October 03, 2022
Article

Content and Communications: Tenacity, keep it simple, authenticity works

SUMMARY:

Get ideas for testimonials, TV commercials, and brand extensions by listening to episode #33 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had a powerful conversation with Jeannie Assimos, Head of Content and Communications, Way.com.

Assimos discussed trusting your instincts, why adaptability is important, making a U-turn when necessary, and much more.

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

Content and Communications: Tenacity, keep it simple, authenticity works

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

“Nouns form the substance of appeal,” Flint McGlaughlin taught in Headline Examples: 3 ways to load your predicate with value.

I love this lesson because as marketers, if we’re not careful, we’ll focus too much on the adjectives and the adverbs. The flowery language. The hype.

Instead of clear communication.

And it goes along with a lesson our latest guest discovered when approving TV commercial concepts from her agencies – keep it simple.

This is just one of the stories you’ll hear from our latest guest – Jeannie Assimos, Head of Content and Communications, Way.com. Assimos manages a team of 20 people in the United States and India. Way.com is a financial platform for cars with $200 million in forecasted annualized revenue for 2022 and has served 6.5 million customers to date.

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

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on Google Podcasts

Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Some lessons from Assimos that emerged in our discussion:

Trust your instincts.

Assimos had been with eharmony for a number of years, when her team was casting some new commercials. She was pretty insistent that one older gentleman would be perfect for their campaign. Despite major opposition and everyone believing they needed younger talent for their spots, she was able to stick to her guns and they shot a commercial with him — and it was the most successful spot of the campaign.

While she thinks it’s important to trust your instincts, she learned to balance instinct with data – testing and quantitative and qualitative research – from Erin Gehan, when Gehan was Senior Vice President of Marketing at eharmony.

Keep it simple.

Assimos learned this lesson through years of trying complex storylines in her brands’ media spends, which never ultimately panned out. There were times she fell for a great idea for a commercial, but in the end it didn’t translate well to a short TV spot. The stuff that always performed the best was simple, authentic, and straightforward. There was no need for elaborate sets or four scenes for a commercial.

Authenticity works.

It may be difficult to find good, real-life success stories from real people, but it is absolutely worth the time and effort to locate them. Her team spent months looking for successful couples for a new marketing campaign at eharmony, and they were by far the most effective tool to get people to believe in the possibility of finding love. The relatability can’t be manufactured.

Stories (with lessons) about the people she made it with

Assimos also shared lessons she learned from the people she collaborated with:

Adaptability is important.

via Grant Langston, CEO, eharmony

Langston started as an intern working in the broom closet at eharmony, and just said ‘yes’ to all of the opportunities that came his way – and was always open to learning more and about different areas of the business. It worked in his favor greatly.

Tenacity.

via Brad Bessey, Producer, Entertainment Tonight.

Bessey never stopped working tirelessly to achieve the greatest version of his work every single day. When someone says ‘no,’ you find someone who will say ‘yes!’ Where there is a will, there is a way.

Make a U-Turn when necessary.

via Neil Clark Warren, Founder, eharmony

We are all going to make mistakes, the important thing is realizing when it's time to make a U-turn and go a different route, to cut your losses, and try another way. It's all part of the learning experience of business and life.

Related content mentioned in this episode

Not Enough Lobster In The Ocean: Trusting their gut leads to 90,000% revenue growth at Mint Mobile (podcast episode #11)

“Authenticity” vs. “Professionalism”: Should you be your authentic self in your brand’s content and marketing? Or must you adhere to certain strictures considered “professional” in your industry?

Marketing Storytelling Examples: How 3 brands told their stories (with results)

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.

Transcript

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

Daniel Burstein: We use the word conversion in marketing a lot, but have you ever stopped for a moment and thought what it really means? It's changing from one state to another, from ice to water or from agnostic to Jewish, or for marketers, from unknown to us to an email subscriber and biggest of all, from not a customer to a customer.

To make that conversion effort, customers need to understand the value on the other side, why it's worth going through all that time and money to make that conversion. According to our next guest, one of the best ways to communicate that value is with authenticity real life success stories from real people. And she should know she learned this lesson in her career, trying to communicate about one of the most difficult conversions of all finding real love. She's got some great lesson filled stories for you today, and I'm so glad to welcome Jeannie Assimos, Head of Content and Communications for Way.com. Thanks for joining us, Jeannie.

Jeannie Assimos: I am so happy to be here.

Daniel Burstein: Well, I had a lot of fun looking at your LinkedIn because you have an interesting background. So you started as Managing Editor of Entertainment Tonight and I joked if we get like a Mary Hart or John Tesh story thrown in here, I'll appreciate that. You went on to be Vice President of Content at eHarmony, a brand and content consultant at Jacobi and Myers. And now you are Head of Content and Communications for Way.com, where you manage a team of 20 people in India and the U.S.. Way.com is a financial platform for cars with $200 million in forecasted annual revenue for 2022 and has served six and a half million customers to date. So Jeannie, what is your day like as Head of Content and Communications for Way.com?

Jeannie Assimos: My day begins early because half my team is in India, so before I'm even out of bed, I'm on the team's app, looking at all the messages and everything that I need to address and deal with for the day. So that's the very beginning, is early morning jumping out of bed, walking my little min pin Johnny Cash.

Daniel Burstein: Do you dress him in black?

Jeannie Assimos: Of course. Okay. Yes, he's got the attitude, he's got it all. And then, you know, sometimes running to the gym before office. It just depends if I've got morning meetings, getting to the office, I feel like the first half of the day is sort of okay what do I need to accomplish today? Looking through everything, taking it all in, whether it's email or messages, and then executing the rest of the day, you know, what is what is the deadline today? What do I need to get done? What do I need to approve?

And there's so many moving parts of this company, you know, whether it's a PR situation I'm dealing with or a content plan or email marketing issue or SEO, you know, strategy meet we need to have there's a lot of different things going on. So it's never a dull moment and it's been an awesome challenge for me after, you know, this long career that you speak of. But yeah, it's like. It's starting over in a way. So it's been very full.

Daniel Burstein: You mentioned it's growing fast. That must keep everything changing every day.

Jeannie Assimos: Oh, yeah. And, you know, it's like throwing stuff against a wall to see what works. And it's kind of fun being part of a startup because you don't have, you know, all the layers of approval  that you would with like a traditional corporate, you know, like eHarmony or even Entertainment Tonight, everything is sort of baked in it been around for so long at Way it's like, how about I try this, go try it, see if it works. So that's kind of cool for me at this point in my career to be able to have the autonomy to do that.

Daniel Burstein: Very nice. Well, let's look back at your career. Look at some of the things that you made and what we can learn from that. As I say, you know, we as marketers a really cool thing about the job I’ve never been another profession, an actuary or a periodontist or anything but we make things and that's very cool what we do. And so one of your first lessons is trust your instincts, right? So tell us the story. How did you learn to trust your instincts?

Jeannie Assimos: Well, I think, you know, after being at a company for a while, you know the brand, right inside and out. And you just get a sense for the brand and understanding your audience and who the customers are. And that is so key to success I feel like in marketing. And a great example of this was I was working at eHarmony. We started to use at a certain point some actors in commercials. We had a lot of success with success couples, people who had found love on the site. But we pivoted to a different campaign, which was people in different scenarios saying, this is why I trust eHarmony, this is why I use eHarmony.

Anyways, everybody wanted to you use all these young hot models really for our commercials and some of them worked. I did want them to feel real or relatable. And there was one, you know, I say he's older, he was about 50 guy that I had seen, somebody who was coming through the auditions and I really wanted him, I just felt like he was relatable, he was handsome, but not too handsome. He was just a good fit for us. I just saw him and knew instinctively he'd be good for the brand.

Everybody was arguing with me, you know. We tested everybody before to see do people like this. Like we had surveys that would go out. Who do you like the best out of these five guys? He did okay, but I still was insistent we use him. And long story short, we used him. It was the most successful spot of the campaign and it may be even still running now. It ran several years and just, you know, performed amazingly. So a, you know I’d been at eharmony, probably eight years at that point, was working with a lot of people who are newer, and I just stuck to my guns. And, you know, of course you have to pick your battles. But that was when I just knew he was perfect. So and it worked. So, you know, it's hard to explain your instinct, but I just feel like when you really know a brand inside and out you have to trust that, you know, trust yourself.

Daniel Burstein: So let me play devil's advocate for a second and get your thoughts. All right. Because in that story, you talk about like if that story is told from someone else at eHarmony, they would say, like, well, you know, they were wrong if they tried to trust their instincts to go with some of the other people. And you mentioned even questioning the data.

So what are times when you feel like maybe you need more data and you shouldn't trust your instincts as much? You know, because I think of an example I interviewed, it was Aaron North, the CMO and Commercial Owner at Mint Mobile, and he talked about earlier in his career, he worked at Taco Bell and at Taco Bell he realized the scale of the decisions he was making. He would make a decision, have such huge scale, like even mentioned when he was in the interview, he suggested, hey, why don't you have lobster tacos? And the interviewer is telling him there aren't enough lobsters in the ocean for Taco Bell to have lobster tacos. So anyway, he was he was making the opposite problem. He was just overanalyzing everything he couldn't trust himself.  And finally a leader said, hey, look, you got to you got to trust your instincts a little more. So if you're, you know, giving advice to, you know, you were there eight years, but, you know, someone newer on your team or, you know, how do you balance that? hey, we have this gut feeling versus when should they go to analyze the data and trust it? They do more tesst or whatever it is.

Jeannie Assimos: Yeah, it's funny because we were never a company that was about like testing and it was all instinct, especially our CEO, Dr. Warren, who's the founder of the company. It was all about instinct. I just happen to know what's best for people. Then we had a CMO. Her name was Erin Gehan, come on, who was all about testing and data and quantitative qualitative research. And at first I was a little bit resistant to it because I was like, Oh, no, no, this is not how we do things. We know. We know this brand, we know our customers. But she sort of, you know, opened my eyes a little bit to the value of the research and testing, not only all the actors who are going to be in the spots, but the scenarios and even the lines that we were writing. What is relating with people the best and I think you have to just step back and you don't know everything, right? You never can. We're always learning. So to balance the two is really like the secret sauce to success. To trust, to look at, you know, what is performing and what is relating to people. It's just a blend, I would say, you know, so you kind of have to take both into consideration and not rely completely on data and not rely completely on your, you know, your instinct and your intuition. It's a blend. Does that answer your question?

Daniel Burstein: No, that's good. You know, I mean, I love how you challenge it. You just said, hey, just because the data said this, I've got these you know, I've been here eight years. I kind of get a sense for it. You know, I love that, too, so I'm not trying to go against that. It was a great lesson, but because on the flip side, whenever I think of trusting the data specifically, it's like I think there was an episode of The Office where the GPS is like telling them to drive into a lake. So they drive into a lake, right? And that's how sometimes I see marketers look at data. And so you have to bring that humanity to it, right.

Jeannie Assimos: Exactly. And this you know, the research that we were doing was out of context to., right. You're not seeing the whole picture here. So you have to take it with a grain of salt, right.

Daniel Burstein: Well, the other thing, you know, when we see it depends what type of research we do, right. So I was working with, we do these things called value proposition workshops where we get like the kind of key players from a company. We get them in a room and we kind of work there and try to build their value proposition. And they were saying just about the commercial they were running and just, you know, how great it was and stuff. And I kind of had questions and concerns about the commercial. But they said, no, we tested it and it did really well. And so basically the commercial was it was kind of very jokey. It was about like this joke criminal trying to break into a house and then, you know, but he comes across their security technology. And I was telling them like they really were superior in some ways and some of the major competitors and if they showed that in a commercial, maybe it would be more effective, and they are like, no, no, no this tested really well.

Well, then I asked how it tested and you know they focus grouped it, which a lot of people do with commercials. I said well that makes sense like if I'm in a focus group watching a commercial like it would be kind of boring to see like some really clear facts and stuff about, you know, this home security technology versus this very entertaining spot you made by a well-known director or something it was like some trending, one of those kind of  YouTube creators that are doing really well. So I'm like, I get why it did well in the focus group. It's enjoyable, right? But then like, is that like, okay, my house got broken into last week and my wife's going to be alone because I'm traveling for a month on business and you know, the police didn't show up fast enough. And my neighbors say their house was broken into as well. But you know what I mean? Like that mindset of that person. I really need to see the product. So when your focus grouping too, it's good to get that outside perspective, but understanding one, is it the ideal customer? And two, are they at the point of a decision or are they at a mall and they're getting 50 bucks and hey, that's about as entertaining.

Jeannie Assimos: Exactly, right. Like maybe that one did well because all the other ones are so boring. Right? So that one just did well as opposed to the other. But  how often is a consumer going to be sitting at home watching five commercials for, you know, competing products? Never. Right. I mean, so yeah, you do have to weigh everything and not just be tunnel visioned. You know, you can't just go, okay, this is it. You really need to factor everything in and just look at it holistically.

Daniel Burstein: Well, so that was a commercial that worked well at eHarmony, but I believe you also have a story to share about a commercial that failed. And you said the lesson you learned from this was keep it simple, so tell us this story.

Jeannie Assimos: Yeah. So we had we were working with a marketing agency who came in, would pitch all these different ideas for commercial spots. We had brought our CEO back and put him in all these  commercials different scenarios. Like we did, one that did really well, speed dating, where people are going around. And then he comes and sits down and says, isn't this exhausting? Just try eHarmony. That was a very successful commercial.

So they pitched to us, you know, the evolution of Dr. Warren. And so starting as a young child, he was trying to match his little friends to be friends. Then he when he was a teenager, he was matching kids at the dance like through his whole life he’s been matching people.And it was really, you know, we all were taken by it. But the execution and the complexity of, you know, his going through his life stages in a 15 to 30 second spot, we had we would cut 30’s and 15’s, was just overly ambitious and didn't work at all. It just no matter how they tried to cut it, it was just too much and it was just too complex to try to fit into this short, short, short, short narrative.

So and you know, these days when people are watching TV, are they fullly attentive? No, they're on their phones or on their you know, you've got to keep your message simple, get to the point quickly. So that was a lesson, right? Like let's not try these complex, you know, narratives and scenarios and keep it simple, somebody who's paying half attention will get the point. So that was one. Yeah, it was fun to film. It was fun to see the little Dr. Warren as a child in his little suit and tie. But yeah, that was a waste of a few million dollars, unfortunately.

Daniel Burstein: But what a smart agency right. They were like I know we're going to appeal to the ego of the company's founder and CEO. Like, I know there is a strategy there for that agency there too.

Jeannie Assimos: They were brilliant. Yes, they were brilliant. But we fell hard, too.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, well, I think it's a good reminder, too. Like, nobody cares as much about a brand as we do, right? Like, oh, my gosh, this whole documentary about our brand, everyone wants to see that. So have you ever used that keep it simple mantra when it comes to written content and marketing? Because we have a free digital marketing course and in the session on headline examples Flint McGlaughlin teaches nouns form the substance of appeal.

And I love that lesson as a writer because when you think about nouns, what are nouns? They give us the clarity versus throwing in all the adjectives and adverbs and flowery and hype filled, right. You know, but really focusing on those nouns. So how do you use that kind of keep it simple mantra for your written content?

Jeannie Assimos: I mean, I write a lot of our product content, which is extremely important to be simple and concise. So I am always looking at everything through that lens, like we're always launching new features in our app. And so I review all the content before you know, the steps of subscribing to something new or whether it be our roadside assistance or whatever. So always looking at everything through that lens. You know, Way has a blog which has a ton of awesome information, everything related to cars you could think of. That's a different format, right? That's just people are, you know, looking to learn something about whether it's registering your car or oil changes or whatever. That's very different.

But in terms of, I would say the marketing of Way in terms of new products, whether it's on the site or social media or writing a press release, it's very important for me to always be concise and clear and keep it simple. I feel like that's just the most effective way to connect and for it to be digestible, yeah.  I I was thinking the other day, early on in my career, I was all about, you know, when I was writing and having fun adjectives and just trying to be very clever and kitschy, right? And all that. That's very sparing these days, right? It's not about me and, you know, flossing my vocabulary. It's about you know, just conveying what you need to convey simply and clearly.

Daniel Burstein: Yes, getting information across is a win. But the other thing I thought about when I saw the keep it simple lesson is Way.com and that even, you know, the company name is a very simple name. And I wonder like what are the advantages and challenges of that for branding and for the URL?

So, you know, for example, when I was searching to kind of do some background on you, there's definitely stuff you can find, but it's also a generic name, so it's harder to find. One of our publications, it's called Marketing Experiments, right? So, when you're looking for social media mentions or a million other things or people are looking for us for our parent organization, MECLAB's Institute, very easy to find, Marketing Sherpa very easy to find. But Marketing Experiments great URL may be great for Google because of that, but also it's kind of a generic term and so it's a little harder to stick out because, you know, people use that generically.

So I wonder if you had any tips around that from what you've learned at working at Way.com, where the advantage is, what are the challenges of having just a very simple, also very generic word as your company name and URL?

Jeannie Assimos: In some ways it's great, right? Because it's easy to remember Way, Way.com, and we can still have a lot of fun playing, you know, only one way to go, you know, that's kind of fun in that regard. It's also challenging is challenging for me when I'm trying to look what kind of coverage are we getting, what's going on? And you type in Way and you see like, you know, that word used, you know, 8000 ways daily. So there are challenges, there’s pros to it as well. I wouldn't say I've like cracked the code on it, honestly. You know, it is what it is. I know that at one point Google came to us and tried to buy Way.com tablet or something.

Yeah. And said, no, it's not for sale. So, you know, it's a blessing and a curse. I would say it's difficult in some regards, but I think the benefit outweighs the negative just because it's simple and easy to remember. But yeah, it's something that I'm still trying to sort of, you know, completely wrap my head around and work on.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And if anybody out there wants to buy it, it's going to take more than $10 million.

Jeannie Assimos: Yeah. Good luck.

Daniel Burstein: So, another lesson you had is authenticity works. So I was kind of hinting at this in the opening of the show. How have you learned in your career that authenticity works?

Jeannie Assimos: I would say mainly, you know, when I was working at Entertainment it doesn't really necessarily apply, but it eHarmony, you know what that company became known for the white psych ads. You know, I don't know if you remember the white psych ads where people were on a simple white background talking about how they found success on eHarmony. They found the love of their life, do you remember those?

Daniel Burstein: I do. We actually I looked back we actually spoofed that back in, I think, 2009. Because for Valentine's Day, we had like different people around the office talk about their favorite blog. And so we did it eHarmony style. And I think I named the article like, shall I compare CNN Money.com to a summer's day or whatever? Because it was such a simple and clean and easy style that everyone could get. So yeah.

Jeannie Assimos: I mean, no scripting obviously. And just, you know, them being heartfelt and talking about their experience, in an area that's so delicate for so many and frustrating and relatable to all of us, right. Finding love iis not easy. So that was sort of my first foray and seeing how effective that was. And then we would, you know, we would veer off the path and try different things and said know we've got to do something else. And we hired some famous director and shot these beautiful scenes of people swimming, like in the swimming pool, hugging, like just all these beautifully shot scenes, it did not work.

You know, we did some of Dr. Warren in different situations I mentioned earlier, that worked pretty well, but nothing ever moved the needle and resonated like people sitting in a chair talking about how they found their person. So we did go back to that and it just always worked the best, you know, whether it was digital, offline, whatever it was always, you know, always the winner. So we always had to keep that in the mix. And sometimes we would, you know we thought that we got to appeal to different audiences. So we'll keep that, but we'll also do these different, more scripted spots.

So we did, you know, we ended up sort of writing a combination of both that seemed to work well to to appeal to different people. But even at Way, you know, when we've got, you know people on Tik-Tok or whatever, we reach out and say hey shoot something, just you know, shoot something for us. And when they're just authentic and doing their thing and it's not scripted, we're not telling them what to do. It just does better. It's always better when it's just real, when it's just off the cuff, when it's just me, you know, riffing or whatever versus us saying we really need you to promote our car insurance. These are the lines, it doesn't work. We even have, what's the site where people had I can't think of right now where a celebrity can you know, they can send a message to your friend Cameo. We're like, oh, my God, cameo for business. Let's try it. We got Lindsay Lohan talking about, you know, I only trust my love bug to Way.com. So excited about it, it wasn’t that exact line. But guess what? Did not perform, that was a waste of five grand, did not perform.

Daniel Burstein: Kind of shocked people wouldn't trust Lindsay Lohan for financial advice. I think that would be the kind of the first place I would go.

Jeannie Assimos: Car, car services.

Daniel Burstein: Cars services okay.

Jeannie Assimos: But we tried it with you know, we tried it with a guy from oh my gosh, there's a bunch of them and none of them did well, that's the bottom line. That's the headline of the story is that didn't work. So the guy from Cobra Kai, the bad guy didn't work. So we thought, hey, he's, you know, he's maybe Lindsay didn't work because, you know, no one cares about her anymore. She's off in Greece getting married or whatever she's doing. But Cobra Kai is a hot show, right? Maybe that would work. And John Kreese, no did not work. So again, I just think people see through I don't know, people see through, you know, script, people see through marketing, you know, marketing copy. And just I feel like real, there’s just no substitute for realness.

Daniel Burstein: Do you have any tips for finding those stories? Because I know a lot of marketers struggle with like how to actually get the case studies, how to actually get those real testimonials. You know, as I mentioned, at Marketing Sherpa, we're publishing case studies all the time. They're not even testimonials about us or anything. They're just, you know, hey, here's what works in marketing. This is a publication. I know they're really hard to find. We have the entire marketing universe to pull from, not even just, you know, our own customers or anything. So do you have any tips? How did you find those eHarmony stories? How do you find those stories for Way.com?

Jeannie Assimos: It's a lot of work. I mean, the stories for Way.com, it's different when it's like car services. And I feel like that's a little bit easier. But like Jacoby and Myers, for example, you know, it was a matter of talking to a ton of clients and then finding somebody that was able to tell their story in a way that would resonate. I don't think there's like an easy path. I think it's a lot of foot work like for eHarmony it was it was flying all over the country interviewing people in their living rooms, bringing a crew just so we could see how they would, you know, “perform” with a camera there, with the lights there. So there's no substitute for just doing the research and taking the time to find somebody who's able to tell your story, who's able to talk about your brand in a way that, you know is, you know, when you sit there and you talk to them and they're able to tell their story, like Jacoby and Myers, this one woman had lost her husband. It was horrible. At least they were able to get her compensation. And, you know, she was super grateful for just how caring the attorneys were, you know, she almost was tearing up. And then you just sit there and you go, okay, this is it. Like this is exactly what the brand is going to want to stand for. So, you know, when you have a winner, but it is work together.

Daniel Burstein: Jacoby and Myers, they do a lot of divorces, too, right?

Jeannie Assimos: No personal injury.

Daniel Burstein: Oh, are they? Okay. So I'm saying if you do have like both sides of the transaction, like eHarmony and then divorces, okay. Well, I want to ask you about love, because it seems like you're an expert on that matter. So, you know, this is something I've been struggling with lately. Like as a content creator, how far do you go in bringing yourself into your content? So as we were talking. You hosted a podcast for eHarmony, I think it was with the CEO, it was called The Love Show, it's about love. And I know I mean, that's a really personal topic there. We're more on the B2B side, but we've recently ran a test, I called it authenticity versus professionalism where we took our CEO Flint McGlaughlin in one of them, he's in a cowboy hat in one video, he's from Montana, and that's who he is. And the other one, he's in a suit. And, you know, I'm in a t shirt right now, I was hoping authenticity would win. And I thought it definitely authenticity would win this would be great I can wear a Mets hat in everything I do. But professionalism one, you know, a suit,I mean, obviously we are a little more B2B. So that's something I struggle with. So how do you decide like how much of yourself as a content creator to bring into your content? How much did you bring into that love show? That's a really personal topic.

Jeannie Assimos: Yeah. I mean, that was always something that was a challenge for me was how much to bring in. And you know, with the awareness that there was, you know, the guys I’m dating are probably listening. So I always sort of, I was careful, I was careful. But I also wanted to bring value, you know, and there's nothing more valuable than your own personal experiences.

So, for example, people would, you know, write in it was a weekly show where people would write in with all their issues and we would discuss. And Grant the CEO and myself. He sort of had his perspective, I had mine, and I was dating at the time and dealing with things like ghosting online and dealing with things like people, you know, not being who say they said they were. So I would talk about that, you know, I wouldn't maybe get super, super personal, but I would say it's happened to me, it happens to everyone. And you cannot take these things personally. If you're talking to someone online and they disappear, they don't even know you don't take it personally, you know.

So I would get pretty passionate about that and just trying to help people not feel rejection or not take it, you know, take it personally. And also just, you know, if I can educate and help someone and share information that helps them, at the core that’s always what I wanted to do. You know, share information that's helpful and benefits someone in their life. So if I have to put myself out there a little bit, I'll do it.

Daniel Burstein: You know, it's something I've noticed on LinkedIn a lot, too, I'm sure you have as well recently. The New York Times in an article about this week about how LinkedIn has become such a more not just business, but people sharing about all sorts of very personal things in their life. And I see, you know, sometimes gets a lot of engagement or sharing. But I also think, you know, I think there's like we're talking privacy with the data. There's two things. There's a data and what works and there's what's right for you personally. And I don't know, it's always something that content creators have to play with. Me personally, I'm a little more I definitely sometimes bring stories in, but I'm also a little cognizant of the fact that, you know, it's not just me and you talking.

It seems like it now. We're having a very intimate conversation but other people are going to hear this. And on LinkedIn, too, it's not just people you know, it’s not like you talk around the office, you don't know who's going to hear that someone you're dating, you don't know who's going to hear that. So it's an interesting topic.

Jeannie Assimos: I think it's brave and courageous to, you know, to share vulnerabilities. Yeah, just with all the layoffs lately and people talking about their situation and even just, yeah, I see I've seen an opening up of people on LinkedIn. It is interesting to see how the platform has changed. Like, have I done that myself? Like when I was when I left eHarmony, I didn't work for over a year. I don't know if it was pride or what it was, but I didn't want to put it out there and say, I'm out of work right now. I could use you know, I was just doing the footwork everyday to find my next gig.But yeah, then I see people do that and I think, Oh, cool for them, but I don't know if I'm comfortable doing that. So, you know, it's very interesting and I'm happy to see that people are able to be more open. It's brave.

Daniel Burstein: I think it's brave. I think it's good. I think there's probably a good shift. There's just a cultural shift, obviously, right? With all these reality shows and the Kardashians and there's a kind of understanding that maybe people can be in their lives. But I also think it's something you have to be careful for, like the trend I'm most a little nervous about are unsure about where I see people do is when they're, you know, we talk about quiet quitting, quiet quitting is something that is good. But there's this loud quitting too, where people are like the Jerry Maguire moment on LinkedIn. They'll be like, I'm out of here and this company sucked and good bye for.

And I'm just thinking it's not I mean, there's one I think it's a very robust economy now, a very robust hiring market for marketers so it may be easy to get another job. But it might not always be that way. But the other thing is just always the idea of, you know, treating others with kindness and respect, even if, you know there's going to be stuff that happened in your job where maybe the other party was wrong, your boss or the company or maybe you also just don't have entire understanding of the picture.

And so deciding like what is appropriate to talk about in a public sphere, I just worry sometimes things can swing too far in that other direction. So, you know, with that, that's maybe a private issue to deal with and not something we need to air out online. I actually got a pitch recently for someone who works in an agency and they got burned by a client who didn't pay a bill like from their perspective and wanted me to cover the story. And then, you know, I'm open to it. That's that's a really good lesson for agencies to learn. But once you started sending stuff over and I saw, you know, I saw the other side, I'm like, you know what? This is not the public forum to air it. And this is you know, this is why you have a contract there’s courts or legal documents for people to learn. But, you know, there's certain things that as much as we want to teach as much as we can on Marketing Sherpa and this podcast, you know, there are certain things that's just step over the line.

Jeannie Assimos: I agree. And I think too, like, you know when you are let go from your job or something horrible happens, you're reacting, you're emotional. Like it's really not the time to share on a public forum. You should like how about wait a month? And you may have a different perspective, right? Like in at the end of the day, it's business. And I think some people forget, like, I'm in a business, things shift and sometimes decisions have to be made. I was at eHarmony for over a decade and eHarmony was acquired by a German company. And so the exact team we were all we sort of transitioned out and that was tough. But I wasn't going to, you know, trash the company on LinkedIn. How would that serve me?

You know, I always try to just look at the positive and be grateful that I had the experiences that I did. I got to work there for so many years and have an impact, positive impact. So I think the lesson there is just don't react and just wait. Just like, you know, if you're angry at someone, how about just quiet? Just be quiet, take it all in and, you know, talk about it in a few days. Once you've come back to your center.

Daniel Burstein: That's the best piece of advice. If it's a good idea now. See if it's a good idea a month from now. If it's still a good idea a month from now, go for it. But if not, you know, you saved yourself some hassle in your career, in your personal brand.

Jeannie Assimos: Exactly.

Daniel Burstein: So the first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons you learn from the things you made. Now let's talk about lessons you learned from the people you collaborated with, because we do two things as marketers, right? We build things and we build them with other people. So your first lesson is adaptability is vital to your career. And you learned this from Grant Langston, the CEO of eHarmony. How did you learn this from Grant?

Jeannie Assimos: He's one of my favorite people. Let me just say that. I always say that. I always talk about him on interviews because he's had such impact on me. He started as like I think he was like a copy editor or some sort of intern in the broom closet at eHarmony when it first started out of Pasadena. Dr. Warren's like therapy office, literally. So he started there and just transitioned into whatever they needed. I think he started writing copy and working on the commercials and maybe copyediting and then working on site copy, whatnot. And he just, you know, went wherever was needed through all the years there. When I joined, he was Director of I think he was Director in the Publishing Department, and he just had a gift of with words and understanding the brand. And at the end of the day he became CEO of the company.

So but one thing I always noticed about him was like, you need this role, someone needs to step in and do this right now. Okay, I'll take it on and I'll figure it out. Even when he stepped into the CEO role, there's a lot he didn't know. He was definitely not a product guy or an engineering guy, but he figured it out. He worked with the teams and he just learned and listened. And just the fact that he could be so adaptable on this whole road, this whole path that he was on and I watched that was a great lesson for me. Because, you know, there's going to be a lot of times you join a company and then  things are going to change in the marketplace or with the company, and then you're going to be asked to maybe, you know, take this fork in the road and go this way. And you can either say, okay, I'll figure it out unless, you know, we've got a team here and we can do this or we can go, Oh God, no, that's not what I was hired for, and no, this is my job description and I'm going to be rigid. Good luck. Because I've never seen that really work for people. I think you've got to be fluid and be open to, you know, a shift in your job or your job description.

The more adaptable you can be in your job, in your life. Right? Go with the flow. Be adaptable to things that change. Yeah, the only constant is change. So I feel like that's just a great lesson overall in your life. And your life will just flow better and be easier and less stressful. If you can adapt to change.

Daniel Burstein: Or just go on LinkedIn and complain about it like, Hey, this is my job, they asked me to do this other thing. How dare they that’s not my job description.

Jeannie Assimos: Exactly.

Daniel Burstein: Well I think it ties into this other lesson too, that adaptability, tenacity, tenacity. We're talking that's one of the top lessons I want to teach my kids, too. You learned about tenacity from Brad Bessey, the Producer at Entertainment Tonight, or a Producer on Entertainment Tonight. How did you learn about that tenacity from Brad?

Jeannie Assimos: I mean, on a daily basis, like so he would talk to publicists for celebrities and you know sometimes they would say no we can't go on, you know, the set of Tom Cruise's new movie. And then he'd call back the next day and say, I've got an angle. How about we cover the special effects? Or I've got this angle? Or in the case of Anna Nicole Smith, you know, we covered her story from the time, you know, she was in the Bahamas and all that crazy stuff was going on with her, just that whole saga. And we were sort of in the trenches and she unexpectedly passed away. And the next challenge was, okay, how do we continue the story with Howard K. Stern, who was her partner, Larry Birkhead, who was her boyfriend? And there are a lot of no, no, no, we don't you know, we don't want to let the cameras into this. But he was so tenacious. And we want to continue to tell this story. He just wouldn't take no for an answer. You know, he would just it was like, I'm going to make this happen somehow some way. And he always did.

So I just think, you know, I think of when I started here with PR, it was like sending out cold e-mails to all these different outlets and, you know, getting lots of no’s or getting lots of no answers, right. You just have to keep going every day. You have to get up and keep going and then you will eventually have success. Someone's going to say, yes, someone's going to listen to you. So I learned that firsthand from him and then have continued to practice that in my career.

Daniel Burstein: Yes, I agree. Tenacity is absolutely crucial. I feel that in my career too. But when people listening hear this, especially sales folks, and some marketing folks, I worry sometimes they hear the wrong lesson. So, you know, how do you combine storytelling with tenacity to get the people on the other end to understand the value?

Because sometimes they're saying no for a good reason. And I’ll give you an example, you know, I've had sales folks and marketing folks. They'll just come every day and ask me the same darn thing, you know, and that's not tenacious, that's just annoying. And I reading this, um,  let me give you just one quote I heard. I love this quote. And then I want to hear what you think about marketing storytelling right now, about marketing storytelling and this quote from Jane Goodall. And talk about someone who is tenacious against seemingly impossible odds, you know, and she said, if I'm trying to change somebody who disagrees, I choose not to be holier than thou. You've got to reach the heart. And I do that through storytelling. So you it seems like you've been a storyteller through your whole career. How does that play in?

Jeannie Assimos: I mean, that definitely plays in and I think like in the case of sales and trying to sell a product, right? Like I think I'm not going to harass someone ten times, you know, if you need this product for your company, if it's not the right time and they don't respond and they are not interested then I'm going to tell the story to someone else who might be a better fit. So I don't I don't mean like just hit the hammer on the same, you're reaching out to the same people. But I think the more authentic you can be and you know, the reason that, you know, your story is going to be helpful to someone else or, you know, you really need to we want to bring this to life, whether it's you know, I'm thinking of Entertainment Tonight and just, you know, we really want this to serve people.

If you tell your story about your I don't know, your past or your difficult you know, your challenges. Like I'm thinking about him talking to celebrities, about sharing personal stories and how it could actually impact and help so many people. Like, I feel like when you're coming from a good place of like this is going to help people and this is going to be good for our business or be good for a person or be good for society. Like you have a lot more chance to complete your mission, right.

But I just think I don't mean, you know, like harassing people. I mean, you know, just getting up every day and trying to get your story out. But maybe it's to someone else and maybe it's in a different format. It's not, you know, some doors are going to close. That's okay. Then go knock on the door over here to the right, not to, you know, not the same door. Don't break it down.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's a great point. And it also sounds like what he did, from what you're saying, is he tried to see the value for that other individual as well. I mean, the value for ourselves is so obvious. And I'm sure being a producer, Entertainment Tonight, getting a big Tom Cruise, whatever, that's the value for itself. But how do you kind of put yourself in the other person's shoes and see the value for them as well?  And that is what to your point you need to add to that tenacity.

Jeannie Assimos: Yeah, exactly.

Daniel Burstein: So one last lesson, make a U-turn when necessary. You learned this from Neil Clarke Warren, the founder of eHarmony. How did you learn this from Neil?

Jeannie Assimos: He would say that a lot, you know, and he would talk about he loved talking about relationships and making U-turns when you realize you've made a bad decision and maybe this isn't the right partner. And it's always better to make a U-turn than to keep going down the road. But one project that comes to mind was we had launched a career matching site called Elevated Careers because we thought, God, we're so good at matching people with love. Like, let's match them with the right job. They'll be way happier they spend, you know, 80% you know all these stats about how much time you spend at your job. And so we launched the site and had all these brilliant people working on it. And honestly, I don't know if we did like market research to find that there was interest, but it just did not do well. It didn't resonate. It just completely flopped. And we worked on this thing for several years and just couldn't understand why the famous matchmakers that eHarmony could not succeed in another area of business and it just didn't work. So he pulled the plug on it. We made a U-turn. We gave it time to sort of, you know, to try different messaging and to try different marketing efforts, partnerships, whatnot. It just didn't work.

So, you know, at the end of the day, you know, you tried it and sometimes that happens in business. You're going to try a lot and fail and you obviously learn everybody says this, but it's kind of true. You learn more from your failures and then you can take that information and go try to launch something else. And that might work. It might not, but, you know, you got to try. So we tried it didn't work, but making a U-turn is something I just remember him sitting in his chair in his office and saying, Got to make a U-turn. And I mean, at the time I was in a marriage that wasn't going to last much longer. And he's like, it's time for you to make a U-turn, you know? And it's just, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. I think we have a hard time admitting we're wrong, that we shouldn't we really shouldn't. We shouldn't judge ourselves. You just be smart enough to take a different course and to make that U-turn.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, it's funny. When you said that before you said about your marriage. I know you mentioned he's a therapist. It sounds like it's probably a lot to learn too from love and therapy and those things. Because, yeah, if we're in a relationship, sometimes you don’t want to admit a failure and double down and you keep digging in, but it's really probably just probably a step away.

Jeannie Assimos: Yes.

Daniel Burstein: But you know, another thing, when it comes to that story specifically and failure in general, it's if you don't fail sometimes I think that's kind of a red flag because you haven't really pushed the envelope much, right. So eHarmony probably at that point, you're probably pretty comfortable, in a pretty comfortable position and didn't really have to do anything drastically different. But, I mean, you would never have been able to reinvent the company or do these different things if you didn't try this kind of drastic action. That would be my best guess.

Jeannie Assimos: Absolutely. Yeah. There was always like, what else can we do? How can we bring this amazing, you know, patented matching algorithm to other areas to help people? He really wanted to help people in all areas of their lives. So yeah. But, you know, at the end of the day, it was love, which is a very important area of your life that we, you know, could serve people the best in.

We had launched actually when Tinder came along and, you know, all the swiping sites, we launched one called Jaz and it was another miserable U-turn, it was a quick U-turn. So we realized that we've got to stick to what we do well, which is matching people for long term relationships. And, you know, this is how we do it, this is what we do, and we're just going to stay in our lane.

Daniel Burstein: Well, that's a great lesson, too. There are so many companies that see a competitor and they're like, oh, let's just let's just copy them. Let's just let's just copy them versus understanding your unique value proposition and sticking to that.  I remember we had an event called Marketing Sherpa Summit, we had every year, and I was talking to an attendee when we're leaving and he's like, Oh, this is summit was great, it was so valuable to me. And I was like, Oh, great. You know, I was I'm in charge of the content there so I was expecting to talk about these great cases. He was like, Yeah, the case studies were great too. But here's what was really valuable to me. Like one night at the bar, I met, you know, the CMO for our biggest competitor. And I talked to him, you know, and got talking because we copy everything they do and it wasn't working for us and they couldn't figure it out. I talked to him and he's like, Yeah, it's not working for us either.

Jeannie Assimos: Interesting.

Daniel Burstein: And so I think that's something you have to learn where it's like really, you know, finding your own unique value proposition, not just saying like, Oh, this new upstart is doing this. We have to do this as well. Well, it's good to understand that upstart, because your value proposition is affected by them, right? But don't just blindly follow them.

Jeannie Assimos: That's the other, you know, sort of you know, I think it's always an interesting balance to like with your business, you know, focusing on doing your business really well and having a great product, right. And not being so worried about what everybody else is doing. But you also need to know what everybody else is doing. So it's always that balance of, you know, what's new and innovative.And, you know, I feel like that's an interesting conundrum that we fall into.  You don’t want to be completely like, you know, laser focused on your business and not paying attention to what's happening in the industry. But you also really want to, you know, focus on doing what you do the best that you can do it.

Daniel Burstein: Before we get into the final question it struck me, as you spent all your time on this kind of relationship building in love, I wonder if there's any lessons you learned kind of like you hinted at that from love and from human relationships that you've really been able to apply to marketing, because at the end of the day, marketing is relationship building, right we call it a CRM, right?

There's relationships, there's, you know, building relationships with our customers. There are some sort of marriage they have with us when they buy our product or our long term customer. So is there any like kind of overlap that struck you one day between love and marketing?

Jeannie Assimos: Oh, my G-d. Hmm. That's a great, great question. I think I'd have to, like, write that out. Love and marketing something that came to mind was, you know, if you can't l love yourself, you can't really love someone else, right? So if you can't really believe in your business and really, you know, love your product, like how are you going to do a great job marketing it? You know, you've got to really believe in what you're doing and get your business/product, whatever it is to the point where you truly are passionate about it and believe in it. Then you're going to do a much better job marketing it because you it's real. Does that make sense?

Daniel Burstein: That's totally does. And I mean, I've heard marketers make that complaint sometimes where they didn't believe in the product and it's like there's a lot of other companies to work for. Don't spend your life toiling. Yeah. You spend your life toiling for some product that you don't think is good and trying to convince other people that it is because maybe you're right and maybe it's not. And then, you know, there's a lot of other companies to work for.

Jeannie Assimos: Or find a way to make it better.

Daniel Burstein: You know, even. Yes, absolutely. Or find a way to make it better. I mean, that's key. So as a marketer, I've always felt we're making the brand promise out there, right? We're telling the world it's this thing. And so I've always felt a little guilty to make sure to be the advocate for the audience, the advocate for the customer, to say, like, okay, are we living up to that? And what, you know, having that relationship, having that intimacy with the customer to understand it, for living up to that, what we need to change to get there, right.

Jeannie Assimos: Yeah. And you don't need to stay in your marketing box, right. Like I have, you know, and I was a countless times in my career, I walked over and eHarmony said, this feature or this product feature sucks. This is not good, you know, I mean, maybe not in those where, you know, I would say it, you know, in a way that would be received better.

But yeah, absolutely. You know, just don't be afraid to, you know, when you're marketing a product, like to be an advocate for the customer and say, hey, you know, this would actually make the product a lot better, let's talk about this, you know? Yeah, that's what we're all here for is to support this company and to be its best. So don't be afraid to blur the lines and talk to your coworkers about how that can happen.

Daniel Burstein: Absolutely. Well, we talked about a lot of different things that a marketer has to do these days, a lot more things you've done in your career if you had to break it down. Jeannie, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

Jeannie Assimos: You know, I think understanding who your customer is so important. And the other thing is, What does this need or what? How do I say this? Understand who your customer is. What need is this serving? What problem are we solving and taking yourself out of the equation?

So, you know, I was sitting in a meeting with a bunch of coworkers who really loved this certain this was at eHarmony, this certain, you know, person for a commercial. And I just thought to myself, this is not about the customer. Yeah, this is about you and your personal thing, so take your own stuff out of the equation and focus on the customer and what they need.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, absolutely have, you know, sometimes I've heard designers complain about long copy and it's like, well, you know, I don't like long copy. It's like, well, you know what, if your refrigerator just broke and then you come across this ad that has a lot of information about a new refrigerator, that's who cares about it the customer. So it doesn't really matter if it doesn't work in the design. Think about the customer. I totally agree with that, absolutely. Thank you, Jeannie. I learned so much from you today. Thanks so much for spending time with us.

Jeannie Assimos: I had a great time. I loved our conversation. And it was it was like deeper and more interesting than I thought. So it's been a great learning. Just keeping it real.

Daniel Burstein: I'm glad. I'm glad I could overdeliver. Hopefully, hopefully everyone listening had much higher expectations going in and felt like we hit those expectations. But thanks everyone for tuning in and listening.


Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions