April 25, 2022

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


When I think about one of the biggest challenges I hear from marketers, I think about Superman.

On Earth, he can fly, he’s got the X-ray vision, all that.

But on his home planet of Krypton, or even getting too close to Kryptonite…poof…just a mere mortal.

Us marketers, we have superpowers of communication…outside the four walls of the company headquarters. Inside, we can struggle – to get budget approval for campaigns or technology, to get buy-in from the business for our creative ideas.

Well, our latest guest today, that kryptonite doesn’t faze her one bit. She told us a great story to illustrate her lesson about how to be a skilled internal salesperson in this episode.

Listen now to the latest episode of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast to learn from Nicole Salla, Chief Marketing Officer, Kiddie Academy.

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

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

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

When our latest guest told me the story of how she learned, “exclamation points are for lazy people,” it reminded me of “foster conclusions with specific, quantifiable facts” (a lesson from Above-the-Fold Energy: How to engage the prospect’s mind with a carefully crafted opening).

Take a look at your headlines, sub-headlines, opening paragraphs and other writing you use to communicate about your business. Are you trying to force potential customers to believe it with (literal or figurative) exclamation points? Or are you helping foster conclusions by presenting information?

That is an opportunity for marketing optimization Nicole Salla sparked in me during our discussion. Listen now to discover what ideas the Chief Marketing Officer of Kiddie Academy will spark in you.

But first, a little background… Kiddie Academy has 300 locations in 33 states and DC, with 30 new locations opening this year, and Salla manages a marketing team of 20, plus agency partners.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Google Podcasts | Listen in Amazon Music

Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Some lessons from Salla that emerged in our discussion:

Nothing is created alone. Make others part of the discussion.

Key stakeholders – like franchisees, her marketing team, and her agency partners – are all integral to what Salla has made in her career.

When she started at Kiddie Academy, she involved nearly 100 people in the creation of the new campaign.

Her team rolled up their sleeves to do whatever it takes to produce the campaign. During one of the photoshoots, Jenny Billingham, Content Marketing Specialist, Kiddie Academy, put on an inflatable globe costume to get the kids engaged (they ended up punching the costume most of the time.)

And her agency team at Planit – Dan Pardue, Adam Aud, Scott Shulim, Debbie Lesser, and Jon Gregory – helped bring a TV commercial concept to life that had never been done before…showing a baby’s point of view of the world.

To be successful in marketing, it is critical to be a skilled salesperson.

Salla used the Dr. Robert Cialdini concept of social proof to win approval from the C-suite for a $40,000 donation to Family Promise to support working moms during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She learned early in her career how to flip the script from marketing as a cost to an investment from Rob Love, Owner/President, and Lisa Pearre, Principal/Chief Client Services Officer, both of Love & Company.

LISTEN (with your ears, your eyes, and your gut).

When Salla started at Kiddie Academy, she was excited about all the new opportunities but overlooked how the team could be anxious about their new boss. She will never forget how Director of Marketing Heather Davis bravely spoke up.

At Erickson Living, she had her core tribe – Mike Serio, Kirstan Cecil, Melissa Williams, and Jessie Trimble – that after nearly ten years of not working together, still text each other regularly.

Salla surrounds herself with people who can be both a real critic and real cheerleader. At work, that includes Jen Kee, Kate Winslow, and SVP of Operations, Saron Lytewnec of Kiddie Academy. At home, it’s her husband, Dave Salla.

Salla also shared lessons she learned from key people in her career:

Dan Rexford, Head of Marketing and Sales, Erickson Living: Exclamation points are for lazy people.

When crafting a communication for internal stakeholders, Rexford challenged Salla to get the audience engaged with compelling stories…not just exclamation points.

Tom Mann, VP of Advertising, Erickson Living: In a world of chicken dinners, be a lobster dinner.

Made a change from offering chicken dinners to lobster rolls at lead generation dinners when selling homes for a community. The better process-level value proposition for the informational dinner generated a 4x higher response.

But sometimes when you stick out and grab attention by being different, you can get negative feedback. For sponsored spots that ran on PBS Kids, the team received a negative letter. Salla and her agency were so glad to see that the ads grabbed enough attention and motivated someone to take the time to send a three-page letter, they made inspirational posters from quotes in the letter.

Motivational poster #1 from negative letter

Motivational poster #1 from negative letter

Motivational poster #2 from negative letter

Motivational poster #2 from negative letter

Greg Goodwin, CTO, Kiddie Academy: When there is a philosopher in the room, you need to diffuse “idea grenades.”

Everyone has ideas for marketing, you have to learn how to educate them on how marketing works and diffuse the bad ideas, as Salla had to do during a staff recruitment campaign.

Related content mentioned in this episode

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

99 Problem Ideas: “Harvey Gabor (art director on Coke’s iconic campaign) burned my ad concept with a lighter” (Podcast Episode #10)

Headline Formulas: A step-by-step process for radically transforming your copywriting

Search the MarketingSherpa Library – 8,788 articles, videos, and podcasts (including 1,726 case studies)

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.


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

Daniel Burstein: When I think about one of the biggest challenges I hear from marketers, I think about Superman right. On Earth he can fly, he's got the X-ray vision, all that. But on his home planet of Krypton, or even getting too close to that kryptonite, poof, he's just a mere mortal. Right. Us marketers we have superpowers of communication outside the four walls of the company headquarters.

Inside, we can struggle to get budget approval, to get product and process and service improvements that better serve our customers. Right. Well, our guest today, that kryptonite doesn't faze her one bit. She's got a great story to illustrate her lesson about how to be a skilled internal salesperson. And we'll hear many more stories. And learn so much more from Nicole Salla, the Chief Marketing Officer of Kiddie Academy. Thanks for being here, Nicole.

Nicole Salla: Thank you so much for having me. It's really awesome and a pleasure.

Daniel Burstein: Well, let's talk real quick about Kiddie Academy for people who don't know. You've got 300 locations. And you personally manage a marketing team of 20+ agency partners. So just tell us briefly about Kiddie Academy and your role as a CMO there. What does that mean?

Nicole Salla: Absolutely. Kiddie Academy, I call it the best kept secret in the Baltimore area. We are an organization. We cover 32 states and D.C., and we provide childcare for children ages six weeks and up. And so, it's just such a great role to be in because we know we are helping families. We're supporting teachers. And more importantly, as a franchisor, we're giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to own their own business.

For me, as a Chief Marketing Officer, I really get to work with this incredible team of people here to help drive the product, help create inspiring messaging to let parents and families know that we are here for them and that we can help care for their children, provide educational opportunities for them, and inspire them to be ready for school.

Daniel Burstein: Okay, great. Well, let's look at your career. Let's look at some of the things you made and what we can learn from it. So, your first lesson you talked to me about, you got so many lessons you gave us so good, it's hard to pick through them all to pick the nuggets. But I think we've got some real nuggets for the people listening. You say nothing is created alone, make others part of the discussion. And you learned this from when you first joined the company, so tell us about this when you first joined.

Nicole Salla: One of the things that I've realized is there's just so many great ideas. Everyone has amazing marketing ideas. But you’re never going to get them through unless you involve other people. And this is a lesson I'd carried over from previous roles that I had been in. No matter how great an idea is, if you were coming at it solo and alone, it's not going to go very far because you need to make others part of the process.

So, when I first started, week two of the company I walked in and they said, hey, it's time for a campaign refresh. I said, oh, well, that sounds fun. We need to completely refresh our campaign. At that time, we had 200 franchise locations open. How do we go about this? So, I really, truly went into discovery mode, learning everything from everyone that I could about the company, but more importantly, involving them in a discussion about what's important to them, what drives our customers, what they wanted to see.

And from that really developed a process by which I was able to include key stakeholders. And when I see key stakeholders, I think everyone is a key stakeholder, whether you're a franchisee, you're in the C-suite of the building, you're part of the marketing team, you're part of the education team. So I really try to lay out a process of how do I involve them at the right times to make them part of the process.

So, by the time we launch it, everyone feels really bought in and they look at it and say, wow, I helped create that as opposed to, oh, wow, this is new and exciting. They really felt a sense of pride and ownership as part of making that new campaign.

Daniel Burstein: You mentioned you involved nearly a hundred people along the way, so that just sounds super time consuming, you know? What are some tips like? What did you learn along the way? Where were these one-on-one conversations? Did you have a big group of franchisors together or what did you do?

Nicole Salla: It's a little bit of everything, and I'll say it does sound time consuming but think about if you spend all this time in a silo creating something amazing and then you go to launch it and it falls flat because nobody believes in it, nobody understands it. And that's not to say we involved every franchisee and every person in the corporate department. But you will actually save time by involving the key people along the way.

So, some of the ways that we did as we did focus groups that involved some of our teachers, directors, franchisees. We involved our brand building committee, which are a group of franchisees that are super passionate about marketing to pick their brain. We did some internal discovery sessions with our C-suite to understand our brand personality. We did marketing team meetings where we would look at the campaign pieces and talk a little bit about them. We also surveyed parents and did focus groups with parents about our campaign pieces.

So, 100 may actually be on the low side, but there's a lot of great ways that you can get feedback whether it be there's one on one conversations and I'd say focus on the one-on-one conversations with people that are critical that can really, you know, make it or break it.  And also, the group settings involve a lot of discussion where somebody might not feel warm and fuzzy in the beginning, by hearing others feel really good about it and being part of the discussion, they'll jump on board once they hear other perspectives.

Daniel Burstein: And did that help you build relationships that helped further in your time at Kiddie Academy?

Nicole Salla: It's interesting you say that. I really do feel like I was able to build more relationships and also build credibility with those people because we really got a chance to understand each other's needs and wants and areas of expertise. I'm not an expert at running a childcare, but my franchisees are, my operations partners are. So, I got to hear through their lens what was important, because the worst thing that could happen, especially as a franchisor, is you put a campaign out there that certainly we're running nationally, but we want them to run it locally, too.

If they're not bought in. If they don't like it, they're not running it. They're going off to, you know, create something on their own which is not a best use of their time. Or they're just hunkering down saying, I don't like this, I'm not running it. So, we really need to make sure when we launched the campaign and we did that through a live launch, we did a live launch and talked about the science and the art that went into the development of it to show them that this wasn't just something marketing dreamt up in their spare time. This isn't something an agency created out in Chicago. This is something that we were all involved in, and your peers were involved in, and experts were involved in, and parents were involved in to help create this messaging.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I mean, I think that's a great lesson for anyone, not just creating a campaign, but how to come into an organization as a marketing leader. You know, I was interviewed recently, and I was joking about your superpower in the beginning of this, but they were asking, you know, what's my marketing superpower? And I had to think, and I think it's curiosity. Right, curiosity is so powerful in marketing. And I remember I did a case study with Optum Health. It was one of the lead VP's there, and they did this amazing content marketing campaign. And so, I was asking her, I was like, oh, you know, like, where else did you do content marketing campaigns in your career? And she's like, I never did a content marketing campaign before.

And, you know, that really struck me because so many people, you see them go from role to role to role. And it's like when all you have is, you know, what is it? What's the saying? When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And so, here's my experience, boom, we're going to bang it into my new brand. And she's like, look, you know, I did some research. When I came to the role, I realized content marketing was the right approach, and that's what we did. So, I just thought, and you know, I think you're a great example too of coming in being curious and not just trying to ramrod your ideas down everyone's throat and see how that goes.

But when we talk about nothing is created alone, make others part of the discussion, that also includes like definitely the team we work with on a day-to-day basis. And as marketers, especially in content marketing, we have to wear many hats. And literally, I love this the hat where I guess the inflatable globe costume that Jenny Billingham, a Content Marketing Specialist at Kiddie Academy wore. Now why would you take your Content Marketing Specialist and put her into an inflatable globe costume.

Nicole Salla: What's interesting about that is that I did not do that. Jenny actually volunteered to do that. So, one of the things that we look for when we bring team members on is how excited and passionate, they are about marketing, about the brand. Jenny is fairly new to our team, and they were doing some Earth Day content, and Jenny had this idea of I think the kids would talk to me a little bit more if I, you know, I wasn't the scary adult in the room. You know, I'm somebody who is fun and wants to play with them.

So, they found this inflatable costume on Amazon. Oh, and they thought about it the day before. So we had to pay $40 in shipping for it. And so, they come to me and they're like, we want to buy this. And I'm like, you sure you want to do this? And she's like, absolutely. She's like, I think it'd be great. I want to talk to the kids. I want the kids to talk to me. And I said, great. So, Jenny put on she volunteered, she loved it. She put on the globe costume and talked to the kids about Earth Day, and they loved it. But the problem is, we had so much footage of the kids just poking her and pushing her in the costume that it was really hard for the editing team to cut a lot of that out. We added a little in just for fun, but she had a blast and the kids loved it and really did open up to her.

At the end of the video, they did a who wore it best. She held up a globe or pointed to herself and the kids said the globe wore it better, but you know. But she was a good sport and loved it. And that's just the kind of spirit that, you know, when you hire marketers too, it's a good lesson in there. Find somebody who is really passionate about it and who will go outside the box and just do something out of their comfort zone.

Daniel Burstein: Absolutely. That is fantastic. And especially let’s talk about nothing is created alone. I love that your team realized it's going to take kids to create your campaigns. Right? And kids, even if they are professional models or actors or whatever you call them, they're still kids. And so you have to figure out how to get on their level and engage with them.

All right, great. We have another example too; nothing is created alone. Our agencies are so important to us. And so, you called out the agency Planit…Dan Pardue, Adam Aud, Scott Shulim, Debbie Lesser, and Jon Gregory. And I think this was a great example of you guys came up with a very original idea, but you had to figure out how to execute it, right?

Nicole Salla: Yeah. And I'll give them the credit. They really came up with the idea. One of the things that we've always want to do is we said, you know what? This space is crowded. It's a sea of sameness in some ways, and how can we differentiate? So, we created these, prior to this commercial I’m going to tell you about. We created two commercials, and it was all about how the curiosity and momentum that’s sparked in children at Kiddie Academy, how that plays out in their lives.

So, the spot was only shot about 10 seconds in our academies. The rest of it was at home. And what they did with what they learned and what inspired them. But it's really hard to do that with a baby. So, they said, we want to shoot a video. We want to shoot a commercial from the perspective of an infant.

And I said, Okay. And nobody had really done that or not that we can find anyway. How do you shoot it from the perspective of baby? We talked about, can you put a GoPro on a baby? Like how can you do this in an authentic way? And we played around with lots of things. And what it came down to is next they wanted a robotic baby I said, look, we don't have a budget for a robotic baby. This isn’t Hollywood. You know, we can't do that. So, we came up with, you know, kind of going back and forth. They came up with the idea of using a realistic baby doll. And if you've never seen one of these, they're somewhat creepy looking because they are so realistic looking.

And the fun fact the head comes off. So not only do have a realistic baby doll, you have a baby doll where the head can pop off. So that video was shot from the perspective of an infant in their car seat getting taken and dropped off to a Kiddie Academy. And the video is all shot from their eyes, rolling over, crawling, falling asleep, painting, eating, you know, all of these things. And at the end of the day, dad comes and picks up the baby, and the end of the video is the baby crawling.

So, you have you know, the videographers kind of carrying the video camera in a way that a baby would move. You have the baby doll body with the camera where the head should be in a baby carrier. So, this poor headless baby is getting carted all around set. And of course, we're playing jokes with the head, putting it in people's desks or on the craft table. Or whatever. And we actually still have the baby doll in our office. We his name is Baby Steve, and we move him around and kind of freak people out with him.

But I think that, you know, for us, the idea that, you know, Planet made this amazing idea happen and really did something unique and it took all hands on deck to figure out how to do it. And they really did it in a unique way that didn't take Hollywood budgets either.

Daniel Burstein: That's awesome. Yeah. I mean, you know, I've heard every marketer say really, we have these constrictions, right? These constrictions of what we're allowed to say as a brand. You know, what our budgets are. But they really feed creativity, right? Because every creative thing that was ever created, whether it was a painting by Michelangelo or even, you know, a Hollywood movie, it was created in that constriction. So, finding out how to be creative within that, whether that is, hey, we need to have a photo shoot with some children, so let's go on Amazon and get some, you know, ridiculous costume we can wear or, you know, how can we find a way to shoot from a baby's point of view? So, I think that's great.

Alright, so your second lesson, you said to be successful in marketing it is critical to be a skilled salesperson. Yeah, I was hinting at this in the opening I'd say one of the biggest complaints, so you know, Marketing Sherpa, we publish a lot of case studies, you know, MECLABS Institute, our parent organization, we have a free course. And one of the biggest pieces of feedback I get from marketers is it's like, oh, you're so right. You know, we want to do that thing from that case study or the thing you taught in the course, but ugh, you know, my CEO or my CMO or my clients, they just don't get it. They don't get it, you know?

And sometimes when I get these emails, I feel like the marketer sending it is kind of missing the point. They're like putting it on someone else of like, oh, if it only wasn't for this client, or this CEO, there's always going to be a business leader. There's always going to be a client. What we have to learn is how do we internally do that thing we do externally so well? How do we sell it? How do we create a value prop? So, tell us the story. One of these stories that I think during COVID about how you were able to get some funding.

Nicole Salla: Yeah. So, we you know, one of the things we always talk about here is lead, you know, you have to sell people on it because to your point, it's not somebody else's fault. It's on you. The ownness on you as a marketer to get people to see the vision and understand what the ROI is, because at the end of the day, it's a cost and what is it going to return? And it can sound cool and exciting and sexy, but you got to show the return on it.

So, you know, a couple of months into COVID, all these articles started coming out about how much women were struggling and impacted by COVID. I mean, dropping out of the workforce in record numbers at a higher rate than their male counterparts. I mean, how many stories that we all read about parents trying to work at home with their children underfoot. And these are our customers. You know, these families, women with children that are struggling through this time are our customers. And how can we help them?

Certainly, you know, we want them to remain customers because we want to be able to serve them. And we know the value of the product that we provide. But it was just heart wrenching to watch our colleagues and our customers going through this. And quite honestly, quite a bit of our marketing team are, you know, have families with young children. And I was seeing it firsthand, them dealing with it. I have four kids. it was like Lord of the Flies sometimes down in the basement when I was trying to work and so we said, you know what? We have a real duty here to during this time, if every company could do something to help support women and the struggles that women are going through. If every company could do a little something we can, you know, this whole country would be better because we can all pull together and do a little something and you saw different, you know, Lean In really spoke up a lot more.

The Marshall Plan for Moms came out. Everyone started doing a little something. And we said, you know, we're not we're not a huge company. You know, we are a company of franchisees that independently manage it and run their own academies. But as a company of 100+ people here in Baltimore, there are things we can do for our staff, and there are things we can do for our customer.

So, we really made a case with data about what was happening in the world, how women were impacted because a lot of our people in our C-suite weren't in you know, weren't physically going through this. Now, their kids may have been grown or, you know, they had a strong support system but, you know, we were seeing it happen to our customers. Our franchisees were telling us how it was impacting them.

So, we made a case with the data of what was happening and how we could you know, what the return on this could be if we could invest in women. And so, we not only increased our benefits here at the corporate office to support our women that worked here. We supported our franchisees of how they could support their families to make sure that they were giving their families in the area a strong foundation and keep their customers coming back for support.

And then the cherry on top for us was really as for our 40th anniversary, instead of just having a celebration just doing something to celebrate our 40th anniversary as a company giving $40,000 to support working moms through Family Promise and Family Promise is an organization that helps families facing homelessness. Most of the people they serve are women who are trying to get back in the workforce.

So that money went directly to any woman who wanted to get a certification to work in childcare. Regardless of whether it was Kiddie Academy or one of our competitors, they could use that grant money to get their certifications to get back to work, and also for their leadership academy, which helped give women leadership skills and tools that they needed to help other women.

So that was one of the ways we gave back. But it was it was a quite a bit of selling and discussion. And there was a team of ten of us that really came at it from different ways and had different perspectives. And help to educate and inform the people around us that weren't as involved in it or knee-deep in it of the impact this would have on the business and the impact it could have on the country.

Daniel Burstein: That's great. And you mentioned Dr. Robert Cialdini as kind of an inspiration, so can you give us like a specific example, and you're going through this and maybe something you learned from Cialdini that you use to communicate this? Because this is not unique, right? Where you say like, oh, maybe our C-suite didn't have the same experience as mothers during COVID. That's not just during COVID. It is so rare for business leaders to be in the same position as their customers. Except for very, very few companies. So, what was like something you learned from Cialdini that you used to help sell this idea internally?

Nicole Salla: So Cialdini, you know, he has different principles of influence, and he speaks of the principles of ethical influence. And if you are a marketer or a salesperson who haven't read his book, The Principles of Ethical Influence, I highly recommend it. He has a lot of data and research backing up his approach to creating influence and not in a bad way. You know, not like you want to influence somebody do something bad, but there are ways that you can influence people in a positive way.

And so, one of the principles that we may have used in this was social proof. So, you can sell others by showing that others are doing it. So, some of the data that we gave to our leadership team here was how other companies, small and large, are supporting women in the workplace. We said look, out of the like, one of the things that we had implemented was a phase in phase out program for new parents. So, it's, you know, timing up until the birth of the child or the adoption of the child. And then before they come back to work, what are some of the flexibility and benefits that you can give them?

Well, we said, you know, 93 out of 100 top workplaces for women offer this program. And this is the average number of weeks of maternity and paternity leave that these companies on this top 100 list give, and here's where we fall. So, showing what others had done and said look guys we don't need to give what the top companies giving which is six months. That's not realistic for our business but here's what could be realistic for a business because if we lose this one employee it's going to cost us $15,000 to replace them. So, showing through data and facts and things like that, and showing other companies and how they've done it, that was really one of the key pushes people that was that was music to the ears of some of the people that are more focused in on the finances, or more focused in on the recruiting. And knowing what everyone in that room was interested in too and how to speak to each of them and maybe even how to meet with them before the meeting to understand if they had concerns, how can you defuse them before you presented the idea.

So, if somebody was concerned, for instance, that oh, we're going to have somebody we're going to have them out paid four weeks of maternity. Okay. Well, they're going to be out for 12 weeks anyway. What's the difference? You know, so like just trying to diffuse some of those ideas first as well is also something that we often try to do whenever we're pitching a new idea.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I've always been a big fan of the meeting before the meeting, you know, kind of trying to figure out who in that bigger meeting might have an issue, meet with them beforehand, kind of do the thing you talked about originally is get some ideas from them, make sure you incorporate some of their ideas that you're not just pitching your own ideas. That's kind of how you win an ally and get people to come along.  

But, you know, some marketers who have been successful told us one thing they do is they use the Marketing Sherpa case studies. That's another example of social proof. If you're trying to sell a campaign within your organization showing, hey, this company did it, here's the results they got. Why don't we try it ourselves? But another thing you do I love is, you know, for I started as a copywriter, so I'm a lover of words. And as marketers, we need to be a lover of words. And you use a very specific word, right? When you're selling and you said you learned this from it was Rob Love the Owner and President, and Lisa Pearre, the Principal and Chief Client Services Officer at Love and Company and how you flipped the script of how you talked about marketing. So, what word do you use now?

Nicole Salla: Love and Company was such an amazing experience for me. And Rob and Lisa taught me so much. You know, one of the things we talked about at Love and Company a lot is the art and science of marketing. So, Daniel, you've been in marketing a while. You know, some people just sell the art of it, and some people are super data focused. And especially, you know, when you guys do case studies with Marketing Sherpa you talk about all the different angles of it. Love and Company was a senior living marketer, and we would work with different senior living companies to help market their products, sell their product. But data was at the core of what we did.

And so, when we would do everything from marketing planning to advisement to everything, we showed everything in data because everything was an investment. So, we never use the word cost, cost is a dirty word. We always use the word investment because when you spend money in marketing you always have to show what the return is. So, you know, they showed me a million different ways to cut data to talk about what is the marketing investment of this community going to be. And what are the outcomes going to be for them. So, if you spend this much money, how much revenue are you going to get? We're never just going to talk about you're going to spend $100,000. We're going to talk about if you invest this $100,000, you know, based on your results, you're going to sell $5 million in real estate, or you're gonna sell $5 million in you know senior living. And so, it became really important to me and especially realized the CFO was the one writing the checks usually, or the president. How do you show the data to show what the investment returns, what's the ROI? So, we don't allow people to talk about costs here in marketing. You know, that's one of the big takeaways for me from Love and Company is we always talk about the investment and what the return is.

Daniel Burstein: I mean, it's such a basic thing we do as parents. Remember when you take your kid to the dentist when they get a lollipop, right? You know, so why as marketers, should we be just like, oh, hey, I need, you know, $1,000,000 budget, by the way, and we're going to run some ads. So I was kind of thinking about you. I'd written this article a while ago, how to become an indispensable asset to your company. And the woman was making a case, really, this leader of customer intimacy is so important to become an indispensable asset. And she did one of the things that you mentioned earlier, she would interview customers because she wanted to be that person in the company, you know, marketing being that organization, the company that knew customers better than anyone and represented the customers.

So, I wonder when you talk about internal selling to secure budgets, you kind of touched on a little bit with ok helping our employees and someone, and you kind of touched on somewhat helping customers with the kind of donations you were making. But do you ever use that internal selling also to help improve that customer experience with the product? Because as marketers, we're sending out the brand, we're making the brand promise, we're saying what the value proposition is. So what is our role to kind of help deliver on that value proposition?

Nicole Salla: Yeah, I think when you say that in regards to how we position our product and the return that a product would offer for the consumer?

Daniel Burstein: What I say is as marketers, that's what we do, right? We make this brand promise to the customer. So, I wonder, have you ever use that internal selling to say, hey, from our research with customers, it's not just that we're using it in the marketing campaign, but hey, we found out that our customers, you know, for example, if we opened at seven instead of eight, you know, more people could, could get their kids here before work.

Or if we offer tutoring in foreign languages or whatever it is, like, have you ever used that internal selling to kind of go past just the marketing, but to actually take it to what the customer is experiencing from the product or the service?

Nicole Salla: Yeah, it's interesting that you bring that up because I think that as marketers are, it's up to us to constantly keep a pulse on the customer, because we are the voice of the customer. And so one example that just came to mind is, you know, we just we just got done we were doing a survey to parents. And what's important to you about curriculum what does curriculum mean to you? You know, curriculum is such a big word that we use all the time, and we really want to understand how it related to parents.

And one of the things internally, we had a drive. Some people were saying, well, why don't we have this at home app? Why don't we, you know, have Kiddie Academy at home and we have this app? And for years it was just that I feel this way versus I feel this way, you know, a complete opposite way. And we actually just wrapped up some research and the parents or at least our target market was saying, I don't want any parts of that, like I don't need an at home app. So, it wasn't driving us to build the product one way. It was actually saying, you know, we don't need to put our focus on that per se. Like our parents are telling us this is not something they need. So, let's put our focus on what it is that they are interested in and you know, they are interested in they're interested in building character in their children.  You know parents are building character in their children at home, but they're only at home so many hours of the day.

So how do we beef up our curriculum and how do we continue to focus our curriculum on character development? How do we show kindness and respect and all of those things in our curriculum? And how do we beef that up and focus less on the technology in the apps at home? So that's one way that we've use customer technology or customer research to help drive some of the decisions that we've made.

Daniel Burstein: That's great. And I think it ties into your next lesson, which is to listen. Listen with your ears, your eyes and your gut. And I think your first example you were talking about here was internally and how your Director of Marketing, Heather Davis, really bravely spoke up and helped you kind of hear people internally.

Nicole Salla: Yeah, Heather, so Heather is she's now my Senior Director of Marketing, but she is somebody that I can always trust to speak the truth with me and tell me how she's feeling. And that's something that I really appreciate. You need people in your life like that. You need people that are going to help you with that. And, you know, one of the things I learned when I first met Heather is that I was just listening with my ears in a meeting with her. You know, I was I was in a meeting. I was new to the team Heather she was my Director of Marketing at the time, had a few other members of the team. And we're talking about what we're going to accomplish this year. And this is really exciting. And I'm the new girl in the room, by the way, everyone else has been there a little while and nobody's really responding to me.

And I'm just jazzed up about something. And it's real quiet. And, you know, Heather bravely spoke up, and it was that moment that I knew that she would always be honest with me. But she said, you know how we're all feeling, right? And I said, I don't I don't know what you mean. You know, everybody's so quiet. What's going on? She said, You're our new boss. Like we're cautious, we’re worried. What changes are you going to make? And in my mind and in my heart, I knew this was my team. This is how we were going to move forward. But from her perspective, I was new. I was the new boss. They didn't know much about me.

So, I love that she spoke up in that meeting and reminded me that I wasn’t reading the room as well as I could have been. I wasn't reading that they were really quiet and reserved and not coming along with me. They were cautious. And, you know, looking back on that, Number one, I just appreciate that I know how honest she can be with me at all times. But it just reminded me like you have to read the room. That goes back too to when you're selling something, you have to read the room to see how people are reacting to your stories or your what you're pitching. So, you can respond to that and say, you know, hey, Daniel, you haven't you know, you have talked in a little while. Is there something you need to tell me what you're thinking. How are you feeling about this?

Daniel Burstein: Or sometimes, even at a break or at lunch, you're kind of having a more a one on one not like in that main meeting and pulling them aside and be like, hey, what am I missing here with my blind spot? You know, we've all we've all got blind spots. And I think that was a great example, too, of you coming in. We've all got our own perspective, you coming in, being new, being excited and not thinking like we should. Right. But not thinking of like, well, wait a minute. What is their perspective on this? Right.

So, I mean, I just I think to like that's just such a great insight. I think in my career, of this is a very small story but, you know, someone I worked with very closely and we kind of always helped each other out she was my peer and we'd be able to tell each other so much. It got to the point of so I normally wear free marketing T-shirts I get from events. It happened to be an exact Target teacher. I'm right now, I'm wearing actually a Beastie Boys T-shirt to cheer on Nicole. I won't explain that at all, but.

Nicole Salla: I love it.

Daniel Burstein: But anyway, I remember this exact Target T-shirt I got from some conference, and it just had a design on the front and the back or whatever, and it was about probably after lunch time, when she kind of pulled me aside and she was like that T-shirts on backwards. Because it had a design on the front in the back, and we both had one because we've both been to the same conference. She’s like I only know because, you know, my husband, I was like the type of that's so that's how who I've always tried to be as a type of person in my career that I could say to others because it's a gift to someone to say to others hey, that t-shirts on backwards. Or that they can say to me, hey, that T-shirt on backwards, it seems small, but it is just huge in the internal communication. So next time you see something going on you know, kind of be that good person, pull them aside, do the version of, hey, you've got something stuck in your teeth. It’s like, hey, when you mentioned that in the meeting 6 months before you came this, we had this huge lay off and when you mentioned that it kind of brought that up, you know.

So anyway, speaking of which, I think that can carry through to our career. And I love this you talked about at a previous company you worked at Erickson, you had this core tribe, Mike Serio, Kirstan Cecil, Melissa Williams, Jessie Trimble and more. And these are people after nearly ten years you're still in communication with. Tell me about that relationship.

Nicole Salla: So, I worked with them for about ten years, and it's been gosh about ten years since I left. And you know, you talk about those people that you surround yourself with that can tell you that you have something in your teeth. But, you know, from a business perspective, they're the ones that will send you a message or an IM saying, hey, this isn't going so well, or, hey, watch out for this. Or, you know, you just have to build your tribe and find those people that you can be honest with each other, and you can be honest with them too, and give them coaching. Because really, you know, if as a leader or just as a marketer, you really have to listen all around and get those people surrounding you that are going to be honest with you.

And that's something that I built with that team. We laughed together. We cried together. We worked together late nights, early mornings on a lot of things. And we always say we grew up together and I'll never find a group of people like that again I feel like. That really, we just we just had each other's backs and we learned so much from each other and actually have we're going to meet up in a few weeks here.

But it's one of those we may not talk to each other for six months and then we get back together and it's like old times reminiscing the old stories, some of which, you know, I'm telling on here and then some of which I've probably forgotten about now. But, you know, just surround yourself with people that you can be honest with each other and help each other and support each other through everything.

Daniel Burstein: But then their a type of people, too, where you can talk about your current role in a way you can't probably with your current team and get some good advice too, right?

Nicole Salla: Yes. Yes.

Daniel Burstein: And you put it well, you probably put it better than I did when I tried to stumble through it. You said, get yourself a critic and a cheerleader. And you talked about your current team. I know you mentioned Jen Kee, Kate Wislow, and SVP of Ops Saron Lytewnec?

Nicole Salla: You got that right? Yeah. Saron Lytewnec. Yes!

Daniel Burstein: Lytewnec. Wow! You also mentioned your husband. And so, let's talk about those people because I know one thing, like, when I'm communicating with my wife, I know there's like kind of two. I’ve learned to ask now, right when she's talking about work, is this something you want me to just kind of hear and be a sounding board and kind of shake my head with you? You're like, oh, that's ridiculous. Or is this something where you're looking for, like, some feedback or a different way of approaching it? So, I wonder, like, how do you get the critic and cheerleader from all these people?

Nicole Salla: Oh, it's, you know, it's funny that you say that because we talk about that a lot at home, too. So sometimes you just need people who are going to listen, and you just need to download and say, this is what I'm thinking and feeling, and I just need to get it off my chest. And so, when you build your tribe, whether it be your wife or, you know, your husband or whoever, your work friends, your work family, sometimes you just need somebody to download to and say, I just need your perspective on this. Did I step out of line? Did I say the wrong thing? Did I not say something? I meant to communicate this. And there are many conversations I've had with that core group of people. There are times and, you know, we may be having a meeting. And to your point, you said you pull somebody aside at lunch, like I'll pull them aside, like, hey are you guys tracking? Are you tracking with me? Do you understand what's going on?

And, you know, especially when you've been with all these people, whether it be the current you know, the current folks that I work with, Heather, Kate and Jen, Sharon or the people that I work with before, you just keep those connections with them. You get to know each other. You get to know each other styles. You get to know each other's values. And make sure that you know you're staying in line with all of that. My husband, you were talking about your wife. My husband, Dave is he's one of my big cheerleaders and biggest critics. And I say, I love that you pushed me to do better, but sometimes you drive me crazy when you do it.

But it is, he's a business owner. And so, he runs a company. So, I love his perspective because I've always had the pleasure of working for privately owned companies. So, I love getting his perspective of, you know, help me understand as a business owner, you know, what you would think of a business situation like this?

Or sometimes I'll tell him I'll do the download and he’ll say, well, I think you're out of line and I'll say, interesting, tell me about that. And so, I just love hearing different perspectives from that. And he's also you know, he's also a cheerleader. He is he may be critical. And just like all these other people I always ask them, sometimes they're cheering me on too much, and I’m like guys stop with the cheering and tell me the truth. Like, I appreciate you supporting me. I appreciate you saying that was amazing. That was wonderful. Tell me what I did wrong. So, I can get better because I learned from the school of hard knocks. And I think that some people, you know, that's really hard when people give you critical feedback. You said it earlier, Daniel. It's a gift. Feedback is a gift and take that and use it and ask people to be more critical. So, all those people I just mentioned, they're my people. And I hope everyone is able to find two or three people like that that they can surround themselves with.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I totally agree. It's hard, I mean, one thing I've learned in my career and my life is, boy, if you could just put ego away. It's hard, you know? I mean, most people who got into marketing, they probably didn't get into marketing because they didn't actually have egos, you know what I mean? But if you can kind of put that ego aside for a bit and really just kind of, be open to hear something like, wow, there's so much we can learn. That's from our customers, from our spouses, from people who work, so many people right.

Nicole Salla: Oh, sorry. I was going to say you started out, you know, in copywriting, which I love, I'm sure that everyone had an opinion about your copy and how do you build this thick skin and, you know, have those discussions about understanding what's behind people's opinions and things like that. So I love that you talked about being a copywriter.

Daniel Burstein: That’s great, and I think really all of marketers, right? So, what we have to sell in the world, right? You know, we're not like a dentist who can do a specific fix of a cavity. We have our creative ideas. That's what we have to sell. And so, when we first create them, I mean, we you know, I don't know about you, but I get so excited, right? Ooh, it's this, that. And when you go out and then you present them to the world, you're like, wait a minute, what are you missing? Did you hear what I said here? You know, in so you’ve got to learn over time. Like, okay.

We had a great podcast interview with Joe McCambley, who is the CMO of Saatva, the Mattress Company, and he started as a copywriter, too. And early in his career, he learned that he needed 99 bad ideas for each good one because you've got to go through that many ideas, and you got to put them out there and you got to let them get shot down until you get to that really golden idea. And that's what it takes you learn, boy, does it take a thick skin. But like I said once you can put away that ego, once you can really listen to people like I think you did kind of a nice job in what you were just saying, some of the questions you asked, like, Okay, wait a minute, like that's your perspective. Why is that your perspective? So, kind of coming at it from curiosity like we talked about before versus this is my idea coming at it from you don't like this, why is that?

And you know, in fairness, when you ask that question, sometimes it's like, that's not a very good opinion that person has it's not worthwhile. You know what you mean when they tell you why they didn't like it, it's like, okay, they don't know what they're talking about. But sometimes when you ask that, you're like I totally overlooked that. That's a very good point. I totally missed that, missed the boat on that.

Nicole Salla: Yeah. And it's interesting, you know, just opinions, creative opinions. It just reminded me of a story of, you know, I think especially if you're in writing and design and you're on the front lines of it when somebody is giving feedback, just understand the why behind it. We have a designer here, Daphne, Daphne Klem, who was when I first started working with her, she was presenting these beautiful concepts and people just started saying, I don't like the blue, can we make that green? Or, you know, can we change this word in the headline to this and she's writing down notes, and we just kind of stopped the meeting. And I said, no, Daphne, it's okay to ask why ask why somebody is giving you that feedback so you can understand and maybe even give you the opportunity to explain why I use Blue because of this. Or I chose that word because of this. It's okay to ask why.

Because a lot of times as creative people, you know creatives, you get the I don't like okay. Well, like, what is it you don't like about it, you know, tell me, tell me more about that. Tell me why. Here's why I did it this way. Give yourself the opportunity to state your case a little bit and understand what they don't like about it before you just go change it because you put so much work into your creativity.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's a really good point. As a creative, you have to learn how to ask people that and pull that out of them because a lot of times in fairness, they don't know, you know, they don't know. And you really got to kind of pull it out, right? Just doesn't sit right them and they don't know, and they don't understand. But on the flip side, as a marketing leader, when you're giving feedback, I mean, something I've always done is before you jump in and give your opinion is to kind of start asking, why did you choose Blue? Why did you make this decision? Why did you make that decision? And sometimes you find out before you can even say why you don't like it, why maybe it's not a bad idea.

So, when I used to show my portfolio, I used to call them my babies. Right. And so, the thing, you know, I would love showing my portfolio around because it's not just the work. It was this, and this is probably kind of some of the nexus for this podcast. It wasn't just the work. It was the story behind the work because all creative work is choices. You know, for each headline, you could have this word or that word, you know, you could use this color or that color. And so, then when I would talk through and ask, you know, as I kind of grew in my career and then would ask creatives why this or why that, I saw the creatives that were ok they are making really thoughtful strategic choices. They were thinking it through. They were going with this for a specific reason versus the ones that just kind of overlooked it. And they just thought I thought it looked good. I thought it looked nice. That's a red flag for me. So that's a red flag. So, when we talked about when you get feedback from people and it's like, okay, if, if they think it's good or not, yes, put that ego down, be open, but ask them why. And when they say, I, that's always been a red flag to me.

So, for example, long copy, right? I have I don't think I've met a designer that has liked long copy yet, but long copy we know we know from lots of studies. It can be effective. It's not always effective, but it can be effective because sometimes when you know you're going through working with a designer, and they shoot down like I would never read that. You know, I would never read that much and it's like, well, wait a minute, let's look at this. Are you the customer?

So, yes, maybe you read a lot of copy about, you know, I don't know, you know, the workings of a refrigerator or something like, of course. But you know what? When your refrigerator is broken and you're shopping for a refrigerator and you want to understand refrigerators, that's when you might. And that's who we're talking to. Right. So, I agree. I wouldn't, I'm not shopping for a refrigerator. I wouldn't either. But it's not about I, it's not about me, it's about the customer. Let's put ourselves in the customer's hand. I'm shopping for a refrigerator. There's all these new technologies. I don't understand the different ones. Do I want information, or do I just want a nice picture of a refrigerator? Probably both. Right. But that's I think, what we have to understand so that's the watchword I've looked out for the I. I didn't make the ad for you. I didn't even make the ad for the CMO right. I made it for the customer.

Nicole Salla: Right.

Daniel Burstein: But that's what we do. That's what we do in marketing. So, in the first half of this podcast, we talked about lessons from the things we made. Because unlike other professions, we actually make things, we make things, we make these brands, we make these ads. But the other thing we do is we make them with people. So, let's see, we already talked about a lot of people.

Well, let's see what other lessons we can learn from the people that Nicole collaborated with. And first, we're going to talk about Dan Rexford, Head of Marketing and Sales at Erickson, who says exclamation points are for lazy people. And I just love that you want to explain that to us. You're working, I think, on a crafting communication for internal stakeholders.

Nicole Salla: So, Dan Rexford was our Head of Marketing at Erickson when I was there. He's no longer with Erickson, unfortunately. He passed away about a year ago. But I talked about my Erickson tribe, and he made such an impact on us. But the story that sticks out to me for Dan and look, to this day, if I put an exclamation point in anything I hear Dan in my head. And I was crafting something, I was writing something for communication to our internal team. We worked with a lot of executive teams that are across our communities. And I put an exclamation point in it and we're in this big meeting and he looks at me and he said Nicole, you know better than that, don't use exclamation points they’re for lazy people.

And I was very young in my career. And I was an English lit major who thought I could write. And I said, oh, my gosh, I was mortified. But I asked him to explain a little bit more, and he said, look, you have, you know, as writers or when we're trying to communicate something, there are so many ways to communicate enthusiasm and get people excited why don't you use your words for that and craft a message that's really compelling?

Don't just throw an exclamation point on there. That's easy, that's lazy. Don't do that. And so, it really has personally chosen me to be very careful about when I use exclamation points. But it was such a powerful message in that you can use your words to craft and communicate something to get people excited. Just don't throw an exclamation point on there. Nobody's going to be excited about that. So, and certainly don't throw two or three on.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, I loved that lesson because I didn't take that literally personally. I think it's true Literally, of course. But there's so much I see with marketers or anyone trying to sell something to use exclamation points versus getting people to believe something. Right? So, what I mean, is as writers we have the classic maxim show don't tell. And so, you know, at Marketing Sherpa we get endless pitches, you know, to be included in case studies, be included on the podcast. And the pitches go along the lines of, hey, I've got this great CMO that you should interview for this podcast. They are fantastic. They are wonderful. And they've, you know, got this award and they've done this and this and this. And so that I would say that is a version of exclamation points like okay.

Like out of curiosity, do you think anyone pitches me and says, I've got this horrible CMO, they're going to be no good on your podcast, they're going to be boring as anything, you know? No. Of course, everyone's going to say that. And so that's why I actually for this podcast, what I think maybe listeners don't know is we have an application where, you know, Nicole sent in, everyone sends in like here are the stories where they're actually showing when Nicole's doing to you now showing the lessons versus just saying like, Oh my gosh, I have the best the super guest, stop looking now, we've got the best super guest for your podcast.

And we do that with everything, right? We do that with our marketing. We just say that the number one, you know, the number one nursery school in the tri state area, whatever it is you know, who's going to say we're the number five nursery school? You got to show us, you got to show us. So anyway, I love that. So, here's another one. Tom Mann, VP of Advertising at Erickson in a world of chicken dinners be a lobster dinner, what do you mean by that?

Nicole Salla: Tom would probably not remember this story, but Tom is one of the key mentors in my career. We still very much keep in touch. I actually went to Love and Company to work with him after Erickson because he was just so impactful on my career. Started his career as a copywriter. So, when you said you're a copywriter, I’m like that I just loved working for him. It's such a unique perspective.  

And very early on we were holding we used to hold events, informational events for our senior living communities. It's something that's a pretty standard practice. So, if you're probably above the age of 75, you're getting invitations to luncheons, dinners, wine tastings, you name it. You can just make a social life out of it. So, we were really trying to shake things up in the Boston market. We had a community that was open, and we were opening a new clubhouse and we wanted to show it off to people. We wanted to invite them in for lunch and we always serve chicken, sometimes fish, always chicken. And he was on the phone, I was in the room, he was on the phone with the creative team, with the sales team, and he's just really intentional, I don't care what we have to do. We need to get a lobster on the plate because I need to show lobster on the invitation. Now seniors they love direct mail, they read six-page letters. They did anyway when I worked in senior living. Yes, long copy was for them.

Daniel Burstein: And P.S., yeah

Nicole Salla: But we literally went back and forth with the sales team of I don't care what you put on that plate. I need to show a die cut lobster invitation. They need to pull a lobster out of the envelope because everyone else is doing chicken dinners. And, you know, we don't want to be caught in that sea. You know what we want to be in this world of chicken dinners we want to be the lobster dinner. We want to stand out. And so, by golly, we served lobster rolls. And we did a big lobster invitation, and it was a huge success. We got a ton of people in, had to cut off the number of people coming.

But I just loved his passion around it of he was trying to disrupt and that's how he was trying to disrupt and say we need to stand out here. Everyone's got a clubhouse, everyone's got a senior living community. Everyone's serving chicken again and again and again. We need to show lobster and we need to show it. And we need it to be a die cut lobster.

Daniel Burstein: Show don’t tell.

Nicole Salla: Absolutely.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. You know, I love that when I read that, what I didn't realize that was a literal story. It's beautiful. That it's a literal story that you have to back it up. But when I hear that, what I hear is value proposition, right? So, you know, Marketing Sherpa’s parent organization MECLABS, we have this free digital marketing course and a recent session we had about headlines. We talk about the process level value proposition for headline, right? So a value proposition, every company needs that kind of core value proposition. In essence, if everything's a chicken dinner, why should I go to your dinner? Right. But you also need every headline, when you do a free event, there's no such thing as free, right? You send it out as a free event. Well, that takes someone's time. That take someone's trust. They're actually paying with those things, even if they're not paying with money.

So, what you actually have there is what we call a process level value proposition. An overall value proposition for the company process level. Why should I go through that process? Why should I take that action? And you had a very clear answer right there’s option A's chicken dinner. Option B is chicken dinner. Option C is lobster. That's a value proposition. I'm going to go with the lobster. And so I think in everything we do, not just our core company understanding the value proposition for our core company and everything we ask customers to do, what is the value proposition? Don't just ask me to follow on social media because everyone else does why follow you instead of everyone else. So why do you stick out?

Nicole Salla: Yeah, but what’s in it for me? I always call it what's WIIFM?

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, what’s the WIIFM? What is in it for me? That's what it stands for. But here's the thing, sometimes when we stick out like that, we get our heads chopped off. Right? And so, tell me about the time. I think it was an ad campaign you ran on PBS, and you got some very colorful feedback.

Nicole Salla: Oh, I love this. This is I so I actually we got a three-page letter from somebody. We run all of our ads on PBS Kids. We're a sponsor for PBS Kids, PBS kids.org. We sponsor some of their shows, and so we run all of our TV spots on there. Side note about the spots that we're running currently it has a bit of energetic music. So, when you think of a childcare, you're not thinking of like energetic rock song with a good beat. But that's what we have.

So, we got this lovely three-page letter, which I have framed in my office. And, you know, it's very colorful, you know, it says, Dear Kiddie Academy, if there's anything else that I can't stand, it's the use of mindless heavy metal guitars on any TV shows. We get this ever-repetitious commercial shown every 30 minutes on all PBS Kids shows that show a camera zooming away and close-Up and away of kids making chalk painted on the pavement, very annoying and tiresome. To have to be crude, we started out with mindless heavy metal guitars all frenzied up as nothing else but aggravating when there's a whole world of music beyond heavy metal and machine-like gangster rap. It's not gangster rap, by the way. Instead of blaring our ears out with frenzied up, agitating and aggravated noise, try something a lot more peaceful, relaxing, mellow and pleasant. And it's signed with a gentleman's name and an address. But I love that we moved somebody to write a letter. I love it. I just relish in it. Our creative team loved it so much they created some posters out of it. We have it framed on our wall. But, you know, you're doing something right when you not only encourage people to, you know, request information about a Kiddie Academy and have their child come, but when you can encourage somebody to write a three-page letter, you're making great creative.

So, you know, it keeps you on your toes. And, you know, I just love that. I love that somebody felt compelled enough to write us a letter. Hopefully everyone's getting letters of somebody feeling that passionate about their marketing as we did.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I've read in relationships that the opposite of love isn't hate. The opposite of love is indifference. And I think the same is true for marketing. So if you are going to go out there, so we talked about value proposition, if you are going to go out there and have a unique value proposition. A value proposition is aimed at an ideal customer, right?

Nicole Salla: Right

Daniel Burstein: That means there are people you're not going to be able to serve. So, if your message is getting out there, it's strong enough, it’s really hitting this ideal customer, there are these other people that are just going to, I'll give you an example.  I guess I'm getting older. I hate those hollowed out mufflers, that the kids these days have on their cars

Nicole Salla: Those kids.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, and you know what? I think that's what makes them more appealing to the kids these days to have the hollowed-out muffler. So, if I wrote to the hollowed-out muffler company, and said for for crying out loud, can you not? But you know, they shouldn’t listen to me right there, they're doing something to stick out in the world, in a noisy world, they're noisier and they're sticking out. So, they're doing the right thing. As much as I hate it.

Nicole Salla: You can ignore it. You could ignore it, but instead it compels you to hate it that much. It's so great.

Daniel Burstein: It's sticking out. It's cutting through the noise. Cutting through the clutter. And that's really the hardest thing today. So, the last thing we can talk about, and I thought this was really interesting, the person it came from Greg Goodwin, who is a CTO of Kiddie Academy, he said when there is a philosopher in the room, you need to defuse idea grenades. And the example was a staff recruitment campaign. And this is why it shocked me so much. And you can kind of tell me the story. You had a boss, who I will use this great example. Anyone who knows and works in marketing knows everyone's got marketing ideas, right? You know, CEO's got marketing ideas, customer service got marketing ideas. Your cousin has marketing ideas at dinner, your customers have marketing ideas.

And you used to use this great analogy that I loved and it's like, you know, nobody treats the CTO this way. They don't come in and they're like, you know, I've got an idea for some great PHP or, you know, I was thinking of some JavaScript we could while I was showering this morning. Well, you should use this JavaScript. So, I really thought this was interesting that this came from the CTO. So, you want tell us more about this.

Nicole Salla: So, Greg didn't exactly say that, but I always call it channeling my inner Greg Goodwin. So, Greg Goodwin is one of my partners here. We are just attached at the hip because marketing is digital, digital is marketing. And so, I love watching Greg in a meeting, because you’re right, he doesn’t get the ideas of somebody having an idea for a new script, you know, in the middle of dinner.

But I love watching him vet ideas. And I always say, you know, I'm going to channel my inner Greg Goodwin on this one. He always tries to get down to the what are we trying to accomplish and what are we trying to solve for? Because he does get ideas such as, hey, I had this idea for an app. You know, and so he does ask, well why would we want an app as a company? What value would that offer to the customer? How would they use it? How would we you know, keep up with it? What other problem are we trying to solve for them? So, I love watching him ask the questions, and he's truly asking it out of curiosity and to understand. And it boils it down to the, most of the time it comes down to the huh, we don't need an app at all. What we really need is a better way to support parents X, Y, and Z.

So, when we were you know, every company is challenged with recruitment, staff recruitment right now, that's all you hear everywhere, and particularly in our industry. With childcare, you know, we got 100 I call them idea grenades coming from every which way. You’ve spoken in the hallway. Somebody's got an idea for a video. Hey, I had this great idea for a video. What if we showed a teacher caring for a child and talked about how much they love caring for children? Or. I have this idea for this. So, what we did is, you know, we took all these ideas and there was a lot of great ideas, but it's there were a lot of, you know, what I call spray and pray approaches or tactics.

So, I really would ask people, hey, that's a great idea. What made you think of that? Like, why did you come in from that way? And what would that accomplish? And how would we serve that up to people and what would you, you know, okay, so that's a great idea for a video or do think you need to put on social oh, because if we put it on, social would probably only reach a couple of hundred people in that way.

So, in one way, it gave me an opportunity to educate people because they think if you create a video, a million people see it every time, but you know that's not true. Create a spot, it might be seen 3 million times. You create a social video, might be seen a couple hundred times. So are we really going to invest? You know, $100,000 in the social video, or are we just trying to showcase, for instance, that teachers can grow their career by growing the skills of children?

So, you know, when all these ideas were coming out, it really helped I think to diffuse and understand what people are trying to accomplish? Number one, everyone's just trying to help that's all it came from. It was a coming from a place of trying to help, but it helped us boil down the common ideas of what we were trying to accomplish in helping our franchisees recruit.

And we actually are in the middle of a recruitment campaign right now where we're testing four different messages, which I know came from the hundreds of ideas that got thrown our way, but us asking questions about them and trying to boil it down to what do you hope to accomplish with that?

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, there's two great things you're doing there. Maybe one is you're trying to educate as you go because as with any industry, we don't work in it always seems simpler from the outside. You don't understand the complexities of it, but also what are you trying to achieve and what are you trying to get at? And I love the app example because there's so many companies, I'm sure the next thing is going to be the metaverse. Let's get on the metaverse, we need to get on the metaverse. And instead of starting with the shiny, flashy technology or whatever, the flavor of the day is, start with the customer. Okay, wait a minute, what does the customer need? How can we help the customer? And then you come back into, well, what are some tools that can help the customer? What are some ways we can help the customer?

And oftentimes it’s not going to be an app or a metaverse or, you know, I was thinking of a recent podcast interview we just did with the CMO of The Escape Game, and they talked about how, like many companies escape games and escape rooms, you got to go online, and you got to book it.  And so like many companies, they were using the off the shelf widget and the off the shelf widget booked by time so you could just see, okay, here, these times are available.

However, they invested a lot into their games and so they made a custom widget to focus on, okay, booking by the game and then seeing the time so they can show the value proposition of the game. But a lot of times we'll just take the off the shelf thing, we'll take the off the shelf widget, we'll take the website template, we'll just be like, okay, we need an app, let's grab, you know, an app template versus stopping, backing up, saying how can we best serve a customer? And then let's see what technology can do there. Can we get something off the shelf, or do we have to build that ourselves? So, thank you so much for your stories, Nicole. I want to end with one final but key essential question. What are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

Nicole Salla: Gosh, there's so many. I think that, you know, one of the key things is, you know, understanding that marketing is really a psychology married with storytelling. And so understanding that marketing isn't just an art form. It's really an art and a science. When I think of a science, it's really about the psychology of thinking. I think that you really need to understand all of that to be a great marketer.

And, you know, we talked a lot about you know, being, you know, one of the things you're being is a core customer. Even though I have four children and I'm a mom, I know I'm not the core customer of Kiddie Academy. I think everyone needs to realize that even if you're in a marketing role, you're never the core customer because you know way too much to be dangerous.

So always finding ways to understand the customer and truly understand them in an authentic way. And I think, you know, one of the things that keeps me on my toes, you know, as far as being a marketer, I think this could be for any profession, we're going through such a fast-changing time. And I feel like even since I you know; I've been in the marketing field for over 20 years but think of how quickly it's sped up over the past ten years.

Daniel Burstein: For the past two years right.

Nicole Salla: And I think that can cause a lot of anxiety right. Yeah. I'm trying to keep up with this metaverse and NFT thing myself. And, but no, like I think that, you know, it could cause somewhat of an anxiety and of just all this constantly changing. Plus, you’re getting ideas turned in from everywhere. Plus, everyone's trying to figure out this new post-COVID world. And what I would say is, you know, I found for me in particular, I try to use anxiety as my superpower.

I try to use it to stay hyper aware, hyper in focus, and hyper empathetic to those around me. Because I think that just being aware of your surroundings, whether it be the team that you work with or what's happening with your customers, is really important. And so, you can sit and wish and worry and boy, I wish I could get that money for that initiative that I read about on MarketingSherpa, or I wish I could do it this way, but I can't get the money, or I wish we could break through, take that nervous energy and find a way to channel it for good. Okay. I need to figure this out. So, I'm going to be relentless in finding out what our customer wants. I'm going to be relentless in talking to our CFO and understanding why they're concerned. And I'm going to put my ear to the ground and listen to what my franchisees need and how I can help them. So, channel that in a way that just heightens your awareness and puts it towards good and solving problems as opposed to letting it overwhelm you with worry.

Daniel Burstein: Well, thank you for your time, Nicole. You've heightened my awareness to a lot of new issues now that we've got to talk to you. Thank you so much for being here. This is great.

Nicole Salla: Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure. And I really appreciate you having me on.

Daniel Burstein: And thank you to everyone for listening. We know you're busy marketers. Thanks for taking time. Hopefully this gave you a new idea to improve your own marketing. Thanks for listening.

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