April 19, 2023

B2B Marketing: You can accelerate your career by identifying areas you are willing to take risks that others are not (podcast episode #56)


Get ideas for your marketing campaigns, management, and career by listening to episode #56 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had an insightful conversation with Bryan Law, Chief Marketing Officer, ZoomInfo.

Listen now to hear Law discuss the value of a customer-centric approach and having multiple plans to overcome roadblocks in achieving goals.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

B2B Marketing: You can accelerate your career by identifying areas you are willing to take risks that others are not (podcast episode #56)

The How I Made It In Marketing podcast is underwritten by MECLABS Institute, the parent organization of MarketingSherpa. To learn how MECLABS Services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding, visit MECLABS.com/results.

I have this dream that I can go into other peoples’ heads, kind of like the movie Being John Malkovich.

Friends. Family. Customers. Work colleagues.

And truly get that other perspective. Truly know what those people think of me, my work, our company, our offerings.

Unless my life becomes a surrealist fantasy comedy, this is not going to happen.

But the closest thing I‘ve found is seeing every interaction I have – with a customer, with a colleague – as valuable to me, a thing of value that I must exchange my ego to receive.

It’s amazing what you can do if you just get that darn ego out of the way.

So I loved reading this lesson in a recent podcast guest application – “Feedback is a gift and people are investing in you by providing candid feedback.”

I talked to Bryan Law, Chief Marketing Officer, ZoomInfo, on the latest episode of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast to hear the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson-filled stories.

ZoomInfo is a public company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. It recorded $1.07 billion in revenue in 2022. At ZoomInfo, Law manages a team of 150, along with 100 different vendors and tech platforms.

Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.

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Stories (with lessons) about what he made in marketing

Some lessons from Law that emerged in our discussion:

Varied experiences inform a holistic approach to business problems.

Law’s career has spanned management consulting (Monitor Group/Monitor Deloitte), internal strategy (Google, Rackspace), analytics (Rackspace, H-E-B), ecommerce (Tableau/Salesforce, Rackspace), and Marketing (Rackspace, Tableau/Salesforce, and ZoomInfo). He has also lived and worked in the US, Brazil, Mozambique, South Africa, India, the UAE (Dubai), and Australia, as well as worked across a wide number of industries.

You can accelerate your career by identifying areas you are willing to take risks that others are not.

Some of Law’s international work allowed him to quickly rise within consulting as they were less desired locations (including in Mozambique where he was working with government ministers, NGO leaders such as USAID, and CEOs and executives of multinational corporations interested in investing in Africa).

Borrowing from Peter Weinberg, who leads LinkedIn's B2B Institute, Law discussed two axes that you can make decisions on. One is if you're right versus not right. The second one is doing what everyone else is doing versus being contrarian.

Life is too short to be in an emotionally damaging work environment.

Law worked at a company where his immediate boss worked to actively undermine him and created significant stress for an extended period of time due to broader company dynamics. While in the moment, he felt very stuck and without options outside of trying to manage through it. Looking back, he wishes he had proactively left that situation sooner as he was able to find a work environment that was much healthier and more enjoyable.

Lessons (with stories) from people he collaborated with

Law also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with.

Feedback is a gift and people are investing in you by providing candid feedback.

via Taylor Rhodes, CEO of Rackspace at the time, now CEO at Applied Systems

You should always treat it feedback as a gift. Also, whether or not the feedback is fully "true," it is "true" from their perspective and so you need to operate accordingly.

We can all give way more of ourselves than we believe possible.

via Guerra Freitas, Founder & Chairman of SHAREcircle (a non-profit dedicated to increased access to quality higher education, healthcare, and economic opportunities for Angolans) and Angola University

Law was on the board of directors of SHAREcircle. Freitas grew up during the civil war in Angola, became a leader in CARE, was sponsored to come to the US for university, and has dedicated his life to Angola. Law has learned numerous lessons from Freitas, including that we can all give way more of ourselves than we believe possible, the importance of always having a plan A, B, C and D because of inevitable roadblocks (and that preparedness and flexibility leads to faster progress), and the true art of understanding what really motivates others in order to enlist their support in the face of significant odds.

The same key lesson applies to brands – brands can give more than many think is possible. Law encourages team members to always put the customer at the forefront of what they're doing, a lesson he learned Adam Selipsky, who's now the CEO of Amazon Web Services but was the CEO of Tableau when Law was there. Selipsky would always say that at the end of the day, if you put the customer first, you will solve most revenue and efficiency problems.

Make sure the people you work with know that you care about them.

via Jackie Yeaney, former CMO, Tableau

The most lasting thing about business is making sure the people you work with know that you care about them. Yeaney evidenced this in the way she led marketing, the way she interacted with her directs and peers, and how she has supported her old teammates since she has retired.

Related content mentioned in this episode

MECLABS Methodology

Marketing and Brand: Embrace healthy friction (podcast episode #48)

Franchising and Marketing: In a world of chicken dinners, be a lobster dinner (Podcast Episode #14)

Customer-First Marketing: A conversation with Wharton, MarketingSherpa, and MECLABS Institute

Team Building: Loyalty, relationships, pre-selling, and other keys to marketing management success (Podcast Episode #16)

About this podcast

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.

Podcast guest application

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

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Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.

Daniel Burstein: I have this dream that I can go into other people's heads, kind of like that movie, Being John Malkovich, Friends, family, customers, work colleagues. And to truly get that other perspective truly know what those people think of me, my work, our company, our offerings, our products. Unless my life becomes a surrealist fantasy comedy, that is just not going to happen, right? But the closest thing I found is seeing every interaction I have with a customer, with a colleague, and the valuable thing to me, a thing of value that I must exchange my ego to receive. It's amazing what you can do, what you could learn if you just get that darn ego out of the way.

So I loved reading this lesson in a recent podcast. Guest application feedback is a gift and people are investing in you by providing candid feedback. Here to share the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson filled stories, is Bryan Law, the Chief Marketing Officer at ZoomInfo. Thank you for joining us, Bryan.

Bryan Law: Daniel Thanks for having me. Really excited to be here.

Daniel Burstein: So let's take a quick look at your background so people understand who I'm talking to. A long, illustrious and varied background to starting as student body president while getting your MBA at Northwestern as well here. I think you've used some of those kind of political skills later in your career, maybe internationally, certainly criteria Organization Effectiveness consultant at Willis Towers Watson, Manager at Monitor Deloitte Principle of Global Business Strategy at Google, Vice President of Global E-commerce and Digital Marketing at Rackspace, VP of Data and Analytics at H-E-B Senior Vice President of Marketing and General Manager of Commerce at Salesforce.

Which brings us to today. For the past year you have been the CMO at ZoomInfo. ZoomInfo As a public company listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, you've recorded $1.07 billion in revenue in 2022, and that ZoomInfo law manages a team of 150, along with 100 different vendors and tech platforms. So Bryan, give us a sense, what is your day like as CMO at ZoomInfo?

Bryan Law: Yeah, and this is actually something I took from another CMO. I try and think of my world in four buckets. So one is people and sort of my team members. So I'm interfacing with. The second one is marketing initiatives and obviously trying to push those forward. The third one is company priorities and the fourth one is customers. And I actually try and decide whether it's my day or not, my week equally across those different areas.

And so what I've found is many times marketers can be a little bit too focused and siloed just within their team, yet alone, looking at the entire organization, yet alone, really thinking about the customers. And so I try and do as much as I can and even split across those four different areas.

Daniel Burstein: Okay, great. Now let's take a look first at some of the lessons we can learn from the things you made in marketing. That's a great thing we do as marketers. I've never been an auditor or a podiatrist or something else, but I do feel like we actually get to make things. Even in this digital economy. We make brands, we make campaigns.

Let's look at some of the things that lessons we can learn from that. Your first lesson was varied experiences inform a holistic approach to business problem. So as I mentioned in the beginning, I mean, just from those, you have a very varied experience from tech to grocery to even like, you know, having some little political background when you're getting your MBA.

But this lesson, I think, kind of takes us internationally. So tell us tell us an example of how you learned from your various experiences.

Bryan Law: Yeah. And so in addition to those, I've lived in a few different countries and actually worked in them. So I've lived in Brazil for a while, Mozambique, South Africa, Dubai in the UAE, India and Australia. And what those holistically did and then I'll talk about a specific example. As you're getting into a brand new culture, you don't understand sort of the inner workings, how people interact, what are their sort of the priorities, underlying beliefs.

And this was true in many of those scenarios, but I'll talk about Dubai in the UAE, when you would actually first meet with people many times before you could even get into business, when you were talking with or with an Emirati, you really had to get to know them as a person. It was an expectation. In fact, your first half hour hour may only be focused on that.

And part of it, at least the way that I internalized it, was many times you were sort of feeling each other out to really understand sort of maybe what people strengths were, but importantly what people's weaknesses are. Maybe a bit of information that could be used sometime down the road. If things didn't go the way you wanted, you could say, Hey, Bryan, remember you told me this, We need to make sure we're partnering a little bit better because, you know, this could be a little embarrassing for you if I were to sort of mention that.

But more broadly, what I think is it's a really interesting focus on you need to get to know the people you're interfacing with, what they care about, what their motives are, who they are as a person. Before you get into business. And I think a really great example of how that came to fruition when I was at Tableau, we were acquired by Salesforce and I see both wonderful companies, different cultures and different ways of doing things.

But any time you're doing an integration, there's a lot that has to be jammed together fairly quickly. And so in order for that to be successful, you really need to understand who your counterparts are. And so when I was sort of starting that process and getting to know people at Salesforce, I really needed to learn who they were as a person, what you know, what makes them tick, what is it about their their family life or sort of their career history or just what their hopes, dreams and wants are that allow me to become much better partners with them, better read their sort of non-verbal cues so that when we're in a meeting or a

conversation that's potentially getting a little bit tough, I have something to fall back on too. You know, go back to that relationship and make sure that we can that out on the other end. And so I think that variety of international experiences, many of them wonderful, some of them not help me for those types of situations, such as the one when we were integrating the salesforce.

Daniel Burstein: Was there any specific tactics used during the Salesforce integration? You know, I mean, like or maybe you learned from UAE or someplace overseas or otherwise. I mean, I know I've heard mergers and acquisitions called almost like dating in a sense. You know what I mean? It's like you're first they're speed dating. There's different type of dating to see, like, are these two families going to come together?

These cultures, obviously, they want a Romeo and Juliet situation. So I wonder, was there any like any good thing just go to lunch with someone and buy them a drink, playing golf with them in what's what was something that worked well for you to get to know them?

Bryan Law: Yeah, and it's an interesting comparison, although certainly in a in an acquisition that Tableau was very much being acquired by by Salesforce. And so what whether or not we wanted to be there, we were certainly part of it. Obviously sort of great to become a part of the broader Salesforce family. But in terms of what I normally find, it's a really basic question.

But asking people like what are the things they get most excited about inside and outside of work, and just sort of to hear what their passions are normally draws out all sorts of things you would never learn about just saying like, Oh, tell me about your family or tell me about what you're doing. But just like, you know, if you could be doing anything, what would it be?

Why is that? Why are you not doing more of it? And understanding that sort of passion component to people I think is is really, really valuable. So I try to do that at the beginning of any year, 1 to 1, when I first get to know someone is really just start to understand what makes them tick and what they're excited about.

Daniel Burstein: And you bring up a good point. So maybe in dating, it's not you're the the husband or wife is going to marriage. Maybe it's more like a father in law where you don't have a choice coming into this acquisition, but you better make sure you figure out what's going on on the other side, right? Yeah.

Bryan Law: Yeah. But yeah, I mean, imagine many of us have gone through them. I've been both on the acquiring and acquired side, but you know, they're, they're never as smooth as you would like. But the thing that I found there was actually a book that was written about it, that sort of the culture and the interpersonal component is one of the biggest determinants of whether it's successful or not.

And so you really need to to lean into that both at the individual and the organizational level to have success.

Daniel Burstein: Absolutely. Let's talk about another lesson you learned. You say you can accelerate your career by identifying areas you are willing to take risks that others are not. So where was an area that you jumped in to take risks where others wouldn't?

Bryan Law: Yeah. And I think about this from a career perspective, personal perspective, any individual negotiation, the more that you broaden the field of sort of decision making points, the more success you can have. And so related to this is I was thinking about my career advancement. You know something? I really enjoyed being able to have maximum impact. I enjoyed being able to take on greater scope and responsibility.

And I was trying to think, you know, what would be some of the ways that I could do that a little bit more quickly. Obviously, working harder is a way to do that. But another one that I found fairly quickly is many times within your organization you can find something that's really exciting, a great learning opportunity, but not something that everyone else is willing to do.

And so one of those I was actually based in Brazil at the time. There was an opportunity to go work in Mozambique for an extended period of time. Mozambique, a wonderful country, but for a long time it's had one of the it's been one of the poorer countries in the world, and it certainly has some hardships that are associated with it.

In addition to the fact that there's a language requirement that not everyone speaks. And so it was a really, really wonderful opportunity in and of itself, but it was also a really great growth opportunity. I had a chance, you know, being just out of business school to be, you know, sitting and working hand in hand with ministers of a country and leaders of multinational organizations that were coming and trying to enter that country and others.

And it was because of the fact that I was willing to go to a place that not many people have spent a lot of time was in Portuguese. And so I was learning Portuguese and really had to sort of focus on my efforts there. And there certainly were some components of it that were a little bit more challenging than, say, living at a time in Brazil or in the U.S. or in other parts of the world that were worthwhile sacrifices to make.

But as a result, I got a world of riches in return, including sort of career development. And so that was that was just a way that I thought about that experience, and I've thought about other ones as well. And I think it served it served me well.

Daniel Burstein: So I wondered if there's an analogy there for a brand, especially, you know, working in a major brand that's a public company like we teach Value Proposition, the MECLABS methodology. One thing we teach is you have to find a level of exclusivity, and sometimes to find that you have to go somewhere where someone won't. However, you need to balance that risk in a smart way.

And so one thing that we teach, at least at MECLABS, is the parent organization, Marketing Sherpa is experimentation, right? You take a small subset, you experiment, you see what works, and you double down there to go someplace, somewhere else won't. So I wonder, you know, I've definitely heard from from startups, from you know, I heard from I think employee number three at Barkbox, which became 600 employees Public company.

And they realized that they wanted that rapid growth to start that it takes a big swings and they made some progress. But what about now you've worked in many more established public companies where you take a big risk. That is a big risk if the reward doesn't kick in. So how do you balance that? Go where another brand won't with doing what's right for the brand and the company?

Bryan Law: Yeah. So that yeah, spurred a few ideas So and I'm going to be borrowing this actually from Peter Weinberg who leads LinkedIn's B2B Institute and he always talks about sort of two axes that you can make decisions. One is obviously if you're right versus not, The second one is are you doing what everyone else is doing versus you're being contrarian.

And obviously if you're wrong, your doesn't help. But if you're if you're right in doing what everyone else is doing, it actually doesn't make that much of a difference. You need to be right in doing what no one else or few others are doing. So being that contrarian. And so it's actually an incredibly important way to think about going to market.

So I think about a little bit less of like, are you willing to sort of sacrifice things that others aren't going to do? But like the only way you can actually get ahead is by actually being right And contrary, which means you're going to have to take risks and they need to be thoughtful risks. And I think the best way to be thoughtful in the risks that you're taking is really understanding who your customers are, what they care about, not just what they say, but truly what they what they value.

And there's a lot of research. I love the ARENBERG Bass Institute and the How Brains Grow book that they've written that provides some fodder for that. But yeah, going back to your original question, I think trying things out, being willing to take risks, do things differently, potentially put yourself in a bit of an uncomfortable situation in order to experience those sort of step.

Changes in your performance are truly, truly critical and you can't do that by just being safe. You're not you're not ever going to get ahead by just being safe and doing what everyone else is doing.

Daniel Burstein: Do you I wonder if you have an experience in this or just have an opinion if there's a difference? If you're the market leader or if you're, you know, kind of trying to go up against the market leader because, you know, classic marketing textbook, you'd have, you know, Pepsi would do things, Coke wouldn't. And, you know, Avis, very funny with we're number two, you know.

But lately I've seen more and more. I look at what a brand is doing, you know, kind of when I ask them about it, we do these value proposition workshops where we get in a room with all the leaders and we kind of go through in two days. All right, You know, how can we prove value proposition? We look what they're doing.

It's like this seems very similar to what your competitors doing. And there seems to be now with digital marketing going, it's so easy to just see all this data about your competitors are doing this kind of copycat approach. So wonder if you've either been in that experience or just have an opinion on being the market leader versus being, you know, trying to go up against that market leader.

How that affects your approach to risk and like you said, doing that thing that others won't do.

Bryan Law: Yeah, and it's funny because I can answer both of those relative to my current my role because so zoom in for we've been always, I think, known in the sales space as having really, really strong data. And we've been the market leader there. We've been actively trying to grow in other areas, particularly in marketing and creating our own ABM platform.

And so we have both the scenario of market leader really well known and trying to become sort of the upstart and and be perceived. And I'd like to think that I use similar thinking across both of those. But when we talk to our senior leaders in the organization about what we're going to do, there's always a little bit more risk aversion when you are the market leader because you don't want to do anything to damage that credibility.

But if you if you aren't always staying on top of sort of what customers want you, you run the risk of losing, losing your success. And so I think it goes back again to really understanding what your customers care about. I really like this idea of understanding when people are in buying situations, what are the thoughts, feelings and emotions that go on for them?

And then how do you attach your brand to those? And I think those are relevant whether or not you are at the top of your category or you're sort of an upstart trying to get space. And we actually did that research and we found that us and many of our competitors aren't really doing a lot of messaging that aligns with how our customers think about the space, whether or not this was where we were sort of a top of the market or we're trying to grow.

And I think being super thoughtful and maybe trying different ways to understand your customers allows you to have more clear, lower risk activities. You can do to actually stand out and have growth. And I think the the element that is potentially more risky or more unique, at least in the B2B space, is doing what B2C has been doing for a really long time.

And I don't know why it's taken us so long in the B2B side to learn some of those same lessons. Understand think about your customers in the same way. And so it's not so risky. It's just smart and we don't do it as much on the B2B side.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, well, that's a great focus too. Like I said, so too often we're focused on our competitors and focusing on the customer. That's the right place to be. Start there. And then obviously one, do competitive analysis, but start with the customer, what they want and what they need. I like that. Let's talk about another lesson. Life is too short to be in an emotionally damaging work environment.

So it sounds like this is one of those lessons where you learn in a very painful way, I'm guessing.

Bryan Law: I yeah, I definitely did. And in some ways it's tough looking back because I don't know that the leader fully appreciated the impact that they were having on me, but it was I've always been an incredibly even keeled, low stress, calm individual, and the particular situation that they created was very sort of mentally and emotionally draining for me.

It just became very, very taxing. Challenging was impacting sort of my personal life in addition to my work life. And I think like many of us, I, I was so committed to trying to see it out and just get to the outcome that that allowed it to have a lot of like personal and health impacts on me and I probably let myself care too much about those situations as well.

And so I think looking back, I ended up sort of leaving that situation and sort of moving somewhere else, but I put up with it way too long and let my personal pride get way too involved in sort of continuing and pushing through that scenario. When looking back now, it's been been years like there was no reason I needed to do that.

I should have invested in myself my own emotional mental well-being first and found sort of a better solution sort of to that situation. But I definitely know from talking to team members, I've had friends that I've had. That's not an uncommon situation that we let ourselves just get stuck in this this scenario where we feel like the only thing we can do is just sort of slog through the pain rather than actually figuring out how do I extricate myself from that situation.

And there are different ways to do that. You can literally move yourself out of the situation or just find sort of a different approach, different dynamic with people that are involved. And I wish I'd just been much more thoughtful and smarter about that sooner because it definitely was taxing for quite some time.

Daniel Burstein: Hindsight's 2020, right? Yeah.

Bryan Law: Definitely, definitely true.

Daniel Burstein: So you were just mentioning about how you tried to have that focus on the customer, learn from the customer, put the customer first. What have you done now in your career as a leader to learn from your employees and make sure they're not in a similar situation as a manager? And I'll give you a specific example. I interviewed Justin Herber.

He's a CMO and Chief Brand officer of Tractor Beverage Company. I interviewed him on how I made it in marketing. And one of his lessons was Don't be a dick, which is very direct. But you learned from being in Hollywood where he said, like, we have this super cool job in Hollywood, like everyone wants to do this, and yet everyone everyone's so stressed out and the leaders here are just so abrasive and so rude.

And he said, the way I'm going to manage and what he's done in his career after he moved into marketing, he said, have high expectations and pursue the highest level of work without it turning you into a monster. So I just want to we just talked about customers learning from them, being guided by them. Is there something you do to learn from your team, your employees, people that report to your vendors maybe to make sure that you don't put them in a similar situation to get the best from them?

Bryan Law: Yeah, it's a really good it's a really good question. So maybe the way that I think about being a leader actually break it into three buckets. One is, you know, how do you achieve outcomes? The second one is around sort of stakeholder management. The third one is, is the team component. And so really talking about those in the lens of the team, I always see my role as like, how do you create the North Star?

How do you create the guardrails and space for people to be successful? But then how do you empower them as much as possible to get stuff done? I personally think I hate it when someone is staring over my shoulder, and so I try and create that same scenario for for my team. But then specifically around how I try and create an environment that's working for them, I think it's really important to ask them, and it's one thing to ask for direct feedback and some people provide it.

Most people don't feel comfortable, probably either because they're scared or they've had reason to be scared that they're going to get blowback from any type of feedback they provide. And so I think creating anonymous ways to collect that feedback for myself, but also for our broader organization is something we try and do. I brought something in to to zoom in for that I've used in the past, but normally, like at least every six months trying to collect that feedback and very specifically on what I'm doing well, what I'm not doing well, Do they feel supported?

Do they feel empowered? Do they have the tools and resources that they need? And just asking and then actually demonstrating that you're going to make improvements on those those pieces of feedback is wildly important. There was a study that was done a few years ago, but it showed that if you ask for feedback and you do nothing about it, it's actually worse than never asking for feedback.

And so I try and be very, very intentional one about hopefully showing that that I know there are lots of things that I don't do well, then providing opportunities for people to provide that feedback and then very in a demonstrable way showing that I am making changes based on. And so I certainly would hope that no one would say Bryan's a dick.

But I, I do want to make sure that I'm setting up a place where people are excited to grow their careers because the end of day, we spend so much of our time working. You need to make sure that you're setting up an environment where people want to come into work. They feel like they can have an impact and they get excited about the work they're doing.

Daniel Burstein: I looked at your LinkedIn before as I did not see any LinkedIn recommendations and said, Bryan's next. I think we're hopefully doing okay there.

Bryan Law: That's that's good.

Daniel Burstein: So I think there's some times where you can't make changes, right? So do you follow up then and say, okay, I hear you. You know, I hear you're saying, but here's some factors maybe you aren't aware of or here are some reasons why we can't do that now. You just need still make sure you close that loop when you can act.

Bryan Law: Yeah. Yeah. So definitely the thing I just related to sort of communications and change management, I sometimes feel like we don't treat our team members as if they are the rational adults that they, that they are. And most of the time people want to be heard and they want to know that someone internalize that and then they are going to do something about it.

Not doing something could be, yes, I'm going to make a change or at least explaining to me this is why I'm not going to do it either, because there's other good reasons that I hopefully can be able to explain or they're sort of other priorities are there. We can't put this on the front burner right now, and it's needs to be something that we look at in the past.

But but I found that while not fully satisfied, at least helps people realize something still happened with that it was internalized, it was processed, may not go the direction that I wanted, but at least I appreciate that there was a process that I could way in and at least get a chance to change the direction.

Daniel Burstein: Very nice. So as I mentioned, the first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons learned from the things you made and the second half of the podcast, we're going to talk about lessons we learned from the people you collaborated with because that's what we get to do in marketing. We get to make things and we get to make them with people.

But before we jump into that, I want to mention how I made it and Marketing podcast is underwritten by Mac Labs Institute, the parent organization of marketing Sherpa, to learn how Mac Lab services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding. Does it make labs e-commerce results? That's MSE Lab, Ask.com slash results. Okay. Your first lesson from the people you collaborated with, you said Feedback is a gift and people are investing in you by providing candid feedback.

I mentioned this in your opening. I love this lesson. You said you learned this from Taylor Rhodes, the CEO of Rackspace at the time and now the CEO at Applied Systems. How did you learn this from Taylor?

Bryan Law: Yeah, So Taylor was, you know, a wonderful boss for a lot of reasons. But one of the things that I think he really helped me with is how to get more comfortable both in receiving and giving feedback. I mean, I think for many of us the whole feedback process is unsettling. If you if you have to give good or bad feedback, you, you know, you're worried about it, you're resistant to doing it, and you're always maybe a little concerned about the feedback that you're going to provide to others.

In Taylor's training was all about we all need to get better. You should always be incredibly appreciative to anyone who's providing feedback to you because they're literally going out of their way to do something that they didn't need to do. It's much easier to say, Hey, Bryan, wonderful job. You know, you're potentially just, you know, destroying a part of the business or you're, you know, not a nice person, but it's much easier not say anything.

So if they're going out of their way to actually invest in you, you should treat it like that. You should actually make it come across as thank you for that gift that you're providing me. This is what I'm going to do with it. And yet another thing that he he mentioned that I thought was really true is any feedback is real, because I think a lot of times we'll hear something and we'll say, Oh, that's not true.

They didn't understand this scenario or they don't have full context. But the reality is in their mind it is 100% real. And so you need to treat it with that same level of respect as, you know, something that was objective, fireblight, an issue and address it even if it's just for them in their perceptions. And so I think, you know, coming out of all of my experiences with Taylor, honestly, I felt much, much more comfortable on both sides of that equation.

And in fact, even my leaders two weeks ago, we were framing this up of we all need to treat these as gifts that we're giving, both giving and receiving, because that's how we all get better and people invest in us and we should be super appreciative about it.

Daniel Burstein: So I love the idea, I love the philosophy, I feel the same way, but I want to battle test it for a second. Let me get one to give you a very specific scenario and see how you handle it. So, you know, in marketing, everyone in the organization has a marketing idea, right? They've all got a great idea for marketing.

I interviewed, for example, Nicole Salla, the Chief Marketing Officer of Katie Academy. I one of her lessons was when there was a philosopher in the room, You need to diffuse ideas, grenades, because there's this whole idea again, everyone's got a marketing idea. I used to work with a colleague. I loved it. He used to say, I bet the CEO never took a shower in the morning and then came in and talk to the clients like, Hey, I've got some great coding ideas, like, Here's what we should do with our JavaScript or Python or whatever, right?

But everyone's got a market idea from the receptionist to your mom to, you know, the CEO, to shareholders, to analysts, everyone. So I agree with everything you said. I think that's a great approach to take. Specifically, how do you deal with all those marketing ideas that might not be the right fit or again, like I like how Nicole Salon called it those idea grenades.

Bryan Law: Yeah, they come in. Well, yeah, and those certainly do. I mean, certainly you always want to be open to to ideas. One of the things that goes back to your customer comments earlier that I found many times internally that whether it's the CEO or the head of sales, they all have some wonderful ideas and you should figure out how to internalize those.

But at the end of the day, it should be the customer that plays the sort of the deciding vote and it's sort of as specific example. Now, you seem to be true of a couple of companies. You're thinking about the the website, how you think about the website navigation, and everyone has a point of view on that. And we actually did this early on in both of my tenures at these two companies is we asked marketers, we are salespeople, we are senior executives how they thought about sort of the business, the products.

And then we also ask prospects and customers. And it proved out to be true at both of those, which was sales and marketing were completely misaligned and neither of them actually understood what the customer wanted. And so that actually became a framing mechanism. After I learned the lesson, the first company was to go to the second one and say, This is why we love your ideas, but we're always going to validate them with what the customers and the prospects thinks because that is what we need to care about.

And so so I do think their ideas are great. They help you think through what potential options might be, but you should never be subject to the whims of just what an internal person seems to think is the right thing. And I found that sort of objectivity to be really helpful, to maybe reduce some of the pain associated with those, the wealth of ideas that can come through from different parts of the organization.

Daniel Burstein: The wealth of ideas. That's a nice way to put it. An idea, the wealth of ideas. Yeah. Let the customer decide. I like that you're excited. You said we can all give way more of ourselves and we believe possible. You learn this from Guerra Freitas, The Founder and Chairman of Share Circle, a nonprofit dedicated to increased access to quality, higher education, health care and economic opportunities for Angolans, and also at Angola University. So how did you learn this from Guerra?

Bryan Law: And Guerra’s someone who I got to know when I was at Kellogg. So he grew up in Angola. For those who don't know, Angola had a very protracted civil war. He actually had to leave his family at a very early age, just given some of the risks associated with that war. So he really educated himself and actually got to the United States through some some Americans who funded him to come out to the U.S. and then set up a nonprofit fully focused on goal.

And he gave almost every cent of that to the Angolans, including, you know, living with his family in someone's basement as a way to just make sure that he could really give everything that he could. So there were two things I learned from him. One was the one that you mentioned. The other one is he always said you should have multiple options.

You should always have a plan A, B, C, and D, because for him and practically in life, the options or are A and B normally weren't open. They'd been closed and he had to figure out how to get C and D, But it actually allowed, I think, a different viewpoint on the world because if you're expecting to need four options or three options for everything that you do, you don't get so hung up on the first one not working.

And so you become a lot more comfortable about, Hey, that one didn't work, but we already have a second one here, man. I spent all this time on this one getting through, and I've had sort of my boss, you know, nixed it at the very end. I could be very disappointed. But, you know, I already have plan B so I can work through that one.

And so I think it was a combination of his sort of optionality sort of drive and then just seeing how much he was willing to do for others and the sacrifices he was willing to make for others and the education of kids in Angola. And really people are in a really tougher situation. He's been sort of wildly and I don't know that yet fully appreciates the reality that he's had on me, but it definitely impacts my approach towards optionality.

And anytime something's tough, I think about some of the things that some of the stories he's told me and the challenges that he's had to go through. And practically you're normally not dealing with anything that's all that hard in business in the in the grand scheme of things relative to, you know, being in a civil war and trying to just have your family survive.

Daniel Burstein: That's some great perspective. Yeah, but you know, when you from this lesson that got me thinking it is very true on a personal level that the idea of we can all give way more of ourselves that we believe possible. But what about on a brand level? Like I found that a lot of brands, you know, we're just kind of so keep the values so tight to our best, so to speak.

Like we're so tight in what we are willing to give our customers. I'll give you an example. Flint McGlaughlin and I were interviewed. He's the CEO of MECLABS, interviewed by Kathryn Hayes of Wharton on our Sirius XM show. And he had this a little bit that I really liked. He said, I think it's possible for a business to individualize subscriptions at a level we've never seen before and serve people with a far more powerful piece of content than has happened in our history.

But instead we're using data to create more targeted advertising campaigns and interrupt their life. And I like that example because now with A.I. coming up, artificial intelligence with personalization, it seems like we often use it more to get more out of the customer than to give them more than we thought possible. So I wondered your perspective on that as a brand leader.

Bryan Law: Yeah, it's it's a really good call it. And I mean, it ties again a little bit into what we were talking about before. I try and I encourage my team members to always put the customer at the forefront of what you're doing. Just at a macro level, you should be trying to get perspective from them. But I think at the end of the day and sort of Adam Slutsky, who's now the CEO of IWC, was the CEO of Tableau when I was there, and he would always say this at the end of the day, if you put the customer first, you will solve most revenue and efficiency problems.

Not always the case, but most times that's true. And I think you need to think that at the macro level. But down to the individual, like why are you doing these individual things? How do you prove the experience so that it works best for the customer, even, you know, like on the website, if you're having a, you know, a CTO, does it speak exactly what it is they're wanting When you're developing a community program, are you actually trying to solve for the customers community desires or are you trying to serve over an internal efficiency desire?

And so I think all of that, the framing around what you do needs to be customer first and you can get in a better spot and then a little bit tied into the specific example you provided. We have so much data on our customers that certainly we do because it has a massive amount of data, but all of us have a ton of data around our customers and if you can leverage that in a way that actually makes the experience better for them, one that they'll be more likely to sort of engage and want to engage with your brand going forward.

But it also increases the likelihood that they're going to want to buy more products from you or be a customer longer or expand their engagement. And so I think trying to be relevant down to the micro level with your customers as much as possible ends up being a win win for all of us.

Daniel Burstein: What about artificial intelligence? So I've asked, you know, all the different guests that have come out here, and we're all at a different level in terms of maturity, in terms of experimentation, in terms of what we're kind of ready to open up the kimono and then talk about. I wonder I mean, I think that's maybe a great example of what you just talked about of putting the customer first, where we see some brands are using artificial intelligence, either just straight cost savings, you know, or to see, you know, for lack of a better word, can we trick customers into thinking this is human interaction versus there are some brands that are starting to play with

it and saying, how can we create a better experience for customers? So I wonder, have you have you before have you dipped your toe into this A.I. water yet, this artificial intelligence water? Have you played with anything? Have you have you tried to put the customer first with that?

Bryan Law: Yeah, Well.

Daniel Burstein: It's early days.

Bryan Law: I it's a broad question. So, yeah, a few things. So, so I see. I think all of us are aware of open air and chat chips and sort of the capabilities there. We actively leverage that in our marketing efforts to try and personalize what we're putting out there within our product. And we actually released a video showing some of our plans on that front of actually being able to leverage that technology to help it for for us, our sellers and marketers actually start the day and say, Hey, what should I focus on first?

And it's actually provides more guided steps of you should do this. And then if you want to do this, we can help you complete that activity. And so I think the potential is huge. I think right now there's a little bit a little bit of overselling in terms of what companies are doing relative to what they've actually figured out, which is fine.

But I think the potential is really, really exciting, particularly where it allows all of us to spend more time on the value added activities we want to be doing and less time on just sort of the menial busy tasks. And I think if we can all be doing that for our customers, allow them to focus on the things they want to be doing and the things where they can add more value, it'll make them more successful. It'll make them want to use our products more. So I think the potential is huge. I think we're still all trying to figure out exactly how to tap into that potential.

Daniel Burstein: That makes sense and makes sense. Let's talk about another lesson said Make sure the people you work with know that you care about them. You learned this from Jackie Yeaney, the former CMO of Tablea.

Bryan Law: Jackie's wonderful. So I think something she potentially more than anyone else that I can think of, really invests in the members of her team and understands them as individuals first. And something she said when she first joined Tableau and, I've noticed sort of throughout the time getting to know each other and even since she's retired, it's just really incredibly true in the way in which she prioritizes individuals.

It allows you to have a better relationship for her with my being my boss. But sort of it creates a culture across the organization of we are looking out for each other first as people before as sort of, you know, a colleague who is trying to deliver something. And it just it develops a stronger team bond. It allows for sort of more open communication.

It facilitates, you know, individuals finding opportunities, which many times ends up being better for the organization. So if I'm feel comfortable enough to be candid with Jackie about my hopes and dreams, she can help me actually achieve those, which many times is better for sort of the organization as a whole. And so I definitely have internalized that. I've tried to make sure that each of my team members know that that's how I perceive them.

And yeah, it just it makes in addition to all of those benefits, it makes just work a a more enjoyable place to be when you know that sort of your boss or your colleagues ultimately care about you as a person first and about someone who is working for the company second. And yeah, it just Jackie's a superstar at that approach.

Daniel Burstein: Is there any specific tactic that that works really well for you in actually achieving that one on ones? You know, everyone does something different. I know I interviewed Jean Hopkins, the chief Revenue officer of one screen Data I on how I made up marketing. And one of her lessons was allow your team to shine in the way she did.

That was she was always looking for what is their next step, even if it's, you know, what is there an actual even if it doesn't fit in with what their current role is. And she mentioned the Q a lead quality assurance lead. She saw something in that person from interacting with them and made them the co-host of a podcast, which is not something that you would usually expect from, you know, a Q lead.

So under for you like for, you know, as a tip to other managers out there or other leaders, is there specific tactic that's really helped you be able to do this?

Bryan Law: Yeah. So I think a few different things. So one, I mean, a lot of companies do this, but at the beginning of the year you do like an individual development plan and you just ask them more broadly, like what are the things they're wanting to achieve outside of this role over the next 3 to 5 years. It gives you a lot of opportunity to help figure those pieces out, something that it's going to sound like a silly thing.

It's not often that people ask you how you like to be recognized, and I've learned that people really, really care differently about the world. And so being able to actually then execute on those tends to be really impactful. One, because you haven't really been asked before, but you may not expect people to follow through. And so this is actually something I did back at the start to Rackspace is we collected for everyone in the team like what were the things they like from a recognition perspective.

And then when that person did a good job, I would go back to my file and be like, Oh, you know, Sally, this is. And I would then try and actually deliver on on that. And I think it's a lot of those like micro sort of elements or, you know, you have the initial conversation and you wrote down the names of their team members and or sort of their family members and sort of like what they do outside.

And you follow back up on that or, you know, you start a conversation with them and you always ask like, how is their broader life going before you get into to work pieces? But those are those those little signs that you're paying attention to that you value them as an individual, I think can be really impactful.

Daniel Burstein: That's a I haven't heard that one before, like how people want to be recognize because that's a really good point. There's such a a mix between introverts and extroverts. And a lot of times we think other people are like us, but really they might not like some big public recognition, like, you know, the next an all hands meeting, even though we might they might just like some, you know, quiet note or a letter I that's I really like that one. That's a nice step.

Bryan Law: In fact on that one of my direct reports, the thing that she wanted more than anything else was a handwritten note. And it was just interesting because that wouldn't have been what a lot of people would have said. But it's harder. It's harder to give people what they want if you don't if you don't ask why.

Daniel Burstein: I think that kind of really sums up the thing we've been talking about, like in where you've talked about learning about the customer, letting them drive the decisions, put the customer first, not your competitors, not technology. Learning about your employees is your voice here. This thing, we shouldn't treat other people how we want to be treated. You know, there's that maxim.

We should treat other people how they want to be treated. And that is the biggest challenge to like reach outside of our own brain and like to actually, you know, learn how that person wants to be treated. So kudos job. I really like that. Like asking the type of recognition they want.

Bryan Law: Yeah. It's in I can't take full credit for that one. It was actually someone else who had that that idea but I've definitely borrowed it and seen the upside from it.

Daniel Burstein: What we've talked about a lot of different things about what it means to be a marketer, lessons you learned all the way from Dubai and Mozambique to, you know, as close to home as, you know, Salesforce and Tableau. So if you had to break it down when you're hiring or just for yourself, what do you think? What are the key qualities of an effective marketer in some?

Bryan Law: Hopefully, hopefully they'll align with things we've talked about. So I think first and foremost, how were they thinking about the customer? First is really, really key. Secondly, are they demonstrating that they're inquisitive and they're a learner? Inevitably, we don't understand everything that's going on within our space, but there's also so much newness that's coming through. How do they try and get up to speed?

How are they trying to stay on top of trends, but also just how do they approach others are they sort of a term a nowhere versus a learner? Are they coming in and saying, you know, this is how it's going to be because of X, Y and Z, or hey, help me understand why did we do this? Or can you give me some context And perspective I think is really key and something I try and try and understand certainly from a leader, I want someone who's going to provide a direction, but ultimately empower their teams. That's the way you scale. And so I think that's really, really incredible as well. And then I'm a big believer and you alluded to this earlier, this idea of iterative, iterative improvement.

You need to be figuring out like directionally where you want to go, but how do you stair step your way and do it quickly? And certainly something I would say a lot of companies move fast. You move faster than any company I've ever worked for. And so that iterative approach is incredibly quick. We really want to see what can we learn, how do we internalize that, How do we then build on it in the next step?

And I found each of those to be really key. And then the last one, and it ties into the inquisitive component. I really think it's important to have people who are strong performers but are also going to be sort of good from a behavioral perspective and big piece of that for me is someone who is looking to give credit to the team. They're humble. They want to be a part of a broader whole and see the success of the group rather than looking out for their own success and potentially having, you know, really sharp elbows. And so that's something that I found to be really successful, whether that's marketing or when I was in strategy before. But that that that team focused approach I think is.

Daniel Burstein: So we're looking for some smooth elbows, a nice meal that's not really great. Thanks so much. But I learned a lot from your conversations. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Bryan Law: Yeah. Daniel thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

Daniel Burstein: And thanks to everyone for listening.

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