of what's going on, or you can look at the situation as a cause for doing something differently. And he challenges all leaders and all brands, frankly, by, by connection to be the cause and, and your, your day to day and your culture and what you're attempting to to do in terms of adding value to the market.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I mean, I love you talking about customer centricity. Customer first, we've done research in the customer first marketing kind of data to show like what a difference it makes for a brand's performance. Repeat purchases, all these types of things that you would expect. But like huge difference in numbers. And from the research, we found out one of the reasons why.

So if you're in an organization and having a push for this is because if a customer, if you act in a customer first way, customer first marketing, a customer first business, a customer feels like you're acting in their best interest, right? And so if something goes wrong, if the same thing went wrong with a customer, with a company that wasn't acting that way and a company that was acting that way, the customer gives the company the benefit of the doubt.

Right? And if you have a product or service or a company or anything, stuff's going to go wrong. So that's where I mean, that's the big benefit of it. Not only, you know, you waking up every day doing the right thing, it's the customer feels like you're acting in their best interest. They give you a pass on things, they lean forward.

They want to tell other people about you. They want to do stuff with them again. Because so often, unfortunately, in the modern economy, we just feel like companies are out to get us. so let me talk about customer first, but I wanted to ask you another question that proactivity is something I love from that, have you do you have an example from your career where you've used that kind of proactivity, that not being a victim of your, environment, of your situation?

because when you talk about you mentioned, you know, Bill taught about human psychology. You mentioned man search for meaning. That was written by Viktor Frankl, founder of Logo Therapy. I read that book in high school. I love that book. It's. So if anyone hasn't read it, Viktor Frankl, he was,

Brad Gillespie: And I couldn't recall the name. Thank you.

Daniel Burstein: Man. Search for meaning. Viktor Frankl, father of logo therapy, was a psychologist. So really interesting guy because he was, you know, psychologist, psychiatrist, whatever you want to call it. I remember the difference. And then he was in the Holocaust, and he learned from that and built out logo therapy. And one of the quotes that always stuck with me in my life, like I said, I mean, I read this back in high school was when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

And that's so true. Like I've heard it told that, you know, everyone wants to change the world. No one wants to change themselves. And I do that. I mean, not just in, you know, a business situation where, like, there's massive layoffs and like, okay, I can't change that, but what can I do to make the best of this?

Or even in my relationship with my wife? My mother, like anyone, is like everyone in a relationship. You always want to change the other person, right? But it's never like, hey, what can I do to change myself? So I love that you brought this up because I love Viktor Frankl. I'm a huge fan. It's just so much we can learn from that.

Let me ask you, in your career or in your life, like how have you use that? Would I called, you know, kind of leaning towards proactivity in a situation that seems, if not difficult or unfair or hopeless or whatever you want to call it?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah, it's a not only a career principle, but it's a life principle, as you say. because how many marketing leaders start their career in human resources, for goodness sake? So, yeah, I think having the, the mindset and being able to look at what's going on and find, see and find the positive, see and find the lesson, see and find the way to take that forward.

So whether that was, losing my job, at Columbia and realizing that I had to do something and that there were options and I could, that I could have a creative, proactive approach to taking what I knew to move forward or whether that was, taking the experiences I learned with engineering business owners and understanding the importance of process and how it shaped my thinking on marketing, to how are my current team came to be, you know, when we, when I came to this event to be, kind of customer zero and run the team that was the owner of the event, the team that I currently have was,

not a not a thought, but being curious and being receptive to what what you're saying. And, being able to act on it. I think a lot of times, it's difficult to if we feel like that action that is in front of us that we can take if we've not done it before, it doesn't feel comfortable.

And one of the lessons I think that's related that I've learned is when I'm feeling discomfort, it's usually a good sign that there's something worth looking into. And sometimes that can be as small as, you know, verifying something. And it can be as large as making a dramatic change to something. Could be a campaign, could be a career move.

so I've had a I've had an opportunity, I think, to do this quite often in my career, actually. And you're you're also right, in our family relationships, personal relationships, how we, parenting teenage kids in 2024, it's a little different. it is a good mindset to have. I think.

Daniel Burstein: I love that, yeah. All right, well, this next lesson, you know, as we talked about, sometimes you are in situations where things are not ideal and you can't just blame that situation. So I love this lesson. Get it done. Do it right again. You got some pretty terse, simple lessons. But when we unpack them there's a lot there.

Get it done. Do it right. You learned this from Alex in the CEO of alchemy. How'd you learn this from Alex?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. Alex is, I suspect, some of your listeners are like. Yeah, I've heard that one before, because if they ever worked for Alex or or this is kind of gotten out there in B2B marketing industry, Alex was, you know, a commercial leader at BMC, and then joined Eloqua, eventually becoming president of Eloqua and then after the, acquisition by Oracle, he was in the inner circle at Oracle working with, Thomas Curry and around in the future as Oracle marketing stack.

Alex has gotten to do some really incredible things now leading alchemy. But, this is Alex's and, a lot of people, I think, live by this one. Alex was convinced that where we get stuck is the, idea that things have to be perfect. And what I like about how he has taken that is it's not about good enough.

It's about doing it right. It's not about perfect. It's about doing it right. And other organizations that I've been a part of and heard of, they have different ways to think about where the finish line is or when the end point is, that aren't always doing it the right way and getting it done the right way.

They are about just getting it completed. And that and that was the big lesson here was Alex was convinced that it wasn't enough to say be productive, and that completing tasks is more important than completing tasks perfectly. There was a standard, and the standard was doing it right. And at Oakland, every other place it's been, everybody knew what that meant.

It wasn't something that, had to be, translated for any given situation. There was a standard for what right looked like. And I think that is the lesson that we can all apply in our teams and our organizations. completion is not enough, but perfection is likely not realistic. But what is the standard that you can create and communicate clearly to teams that it's got to meet a standard, not just the the idea that completion is the standard.

So it's a it's a great way to combine a focus on productivity with a focus on quality in a way that is repeatable and sustainable.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So that begs the question, Brad, as, as, you know, business division leader yourself, how do you define do it right to make sure everyone knows what that is? Because I will say too, like in my career, the the most difficult times I've ever had to do it right were during events, because so much happens in such a condensed time and there's so many people to please.

You got the venue, you got, you know, the sponsors, you got the attendees, you got, you know, the company itself, not to mention got to deal with hurricanes and, snow storms and, you know, all these other things. And you want that very high impact experience. You know, you want attendees. I've invested a lot, not just of, you know, money, but time and being away from their family to be there.

You want this amazingly impactful experience for them and you want to do it right. And then at the same time, it's like this is happening in real time with many balls to juggle. And oh, by the way, I got to get back on stage in five minutes. So so how do you define that? Do it right for your team.

And how do you empower them to do that?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah, I, I think you said it when you said, you want to please all of these stakeholders, whether they are, of an event, the attendee or a partner or vendor that you're partnering with to produce that. I think ideally, and it's not idealistic, but it's should be the target is the customer determines that the conduct the customer determines and tells us what right is.

the way we translate that on our team when we are completing a project and delivering deliverables, what they hired us to give them, we have a closeout process that is a review of things with very specific questions, not only about, did we complete what we what you hired us to do, but we ask for feedback on the quality and ultimately an overall rating on the value that they received.

And so I think that is a that's possible to kind of inform a standard that it's got to meet your customer's view of what the standard is and understanding what the customers view is where the focus should be, as opposed to, you and I can come up with any standard we want for what a good podcast should be, but ultimately it'll be the listener that says this was good or garbage or somewhere in between.

So, we, we really try to focus on that and have built our processes around that so that we get every project we get, not only good, qualitative feedback, but something that's measurable. We asked for an NPS rating on every project, and we put that to use, so that's how we think about it. And I kind of like that idea of the customer gets to define it.

What does that mean for you, even if your customer is an internal customer?

Daniel Burstein: I like that you say that, Brad, because in fairness, thank you to Brad and thank you to all I guess we've had I do put the guest through a lot. There's a lot of prep, there's a lot of hoops to jump through. And it is because of exactly what you said. I feel that that weight and that that, that opportunity, every time we record an episode to hopefully live up to the listeners expectations, you know, to quote Delta Airlines, there's a lot of podcasts you could be listening to.

Thank you for listening to ours. so we've talked about so many different things about what it means to be, I mean, not only a human being and a business leader, but a marketer. So if you had to break it down, Brad, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

Brad Gillespie: Yeah. When when I talk to early career professionals, I usually ask them the common question. When you think about marketing, what brands do you think about? And if I get a reaction that's, Nike, Louis Vuitton, consumer brands that usually sends me in a direction around what's important versus a B2B marketer that may be more sales oriented.

While I think this line is blurring, which is a good thing, I think consumer B2B are starting to coalesce in a way that is useful to both. understanding, psychology is if I, if I had a chance now to go back and add something, to my formal education that I still do not have, it would be more focus on understanding how human beings think, how they're motivated, and how that translates to behavior.

I think that marketing at some level needs to understand the human equation and understand how to relate to other human beings in, in any given situation. curiosity is, a great one because the work of a marketer is never done. we should always be in a mindset of thinking and learning and trying and experimenting and failing and, think of things in more of a cycle than, straight line.

being data comfortable, data literate, perhaps. I think going forward, future generations are going to have to be more comfortable understanding and using data, although I think the industry is going to make it easier, for, for the less skilled in that area to still leverage data. And, you know, I think willing to understand and take risk, is part of marketing's DNA and therefore a marketer's DNA.

I heard a good podcast, recently. I think it was a Tim Ferriss podcast. And his guest talked about some stories where she had taken some really massive risks in her career, some that worked out, some that didn't. But marketing ultimately has to be the space in a company where we're pushing the envelope to try new things and challenge the status quo.

What usually the tip of the spear. And sometimes that's just information that we can share with product to lead us in a different direction. And sometimes it's let's try a new tactic or let's try something we haven't for an audience that we think it's time to really go out and experiment. So those those are the big ones, I would say being, data comfortable if not data savvy.

being curious, being, open to risk and relationships. I think at the end of the day, the biggest lesson I think I've learned is, relationships with our stakeholders on other teams, ultimately will determine how good, how effective, how much impact marketing can have it. It doesn't it's not successful. And, a vacuum, it has to require, relationships with those other teams.


Daniel Burstein: Well, I like data comfortable, because we're not all going to be data scientists, but data comfortable makes sense to me. But, anyway, thank you so much, Brad. You've shared so much from, all these lessons from your career with us today. Thank you for being on and taking all this time to do that.

Brad Gillespie: Thanks, Daniel, I enjoyed it. Thanks for having me.

Daniel Burstein: And thanks everyone for listening. I'll be honest, no survey will pop up at the end of this podcast, but if one did, I hope we would have earned a ten out of ten from you. So thank you so much for listening.

Outro: Thank you for joining us for how I made it in marketing with Daniel Burstein. Now that you've got an inspiration for transforming yourself as a marketer, get some ideas for your next marketing campaign. From Marketing Sherpa's extensive library of free case studies at Marketing That's marketing and it's.