I discussed asking questions in leadership, simplicity in marketing projects, and understanding marketing metrics with Jonathan Kaufman, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Sage Dental.
Listen to episode #74 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast to glean some marketing career insights.
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Good marketing isn't just about catchy slogans or flashy ads; it's about understanding the human psyche. The psyche of our customers, yes, but our own as well.
So in this episode we’ll delve into a psychological concept called ‘action bias’ – this is the idea that we, as humans, often lean towards taking action, even when standing still might be the better choice.
Or as my latest guest aptly put it in his podcast guest application – Ask yourself, ‘what happens if I do nothing?’
To unpack that lesson, and discuss more insights from his career journey, I spoke with Jonathan Kaufman, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Sage Dental.
Originally founded in 1997, Sage Dental has 100 affiliated practices, and it has a 98% three-year growth rate.
Kaufman manages a team of 60, including the new patient management team.
Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.
Some lessons from Kaufman that emerged in our discussion:
The biggest lesson Kaufman learned in his career isn't necessarily from something he made, but it's an experience he had sitting around a leadership team. He was early in his C-level career and the CEO said a word that stuck out to him during a meeting. It was the word ‘asymptotic,’ which means ‘of or relating to an asymptote.’ The context of the CEO’s story was that we always try and climb to zero, but never quite get there.
When he said that everybody in the room laughed, because what he was saying and how he was using the word was apparently funny. Kaufman didn’t find it particularly funny because he had absolutely no idea what the CEO was talking about. He couldn't understand the word and didn't understand how the CEO was using it.
Kaufman was a newly appointed chief marketing officer from the University of Arizona, sitting around with these executives that have graduated from Harvard and MIT and all these big-name schools.
So later in the day, Kaufman called up one of his colleagues and asked, “Hey, what was that word? What did that mean?” and they had told him they didn’t know. So, he called another colleague, and they said they really didn't know either. Then he called another one and he got the same answer as the previous two. What was hilarious about that situation was that no one knew what the word meant. Kaufman later asked the CEO what the significance of the word was.
What he got from this was that everyone is faking it, no matter how smart you are, so it doesn't hurt to ask the question.
The second lesson Kaufman learned was from something he made that was a massive investment. This wasn’t his investment, but carried on from an individual he took over from as CMO. It involved building a large-scale CRM system for multilocation healthcare. The system cost an enormous amount of money, and it was designed originally to solve all the problems of patient communication, retention, etc.
The working document Kaufman put together showing how to use the system was 150 pages and took a year to create. At the end of the day, what he really had was a glorified email system. This whole experience taught him that bigger isn't better. Bigger isn't better in terms of the agency you use, bigger isn't better in terms of the project you undertake, bigger isn't better in terms of really anything.
What is important, however, is doing the simple things as best you can, focusing on those things because they tend to make the largest difference. It isn't about this giant glorified system, but rather, it's about having an acquisition campaign or retention campaign that really converts prospects or converts new patients.
The third major lesson Kaufman shared was around understanding how metrics impact the business. There have been many times where he has asked vendors, both now and during his agency days, about a metric. And most times he gets documents back on search performance, display performance, TV performance and all the above. But the missing equation is how it ultimately impacts the business.
If you don't understand this, as well as the overall business metrics themselves, Kaufman thinks you're going to fail as a marketer. It’s incredibly difficult to balance.
He just interviewed somebody who told him all about how they were at a big corporation prior, and they told him about their marketing performance in detail, down to the decimal point. Kaufman decided to pivot, and he asked them about the overall key performance metrics for the business and how it drove aspects in that business – and it was stunned silence.
He thinks the most important thing that he has made is an analytics platform, in collaboration with a lot of other people, that helps connect marketing performance to the business side.
Kaufman also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with.
via Rob Stearns
Stearns took Kaufman on as an intern at a company he ran in the 2000s, a publicly traded internet company. Formerly, Stearns was the CFO of the Dial Corporation and prior to that, an investment banker. He had incredible success as an investment banker, then took on another venture himself, failed miserably, wrote a wonderful book about coming back from that failure and then restarted his career and then again, was incredibly successful.
This approach taught Kaufman an unbelievable number of life lessons and business lessons. But the most important thing that comes to mind was, he taught Kaufman to ask himself, ‘What happens if I do nothing?’ That's an important question because a lot of people feel that there always must be something they're doing. There must always be some type of change when there's a problem. There must be some solution.
And the biggest question to ask yourself in that scenario is ‘what happens if I do nothing?’ Sometimes the answer to that question will be – it's a better outcome if I do nothing than do something. Sometimes that question triggers you to realize that you must act, but it is a very important question to ask because it's incredibly relatable to all things in life and in business.
via anonymous, a CMO at some very large companies
The next individual is someone Kaufman can’t name directly. He was the chief marketing officer at some very large companies. Kaufman had a very close professional relationship with him and he, without knowing it, was probably one of the biggest teachers of analytics and marketing to Kaufman.
The lesson he taught Kaufman, without teaching Kaufman himself directly, was that you can be really smart, but if you simply can't communicate and you can't interpret the art from the science and communicate that the data doesn't always tell 100% of the story, you are not going to be very successful.
Kaufman saw this incredibly smart human being who taught him an incredible amount about marketing and analytics just be unable to communicate effectively to his colleagues and peers. Because of that he had a significant amount of difficulty getting results and having success. Just because you have the answer to a problem doesn't mean that you can get that problem resolved without having the whole story.
That taught Kaufman that the relationship part and the art part of marketing and business is as important as the data and the financial metrics themselves.
via Tom Marler, CEO, Sage Dental
Marler is Kaufman’s boss today. Prior to this, he was Kaufman’s CEO at Dental One Partners. Marler inevitably is the individual who made him a CMO to begin with. Kaufman has been with Marler since 2015, and while Marler has taught him an enormous number of lessons and information about the business, he has truly been a driver in the development of Kaufman’s career.
Kaufman thinks one of the most important things Marler taught him was to understand your audience and what is important to them.
Whether you're talking to a board of directors, or a group of regional directors or operations team, whomever it may be, you must fully understand your audience, which seems very simple at first. A lot of people will always say your audience is important, but when you're running a business and you're leading a business, your audience is always different. You must tailor the experience to that audience.
And if you can do that through direct analytics, the performance, through stories, through whatever it may be, you can have a far greater impact than anyone else. That also goes for how you present data, how you speak about data, how you speak about information, how you put it in context – there is a different audience for different materials. While that seems so simple, it really isn't practiced well today.
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Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.
Jonathan Kaufman: Everything that we send or communicate from a marketing department standpoint is designed to be as simple as possible with a coherent message that is about the extent that I go in order to help shape how everyone else talks about things. So but that that's more than just the patient communication. That is the technology systems that we build, how our office staff interact, how our dentists interact.
I'll give you an example. In dentistry, you can have like seven different platforms on a computer open at any given time to look at X-rays to chart a patient, to look at doing whatever it is. We try and put all of that into a singular platform, into our own system so that they can actually from one screen.
Intro: Welcome to how I made it in marketing from Marketing Sherpa. We scour pitches from hundreds of creative leaders and uncover specific examples, not just trending ideas or buzzword laden schmaltz, real world examples to help you transform yourself as a marketer. Now here's your host, The senior director of Content and Marketing at Marketing Sherpa Daniel Burstein, to tell you about today's guest.
Daniel Burstein: Good. Marketing isn't just about catchy slogans or flashy ads. It's about understanding the human psyche, the psyche of our customers, yes, but our own as well. So in this episode will delve into a psychological concept called action bias. This is the idea that we as humans often lean towards taking action, even when standing still might be the better choice.
Or, as my next guest aptly put it in his podcast guest application. Ask yourself what happens if I do nothing? Here to unpack that lesson and discuss more insights from his career journey is Jonathan Kaufman, the CMO at Sage Dental. Thanks for joining us, Jonathan.
Jonathan Kaufman: Yeah, I'll be here.
Daniel Burstein: Let's quickly look at John in the background. He was SVP and CMO at Dental One Partners, CMO at HMS Holding Corporation, and for the past five years SVP and CMO at SAGE Dental. Originally founded in 1997, Sage Dental has 100 affiliated practices and it has a 98% three year growth rate. And Kaufman manages a team of 70, including a new patient management team.
So give us an idea what is your day like as SVP and CMO?
Jonathan Kaufman: Well, it's all over the map. If you like multitasking, it's definitely for you. So first thing I do when I come in, I'll look at the various metrics of the business, how we perform the day before, do some analytics. We'll look at the forecast metrics. I'll review the God knows how many emails, and then I'm like an organizational freak.
So I will go on to a variety of different platforms I use Monday to go through different initiatives and tasks. I use that connected with Plexi into my to do, and then I organize the tattoos into my Outlook calendar. So I've got a plan on what I'm actually going to do during the day. Creative meetings. Look at the call center, talk to the team, review some different strategies, different analytics.
It's just it's a smorgasbord of all things related to marketing, analytics and the like. And then I usually go home, get a workout in somewhere, either kind of late afternoon and then I'll get back on and just kind of review and plan for the next day. It's, you know, a lot more complicated and bunch of variety of things every day.
But that's that's kind of the show smorgasbord.
Daniel Burstein: That is a good way to explain a current work. I like that.
Jonathan Kaufman: Yeah, it is. It's a smorgasbord.
Daniel Burstein: All right. Let's take a look at some of the lessons you learned from the things you made. Marketing, as I said before, never done anything, cause I've never been in dentistry, but I just saw something about we actually make things in marketing, we make brands, we make products, make campaigns something that's exciting about the the profession. So your first lesson, everyone is faking it no matter how smart you are.
So it doesn't hurt to ask the question, So what question should we be asking? How did you learn this? So this is.
Jonathan Kaufman: Really kind of funny. So I had this kind of preconceived notion that I wasn't as smart as everybody. I worked with kind of that, fake it, fake it till your make it mentality. So I have a wonderful degree from the University of Arizona in Political Science, which has absolutely nothing to do with marketing or communications. Wanted to be a lawyer, but my peer group leadership team has credentials like Harvard MBA and MIT and Georgia Tech.
So, you know, it's an intimidating group of people, very smart. And so we're sitting around the boardroom and or CEO who is incredibly articulate, saying something in a sentence, and he uses the word and the word is asymptotic, which is basically of like an asymptote. So coming to but never getting to zero. And as he said it, everybody around the table laughed.
Right. They laugh like what he said in the sentence, which was kind of comical. It was a comical sentence using asymptote or asymptotic. I also thought it was a funny word, but I had no idea what it meant. And because everybody else was laughing, I was laughing too. So I had this habit of writing down words since I was like a little kid so that I could look them up later and see what they meant.
I couldn't even spell this word. I didn't even understand that at the time. It was relating to an asymptote. So I go back into my office and I pick up my phone and I call the extension of, you know, one of the very, very educated individuals that was in the room. And they I said, Hey, what word was he using?
And and what does it mean? And they were like, I have no idea. I have no idea. So I thought that was funny. And then I called somebody else and they said, I have no idea. I really don't know. Called somebody else. Dono called somebody else dono. Went in to somebody's office down, out, finally called one individual who was in the meeting and he was like, Oh, yeah, this is what it is.
It's it's asymptotic and it means this. And this is why it was funny. And I sat back and I tell this story to anybody I work with who reports to me or anyone. And I sat back and I realized that all of these super educated people and this is not to put down any of my peers who are incredible people and incredible performers.
But I sat down and realized that no one knew what this word meant and they were all faking it, right? I mean, to some degree they were faking it. And but I was the one who was curious. Right. And I decided that I wanted to figure out what it meant. So it kind of opened my eyes to the fact that everybody's kind of faking it in some way.
And no matter how smart or how, you know, mediocre or you're educated, it really doesn't matter. The key is to be curious, to ask those questions, to write down the words you don't know. And it's made me a much better person. It's made me far more secure. And it's it's just kind of hilarious. And yet so representative of kind of the world that we live in.
We don't want to be perceived as dumb.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So let me ask you now you're. Yes, you know, SVP of a company in the medical industry, a dental company. When you're onboarding, when you're onboarding new people with straight out of college or even just into the industry, are there some specific things you do to kind of help get them on board that they're not in the same place?
There are a lot of buzzwords of marketing. Sure. There's a lot of medical terms because I feel your pain. I know when I was a vendor, I worked at an agency, a worksite consultant stuff. You'd be in that room and there's a lot of terms that are used just in the industry in general, even not something like. ASYMPTOTE Right.
Or a lot of, you know, different letters are used and stuff, and you never want to be the guy that said, What are you talking about? And so I agree. I'd probably do the same thing at first. I kind of like I and fake and try to ask someone after. But then as I grew in confidence, I was like, You don't need to know everything in the moment.
I'm very special. I'm a good writer, I'm specialized in this. I understand marketing strategy, don't know everything. Me ask a question. Be that guy that ask the question to you, How do you onboard people into the dental industry, into marketing in general.
Jonathan Kaufman: So I tell that story and I'm not kidding. I think if you ask anybody that works for me and has worked for me in the past, I have told that story probably on 98% of people's first days that work for me. And whether they're a senior director, a vice president or an intern. And it's always be curious, ask me questions now and ask people questions about what this metric means and why it's relevant, because that won't annoy me and I have no problem in my team has no problem kind of commenting or providing context or definition or or understanding whatever it is.
What will annoy me is six months down the road, if we're talking about something very, very basic and you never ask the question about what does that mean? And you're now struggling to execute on something because you just never asked in the beginning. And you know, it's hard for a lot of people, right? But I tell that story and then I tell them, like, you're never going to bother me with questions.
Ask the dumb things because the dumb things often are the things that make a big impact. If you don't understand, just ask like, Well, let's go through it. Let's teach you what this is and how to do it and what it means. And yet dental is esoteric, right? And so there is all sorts of stuff that they got to learn and that they've got to evolve from.
And so yeah, it's it's that story has stayed with me and it is an incredible lesson.
Daniel Burstein: So along those lines, do you wonder if there's anything you do for project planning or making sure you know all the deadlines here? Because one thing I've I've run into too especially people are early in their career. You're in that meeting. You make certain plans. We're going to do think by a certain time, right? You follow up with them three or four weeks later.
Is that thing done in like, No, that's impossible. That's like, why didn't you bring it up a month ago when we were in that meeting? It's kind of the same thing. No one wants to speak up and say this thing can't happen, especially to the CMO, the SVP, the guy in charge. Right. So is there anything you do specifically when it comes around to project plans like like actually getting that thing done to make sure it really is on track?
People are speaking up. We know we're going to hit that.
Jonathan Kaufman: Yes. So I do two things. One is I say that we move at a particular speed and I'm going to ask you to do ten things. And if you can get seven of those done without screwing up, that's that's a great hit. Right? Right. So I think that kind of makes them feel comfortable that they're going to screw something out.
They're going to miss something. They're going to, you know, I'm looking to move fast. And so by moving fast, you're sacrificing in sometimes, sometimes quality or your sacrifice think the ability to get something perfectly right. So perfect isn't the enemy of the good. The other thing I say is I don't have these kind of stand to stand in or kind of consistent meetings on projects.
I don't. What I say is here is what I want to achieve. Let's talk about what the components of that is, the project plan, about what that is. And then you come to me or you organize a group or you organize a meeting to discuss. If you feel like something's missing or some there's a gap or you don't understand because it's pointless for me to waste an hour of your time every week to get a recap on what's going on.
It also stretches timelines for deliverables, right? So if I say every Wednesday at 2:00, we're going to meet on this thing. While you may not do it till Tuesday afternoon, if instead I say it's due in 30 days, like we need to get this thing launched, then there's a lot more kind of time cook pressure. And I don't think pressure is bad to say, okay, I need a meeting to understand it so that I can actually formulate a plan around this and get it done.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So one thing when it comes to projects, implementations, especially techcabal plantations, we all know a lot of tech implementations fail or even the ones that succeed. Yes, they succeeded, but what did they succeed? Now we've got this new thing. Is it adding value for the customer or the company? So one of the lessons you said is bigger isn't better.
What is important, however, is doing the simple things as best you can. I think you learned that from a tech implementation as well, right?
Jonathan Kaufman: I did. So this goes back a little bit, but it was for a fairly large company, about a $300 million revenue company, dental business as well. And there was a mandate to improve existing patient retention. And the thought behind that was we need to create this incredible CRM system, this CRM system that does everything right, that segments and it communicates specific messages, kind of if you look at a lot of the advertising for CRM and what they'll tell you that they do.
But we had a very complicated kind of technology database that pulled from a lot of different things. So there was a really complicated data dictionary. Anyway, so I went out and I decided to visualize what is the most complicated version that I could create. I didn't go out saying, I want to create a complicated version. I said, What is this best ideal, incredible system that I want to create?
And I remember sitting in a board meeting and even telling it, using a story to tell how this thing would work. And boy, the look on the board, board members faces was just this is incredible what it is, this incredible vision you've gotten on yourself and great about it and this is wonderful. But then I actually get into building the thing and I think it probably took I picked up some of it from the previous email, but it probably took a year and a half, two years, maybe something in that scale and cost seven figures.
And it was so incredibly complicated. There are so many rules, so much logic, so many different creative people. We had a 100 page document just on the creative variations of this. At the end of the day, what was I really trying to do? I was trying to get patients who hadn't had a hygiene appointment or having a hygiene visit in six months to come in and get a hygiene visit.
And what I wound up creating was the most glorified overcomplicate email system in the history of man. And that's really what it was, because at the end of day, what were the channels that I was using? Text messages and emails, But this was a while ago. So text messaging, you know, Twilio wasn't as accessible to how you wanted to utilize it.
So I had this custom CRM system that can do a thousand different permutations and things with a million different creative pieces and solutions. And it was an email system that was so overly complicated, it never worked. It just didn't. And so the lesson there was come up with the big vision, right? The big vision is great, but don't forget about the simple tasks that you're trying to achieve, which is I just want to get patients who haven't had a hygiene visit in if they're overdue.
And so is there a simpler way to do that without having to engage in this massive overcomplicated practice? And if the mass of overcomplicated practices is the ultimate vision, take baby steps to get there.
Daniel Burstein: Nice. So I think that lesson applies equally as well when it comes to the actual messaging, to the customers. That simplicity. I think sometimes we overcomplicate it because we're not always talking to the customer, we're talking to the board of directors, we're talking to analysts or we're talking to someone else. I assume that's especially true in the medical industry.
So I wonder if there's anything you do to simplify the messaging to the audience. I'll give you an example. Our CEO, Phil McGlothlin, had this great keynote. I love it, called the prospects perception gap. And one of the things he mentions is value is derived from a limited view of reality. We presume value. We have to help them, the customer see it, and that's a challenge we face working inside a company.
We presume they know what the heck we're talking about. So what have you done to simplify the messaging? You know, marketing, messaging, or even once they've become a patient, that messaging to the customer.
Jonathan Kaufman: So I lived in Dallas for a long time, about ten years, and I would drive up and down the Dallas North Tollway and there are billboards everywhere and I started to see these billboards, I think it was from a hospital group, and it was just a blue background, light blue background, and it had maybe seven words and white letters, and it just was a simple message.
And that stuck with me like, I can't tell you. And so I would imagine that everyone who's listening to this and probably everybody in the United States gets about 15 direct mail pieces from dentists. And my guess is that they probably have 9000 words on them, 15 images, 14 promotions in, 68 different pieces of iconography. And so my response to your question of how do you simplify it is to simplify it.
And so if you look at our creative, it is simple. There's a simple message, there's a simple call to action. And it is, you know, 20 words. You know, we have to have a disclaimer in there and all that, but that small at the bottom, it's just simple. I think the answer to how do you simplify the message is you just simplify it, right?
It's you don't you can't communicate 48 things to someone at one at one time. It's you just simplify it. That's that's kind of it. I want you to come back for your hygiene visit. Let's not overcomplicate that language. Right. Come back for your hygiene. Visit.
Daniel Burstein: We'll be asked to those markers. Sometimes we overlook that. Really, our brand is about every customer touchpoint, right? We think just, okay, we've got the marketing channels, we're affecting the brand. But really every touchpoint our customer has with our brand effects what they think of the brand, the winner. Is there anything you can do internally to their internal communications that get from our dentist medical assistance, people at the front desk, anything there to help them with the communications?
I'll give you one quick example. Just from my own life, I went I had the heart to heart thing once. When you were Cardiologist River and he comes back with the task and he sits down and tells me, All right, well, your heart is pumping at 60%. And I'm like, I'm dying at 60%. That's you know, that's an F in school and failing and, you know, yeah, that's not going to be clear.
So I was like, no, no, no, no, no. He's like, the heart is a pump, so it's not 100% efficient. He's like 50%. He's a very healthy adult. It's like you're at 60%. You're doing amazing as I'm thinking like a lead with that, Right?
Jonathan Kaufman: Exactly.
Daniel Burstein: 80%. Really good. You're at 60%. So obviously, these are medical practitioners or just sometimes work at the front desk or folks on different things. This branding, this these touchpoints, this communication. Isn't there art, is there anything you do to help them internally communicate?
Jonathan Kaufman: So everything that we send or communicate from a marketing department standpoint is designed to be as simple as possible with a coherent message That is about the extent that I go in order to help shape how everyone else talks about things. So but that that's more than just the patient communication. That is the technology systems that we build, how our office staff interact, how our dentists interact.
I'll give you an example. In dentistry, you can have like seven different platforms on a computer open at any given time to look at X-rays, to chart a patient, to look at billing, whatever it is. We try and put all of that into a singular platform, into our own system so that they can actually from one screen. So I really can't.
I can't and I don't spend time with the doctors and the office staff trying to simplify their language and how they're communicating. What we try and do is inherently make it as simple as possible for the doctors, for the office staff, for they get a copy of our marketing messaging, they get a copy of our marketing guide, they get a copy of the training plans and the different things.
It's not this giant notebook of stuff. It is a very simple hotkey. We use some AI to make that easier, some video, and we hope that we're able to buy communicating and by simplifying it for them that they're able to simplify the message to their patients rather than overcomplicate it. But I'm going to be the last person that's going to walk into a dentist and say, Here's all you need to know.
Here's how you need to present that treatment. So in all fairness, no, we try and make it simple for them so that they communicate it simply.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, Enabling our frontline team, in this case medical practitioners, of course. So, you know, when we talk about messaging, we talk about marketing, we talk about listening to talk about the technology. I mean, sometimes the way we know it works is because of the numbers, the data. You say if you don't understand how metrics impact the overall business, you're going to fail as a marketer and I think you had a recent run in here when you're looking to add someone to your team, right?
Jonathan Kaufman: We did. We were we were looking for a director of marketing, somebody that was more senior, not quite a VP, but very sophisticated. And in kind of what they did from an acquisition, from a metrics analytics, very experienced, we got down to two candidates and those two candidates were rock stars. I mean, it was it was a very, very, very difficult decision.
And the question that made the difference was I asked one rock star who was probably the leading candidate at the time what to tell me about the business metrics. Right. That they could this individual could tell me to the decimal point what their CPA and their current business was, what their CPA was in Google AdWords, what their response rate was to the, you know, the tent value.
I mean, it was it was unbelievable. They knew marketing metrics inside out, how many calls they could remember all the numbers. And they said, all right, great. So tell me a little bit about the KPIs that your business uses in order to measure success. And it was crickets. It was just they didn't know. I mean, they they started to go off on a tangent of revenue and real work.
I get revenue like that's important, right? But what are the other measures? You know, in dentistry we've got provider days. How many providers are working, how many visits you get, those kind of things. And there's a lot more than that. The second candidate who is not necessarily in the lead, I said, okay, same question. Tell me all of your tell me the business metrics that you look at in your current role.
And they went with out hesitation along the lines of these are kind of the key metrics that we look at in order to determine revenue. And we know we can do X, Y, and Z within these three categories in order to do it. And it was like, okay, because how many times have you been a vendor or have you been a client and you get a marketing report, right?
And that marketing report is all of the Google Analytics measures and all of this other, all of the website traffic and all that. Your website traffic is up 32.5%. Fantastic. What did that do? Right. Oh, your conversions are up 97%. That's fantastic. But a conversion is just a call. And so if I don't know that they're up 97%, but we're not answering the phone calls and there is absolutely no patience.
There's no jump in any of the business performance metrics. How can I be successful at actually knowing and executing in my job? The other thing is it provides contact. Right? Here is the context of all of the things that you need to look at, not just increasing marketing, decreasing what's my CPA, what's my click through rate, what's my quality score, Whatever it is it is, here is how what I'm doing is impacting the greater business and here's how the greater business impacts the things that I might need to do differently in terms of marketing.
And so that was a night and day difference. And that to me was is it was and has been a weak point of a lot of the individuals that I've worked with interviewed. And oftentimes when they come in, you really have to tie in the business metrics to the marketing metrics.
Daniel Burstein: So you use narrative, you use storytelling also to help get those metrics across. Because, you know, when I've written about evidence based marketing before, I've talked about narrative can play a role because we're swimming in data. So whether that comes to yeah, we talked about your current company very fast growing 98% over three years. Part of that, the Wall Street investors venture capital, these things, they look at not just the numbers, they look at what is that growth story?
How do I understand this growth story? Right. The board, the CEO also just internally leads your team. There's all those different numbers. What is the story? Where is this getting us? What does it mean if we do so? Do you have you ever used narrative or storytelling to kind of take these numbers and shape them either externally out to the market there or just internally to your team to help them understand it?
Jonathan Kaufman: So I think there's two answers to that. The first is, I think that we do a really good job of telling a story in whatever we present, right? Whether that's to a board, whether that's to a team of people who may work for us, a group, different division, whatever. I think we through the presentation format and how we kind of communicate the numbers that we tell that story inherently and how things are set up.
So where did we did this and because of this, achieve this? And that is causing this. And I think that there's an inherent narrative within that that we actually work really hard to try and create. But I also actually use stories. I use stories all the time. I think they're incredibly compelling to understand a complex process. You can go back to that, you know, CRM debacle that I had many years back.
And you know, it's a bad example insofar as it didn't work, but it was incredible in terms of how I utilized the story to get everybody on board, right? I utilized the story of several different individuals walking through a patient journey and what that did in terms of where they would get communicated and how they would get communicated to and what their next action step would be.
And so I think marketing is all about the patient journey. I say patient journey, it could be customer journey, and that is inherently a story. And that story is inherently powerful in determining if what you're actually saying and what you're actually planning is going to work. And so, yes, I think there's two different ways in which we do that, and I think we do that pretty well.
Daniel Burstein: All right. All right. Well, we just talked about some lessons. We learned four things Jonathan made in his career. In just a moment, we're going to talk about some lessons he learned from the people we work with. That is a great thing we get to do as marketers. We build things and we build with other people. But first, I should mention that the how I made It in Marketing podcast is underwritten by OBS Institute, the parent organization of marketing Sherpa.
Get 10,000 marketing experiments working for you with a free trial of the McLeod's II Guild at McLeod's Ecom slash a I that's m e c l abc sitcom slash a I. Okay, let's take a look at one of the first lessons from someone you worked with. You mentioned Rob Sterns and from Rob you learned. Ask yourself, what happens if I do nothing?
As I mentioned the beginning, I love this lesson. We have this action bias. It really messes up. So how did you learn this from Rob?
Jonathan Kaufman: So Rob was a first, a family friend, and then eventually when I was in college, hired me to be an intern at Kapos, a corporation which was a publicly traded Hispanic social media company in the 2000. And his journey was super interesting. He's one of these individuals that is just has blown me away. He's just incredibly smart and I'm not talking is just one of those individuals you meet and you go, Wow, there is a different chain of thinking that occurs in that brain.
And so it is an incredible experience to get to get to work. For me, subsequently been my a really impactful mentor over the years. He was a major investment banker on Wall Street, took that success and went to try and do some work in Russia in the early nineties, failed absolutely miserably and then was able to come back and he eventually became the CFO of Dale Corp and C of Deposit.
E he wrote a book called Winning Smart after Losing Big. And it was it was just an incredible, incredible journey. His he taught a lot of lessons, but he would always ask when I would bring a problem or I'd want to discuss something that the first up is what happens if I do nothing? And often times there will be a challenge or a situation and we have this action bias that says If X, I must Y.
And that is certainly the case, right? We hear all the time about just take the next step, take the next action, do the next thing right. Don't get overwhelmed. So by doing this, but there is a lot of validity into how big of a problem is this really, and what happens if I just do nothing right? What are the consequences of doing nothing?
Is the amount of resources allocated to doing something going to outweigh the negative of doing nothing? And so you first ask yourself that question and you say, okay, and a lot of times I've asked myself that question and I just do nothing and nothing blows up, nothing breaks, nothing falters, nothing fails. But then you can also use that as a baseline to say, what happens if I do nothing?
Okay, what are the minimum viable steps that I need to take in order to do something that will resolve this rather than your first jumping off point going, I need to do X, Y, z, and and all these things to remedy this because often were presented with a problem. And then we think, okay, I got to do all these other things where only one of those things has a resolution to the problem and the other things are things you just want to do to make it better, or you're creating more drama or more action steps that maybe aren't going to be that beneficial.
Right? And that goes to knowing the business, right? Okay. Is this a problem related to marketing or is this a problem that is going to have a dramatic effect on the rest of the business? And I think that's a super important question to ask. And it was a massive lesson not only professionally, but also personally.
Daniel Burstein: Well, then when you do choose to launch something where if you decide that you do have to launch something, do you have any sort of litmus test question that you ask your team of what is worthwhile to launch? And I'll give you an example. I've written about launching webinars before, right? And so, you know, marketing team come along or sales goal complained, We don't have enough leads.
We don't have enough leads. Okay let's let's webinar, let's get more leads. Well, there's no one out there in the world that's like, Oh, great webinar. So I could become a lead, right? So to me, when I've written about webinars, the first question you always ask is, you know, doesn't have a value proposition. Are you providing value? There's no shortage of webinars or other ways to, you know, get information if you are that target client.
So first, like can you create something that actually has value for someone? If you can, then yes, maybe over time you get your objective and get those leads. And so, you know, for you, John, is there anything you ask your team or anything you look at yourself when someone's like, okay, here's the minimum viable solution or here, here's what we have to do to act.
We do this and this and this where it doesn't become we're staring at our own shoes and focused so much on our problem that we don't notice, and nobody else actually cares about that, right?
Jonathan Kaufman: Yeah. So it's the same question, right? So let's take the weather example. So let's say I need leads for a marketing agency, right? And I'm going to do a webinar. The immediate thing that excuse me that comes into our head is, Oh, all right, I'm going to get a where I want to do a webinar is going to people are going to be super interested, even if you're saying, well, yeah, okay, people might not be that interested, but somebody is going to be interested.
You go to all the positives of the thing, right? You go to all the things you've seen online. You're so influenced by all these other people, right? See that this webinar got you know, a hundred million views and this, you know, this post got whatever. And so you immediately go to, oh, if they could do it, I can do it right.
So let's do this. They well, if you don't have the anchor point over what happens if I do nothing, well then you're not going to pull yourself back from that kind of inflated reality, if you will, because we all know that even if it's a really good webinar, it's probably going to take a year or two years for any number of real traffic visits, unless it's a complete fluke or you're opening boxes on YouTube with your webinar for that to actually pick up enough audience members or pick up enough, whatever it is for it to become something that's valuable.
So what happens if you do nothing to that question allows you to anchor it to say, Oh, well, that may not be the best choice for us moving forward. There may be a better choice, right? And that choice may be, well, let's do an AB test on our website to see, you know, if we're just simply losing people here or let's spend that because a webinar is hard, right?
I mean, coming up with content programing, it's getting the whole production right. I mean, that is an endeavor, right? And so it may be as simple as let's ab test the website or let's change the copy of the page search and maybe that'll do something for us. So what happens if you do nothing is a wonderful anchor point for every little decision that you make.
Daniel Burstein: But it's free, right? You know, you're like ordered really hard. You know, people are like, I'm not paying anything for me, webinars are free. We should do that or any other topic. No, there's there's a few things I just want to call this and I really love. One is that point about, oh, someone else has got 100 million views on the webinar or whatever.
There's an outlier effect and I think I worry so many times businesses make a decision based on the outlier effect. You might only see that random success. You don't see the thousand other webinars that people poured, like you said, six months or a year into or all this investment into. I did almost nothing. And I think the other thing that you bring up what I love too, is this question.
I think it's a lot about focus and priority, which we struggle with in marketing departments, because when I came in to this industry, there were a few channels we did print. It had some direct mail, TV, radio, you know, now it is endless. And so we struggle to focus when, to your point, sometimes maybe let's look at what we're already doing that's got word optimization.
Learn how to do it a little better and learn better about the customer. So that's my favorite answer so far. I like that.
Jonathan Kaufman: John Well, and you talked about the bias, right? You talk about different biases. I mean, every marketer should Rethinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman Right, Because there are so many there are so many biases in my mind that play into marketing and there's so many other lessons learned in, you know, Kahneman's behavioral economics books that just are totally applicable to marketing and how we do things.
And yeah, I mean, it's it's, it's also fun, right? It's fun to go do a webinar and start something new where the thing that's not fun, like sitting down and rewriting ad copy for your paid search and a B testing a website. That's that's not all that much fun, right?
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, we like the shiny new thing.
Jonathan Kaufman: Yeah, we do.
Daniel Burstein: The made in the relationship part and the art part of marketing and business is as important as a data and the financial metrics themselves. We've talked a lot about the data. We talk a lot about the financial metrics. So let's talk about this part as well. You said you learned this via anonymous CMO. It's a very large companies.
Usually when people use Anonymous, that means there was a bad experience. So let's hear about this experience.
Jonathan Kaufman: All right. So if you would have asked me the day after I got fired by this individual, I would have told you that it was a bad experience. If you ask me today, I would tell you that it was probably the greatest level of education on pure marketing that I had ever received in my career, and that was from somebody that generally probably didn't want to actually teach me anything.
This was probably one of the most intelligent, analytic and pure marketers that I've ever been around, formally trained in marketing with, you know, the Procter and Gamble of the world, who put you through this incredible stuff. And I learned and got an education quick on all the things that are just key and critical and to being a successful CMO, to being a successful marketer.
He had a floor and that floor was that he relied a 100% on the data and B didn't care what anyone else thought except for what the data told him. And that was a weak point because it turns out that being successful in life isn't just about facts and figures, it's about relationships, it's about communication. And it doesn't matter how smart and how good your intelligence and back up and evidence is, unless you're in a court of law where you could even argue that that doesn't apply that much if you can't communicate.
And I learned more from this individual about that, about data and analytics and purebred marketing, and also at the same time that he was wildly unsuccessful because he simply could not communicate in a relational way the message in the story he was trying to tell with that data, and he was also missing huge key points about just the basic fundamentals of human interaction and patient interaction and and some other elements and eventually it led to, you know, his downfall from from that company.
And but I mean, I'm incredibly grateful to that experience and to him, even though, you know, it was a and he didn't mean any of it personally, he just that was just him. And I'm sure he could have been very successful in many different places but couldn't communicate.
Daniel Burstein: So you mentioned in the beginning about getting fired by that individual there. Sounds like there's a juicy story behind that.
Jonathan Kaufman: There is a good story. This is a this is a fun one. So I joined this organization as a kind of second in command to the CMO at the time. And I worked there for about seven months. And at the end of that seven month period, the CMO I just mentioned fired me and it was humbling. It was terrifying.
It was I had an incredible challenges in my own confidence, right? Am I just really not good at this? Do I just not understand? Did I just not do something right? Am I am I just a you know, am I immature? Do I am I fake? Am I really faking it? Do I really not know? And many months later, five months later, that CMO got fired and then I was hired back at the same company in eventually became the CMO of that company and it was shocking because I walked in that day.
That day I got rehired after being fired and then sitting on my my butt for five months figuring out what I wanted to do and the level of confidence that I had in that first day was kind of surprising because I had just gotten beat down for seven months that I, you know, I was missing things and I was not, you know, all these different things.
And I walked in and I realized, wow, actually, I'm pretty good at this and I do understand this and I shouldn't have had that crisis of confidence. And it really allowed me to be super, super effective as the CMO of that company. And and the rest is history. And it was a terrific experience. So my my lesson learned there is a there's an art, not just a science and relationship as part of it.
And B is never doubt yourself if it's based in reality. Right. Know that there are some things that you're going to get as reflections and feedback and you should take those and you should listen to them. But also know, don't doubt if you truly know, right? If you know that you are good at a particular thing, then keep fighting and don't quit.
Daniel Burstein: Let me unpack, but let's start with the firing there. If you have any advice for other people who have been fired or are going to be fired, layoffs or, you know, layoffs going on lately, I mean, it sounds like that was very impactful for you because you while you clearly saw the guys flaws, you respected that this guy knew marketing.
So I could imagine that would hit hard. And he said, hey, you're off the team. You know, we're working on you. So it sounds like was a painful time in your life that worked out the end. But now that you have lived through it in hindsight, what advice would you give someone who who gets fired or even laid off?
Jonathan Kaufman: So my absolute first piece of advice is take it like a professional, right? No matter what you think of that individual, no matter what you think of the people, the company, whatever it is, handle it like a professional. Because I think that the way I handled it was a big component of being brought back. Right. And I even when he fired me, I thanked him.
I said, I appreciate everything you've taught me. I appreciate everything learned. I went to some of the other people in the organization that had been a part of that journey, and I thanked them not everybody gets that opportunity right, but I thank them for their time. And I think so the first lesson is take it like a professional right.
And know that because you have a boss that isn't the only person that you interact with on a day to day basis, right? Get to know other peers of that boss, get to know other individuals on your team and build that relationship with them. Don't take out the things that are happening vis a vis your boss or the others on the other people and treat those people well and do the things you believe in and that you think you need to be doing.
Because at the end of the day, the people that brought me back were the people that I had those relationships with, right. That knew, okay, there's something else going on here. He's not working out. We're going to talk to this guy again because he was terrific in everything we did. He was prompt, he was respectful. And I had that relationship not only with the private equity sponsor of that organization who were key in doing that.
I had that relationship with the CEO. I had that relationship with the chief human resources officer, and they were eventually the ones that called and said, you know, hey, would like to talk to you about come back.
Daniel Burstein: Let's talk about those relationships, too. So what do you do on your team or even maybe with your peers and colleagues to make sure you have solid relationships even though, like we've already mentioned, there's a lot of binary, difficult, controversial decisions we have to make regarding technology and budgets and data. And also on top of that, if we were trying to create and be marketers and create something truly unique, that is also a difficult thing for relationships.
So I was interviewing Justin Herbert, the CMO and Chief Brand officer of Tractor Beverage Company, on how I made it, and marketing. And one of his key lessons was Embrace Healthy Friction. And he learned that earlier in his career. He wrote TV show with a co-writer and he realized they had to have a healthy friction. They had to create a quality show.
If they agreed to much, you know, they would just get into some group thinking and not create something good. So that's TV. But still in marketing, we are creators and we are making all these difficult decisions. So how do we make those difficult decisions yet keep a healthy relationship?
Jonathan Kaufman: So I think the the first part of that is friction is good in the relationships. Don't do the friction in front of someone that is going to make the other person look bad or feel bad in in other words, go to that. There is a I've seen it right. There is a very common that I'm going to bring up the issues in front of the boss so that they can kind of help be the judge and jury in decision maker.
There are times when that's appropriate, Right? We disagree on this thing. This person thinks this this person, Dick, says we need you to make a decision that is different than handling the friction situation in front of somebody so they can see that friction. Right. The presentation in that boardroom or in whatever should be a discussion of we have different opinions, not an emotional battle.
I have seen too many times where you do not create those relationships because instead of simply walking down to the other person's office or cube or whatever and saying, Look, I got a problem, this happened, let's you and I figure this out. We don't need to involve 19 other people in order to make that decision and validate what it is that I think.
And also know that you don't have all the context always right. I think that there are in any organization there are some people that know certain things about something and this is this is more prevalent publicly traded companies where there's proprietary type nonpublic information. And so there your boss or that individual maybe saying something to you that you simply don't understand and you think it's a bad idea.
But there may and it very well may be a bad idea. And they're just, you know, full of bad ideas or whatever. But there also may be contexts that you don't understand, right? We're not going to do this and here's why we're not going to do this. But I can't really give you the whole why. So it doesn't quite make sense.
But have the conversations, the friction conversations, the emotional conversations away from the public. All right. If you do that, you're going to build healthy relationships with individuals that you may not always agree with or disagree with in a way that protects you both and more importantly, protects that individual from being or or having to defend their position. Right.
Versus actually having an open mind about it.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I've heard say bad things in private and good things in public. Let's talk about one last relationship, the relationship with the customer. You said you learn to tailor the experience to that audience. You learned from Tom Waller, the CEO, and Sage Dental, your current CEO. How did you learn that from Tom?
Jonathan Kaufman: So I would say that Tom is a master of communication. So he's not only incredibly smart and incredibly experienced, he is a master at communicating the right thing to the right audience at the right time. And, you know, in the beginning this was kind of frustrating because I was kind of like, Man, we've done this presentation. Why do I need to make it seven different ways for seven different groups?
But at the end of the day, who cares about the presentation if the audience that isn't that is receiving it doesn't really understand it or it doesn't make much sense. For instance, I am not going to present a board presentation to my office manager team that really has no or even in that same way, that doesn't need to know all of these facts and figures in the way that they're presented in a panel or whatever it might be.
They simply want to know, is the company growing? Can I understand that? Right? What format is in that? Is that in that I can understand that and is really, really good about helping frame the message and the communication channel to the individual that he wants to communicate to, because at the end of the day, who cares how much content you put out if the content that you're putting out isn't able to be understood by the majority of the individuals that your that you're communicating to?
And I think as marketers, we almost do that inherent we to patients or to customers, but we don't necessarily do that to our own internal team. Right. And if we do, we do kind of. All right, I've got a 100 page board presentation. I'm going to snap out these 12 slides and put it in my marketing presentation to tell it.
They're not going to understand all of that. And you're catering to the least common denominator. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, right? You've got senior directors and VP's and then you've got interns and coordinators. You've got to you've got to communicate to the coordinator so that the coordinator understands and you shouldn't expect them to understand how to fully read a PNL and a marketing r y analysis with a bunch of data points and, you know, multivariate analysis.
And so it is you have to communicate the message and the medium in a way that works for the least common denominator and non derogatory way and actually get your message and your point across. And I think he has taught me to do that in a really, really effective way. And one more point to the narrative. It is so often that we get a presentation or somebody shows us something and is so stark, right?
It is. You're I am. Here's who I am. Here's the things we have done. Here is my contact information right? Versus tell me a story. Right. We talked about the narrative in this story. And even if it's a narrative just through the to the organization of the materials that still tells the story. Right. And that allows people to interpret the information and actually do something with it.
And that works for both customers. That works for colleagues and works for everybody.
Daniel Burstein: So you talk about like the vendor pitch template as that will link to them. And that's one of the things that drives me the most and that's the vendor pitch template.
Jonathan Kaufman: The vendor pitch template point. If you just want to do me a favor and skip the first 20 minutes of the vendor pitch template where we do introductions and you show me all the customers you have. I know all that if I'm meeting with you, there's a reason why I'm meeting with you. Yeah, tell me what you do and show me how it works.
Daniel Burstein: Well, and what what can you do for me? To your point about the narrative story, I knew about you. You should know about me. What's my company? What are my objectives? How do you meet them? Right.
Jonathan Kaufman: And by the way, how are you going to present something to me if you don't know what I'm trying to do? Right? So The vendor pitch template to give me 20 minutes to show you what we can do. How is that effective? Right. Give me 20 minutes so I can understand what you're trying to do. I got some stuff, but I don't want this to work for you.
But see, God, would that be such a completely different approach and be so much better?
Daniel Burstein: And if it doesn't work for you, let me point in the right direction, because I know other people. Really. So when you talk about tailoring and experience and audience, I think you made a lot of great points which are really, for lack of a better word, manual, right? You're presenting to your own team. I mean, that's just taking the presentation, that's knowing how to talk about it, maybe even educating our team a bit during that to be able to reappear.
Now. But when you talk about tailoring spares the audience, I also think about artificial intelligence and what that can do in. So I know you've mentioned you've been implementing A.I. for the past three or four years. What have you watched? First of all, what have you been doing and then what have you learned from that?
Jonathan Kaufman: So there's kind of two different mechanisms of A.I. that we use and I want to be really careful with the phrase A.I. because it's getting thrown around a lot and it really doesn't always mean what you think it means, right? It's really more automated process type stuff. So there's the medical side of A.I. where we are currently using this with our x rays.
So one of the goals that we're trying to achieve is there's an old Reader's Digest article, 20 years old, and it says if you go to ten different dentists, you'll get ten different diagnosis of ten different treatments, right? So speaking of trust, what we want to do is, is reinforce that trust with your medical provider. And so all of our x rays are run through ad agents and that tells us where there's issues.
It it helps to objectively kind of reinforce the provider's recommending to the provider's opinion. And there's things that the human eye can't see that may be progressive that these types of tools can alert us to from a dentistry perspective. So we're building trust with the patients or attempting to by bringing an AI to annotate all of our x rays, the is still providing the treatment and the recommendation, but we're using that to help educate the patient, to help show them that, hey, I'm not making up the fact that you need to have this tooth removed.
Like, let me show you what's actually happening here right beyond an x ray, something else that is reinforcing that. So there's kind of the medical trust side, and then there's the AI side of just tools and so Jackie Beatty, everybody's heard of that one, right? There's a thousand different ways you can use chatbots from copywriting to sell formulas to whatever.
But there's other tools as well, right? There are tools that allow us to provide training and documentation in a way that isn't somebody doing a screenshot, isn't somebody taking a video and editing that and then writing in some different things. It's an automated tool where we can actually show the tool and use or what we're trying to train them on.
We can annotate within that and it produces an actual training document for our staff. So there's ways in which we're using these kind of automated processes and automated systems just to make things easier, but also to you to streamline communications. Right. If we talked about keeping it simple, the way my brain works is I make things incredibly complicated and I'll write about a three and a half paragraph statement on something.
What it probably could have been boiled down into a sentence, so I'll use that to say, Here's everything I'm trying to communicate. Put that a sentence. J.G. BD will output it. I got perfect. That's what I'm trying to say.
Daniel Burstein: Right? So we talked about a lot of different things about what it means to be a marker the curiosity, humility, the focus on data. What are the key qualities of an effective marketer? If you had to break it down? Jonathan And what are you looking to be? What are you looking for when you hire?
Jonathan Kaufman: So I'm the last thing I'm looking for is somebody who's really good a marketing. And I know that sounds weird, but I don't really care unless it's a specialized position. I don't really care about your brand work at all. That right? I mean, if you're creative director, I care what your creative looks like, but I'm looking for curiosity.
You're going to ask questions, you're going to dive deep, you're going to up. You're going to want to know more about that thing and how that thing works and why it's not doing that. And I'm interested in that. And the other thing I look for is what I call the 12 year old tech nerd. I am looking for the guy that when he was 12 years old, he asked his parents for a computer and then was playing around and trying to plug things in and, you know, maybe he didn't learn how to code, but he was he was just curious about technology because so much of that technology is utilized within what we do.
It allows us to think about things in a different way, like how can I? That task? Five years ago I spent a half million dollars to make a TV, TV production for a set of commercials. A year ago, I spent $5,000 using some various technologies, a stock video to make a pilot program for a TV. It's it just is that I look for and I think it's something that's ultimately rooted in curiosity, both a general curiosity.
I want to learn more. I want to try new things. I want to explore. I want to be creative. And then the second one is technology Curiosity, the 12 year old tech year. Because I was a 12 year old doctor.
Daniel Burstein: Well, thanks so much, Jordan. I think our curious audience learned a lot from euthanasia. Thank you very much for your time.
Jonathan Kaufman: It was my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
Daniel Burstein: And thanks to everyone who.
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