July 11, 2022

Healthcare IT Marketing: Branding a new service line within Stericycle, getting ONC certification, finding your joy, & more


Get inspiration for your next great idea by listening to episode #24 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. We had a warm and playful conversation with Sarah Bennight, Director of Marketing, Stericycle.

Bennight shares how she ensured her division’s brand communicated a unique product-level value proposition that still tied back into the company’s primary value prop, her view on project managers, and how she helps her team (and herself) find joy and remember their original passion for marketing.

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

Healthcare IT Marketing: Branding a new service line within Stericycle, getting ONC certification, finding your joy, & more

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

“Don’t ask before you have communicated enough perceived value,” Flint McGlaughlin taught in Customer-First Objectives: Discover a three-part formula for focusing your webpage message.

This is true in our marketing, but it is also true in how we handle ourselves in our careers, as this episode’s podcast guest summed up well with the lesson, “Always give something before you expect something.”

You can hear the story behind that lesson in this episode from Sarah Bennight, Director of Marketing for the Communication Solutions service line of Stericycle. Stericycle had $2.6 billion in revenue in 2021. Bennight manages a $1 million budget, six direct reports, and three agencies.

You can listen using the embedded player below or click through to your preferred audio streaming service.

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Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Some lessons from Bennight that emerged in our discussion:

Your brand promise is everything.

Bennight and her team had a challenge when selling slick new online patient scheduling technology because it wasn’t what Stericycle’s brand was known for at the time. They had to create a new brand promise.

Never underestimate the power of a great project manager.

Bennight was new in a product management role and trying to get ONC Health IT Certification for meaningful use so the company she worked at could sell to hospitals. Project manager (PM) Mauri Decker stepped in and came up with an implementation plan that even included external tasks, like late-night coffee and candy runs. Her team now has a PM role in the marketing ops team and it is one of the keys to continued success.

Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to blow it up when the market/target needs shift.

In March of 2020 when COVID19 shook up the healthcare world, the team scrapped its plan and started fresh. Bennight’s team contributed nearly 40% of new revenue that year by blowing up the original plan which was based on the company’s value pillars and moved into a very agile, situation-based campaign program.

Not all marketing metrics are equal. Show leadership a story, not raw data.

One great example Bennight mentioned was blog bounce rate. Stericycle used to have a blog bounce rate of under 80%. That’s great and where the industry gurus say they should be. However, at that point the average time on page was less than two minutes. Not enough to read content or engage with links.

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

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

Always give something before you expect something.

via John Lynn, Founder, Healthcare Scene

Bennight met Lynn at a HIMSS conference, and he invited Bennight to the Health IT Marketing and PR conference, a community Bennight recognized as very focused on helping everyone without any expectation of being repaid. This vast network ultimately helped her get a job at Stericycle.

Find your joy.

via Cory White, Chief Commercial Officer, Stericycle

Bennight appreciates how leaders at Stericycle – like Cory White, Ammon Woods, Lance Mickelsen, and Kelly Hilton – have sunshine principles when people are working with clients. She also tries to remember those principles in every interaction she has internally as well.

For example, Bennight’s team is down a few members right now and things can get hard, but there was one day Bennight saw one of White’s leadership slides and saw the “Find Your Joy” message. That changed her attitude about the editing work she had to do, and she edited like she was telling a story.

You can have it all.

via Kristin Peterson R.N., Case Manager, Cook Children’s Hospital (retired)

Peterson is Bennight’s mom. Watching her balance a successful career while being a present mom inspired Bennight. For example, when Bennight was young, Peterson was a labor and delivery nurse, working the night shift so that she would be with her children during the day.

Related content mentioned in this episode

Marketing Chart: The importance of making the right promise with your marketing

Headline Writing: 6 before and after headline examples with results to help improve your copywriting

Four Techniques to Improve Analytics Based on Customer Knowledge

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: My daughter asked me a great question the other day. She said, Why do you react so harshly when you get sales calls? Hey, now that I'm working at home, she sees my work life pretty up close. So I was trying to explain to her this transformation I went through in my career and in my life, from an outbound marketer to an inbound marketer.

And I think she got what I was talking about kind of. But it's only later did I read the guest application for this podcast from our next guest, and I wish I had worded it so eloquently to my daughter. She said, Always give something before you expect something, I love that, always gives something before you expect something. That's just one of the lessons we're going to learn from our guest today.

It's a value I do my best to live up to. Hopefully you're doing this with the podcast and we'll hear many stories about how Sarah lives that in her life. Joining me now is Sarah Bennight, Director of Marketing at Stericycle. Thanks for joining us, Sarah.

Sarah Bennight: Thanks for having me, Danielle. Excited to be here.

Daniel Burstein:  So just looking at your background real quick, you have been at Stericycle for six years. Stericycle, I hadn’t known this until I researched. I feel like I've seen those stickers around my doctor's office, but $2.6 billion in revenue last year. And you are the Director of Marketing for the Communication Solutions Service Line of Stericycle, where you have six direct reports, you manage three agencies and you manage $1,000,000 budget. So give us an idea, Sarah. What does it mean to be the Director of Marketing for that line?

Sarah Bennight: Sure. So, you know, to learn more about Stericycle, they're a large company that started in 1989 when hypodermic needles were washing up on the shore in New Jersey. And the founder of the company said, we can do better than this. So what you probably saw in your doctor's office was a sharps container where we collect the needles and sharps from, you know, giving blood and giving shots and make sure they're disposed of in a regulated manner, make sure that we protect the environment.

And there are also two other business service lines within Stericycle, Shred-it which you've probably seen the trucks driving around, and that is secure information destruction. And then the communication solutions line where I sit and lead the marketing team there. Is the communication solutions line which is end to end patient engagement for access, action and adherence.

Daniel Burstein: That's so interesting. I actually grew up in New Jersey at that time and we would go to Sandy Hook and I remember like my mom warning us of like, hey, be careful for the syringes washing up. That was crazy. I'm glad your company was formed to help solve that problem because that was disgusting. So let's start talking about the first half of the podcast we talk about the things you have made in your career and the first lesson that you learned is your brand promise is everything. So how did you learn this lesson?

Sarah Bennight: Right. So when I when I joined Stericycle, as I said, we were formed as a company to pick up medical waste. And we have expanded beyond that a little bit and do a lot more than that now with several of our hospital clients worldwide. But really, the communication solutions service line existed. But we didn't have our own brand, we didn't really have our own messaging that spoke to what we do, aside from some sales sheets here and there for the technologies that we had acquired.

And so we had just acquired a new online patient scheduling solution from a company called In Quicker, and their brand promise was you get in quicker and get home faster because you're scheduling everything online. But when we went to a trade show and we're standing there with the Stericycle logo, we're standing with our green background and you know everything about protecting the environment and everything really in that brand, no one got it. The people that were walking by, they said, either we already use Stericycle or we don't do that kind of business. We're marketers. We're health care people who run call centers and patient acquisition. We don't do what your company does. And we had to run after them on this trade show and say, hold on, we do so much more than that.

So the first year of my job was really taking everything that we did from communication solutions and kind of articulating what is that promise or value proposition to the client. What do we do that solves a problem that keeps them up at night, and then changing our messaging on the marketing side away from really a sales technology play into here's a partnership that can help you realize those goals that you have as a health care marketer, that you have as a patient experience professional, and then reiterating that the brand.

Then as they brought on my boss, now Kelly Hilton, the VP of Marketing who sits over all three business service lines at that level where she's looking at the brand, it's connecting that brand now into the Stericycle brand promise, which is protecting what matters. In our case for communication solutions. That's protecting the patient experience, that's protecting first impressions, protecting reputation management and making sure if we answer the phone for health system, that the patient has a great experience, that the agent's not just having a bad day and blows them off, that they're really helping them connect into the health system and make good decisions to keep them healthier.

So the brand promise became very important at that point as we were looking. How do we fit into the Stericycle story? Because we know we fit, we're just not really sure how. As we've evolved the Communication Solutions brand, we've really leaned into our technology solutions and it's become more of a modernizing patient experience. Well, you have to be really careful if that's your brand promise, right? When you're building content, you can't build content that's not modern. You can't take a booth to a trade show that doesn't ooze this brand promise of, we're going to modernize your patient engagement experience. We're going to modernize the way you connect with patients. If you're building something that's, say, like an encyclopedia of patient engagement, nobody knows what a an encyclopedia is anymore except for people my age and older.

So it really became apparent to me that we had to go through everything we had planned from a content standpoint, from an advertising standpoint, from even the booth that we have, the tchotchkes we have, the swag that we have, and make sure that everything lives up to that brand promise. And so now I think the team is really aligned to the point where when we go into brainstorming, they have that top of mind now. Are we protecting what matters for the big company brand promise and are we modernizing everything we're doing here to make that patient engagement lifecycle modern and the way consumers expect it to be with technology these days?

Daniel Burstein: I love that and I love how you’re talking about through your actual marketing living up to the brand promise. But I want to ask you about what role as a Director of Marketing do you play with the actual product experience and the customer experiences because the brand promise puts it out there, right? And then we have to, you know, make sure we live up to the brand promise.

I want to share some research real quick that we did, why this is so important. We surveyed 2400 Americans. We broke them up into two groups, half and half. And half we said, hey, tell us about a company you're satisfied with. And the other half we said, tell us about a company you're not satisfied with. Then we asked them a whole host of questions and one of them was, How well do the products or services of that company do their intended job? Right, so essentially, how well does it live up to the brand promise? And so the biggest for the satisfied customers, the biggest answer was very well, which was like five out of five, 49% said that. Right. What you'd expect, however, for the unsatisfied customers, the biggest answer was 35%, was fairly, which was three out of five rate. So when I'm looking at that, I see well, hey, you're satisfied, right? You got to do very well to get people satisfied. But just at the midpoint, three out of five, which isn't even really bad yet, you're going to start losing customers. Customers are going to start being unsatisfied. It's not even the one out of five. So what role do you play Sarah within that organization to say like, hey, this product experience is X or Y and this is what the customer expects and we need to get there. And how do we do that?

Sarah Bennight: Yeah, I think it's a lot of listening, but also teaching. I think as marketers you have to be natural teachers and educators on reminders of that brand promise and then you have to be able to look back as time moves on. You know, the markets change very quickly in certain markets. Health care, not as much as maybe we'd like it to, but you have to be willing to take a step back and say, does this brand promise still make sense or are we still protecting what matters? Or are we hurting something here? And as marketers, you have to be the educators. You have to be the ones who are doing that research and saying, hey, something's not right here. Maybe we need to realign and get back to basics and live into this brand promise.

You also need to bring in the leadership of those cross-functional areas and make sure they're all aligned in the brand promise. The brand promise doesn't necessarily come from marketing. We take the brand promise and expand on it and push it out externally and then bring it in through our clients. And hopefully they live up that customer experience that we've promised them. But you have to have alignment at the beginning from leadership. Otherwise products are going to go a different direction, client services is going to go a different direction, and marketing is going to be off on this island doing something that nobody understands.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, I like to think about it as being like the advocate for the customer within the organization. And the nice thing about getting everyone aligned on the brand promise, so one term we will use is value proposition. We talk about value proposition a lot. And so what you're talking about is we say that's a primary value proposition. The company is Stericycle and then there is a product level value proposition too for the individual division. And when you get everyone aligned, like you said, I mean, that's where you can use that as your North Star.

So, you know, what I found in a company is there are some obvious decisions of things you should do with a product and there are some obvious things that things you shouldn't do. But then there's a 5050 jump balls, right? Where it's like, well, it could go either way. And I think that's where that brand promise, that value proposition is the North Star for the marketing team to come in, be that, advocate for the customer and say, well, wait a minute, you know, if we go in this direction, maybe they're short term revenue or maybe we'll be like too costly to fix or whatever. But if we go in this direction, are we not living up to the brand promise that we've put out there? Right.

Sarah Bennight: Right, and I think sometimes even educating your clients on that brand promise and hey, are you living up to that because it's really interesting in what I do is we market to other marketers. So I'm a health care marketer B2B, but I market to health care marketers who are B2C and a lot of the same principles fall in line. You know, are you living up to your promise that you've made at the health system level organization? And are you remembering that through your campaigns, through your patient outreach. And do you reflect that in how you treat your employees and how you engage people to come and work for you?

So I think marketing has a huge role to play. We've thrown out content and ideas before, like I mentioned, because they didn’t fall in line with the brand promise, but everyone has a role to play. I just think marketing, like you said, is a great advocate and also a reminder and a visual demonstration of what it could look like if we all reflect this brand together.

Daniel Burstein: Well, I love what you said about thinking about that end customer, because what I found is, you know, career in B2B marketing is kind of this odd thing. Like if you ever go to a dinner party and you tell someone you're in marketing and they're like, Oh, okay. Like I saw the Super Bowl ads. Like, what ads have you made? What do you market, shoes or whatever? In a B2B market it was like, well, have you ever written an elevator? Well, you know, when you push the button and this happens, well, there's a system behind there and there's a governance platform. And we, you know, and then they they're like, okay, well, you know, they look at the person I said, okay, what do you do? Like, I'm a doctor. I know what doctors are, you know?

And so that B2B marketer has to have that experience. I actually was mentioning to Sarah before the call, my wife got one of those text messages, she’s got a doctor appointment tomorrow. And I mentioned to her like, Hey, I think I'm talking to the person that runs the marketing for the software that does that. But we don't know because it was from the doctor, right? That's what's fascinating about B2B. It is literally the workings of the economy, the infrastructure that powers everything we do. And so that's why I think it's great that you're thinking to just not to your customer, but your customers customer, because if you're successful, it's not just selling to your customer, it's making your customers customer happy and successful and all of those things. And that brings you ultimate success. I think that's a great lesson for any B2B marketer.

Sarah Bennight: Yeah, absolutely.

Daniel Burstein: Let's talk about another lesson from Sarah's career. Never underestimate the power of a great Project Manager, tell me about it. All right. How did you learn this, Sarah? I've felt this way as well.

Sarah Bennight: Sure. So it's kind of funny. I used to have a love hate relationship, mostly hate with Project Managers, because I'm this very strategic person who I love brainstorming sessions. Some people like brainstorming on their own. I love doing it with people in the room, with whiteboards, in person. I love going to conferences and feeding off the energy that's on the floor and listening and coming up with ideas and calling someone and say, I had a great idea for a piece of content what do you think? But what I didn't like was people putting structure around my ideas.

And so I had worked with this amazing Project Manager who has multiple certifications, I’ll mess up if I try to mention them. But Maury Decker, we worked for I-People together, which was a Meditech integration company. It's a health care HER system, so the patient record lives in there. And we worked for a company that was trying to get ONC certification for something called Meaningful Use, which the government was giving money to hospitals to say, we want you to use electronic health records and we're going to give you an incentive money if you use it. And you use it in a meaningful way. So we had to come up with what does it mean to be a meaningful user of a patient record?

And we had to go through the certification process and there were steps. I was in product at the time leaning towards product marketing, but really building functional requirements, user requirements, voice of the customer. What does the customer need? What does the customer want and what do they not like about this product? And really being that voice of the customer internally to my company.

And we didn't really have a formal product management function yet. I had a role, but they didn't really know how that played into the product development process. So this project manager came in and said, can I just sit in with you on these functional requirement meetings with development and put a plan together that they can then go implement? And I was thinking, well, isn't that what I'm doing in these meetings? Giving development, here's what you do. And so when she finally laid it out for me, it was broken up into so many steps that I hadn't even realized matter. Little things here and there, along with man hours that no one could really quantify before. And we realized we had to work backwards, you know, kind of like you do in a Gantt chart and figure out how can we get certified by this state. We need this many man hours. And she broke everything down into such clear and concise directions that my vision was easily realized.

Yes, we had to work late nights and yes, we had to do a lot of testing and go through a lot of challenges. But through her guiding us and kind of being the beacon and keeping everyone on task, removing the roadblocks is the biggest thing I've noticed Project Managers can do. If there is a barrier to somebody getting something done, they just get it out of the way, whatever it takes. They insulated the team from any other project and made sure that I had everything I needed to be successful. So something that used to be an annoyance to me. Someone trying to put process around my planning and my strategic vision for a product.  She actually came in there and made it successful.

And I've learned that now I have more success when I do have either a dedicated Project Manager or someone who functions as a Project Manager. I think there are a lot of people who are naturally inclined to project management and organization and making sure everything has a dedicated task for everything, making sure people follow up and go through that. But those principles we learned and we actually went into Scrum Development right after that and started doing release cycles and agile development. Our marketing team now years later, this is eight years later now that I've moved from product into marketing now and we use some of the same principles in Agile marketing. And it's the only reason we were successful during the pandemic and able to get things done in an environment that was really unsure. In the health care world.

Daniel Burstein: That’s good, we're going to hear a story about how we're able to pivot in just a moment. But I think it's fascinating to hear you talk about this because I think I'm similar to you in the fact that I'm also the creative marketer. I love to brainstorm and stuff, but I loved having a project manager. But like, I never had that resistance you did. Because to me, like, I felt as a marketing leader, a creative and a content leader, there's a certain mental weight to making sure everyone's getting done what they need to at the right time, you know. Especially if you've got good creatives. There is a fantastic creative who is a good creative and also hits deadlines. You know, there are many very talented creatives who are more challenged with hitting deadline part. And so it just to me was such a mental wait removal when I had this person who was so good and focused and organized at saying like, okay, here are all the dates, here's the traffic, here's everything, and I'll fly up to you if there's issues, but I'm going to boom, boom, boom, boom and stay on them, you know, relentlessly to make sure things are done. So I think that's fascinating. Yes, please. A Project Manager.

Sarah Bennight: Right, I think it comes down to one thing, and I think I was young in my career and I felt threatened, like, is this person going to take over my job? Because she's now starting to understand the inner workings of what I'm trying to accomplish. She's leaning into the product release cycle. So is she going to take this product management role? But when we when we work together and we weren't fighting each other and we realized, I'm really good over here with vision, what's the healthcare world going to look like in five years? And she is really good with getting us there now, where we can be right now today.

We built the product management function and we built several tools and products that were very successful at the time. So now I don't want to live without a Project Manager, but I think I was just really young in my career and thought, Oh, here's someone that's really smart and doing the same thing I thought that I'm trying to do and it was threatening.

Daniel Burstein: That's a really great point. And so what I found is because we can all be threatened but finding those complementary skill sets and finding like, okay, here are the different, you know, functions that I have to work on or my team has to work on. And now here are the ones I'm not really that expert. It would be great to bring someone on board.

So I wanted your opinion of, you know, how do we know when we need a specialist or when a generalist will fit the bill? Because we all have to wear many hats these days. You know, when we bring someone in, when we have an agency involved. I thought it was interesting. I wrote an article recently with six headline writing examples. And, you know, I came up my first job was as a copywriter and not one of the examples came from a copywriter, you know so I thought it was so interesting. All these generalists from Marketing Managers, Director of Marketing, whatever they were, maybe even a Content Marketing Manager, but we're writing headlines. And so do you kind of have a sense of, you know, as you're managing a team as you're trying to grow a team. When does it make sense to take that next level and bring some sort of specialist in like a Project Manager or something else?

Sarah Bennight: Well, I think that's a great challenge as a leader and a manager is knowing what the team needs and anticipating that, but not overbuilding the team. One of the leaders a Stericycle that I work for, always says that the bigger challenge is always in growing rather than in shrinking. Because I think through these times, through the great resignation, we have a couple of people out on maternity leave as well right now, Canadian maternity leave, so they get up to a year to 18 months. It's a smaller team environment. And you have to keep doing some of the things you're doing. You have to pick the things that matter.

But what I'm learning is in those times you see other people shine in ways that they never knew they were good at before. And I think it's really important as a leader or a manager, if you will, to identify those opportunities, but then lean into them and give them a little bit of trust, give those team members a little bit of runway to show maybe they are in an operations role. I have someone in an operations role right now that has a ton of creativity. And I've seen it before, but I'm really seeing it right now because we don't have our dedicated Campaign Manager. So I need some help on the content side to write these emails and write these campaigns and write these ads. And he is just growing in ways I could never have imagined before because we have no other choice right now, right, since we're short staffed and to let these other people lean in.

When it comes to hiring that person and bringing in a project manager, I don't believe any team doesn't need project management. Now, eighth years later, I could now fight for a project manager type role in our marketing team, tat's the senior marketing operations leader she's responsible for campaign management. So all the pieces and parts that go into campaign management, down to the data that's pulled out for KPIs to determine whether they're successful or not and where we go next. Really falls to someone whose main role is project management. And while she's out on maternity leave, we tried to move that around to different pieces on our team, and I've had several hand raisers of strategic and creative people say, this is it for me. I don't run the meetings efficiently. I don't know what comes next. I can't really help.

So I've had to take on the role just in the meantime, just to help people keep things moving and recognizing the pieces and parts, creating tasks, making sure people have what they need, removing barriers. And I'm really feeling it because when you go heads down into that, you can't look at what's coming next quarter, next year. How do we get this budgeted for 3 to 4 years from now? And as a leader, you can't really look forward when you're too much in the day to day. So I could argue project manager for every team, especially a marketing team, but especially when you start building multifaceted and multi-channel campaigns, that's when things get really hairy and you need someone that's kind of managing everything.

We are managing several tools. We have a Salesforce team, we also have HubSpot and then we have our website. So we've got these three teams that need to know how to work together and they need to know how to play nice together. So when one person builds a landing page, they don't break something else in Salesforce or in the website. And we need all of that to roll up under search and in organic and make sure that, you know, we don't do anything. And that's that project manager who's kind of looking over everything and managing the expectations on all sides across the business.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, when I worked on the agency side it would be called traffic manager and I always thought that word traffic was a perfect expectation because like you said, there's a lot of traffic going on. We've got to manage it. So we touched on this earlier, when COVID came up. But here's another lesson you learned, have a plan, but don't be afraid to blow it up when the market or target needs a shift. And you learned this lesson very starkly during COVID. So do you want to tell us a bit about that.

Sarah Bennight: Sure. I think a lot of industries felt this, too, in marketers and probably sales, too, as revenue really slowed down and we were figuring out what's going on in March of 2020. Companies started shutting down, schools started shutting down, everyone was working from home. If they were able to and they weren't first responders or people who needed to be in their role. We’re in health care. We sell to health care companies. We sell to health care organizations. And they weren't seeing patients. They stopped elective procedures. They stopped reminders. Sometimes they stopped running their call centers. And we had to figure out how are we going to generate revenue as a marketing leader, we're responsible for revenue, too, just like sales.

It's just a little bit different. We use contributed revenue and influenced revenue. But how are we going to do this when everything in health care shutting down. What are some of the values that we can do right now to help health care organizations get out of the hole that they're in, or to do things better to help patients and communities understand the impact of COVID, what it's doing in your community right now, how the health system can help you figure things out and keep you healthy and safe. And what is social distancing like?

All of these new things we had to figure out and being in health care, that meant we had this whole plan. We just had launched new messaging for action, access and adherence. And each quarter we were going to highlight patient action, patient access, and then patient adherence. How do you get patients to adhere to treatment plans? Well, that didn’t make sense anymore. They weren't even seeing patients. How are they going to adhere to their treatment plan when they're not doing mammograms? Because they can't because they've shut down and they're not really sure what's going on next.

So we started leaning into some of the thought leaders in the organization. People who had been in health care, people who really knew how to communicate with patients at a very granular level. And we started telling these hospitals, you know, it's the worst time to stop communicating with your patients. Right now, patients are frightened. They're scared. They don't know what to do. They want to keep their health care going. Have you thought about transitioning to telehealth? Okay. If you haven't transitioned to telehealth, what about the patient populations who aren't comfortable with telehealth?

We can help you with testing the telehealth platform. We can help with patient instructions. We can have them tested and ready to go by the time the doctor logs on so you don't waste their time. And we had to start thinking, what are all the things we can do with our current technology? Because we weren't getting new development out of this and we learned how to help people power virtual waiting rooms through that texting platform. You know that you got your text messages, message notification, saying you have an appointment. Now we could say, hey, when you arrive to your appointment, please wait in the parking lot. Text us when you get there, let us know where you are and what you're driving and we'll come out and triage you from the car. We'll come out and take your intake forms from the car.

So we started talking about virtual waiting rooms for the first time. We started talking about how to set up and run COVID vaccine clinics. It was one of the biggest implementation feats health care has ever done before. The biggest operations down here in Dallas, they were running a vaccine clinic down at the speedway. And one of our leaders was like, what do you do if someone has to go to the restroom and they're in the car and they're going to hold up all these people? What if a car breaks down? What if someone has an adverse reaction? So our whole team had to replan the year with best practices for doing this. Things you've never done before, health system. And we hadn't done them before either, but we used the same best practices we apply to anything. We created a reopening guide for when they started taking patients again.

How to reopen your practice. How do you communicate with patients? How do you get your doctors on board? How do you test your internal team? If you need to test because someone was maybe exposed? We built all of these assets that are great assets. Of course, they're not super usable today, but we're looking at how we can pivot them into something new. But we realized we were the leaders in patient communication and patient experience. We just really had to dig deep. And so now I think our thought leadership is one of the strongest things we have going for this marketing team. We know we need to build up the bottom of the funnel a little bit more. But that experience going through COVID, taking a little bit of risk, blowing up the current plan, which if we were talking about patient action when a patient couldn't take an action, we would have been marketing, it would have looked really ridiculous for us to be talking to a market who was saying, we can't even open our doors. What are you talking about Stericycle. So it just showed me like, don't be afraid. We'll be like having plans as marketers. We like having the whole year of content planned. We like having campaigns planned. We like knowing what's coming. But sometimes it doesn't make sense. Sometimes something's going to happen in your neighborhood or your market or another entry into the market. Right now in health care, we're dealing with retail health care and Amazon getting into health care, and you can't be blind to that. You've got to be agile as a marketing leader and not be afraid to change something if it will make sense in your market.

Daniel Burstein: So I'm so glad you bring up that Amazon example because, you know, I get a chance to pick a lot of podcasts too, and they always ask me kind of this question about COVID and you know, what's the new world going to be like and when are we going to get to get back to how things were and all these things? And what I say is, you know, it's a marketer, especially now as a digital marketer. Like things are changing so quickly, they're always changing. You have to know that you're not on concrete, you're on moving sand, and you always have to figure out where it's changing. And so there is no normal, like things are not going to get back to anything specific. They're just going to constantly change. And so COVID that was writ large, right? And we all experienced it.

But like you said, well, sometimes shoot, Amazon is going to come and be your competitor the next day or, you know, the economy is going to change or there's a million other things that are going to happen. COVID is not the only time this is going to happen. And so what I wonder is, you know, you talked very boldly in the beginning and I appreciate your passion for it on the brand promise. You know, we talk about the value proposition and it seems to me like in these situations that is a clear guiding light for how you should act. Right? Because essentially, while the specific content change or the specific conversation, it all rolled up to that same brand promise. Right?

Sarah Bennight: Right. I mean, it's like you said, it's a guiding light, it's a beacon of what you can and can't or should do. And in our case, we had to use, like you said, the specific product value propositions. Okay, we don't use it for this now, but it is a value proposition and it can be applied in this way. Marketers, especially product marketers, are really good at that. But you have to create something out of nothing. It's got to come from something that already exists, which is your value propositions.

Daniel Burstein: And let me see if I got this right. So from that pivot, from that change, those new marketing tactics contributed nearly 40% of new revenue that year, is that right?

Sarah Bennight: Yes, we implemented HubSpot in 2020, in March. It's oddly enough right before the pandemic hit. And we had signed up to contribute 25% of all new generated revenue in that year. We said marketing will contribute to 25% of that, we’ll influence 25% of that. And at the end of the year we had influenced 40%. A lot of that was in new types of business deals, new contracts that we hadn't even used before. We were running COVID support lines and for info lines that patients could just call and ask questions. I think I was exposed. What do I do next? Hospitals didn't have the infrastructure ready for this big thing that hit their network. And we were just ready to go because marketing was tuned into what we can do really well. And we just huddled and said, let's go do this with some sales input and some leadership input.

And we were able to get some new types of business like vaccine scheduling. We hadn't done that before. Now this year we're saying you should schedule your flu shots online. Parents that are busy for kids vaccines are more likely to look online and say, yeah, this slot works with my work schedule. Absolutely, book it so and I'm a busy mom, so I get that. But we were able to use those principles and continue to build good product and good marketing content based on what we were able to do in 2020.

Daniel Burstein: And you mentioned implementing HubSpot. I think that ties into our how you learned the next lesson. Not all marketing metrics are equal, show leadership a story, not raw data. So how did that implementation help kind of highlight this for you?

Sarah Bennight: Sure. We were using Marketo before, and Marketo is a great tool, but it was such a big animal for such a smaller marketing team that we weren't really able to jump in every day and see data coming in. We had to build reports or ask for reports from the operations team. So HubSpot was a new and unique opportunity to have somewhat out of the box dashboards where people who weren't as buried in the data like myself, could just jump in and say, How is this piece of content doing? How is this email open rate? How is this working? But what I've noticed is I have recently taken over running all of the metrics for our leadership meetings and say in the last six months.

And it used to be done with a combined effort across a couple of different business lines and the person who was there before me was really big on just showing raw data. And we got a lot of questions like, Oh, that's a bad number. Well, that's a good number. That's a, you know, you see red, you see an arrow down. And what I'm trying to show people now and some marketers are already doing this. And if you've had platforms like this for many years, you should already be doing this. But we're just now in a situation where we're coming into our second full year of data analytics and we can start seeing annual patterns. So we know in July our results aren't going to be as great as far as big pieces of content. So maybe we won't post them in July because there's a big dip in July. I can show leadership this is a trend across the past two years, COVID Independent is the same thing. It dips in July. People are on vacation. People are getting ready to go back to school and it will pop back up in September. The trend line shows that this is going to turn around. So while that number looks bad, the blog bounce rate looks bad or the views look bad, the views to submission look bad, it will come back around because we have data to show that this is just the natural journey that buyers are taking through the process of our content plan.

The blog bounce rate again is another thing.  We've had some of our highest blog views this year that we've had in the last two years, but the blog bounce rate has gone up. But we're doing a lot of work on search. So people are finding us more so yes, the bounce rate's going to go up. More people are hitting that page. More people are going to say, oh, this isn't really what I was looking for. So you can't just look at one number and say, oh, your blog bounce rate's gone up. This is really bad. Look at the whole story. More people are coming to your Web site. Maybe they're going to another page. Maybe they're maybe they're doing something else.

And if that's not telling a good story, then maybe that bad number does need to be looked into and fixed. But I think people get to kneejerk reaction with certain metrics. They want to know how are these metrics, how many views, what's the click through rate? And I think we need to look more holistically at the full journey and see what people are doing across the journey and look at trends line in order to make decisions.

And so when I talk to leadership now, I try to tell them the story and give them the information behind that story of, yeah, this is going down, but I know it's going to come up next month. And then when it does come up next month, I can just remind them, remember, this was low last month, now it's coming back up. This is a trend we see industry right at this time of year.

Daniel Burstein: And I don't want to overlook that blog example. I think that's a fantastic example. So new when it comes to marketing. I found especially now with digital, I started when things were print there was a lot less choices. So many choices now, so many choices right? And so, you know, I found that there's not one right answer. There's these dials that you can twist and turn and try different things and they will have knock on effects.

And so you mentioned, I think before, the blog bounce rate was under 80% and the time on page was less than 2 minutes. So people weren't leaving. We weren't sure if they're engaged. And now to be clear, so now you've changed the strategy of how you're getting people to your blog, and that is why the numbers have changed, right. It wasn't just because, we talked about, two things can happen I guess COVID, competition comes. There's a change in the macro environment, right, knowing what's going on. But the second thing is changing the tactics themselves and understanding those knock on effects. Do I have that right?

Sarah Bennight: Yeah, absolutely We've worked to optimize all of our blogs for SEO in certain keywords and just we started doing that a year ago. So yes, more people are coming to our blogs now. The Web traffic is noticeably going up because we're making the effort to make sure every piece of content  is SEO optimized now. And we consistently look at our keywords and make pivots where necessary.

And we have content sitting on some of these search and organic and paid calls to make sure that they know that this is a really important part of their job and they own it too. So yeah, in the last year since we've dedicated a lot of effort to that, more people are finding it, which is great. Yes, our bounce rate's going to go up. Now, we need to figure out, is the bounce rate up because we're not using the keyword appropriately, do we need to have some other contextual information in there that helps them not bounce? And over time we'll start looking at that. But I think some people see like an 89% bounce rate and freak out. But if you have a thousand people still reading it and they're staying on the page for 6 minutes, those are the people you want anyway. Like those are the people who are going to go down your funnel and start reading more content. The people who bounce off your page. It probably just wasn't the right fit.

Daniel Burstein: And that's great. And that's the challenge with seeing that little red highlight in the in the data, oh no it's red. But I think another thing, another lesson, I mean, for me that I've learned in my career that goes right along with this is when you're looking at data, that trend line isn't going to stay a straight line if you change things. So in B2B, a big place, I see this is demos, right? So that the organization can look and they say, hey, we've got an 80% conversion rate on the demos, let's get more people taking demos. Let's do anything we can get people making demos. Well, you know, buy them a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse dinner or whatever, you know, send them a Roku, whatever.

And you know, you got to realize, well, the reason you probably had such a high conversion rate on the demos is that was a super highly motivated group that just was raising their hand, wanting a demo. If you're going to open it to a bigger audience, that might be a better strategy. You're getting more people involved, but you're not necessarily going to get that straight trend line that that you saw before. Right?

Sarah Bennight: Right. Or they're just wanting a steak dinner. Right.

Daniel Burstein: Exactly.

Sarah Bennight: And once you take that offer away, then are people still going to really engage you’re your demo.

Daniel Burstein: Yes, yes, exactly. So all right we can learn from data, but we can really learn from too is the people that we work with on our career, the people we collaborate with. And in this part of the podcast, Sarah is going to share some of the lessons she learned from those people she collaborated with. And the first person she called out was John Lynn, the founder of Healthcare Scene. And from him, you learned always give something before you expect something, which I love. So tell me how you learned that lesson.

Sarah Bennight: Yeah. So I met John Lynn at a HIMMS conference, which is one of the biggest health I.T. technology conferences in the world. And they always have a little section for the health I.T. marketing community and PR community. And so health care marketers would typically go and go to the session and just hear what other health care marketers are doing in the industry. They'd share some thought leadership, a lot of networking opportunities and I met him there and said, Hey, I'm a recovering Health Care Product Manager. I really want to get into marketing and I just need a network to help me do it. We didn't have a big marketing department where I was working. It was kind of a one-person marketing shop, and he invited me to the Health I.T. Marketing Conference, which Healthcare Scene puts on, and he gave me a free conference. So I really just had to pay for travel, which my company was  happy to do for me, thankfully. And he had me come to the conference for free and said, The only thing I'm going to ask of you at the end of it is that you give me an honest review. Was the content helpful? Would you recommend this to people on your team? Would you recommend it to people outside of your company?

And I was very willing to do that, but in the conference itself, you know, they said, this is our principle. Always give something before you expect something and be a giver of your time or be a giver of your expertise, be a giver of your ear to listen before you ever expect something from somebody. And I think it's a great lesson for everybody to learn, especially leaders. Sometimes we get so bogged down by the we got to get this, this, this done. Here are my expectations and you can go to team members and just give them a to do list. But I try to start all of my one on ones and my meetings with my team or with our team meetings by either giving them some interesting information or giving them a call out or a, Hey, this is really great this thing you did, thank you for coming to work today. I know things are really tough right now or, you know, hey, why don't you log off at 3:00 and on Monday? I really want to hit this really hard. Why don't you log off at 3:00? You’ve done great work this week. If you're done with everything, give them some time back to spend with their family. It's been a huge lesson for me to learn as I've moved into leadership, but also I think you can apply in marketing too, right?

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. I want to actually ask about that because you know, first of all. Yeah, what a great lesson for life, too. That's how we should act in life. But so when we have these personal interactions I've noticed, like we can see like, okay, the humanity in the other person hopefully. You're kind of managing and pushing too hard sometimes you overlook that, but you see that humanity and the other person, you're like, okay, but we need this kind of give and get relationship.

But when it just becomes, like we said, numbers in a database, all these customers that we never meet, it can be very easy not to take that approach. And so we have a free digital marketing course and Flint McGlaughlin teaches actually in Session five. He says, Don't ask before you have communicated enough, perceive value. So Don't ask being like a CTA or something before you have communicated enough perceived value.

So it sounds like you've taken that philosophy. I know you haven't gotten directly into it, but you mentioned sounds like there's content as part of what you're doing. You took this real teaching approach during COVID and even before COVID. So how do you kind of live that value with your customers?

Sarah Bennight: Yeah, so one of them is in thought leadership campaigns or any thought leadership we build. We try to give a lot more of the information upfront before we ever ask anybody a lead, a contact, a client to do anything. We've done a lot more in the last year and made a great effort to ungate a lot of the landing pages that we had where we were really just very, very lead focused. And we looked at our landing pages, said, What are we giving this person? Before we asked them to give us personal information that will put them in the database, and then they'll get more information. What are we giving them that can help them be better at their job, that can help them make an impact where they are today, that can help them motivate their team through some really challenging times that health care has been upon for the last two years.

We have to start looking at that as marketers instead of just being very CTA and lead driven. It's hard. I know it's hard because you have some cool stats or some data that you've spent money on for research. But we have found that people are much more willing to give when they've been given something in advance. And so a lot of the times we do an annual patient engagement survey and we interview customers, patients and consumers about their health care experiences and their choices that they make. And what are they looking to do in the next year? And this is really valuable information for the health care. We've learned that if we give more of the raw data up front on that landing page, we had many more downloads this year than we did the year before, where we were just trying to be like, Hey, there's a health care consumer data for patient engagement. You're going to want to read this. It's really, really important, you know, flashing lights and all the stuff that marketers do, you know, B2C and B2B to try to get people to click now, as a lot of people are measured by clicks and we have had better conversions, we've had better conversations and we just we've had more people interested.

Even on the press side, and the press people already had the PDF, they didn't have to give us anything. But when we shared with them really a consolidated view of here are the high data points so you don't have to spend your valuable and precious time reading the 20 page report. Here's what you're going to care about. And it matters to people. It matters to people that you're not wasting their time, especially now. People have worked harder than they ever had during COVID. Their homes have become their office and people are more burned out than they ever have been. And so that spirit of giving is, I think, going to be what makes good companies great in the next year in the marketing department, it's going to be the people who are willing to give and just not be so chasing that click or chasing that lead to the point of where they just say, I don't want to hear from you anymore and this isn't a great relationship for me.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I hope that is inspirational for everyone listening because that kind of rusty, creaky gait that we as marketers abuse, we feel like, boy, if we could just get people to fill out that form we got them. And then so the two examples that came up that excited me in my career pretty recently when I hear you say that. One, we did something similar to what you mentioned to the landing page. We had some a report from swipe files where we just had the idea. Let's just put everything on the landing page and then we'll also include a form. And you can download this, you know, in a kind of nice PDF form that people would want. And it worked really wel, had a really high conversion rate, which was again surprising because the information was right there.

Sarah Bennight: I was already there, right.  And when you talk about this to people who've been marketing forever, they're like, are you crazy? No, this is the way the world is shifting now. Like  I said, people are busier than ever. And it demonstrates value. You give them something of value. It's like any good relationship, a marriage, a partnership, a friendship where you don’t want to be take, take, take, take all the time. So I think it's a good lesson for marketers, too, because sales and marketing tend to be the most take of all, I believe, or they can be because they're so revenue focused, they're so numbers focused. And I think we can all be better at that and I can be better myself. We don't do this in every aspect of our campaigns and we're trying to get there. But sometimes, you know, we just need we need some downloads and this is what we do.

But I'm trying to look at everything where people come into our page or people experience us on social media and just, you know, try to figure out. And speaking of social media, last year we did this really wonderfully. We had a very talented social media manager that wonderfully found an amazing role and unfortunately not with us. Like she moved on and was promoted and super proud of her. But last year we did a lot of social media campaigns that really highlighted culture and also community things like Juneteenth, like Pride Month. And it wasn't anything to drive revenue. It was just showing that we're aware that there are things going on and hey, did you know about this? This is really important in health care. Did you know it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Did you know that men live sicker and die younger like it's men's health Month in June. And none of it was really created to drive clicks or to get more people or followers on social media. It was really to show like this is a caring team and maybe it's on the recruiting side going to be beneficial because I think that's where you can really shine with culture.

But we spend a lot of time last year building some new assets to just give it to people, just to say, did, you know, we thought this might be interesting for your day to day. And I think we got a lot of just people just interested in us and we did get more followers. That wasn't the goal of it. But, you know, I'm happy to do those things and to entertain those ideas when the team brings them to me.

Daniel Burstein: Well, and that recruiting side is crucial. I don't want to overlook that part now. When many companies I think you're in the same boat having the challenge of getting enough talent on board. And so I say another thing where that can really help that spirit of giving is, that is motivational for the people that are working there, those content creators. And that is motivational, I mean, you look around and you see other marketing, you're like, That's the type of place I'd want to work.

And so like one of our own experiences I mentioned, we have a free digital marketing course now while we used to have a paid course. And Flint McGlaughlin, who's the CEO and Founder of MECLABS Institute, which the parent of Market Sherpa. But Flint called me one day and he said, You know, Dan, I'm kind of sick of having our best stuff just behind this gate where so few of our audience sees it. Only the people that can afford to pay us. So what if we just tried something crazy and just took all our best stuff and just made the course entirely free and just put it all out there?

And so yes you need a business plan, a marketing plan and all those things. But I would say as a content creator, you know, as someone who works there, that is a much more motivational mission to have of, hey, let's get all this out there and let's teach people. And, you know, in a recent interview I did one of the interviewees were bringing bring it up. I mean, not only listening to this fantastic podcast, of course, but, you know, seeing those videos and the course and, you know, feeling that connection and that pull to it versus, you know, other places where, you know, things are hidden and they didn't have quite that connection. Oh, you got me excited. Sorry. You touched on something I'm very passionate about.

Sarah Bennight: Well, and that's something that marketers who are struggling with, and honestly, I'm hiring right now, too, and having a really hard time filling seats as well. I feel that very deeply and critical roles as well. But one thing I always tell people you can do if you're willing to give it, there's a lot of gated content people have created or gated checklists or gated this gated that is just break it up into digestible bite sized pieces and pull them into a blog or pull them into an email and share it with people. And then say, if you want to read more, download the full PDF here, or give them part of the pdf and then say for the rest of it you know, we'd love to hear your feedback on this or whatever, but it helps with content planning too. And content, you know, if you're a one man marketing shop or a one woman marketing shop and you need to be creating a ton of content, you have to content hack and that's a great way to do it.

Take a gated resource that's still relevant, ungate it, pull out the pieces, write some blogs, maybe make an infographic out of it. And we've ungated all of our case studies we've ungated all of our infographics because those are very high value things that we want people to know about us. And in doing so, they understand our story better and are much more willing when they do connect, they're much more willing or more likely to be a qualified lead, rather than more downloads of people who just wanted to read some data and aren't really necessarily interested in having some services with us.

Daniel Burstein: Or man when I see now and I was sold on this recently is that they'll just use the term spam, they'll just spam people, they're just going to spam people. And boy, if they could just click and download your piece and you got them right, you got them and you trapped them, now they're on your list like right. I don't know. Good luck on that. I know it's hard to acquire customers, but I don't know I wouldn't take that approach. Which ties into actually the next lesson I want to talk about, you said find your joy. You found my joy. I'm excited. You said find your joy. You learn this from Corey White, Chief Commercial Officer at Stericycle. So. Well, tell us about this recent experience.

Sarah Bennight: Sure. So we were at a sales kickoff. And as you mentioned, Corey is the Chief Commercial Officer. And all of the leaders at Stericycle that work on the commercial side, Ammon Woods is one of them. Lance Mickelsen, our VP of business development, as well as my boss, Kelly Hilton, the VP of marketing. And they all have these not only the sunshine principles to use when you're working with your clients, but also ways we should conduct ourselves, the ways we should do business and he had a slide up during his session at the sales kickoff that said, Find your joy.

And it really struck me because we had been so busy pivoting in COVID, launching new products last year. We had a bunch of different like we've we launched multi-language code for online scheduling multi-language for class and event registration. We had launched natural language processing for our text messaging. And we were so just go, go, go, go that I had forgotten why I really wanted to be a marketer.  When I went to John Lynn that first time and said, I want to transition from product into more product marketing, how do I do it?

What was it that made me love marketing? And when I was little, I used to love billboards. I am such a sucker for a clever billboard. In Texas, there's a wine called Clos du Bois, and they have these billboards all over the place and they're trying to make fun of like phonetic pronunciation of French words. So they're like, say magnifique and they phonetically spell it.

And they had such an impression on me. I was a biology major. I was nowhere near the marketing world. I was all pre-med. I wanted to be in health care. And these billboards just kept, I started making my own billboards and scratching out little ideas and taglines and sayings. And, you know, ultimately it was one day maybe I don't need to be a doctor. Maybe I just need to be in something more creative. But I had forgotten that. I had forgotten the joy of creating something really valuable, really interesting. And I also forgot why I loved being in health care. I mean, making an impact on patients every day, that's a pretty high call. And I happened to be I was telling the team it was a dark and rainy day in Texas in May, which is very unusual sometimes. And I was telling the team, reminding them of this Corey White message to find your joy. And I said, I know we're short staffed right now. I know you guys are working extra. You're doing things that aren't really your job, which I don't believe anyone should ever say that. But, you know, I recognize as a leader that sometimes it's not your job and you're going above and beyond.

But I need you guys to take a step back and find joy in what you're doing. Whether that's one thing a day where you block off an hour and do some research on the market, if you're on the creative side or you go and read about our competition or whether that's my designer going and taking an adobe course or something, you got to find your joy. And what made you come to this job in the first position. And that day, my copywriter sent me a bunch of editing for final editing, and I thought, You know what, I'm just going to make an event out of this like an experience. I'm going to turn off my email, because I try to edit and I'm getting teams messages, my emails going off, my kids are trying to text me and ask me, you know, Can I go here? Can I do this? I turned everything off. I got myself some coffee, I leaned into the rain, you know, the pitter patter. And I was just kind of reading it from a lens of, remember those billboards when I was driving down the highway, I-35 in Texas, and how much they inspired me because they were telling a story. And can I make sure that this writing is that storytelling and is there a way to do something more like that?

And so looking at it from a lens of that, something very I mean, editing can be a beating. Anyone that does editing or copy can I mean, you're a copy editor or a writer. You can you understand that like editing can just it can suck the life out of you if you're doing it constantly, you're not doing it through the right lens. But when I remembered find your joy. Find joy in something you're doing today, that was the thing I picked that day because it happened to be something that I needed to do and something I could do and something I could find joy in.

So I try to encourage everyone to try to find one thing every day that's your joy. And sometimes that might just be a one on one. I have with a team member I haven't caught up with in a long time or telling them what a great job they did on a piece, on a project they just finished. I love coaching and I love enabling people to create things together with the team. So, you know, it might be something very minor taking a phone call, answering an email and forget the monotony of your day and find one thing that just really inspires you. And it might change your whole outlook on what you're doing and maybe prevent you from a little bit of burnout.  That being said, I also believe time away from work and creating space and having the personal life, you know, have equal footing.

Work life balance. I know it's a buzzword, but it's so important and one thing that brought me some interest at the beginning of the year was someone said, take 5 minutes every day. This is going to sound really ridiculous, they said take 5 minutes every day, lay on the ground on your back and put your feet up on a wall and just sit there and don't do anything. Listen to your breath. Listen to the sounds around you. If they're birds, if it's rain, and just sit in that relaxing position, it causes your spine to relax. It causes your hips to open your shoulders to open it. It creates space in your neck when you're sitting on a computer all day and then the blood flows down to your brain.

And I realized this is helping me be more creative because I'm getting all this oxygenated blood to my brain. So I started doing that before I had to write or go into a brainstorming session. Like I said, this may sound really crazy, and if anyone knows me who's listening to this now, they're thinking, Okay, Sarah now puts her legs up every day. But seriously, like something that simple. Take a walk and listen to a podcast can be the joy in your day that just inspires you to keep on going.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, you probably had good ideas too, because you just took a minute and let it breathe and you just kind of let your mind go where it needed to go. So, you know, it's funny you say that, on the East Coast and if you ever heard of South of the Border but South the Border is kind of this tourist trap between North and South Carolina and they have tons of billboards. And so when I was a kid, we’d moved down to Florida from New Jersey because, you know, we were escaping all the syringes washing up on the shore there. And, you know, so we’d drive back and forth between Florida and New Jersey and, you know, there weren't iPods back then. And so you'd stare out the window and they were just so exciting. These billboards for South of the Border.

And but I think that taps into something deeper. And it really it's kind of the nexus for this podcast. The thing that I always loved about advertising and marketing is, you know, as a copywriter, you tend to have a book, you have a portfolio. And I loved showing it. You know, usually it's when you're doing a job interview, which I've never found to be the most fun thing and like brag about yourself this year. But the fun thing is to show your portfolio. And it's not just the work, it's the story behind the work, because we as marketers and it's kind of how I made it in marketing, we make things, we are creators. And when you are a creator, you are making creative choices.

And so the thing I love about find your joy doing sip in that cup of coffee while you're editing, putting your feet up, taking a walk, whatever it is, realize that what you're doing, we get lost in the data and the technology and the business plans and strategy and the project plan, which is why I like having a project planner to not get so involved in project managing> But realize you’re creator and really the end goal is getting that message out into the marketplace to the right person, that ideal customer. And you get to make all these creative choices and try them out and see what is the best way to communicate that message. And to me, that is where the biggest joy is. I think that Sarah is just a great reminder for everyone listening. Hopefully they log off the podcast, put their feet up for 10 minutes, do whatever they need to do, but to really tap into kind of the deep joy that this this role can bring.

Sarah Bennight: Yeah, absolutely.

Daniel Burstein: So on. And at last person we're going to talk about is Kristin Petersen. She's a registered nurse and a case manager at Cook Children's Hospital. She's retired now. And from her, you learned you can have it all. So tell us who Kristin is and how you learned this from her.

Sarah Bennight: Sure. So Kristin is my mom and she was a labor and delivery nurse when I was little. And she worked the night shift because she felt she could work from 3 p.m. to 11, be there when we wake up in the morning, get us to school. And I had a brother, so she, you know, she worked with us and was very present inside the home but had this amazing career. I wanted to originally be a nurse and when I was going to school and she said, go all the way and be the doctor. Now, I kind of wish I was a nurse because they need nurses everywhere now, but she just really had a great work life balance. I didn't know what that was back then. I didn't know, how hard that could be to manage a successful home and to give attention to your spouse or your partner, to be there for your children, but also to be an extremely successful businesswoman. She eventually went into case management and leadership and retired from Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth, which is one of the premier children's hospitals in the U.S. And my children go there if they ever need anything. They're fabulous.

But she went more into an 8 to 5 job for a while in management and was just very, very present. We didn't hear a lot about work drama. When I got older, she started sharing some more things. But, you know, she didn't come home from work and offload. She didn't come home from work. And maybe it was that she had the drive home that she could, you know, listen to her music, roll her windows down. I think all of us miss that now, working from home, even if you think you love working from home, you miss that drive home to decompress. Right. But she was able to just I really admired her and looked up to her for being health care, for being a woman who chose to go back and get her bachelor's degree after she had children while working a job and juggled everything flawlessly. Good grades, good leader. She was a listener. She was a fighter and a champion of her team. I have never seen somebody so fiercely guard and protect their team like their life depended on it and just a great role model.

And she taught me I can have it all. And honestly, I started after I got my biology degree. I didn't really want to work in a lab. I'm more of a people person, so I was immediately looking for something else outside of there. And I landed a role as a account manager for a manufacturing company and worked in telecom. Obviously, that went south in 2001. And then I married and had several kids and stayed home for a while, actually have an eight-year gap on my resume. And I was thinking, you know, I can't have these kids and have them be successful and have them grow up to be responsible human beings and go back to work and have something I'm really passionate about that that becomes a career. I'm just going to have these little one-off jobs here and there, just to keep me busy, just to keep me creating things.

And then I remembered my mom did it like she was the role model for me. She was the reason I wanted to work and have kids and have it all. And so, I started reaching out to people, finding out if somebody would take a chance on me with an eight-year gap on my resume. I think it's a lot more common now. I don't think people have near the challenges explaining that as we did back then. And I found someone, a leader with a health care company that took a chance on me. And so that's where I started to get where I am now. Which has been about 13 years in health care I.T. and health care marketing specifically. But she was ultimately the drive to get me into something that wasn't just an account manager at a manufacturing company, which I wasn't really passionate about.

I went and worked in credit union e-statements and I just wasn't really excited about that. But once I got into health care and I was reading government regulations, which I know sounds like a snooze fest, but there are a lot of regulations. I was the HIPAA privacy manager at my company for a while, so I had to read a lot of regulations, but it was something that I was up at night reading. I was reading on the weekends. I was following people on LinkedIn. I was working with folks like John Lynn, trying to build a network and learn what are these people do? Why do they love what they do? How can I get there and what do I want to do next? And she just really created that spirit of you can have it all, but you also have to have balance.

It can't be everything's career or everything's family. There has to be this really nice balance. And when you work that out really well and you find a company or a leader who embodies that, and you can just naturally get work life balance because you don't have someone who's forcing you to work every week and you don't have somebody who expects you to put in double time at the drop of a hat unless it's needed. Obviously, there are times, but, you know, that's what I look for when I when I'm looking for a new company or who do I want to work for next? Or when I have bosses, you know, I look for that who also believes in that work life balance? Who believes that time away from work will actually make you more efficient and better at what you do? It'll make you, you know, like the heart grow fonder when you're absent. I believe that's true in work too, right?

I missed writing stuff while I was gone on my vacation last week and I had the opportunity to log on one day because I had to help run a webinar and I just sat there and enjoyed it. Because I was on my vacation. It was like I was watching this, this webinar and these thought leaders talk about health care marketing and it was really exciting to me even though I was doing work. But you have to be in an environment that allows for that and supports that or supports the gap on your resume and wants to get you to the next level and will sit down and champion you until you get there.

Daniel Burstein: Well as I say in this podcast, we're the artists of commerce. We are artists. And so what I found too is, you know, it can't just be all output. That's why your week vacations so important. That's why that work life balance is support. Whatever you do at night, whatever you do in the morning, you need that input too. You need something to feed your soul. So then when you tap in there for that creativity, it's there, right?

So I wonder now, like you're the leader now, right? You're the leader. So I wonder, you know, I was thinking we did a webinar about analytics based on customer knowledge and really our employees are sometimes our internal customers. And the first lesson was learn more about who your customers are and how to best interact with them. So I wonder now as a leader, how do you learn about your team to make sure that they can have it all?

Sarah Bennight: Sure, I'm naturally, naturally a relational person. My husband would probably roll his eyes while he heard me say that because he is such an introvert and he's like, why will you just talk to people in the grocery store and just randomly start learning their life story and sharing your life story? I'm an open book and sometimes I air on the side of talking too much.

And so in the last year we've had some transition. And I've been over just the strategic arm of marketing and in the last six months I've taken over the whole team. So the operational team, the sales force team, the people who run HubSpot and everyone now reports up to me in that marketing arm under my business service line. And so I've had to learn a lot of new direct reports now for the first time. And I'm trying, so I actually have a thing on my desk. It's like, listen, listen to what they're going through. Be on camera when you can or if you can, if they feel comfortable but don't force it. Because some people, one of their perks from working from home is I'm going to sit here in my pajamas and do it.

And if they're not client facing, I'm okay with that. But when you watch them while they're talking, you can really tell if they're having a good day, if they're having a bad day, what their body language is, how they respond to encouragement, how they respond to constructive criticism. And you have to learn how to approach people and they're all different.

I have people who, you know, give something before you get something where you have to say when they produce a project, hey, this is really great. Here are the things I love about this. Before you can even start approaching anything that's remotely critical with, my graphic designer, I've had to spend a lot of time with her with trust on me, like I have your back as a leader. You have to trust this and you're going to go some amazing places. And she has. But we had to work the first year of me managing her to just say, do you trust me? Do you trust that I have your back? Do you trust that I have your best interest? She's a lot more shy than some of my other team members.

I have team members who are open books and tell me everything they tell me about their family, they’re telling me about the challenging situation they're going through. I kind of think of myself as a coach role, right? We're putting together this football team and I'm not even the quarterback. I mean, I have played that role, I have to frequently play that role. But I am this coach who has to make sure these people show up for their game and they're in the best position. And maybe that means me saying, Hey you need to step away from your desk for a while. Why don’t you go on a walk or go play with your baby or put your feet up on the wall? But you're not thinking about this in the in the most constructive way. And it's just because you're tired or it's because you're not feeling well or it's because you just came off a call that was a little contentious. And I think folks who are good at reading people can stop situations from happening sometimes before they spiral out of control.

I've also learned that I have a lot of moms and single dads as well on the team and they need a little bit of flexibility. And what does that look like post-COVID? People were schooling their children from home or they had lost their daycare or they didn't feel safe putting their kids in daycare because they weren't ready to get the vaccine at that time. Or they can't get childcare because no one's available right now. So, you know, we've had to be very coaching and supportive and flexible. And then, you know you just have to learn what are they going through right now? And is there any burden I can take off their plate that can just help them shine in their moment today, help them find their joy and that’s kind of how I that's how I go about it. I have one on ones with them. I try to do it every other week, but I think weekly is even better. I just don't want to stress them out with too many meetings now because they're doing a lot, but it's their time. It's not my time to give them feedback. It's not my time to say, Hey, here are a lot of to do's and we use standups for that. We use planning meetings for that. This is their time to just say, I don't want to talk about work right now. Can I tell you about, you know, something, my family's going through. Yeah. Please tell me what you're going through so I can understand. And then how can I help you that in a way that supports you but also supports the business goals?

Because as a leader, you can't just bend everything to the team and make this really flexible work environment. You also have a business to run, right? So you have to kind of be a champion of both and find the balance there. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. You know, sometimes people just don't have the right role or they want to move on or they need this and you can't meet that need and then it's time for them to move on. And I think that's okay. I think that's how people grow in in their roles in the industry. If I have a successful person that comes in and they really want to do something like the social media manager I mentioned earlier, she came in fresh out of college, worked for me for three years, and she in that time became a social media person.

She started writing content and she really grew. And I knew the minute she spreads her wings, she's leaving. She's going to go do really big things. I think that is a win. I mean, I'm sad that we're not working together anymore, but I consider her a colleague and we'll always give her a strong reference in the future. And not everyone thinks that way. You know, some bosses think if someone leaves me, they take it very personally and hold some contentiousness to them. I don't know if I answered your question, but that's kind of what I think of myself as a coach, but also an advocate for both the business and the team. And I have to figure out what's the best fit for both.

Daniel Burstein: I think that answered it beautifully and I can see a real care for the people you work with in what you said there. So that's great. Well, Sarah, we covered so many facets of what it means to be a marketer in the year 22, if you had to break it down, if I had asked you, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer.

Sarah Bennight: The first one I would say was be curious, learn, be open to learning. Marketing is changing so fast and you have to learn your market. You have to learn about your target. You have to listen to your clients and know when to say when or when to pivot. And the only way you can do that is to be curious.

I think I was naturally because like I said, I have a biology degree, so I was always testing things and testing hypotheses and I'm not afraid to test, try new things. But if you're naturally curious, I think that makes a great marketer. Why do things work the way they do? Why do people like things the way they like them? You know, what motivates people? What makes somebody want to read a piece of content that I wrote? So be curious.

I would say number two is, to be bold and take risks. I once consulted with a startup company who had been sitting on a marketing campaign they had never launched for six months, and I asked them why they hadn't launched this campaign and they said, It's not perfect. It's not working the way we wanted. It doesn't have the right tagline. And I said, How do you know it's not perfect? Have you asked somebody, has somebody seen this and giving you feedback? Have you measured it? Well, no, because we haven't launched it yet. Well, then how do you know it's not perfect. Maybe you learn by taking the risks and putting something out there.

But failure to launch is always just going to be a fail. There's no chance to win if you don't take the risk. So I would say be bold and take risks. But, you know, go back to brand promise and remember to stay in your lane, but be bold within your lane.

And then be a teacher. Be someone who educates your internal team members on what does it mean to work for this company? What does it mean to support patient engagement in a modern way? What does it mean to work for your company? What are those values that you bring to the client? Don't just give them a sales sheet, educate them on the story, and be a teacher, but also be teachable as well.

Daniel Burstein: Great. Well, Sarah, you taught us today that we should find our joy every day. And this right here, this conversation was my joy for today. So thank you very much.

Sarah Bennight: Great! That makes me happy. I've really enjoyed being on the show and thank you so much. I hope you guys have a great day.

Daniel Burstein: Absolutely, and I hope everyone listening takes that advice. Take at least 5 minutes and find your joy today as well.  Thanks, everyone, for listening.

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