July 25, 2022

Marketing Strategy: Data tells stories at Nationwide, fast mistakes, and the triage method (podcast episode #25)


Get inspiration for your next great idea by listening to episode #25 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had a heartfelt, enriching conversation with Tiffany Grinstead, Vice President of Personal Lines Marketing, Nationwide.

Grinstead discussed what happened when she volunteered to be an interim leader, why she had lunch with her biggest internal rival, how she learned to think like a business leader, and much more.

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

Marketing Strategy: Data tells stories at Nationwide, fast mistakes, and the triage method (podcast episode #25)

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

“You need to commit yourself to mastering you art,” Flint McGlaughlin teaches in High-Converting Landing Page: If you don’t ask this question you will never maximize conversion.

So true. Here’s one way to do that.

In my most recent podcast discussion, my guest shared a simple methodology she uses (I’m not one for hyperbole, but frankly it was a life-changing methodology) to help her get the time to focus on what is most important – both at work and at home.

You can hear the story behind that methodology from Tiffany Grinstead, Vice President of Personal Lines Marketing, Nationwide.

The insurance and financial services company is #80 on the Fortune 500 with $47 billion in revenue. Grinstead is in charge of all marketing for the personal lines business, sitting in the cabinet of the Personal Lines president. She manages a team of 20, works in a matrixed organization with additional resources, and personally manages a direct budget of $20 million.

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 Grinstead that emerged in our discussion:

Make your mistakes as fast as you can.

Grinstead got this phrase from Mike Spangler, president of Nationwide's Investment Management Group, after a set of mistakes in quarterly deliverables were made by her team.

Now, her team reports “test and learns” on their monthly scorecard to the wider organization, a tactic strongly supported by her current leader – Elizabeth Riczko, President, Property & Casualty Personal Lines, Nationwide.

Employ a triage method – should, could, must.

Grinstead used to work 80 hours per week. She was burned out and her career was stalled.

She started to work with executive coach Vicki Tashjian, President, Tashjian & Company. Tashjian challenged her to re-envision her life and her career.

After missing her daughter’s parent day at school, she made a change and employed a triage method. Thanks to this change, her output and peer relationships improved, and her family was happier.

Data tells stories if you listen closely.

Early in her career Grinstead was math-phobic and wanted to be a free-rein creative. But then she spent time in the retirement plans business and saw how data creates insights which become stories which can then drive behaviors at the right time for the right person.

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

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

People won't put you there until they see you there.

via Karen Eisenbach, Chief Marketing Officer, Voya

Following Eisenbach’s advice, Grinstead volunteered to be interim leader when a colleague was on maternity leave. That colleague ultimately decided to come back part-time and not be a leader anymore and Grinstead ended up with the job because she’d been doing it for several months.

Define your relationships for yourself.

via Gretchen Weller, Vice President of Content Marketing, JP Morgan Chase:

Weller and Grinstead worked on teams that often competed and their leaders competed. After realizing how others saw them, Grinstead decided she did not want that fraught competitive relationship, befriended Weller, and they went to lunch every week together. It is a relationship that has endured – this year, Grinstead was maid of honor at Weller’s wedding.

Think like a business leader.

via Dan Amodeo, Vice President of Strategy, Nationwide

Grinstead first met Amodeo when she was an intern. He taught her how to understand complex business topics, and insisted she be a business strategist first. All those years of believing she could drive the business and the strategy made her a better leader and a better marketer.

Related content mentioned in this episode

How to overcome 9 common marketing and web design mistakes

Data Poetry in Marketing, PR & Corporate Communications (Podcast Episode #17) – Discussion with Michael Diamond, Academic Director and Clinical Assistant Professor in Integrated Marketing and Communications, NYU School of Professional Studies

A/B Testing for Fun and Profit [Subject Line Writing Contest]

Gaining Business Leader Buy-in: 7 CEO personas

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 yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.

Daniel Burstein: I was reviewing podcast guest applications and these sentences jumped out at me and grabbed me by both ears. I used to work 80 hours per week. I was burned out, my career was stalled out, my work product was consistently highly rated, but my relationships were not strong, and that hurt me. One day I missed my daughter's parent day at school, and I worked that night until midnight. It was time to say Enough.

If you're facing a similar challenge, our next guest will tell you the story behind how she transformed her career and her life. And even if you've mastered the work life balance, first of all, kudos to you. There's so much else you can learn by listening to her stories about data competitiveness, business leadership, so much more. Joining me now, so glad to have Tiffany Grinstead, Vice President of Personalized Marketing at Nationwide. Thanks for joining us, Tiffany.

Tiffany Grinstead: Thank you so much for having me.

Daniel Burstein: So let's just take a quick look at your background. Pulled this off of LinkedIn. You majored in journalism at the Ohio State University. I think journalism is one of the best majors even for marketers. Teaches us how to accurately tell a story. Sometimes the market as we try to sell so hard to not serve the audience. That's a great background.

You were hired as an intern to write for the internal newsletter at Nationwide. You've been at Nationwide for get this, folks, 24 years. That is fantastic. We constantly hear how marketing roles are ephemeral and you last 18 months great to hear. We had a guest once from a Cuisinart on the podcast, had a market at Cuisinart 26 years. So she's got you beat by just a bit, but probably one of our longest lasting marketers right here, one company now you are the Vice President in charge of all marketing for the personal lines business sitting on the cabinet of the personal lines President, if you're not familiar with nationwide, it is number 80 on the Fortune 500 with $47 billion in revenue.

Tiffany leads a team of 20 and she manages a direct budget of $20 million with more matrix. She's going to explain that in just a moment. So, Tiffany, we talked to a lot of people. CMO is very common title. We talk to right? What does it mean to be the Vice President of Personal Lines Marketing?

Tiffany Grinstead: Well, it's a really extremely fun job for one thing. You know, I lead the marketing strategy, the marketing execution, the creation of consumer segmentation, how we align to our distribution segmentation. We have channels that are B2B for the most part, but we also have B2C through our direct to consumer channel and then all of our product marketing across our auto, home, specialty products like RV insurance or motorcycle insurance. So it's really an across the board role. You know, everything from strategy and planning sort of looking out into the future to, you know, really driving sort of personalized data driven salesforce enabled lead generation campaigns on a day to day basis with the agents that sell our insurance products. So it definitely runs the gamut and that's what makes it so fun.

We are super matrix, which is actually a wonderful thing because we have experts to call on in the social media space or the media buying space within our organization. We have content and delivery experts and so being able to bring those folks in to play in the right places and being sort of at the front and center with the business on a day-to-day basis, solving problems and, you know, helping protect more Americans. You know, one of the reasons I've stayed in nationwide so long is I have this incredible passion for what we actually do. We have a mission that's all about protection and providing extraordinary care. And that's something that really resonates with me. And I think it would be hard for me to market a product if I didn't feel like it was making the world better.

Daniel Burstein: And you've got a great story we're going to touch on at one point about how data really open your eyes to that. But let me ask you, just so we're clear, B2B, I assume that's insurance brokers, financial planners, is that right?

Tiffany Grinstead: So over the course of my career at Nationwide, I've been in the financial side where we worked a lot through financial planners. And in this role, through our personal lines insurance, we sell through independent insurance agencies, alternative distribution partners, different partnership groups like anything from, you know, a car manufacturer to, you know, an on the corner independent insurance agency to an independent insurance brokerage that might be more of a call center. And then we also sell direct to consumer. We have our own call center and we also sell digitally online.

Daniel Burstein: Okay, great. Well, let's take the first half of the podcast. We take a look at the things you made. I think that’s a great thing about being in marketing, I've never been like a podiatrist or an auditor or something like that. But we as marketers, we make things, we make brands, we make campaigns, you know, and I always love that about the job.

So the first lesson you learned is make your mistakes as fast as you can. You said you got this phrase from Mike Spangler, who is the President of Nationwide's Investment Management Group. How did you learn this lesson?

Tiffany Grinstead: You know, it was my first Vice President role. It was an opportunity to come in and transform a team. I had only been in the role for a couple of months and we were in the process of realizing we needed to automate our quarterly deliverables. And if you've ever worked in a fund house, you know, there are about hundreds and in our case, almost 500 pieces of literature that need to be updated on a quarterly basis to tell what the financials have been.

And in this case, you know, a number of mistakes were made by my team. They needed to be they needed to be fixed. It was a problem. I mean, when you're a fund house, you live and die by the integrity of your information. So I had to sit down with him and say, II take full accountability. And you just don't know what you're going to get when you sit down with the senior leader. And this is an incredible leader. And, you know, he looked at me and he said, Tiff, are you making your mistakes as fast as you can? What did you learn from it? What are you going to do about it and how is it going to be different from now on?

And, you know, we went on to completely automate those deliverables and to actually use technology in really cool ways. But I had a lot of those permissions because I had a leader that understood and who wasn't going to harp on it. And it's something that I think about as a leader too. Often times we beat ourselves up more than anyone. The question is, are you making the mistake and learning from it as fast as you can? And that applies, I think, in innovation as well. Right? So we try things and I try to make sure my team understands if you have a good measurement plan, you have a good understanding of what you're testing and learning. We should be able to figure it out as fast as we can, take that learning and move forward and it's not a failure if it doesn't go the way you think it would. Because you've learned something and that learning stays with us and we're doing that as fast as we can over and over and over again.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. Let's talk about how now you as a leader, like what you do with your team to roll that out, that idea and that culture of failure being okay. Because here's my idea, here's my soapbox I'll get on for everyone. Like failure is so important. So, I think it's a great thing about this podcast and a lot of people told me it's great hearing how others have failed, you know, big marketing leaders have failed. So it's, you know, okay for me to fail myself.

But the other thing is I wrote I wrote an article How to Overcome Nine Common Marketing and Web Design Mistakes. And one of them I remember was this pizza franchise, and they were launching a mascot and all these things went wrong. And so they said their lesson from that was not doing enough pre-planning and doing enough pre-planning that's important, you know. But I kind of changed when I wrote the article, I said, here's what I think. Not trying something new. That is the biggest mistake we can make because frankly, if you're not making that many mistakes, like you mention with an innovation, you're probably not pushing the envelope that much. You know what I mean? You're just going around the same circles. So there's some tips you have for other marketing leaders, like things you do with your team to really instill that value. You know, we all feel bad about mistakes.

Tiffany Grinstead: Well, you know, there's a difference between a mistake and something you tried that didn't work that you had good data, you had good insights. It should have worked, you had a hypothesis, you went into it, and it didn't work the way you thought it did. And that “failure” is a phenomenal learning. Right. Because oftentimes people say they want something, but then they don't choose it. Why don't they choose it? What's going on? So you have to ask the question behind the question. Behind the question to understand what happened, to keep trying, you know, and learning new things. But the thing that I think, you know, you most need to sort of think about there is how are you giving your teams permission to do that?

If every single thing that they do, they're expected for the tests to work, then you have an environment where you're not going to test and learn and people aren't going to take risks. I'm not going to take a risk on it not working if it's expected to work. So one of the things that I do is we have a monthly scorecard. You know, we're putting all of our measurement of you know our tried and true, if you will, plans. How are they working? You know, it's our direct funnel, it's our lead generation in our B2B space. And then how we're bringing people through to sales. But I will tell you, we also have a section in that scorecard for test and learns and I really encouraged my folks to put in there. What are you testing in the next quarter and then or the next month? And then what test results have you gotten back? What did you learn? And it's okay in that test and learn section where we're not in the tried and true and we don't know what's going to work for the answer to be last month I tried something and it didn't work. And here's what we learned from it. And we report that out to our leaders. And we're extremely lucky because the leader of our personal lines business, Beth Riczko, is extremely excited about test and learns. And so she's extremely supportive of us doing that kind of work. But I think, you know, when you institutionalize it, when you have to report out on it, when you see that your peers are saying, I tried this, it worked, it was great, here's what we learned. I tried this, it worked, it didn't work, here's what wasn't great and here's what we learned. And everyone is saying, that's awesome. Thank you for the learnings and then you're rolling those into your tried and true plan over time. That's when you get really powerful results from a team.

Daniel Burstein: And I think another key thing, and I wonder if you think this is is getting the right people on the bus, right? Because not everyone has that personality. And I remember when I would interview I'd always ask, hey a great question, tell me about a mistake you made and kind of go through it and not just to hear the mistake, but to hear like, okay, did they do something different the next time? Did they take responsibility? And I remember I was doing this one interview and anytime she tried to answer the question as a mistake, it was always someone else's mistake, though it was, you know, and it was a graphic designers mistake and she helped fix it or someone else's mistake. And we just couldn't get to that answer. And then later I saw in Glassdoor, she put on it What is it with this guy? He keeps wanting me to talk about mistakes. It's a job interview. I don't want to talk about mistakes. I want to talk about all the things I did right. And so I hope she has a wonderful, lovely career. But it was an indication to me that maybe that's not the right person for us, you know, for our team.

Tiffany Grinstead: Yeah. And I really think it's, you know. Yes, if you make the same mistake over and over and over again, that's a problem. But, you know, we also know that some mistakes actually lead to great things. You know, we have the stories of you know, I don't think at 3M when they created the Post-it note that that glue was intended to be for Post-it notes, it was a mistake, right? So, you know, when you're in the test and learn space, it's a whole different thing when you're trying things and you say, Oh, this thing worked, but not in the way that I thought it would, or it didn't work at all. And that's a bummer. Or it did work, but maybe not at the scale that we need. And, you know, that's all got to be okay or no one feels like they have permission to try anything? They're too afraid.

Daniel Burstein: Absolutely. Absolutely. So let's take a look at your next lesson. I'm kinda opened the podcast with this because I loved what you talked about in the application. I employ a triage method, should, could, must. So this really hits home. How did you learn this lesson and it seems like it transformed not just your career, but your whole life.

Tiffany Grinstead: It really did. And it's crazy because it's so simple, right. And, you know, I took various classes on time management and I have this kind of idea that you should write a to do list. And in my mind, that was kind of like something you wrote and it was just really long. And I'm a checkmark junky, so I love checking things off this really long list and you're checking things off. You know, I was working at the time in our in our corporate communications department, I had responsibility for crisis communications. There was a lot going on. And in the middle of it, I had two really young kids. One really wasn't sleeping much, and my marriage was unraveling. And, you know, I reached this point where I was a single mom.I was working all the time. I'd come home, put my kids to bed, go back to working. And I just got incredibly burned out. I felt stalled out.

And I started to work with an Executive Coach. I'm actually now a registered Business Coach myself because I really see the power of executive coaching, you know, and the questions that this executive coach asked me at one point, I kept saying why I should do this and I should do that. And she said, her name was Vicki Tashjian. I think she still has a coaching practice today. And she said, Tiff, you have to stop shitting all over yourself. As women that's what we do, and I think as people, you know, just more generally. But it really hit me and I thought, wow, you know, how do you stop that?What does that look like?

And for me, I started doing this really simple thing, write a to do list every single day. Rewrite yesterday’s for today. All day long. I'm kind of managing to that. And I started making things, you know, should, could or must. And if it was something that I must do, if it was like a true must, then I had to be really honest with myself. I cannot leave here until this is done. Or I have to go home and work on this, if someone is waiting for it, it's truly a fire. It needs it needs to happen today.

Could are the things like I'd like to get to. But the truth is, the only person who's like, you know, I'm the one who's saying they have to be done today. Maybe they have to be done by Friday, maybe they have to be done by Monday. But today is Monday, you know, a week ahead. So, you know, I could do it. It would be nice if I could do it, but it's not that I must do it.

Then all those things I think I should do. But really they're not pressing. They could be done at any time. They're the ways that I'm giving myself, you know, and I've heard people do this one, two, three, ABC, like whatever works for you, right? But I started to employ this and I really was just trying to survive myself. And, you know, I recently had met who has now been my husband for 15 years, and he's a college professor and just an incredible supportive person. And he asked a lot of good questions. At the same time my Executive Coach was about like, well, what kind of life do you want to have and what are your priorities and how are you managing your job and those priorities? And I wasn't doing well at my job either because I was extremely stressed out and I was a new people leader, and my folks could feel that so I didn't have stellar engagement scores and it was really a high pressure learning environment.

But as I started to employ this, what was interesting was I really started to manage my time better. I’d come home, I started getting more sleep. Started eating with my family, prioritizing things that were going on in my kids life and, you know, missing that. I still feel this guilt about missing this preschool parent's day. So, you know, I stopped saying no to those things and I start saying yes and saying, you know, I'm going to be out this 2 hours because I'm going to go do this. And, you know, I was really lucky. My youngest is graduating this year.

Daniel Burstein: Congratulations.

Tiffany Grinstead: She goes to Urban Public Schools, which is a huge, important thing to us to our family, where we're big believer in public schools and urban education. And so I was able to actually be a PTA President for several years to do a lot of activism, sit on school district boards, and really all because I was able to free up that time and still spend time with my kids and still get promoted into, you know, a fairly senior executive position.

And part of it was I got calmer, and when I got calmer, other people around me got calmer. And then, you know, I was able to actually get the important things done. So my work product never faltered. I always was seen as someone who had a high capacity for work and could get a lot done. But my relationships got better, you know, and I was able to just perform at a completely different level because I wasn't burning myself out. And I think that sometimes I'll hear someone you know a team member or peer will say, you know, well I'm not the smartest person, but I will work you under the table. And, you know, I'll be here, you know, 100 hours a week. And that's how I'm going to win.

And I always kind of caution like, but are you winning? Because you may be here more, but what is the impact of that work and what is the impact of your relationships and are you able to manage the things you need to manage? And it isn't like I don't work when I need to. I have to stay after, travel for work, I've done all those things over the years. I had a role where I had to go to Philadelphia several times a month. All of that is manageable if you're managing yourself, right. Because often times you'll find we are the creators of a lot of this excess stress and energy.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And you know, it's so great, you talk about also the working under the table because I've noticed when I've been in environments where it just a total fire drill over all the time versus well managed environment, it's also the things you can focus on at work can improve you because the currency of a marketer is our ideas, right? And so yes, we also need to execute on them. But execution without the right ideas, it's just a Potemkin village. It's like we've got this great, you know, MA platform set up or this great infrastructure set up and not the right messages going out to the audience.

So I wonder, we have a free digital marketing course? And in the very first FastClass that Flint McGlaughlin teaches, you need to commit yourself to mastering your art. You need to commit yourself to mastering your art. And so when I heard this triage method, I wondered, did it free up your time to focus more on like what is your art?  You know, when we were talking in the pre call, you said, why you're so passionate about having a job in marketing and at the company you're at. So did that give you a chance to kind of lift your head up and be like, okay, what am I really doing here?

Tiffany Grinstead: It totally does. Because, you know, you're also able to say, like, which I'm doing a lot of busy work that's not necessarily important for today just because everything on my list has to be done now, right? Versus really stopping and thinking about these things that are most important strategically. What am I trying to accomplish? Relationships are important and being able to counsel your business partners, they have to be able to hear you, right. And if you're a mess and you don't have time because you're running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you're not going to be able to be invited into and make a difference in those strategic conversations.

And, you know, I recognize I'm very lucky Nationwide is one of the top companies to work for and part of the reason is we do have a wonderful, flexible, supportive environment in terms of work, life, balance, I think, compared to a lot of other companies. But I also see people in the same environment manage themselves in a lot of different ways. And I think in any environment you have to look at yourself and say, how am I triaging to free myself up? And, you know, those learning opportunities, if you're too busy to go to that class or log into that webinar or have that conversation, if you're too busy to do the research to kind of say, Gosh, Nfts are on the horizon, I should probably know what those are, right? I should probably know what the metaverse is even though it's not part of my daily day to day to do list you know.

The other thing I started doing was adding that kind of stuff to the list, right? So even adding things you’re curious about they may fall in that third category that you don't have to get to before you leave today. But on a day when you do get through the things that you absolutely must do, you find because they're on the list that you do work them in.

Daniel Burstein: Now, I'll put in a quick plug here to a great way to do that. Read some Marketing Sherpa Case Studies, see what your peers are doing. All right, let's talk about your next lesson, data tells stories if you listen closely. So what do you mean by that? How did you learn that?

Tiffany Grinstead: Well, you know, I was as I said, a journalism major came to the company to write for the internal newsletter. And so storytelling is kind of at the heart of what I always wanted to do with my life. And so I wanted to either be a journalist or maybe in corporate PR, where I would just, you know, tell stories. And to me, stories were, you know, and I write fiction in my spare time. So, you know, it's storytelling, right? It's making stuff up. It's creativity or it's taking the quotes from people around you and getting to the heart of the point and telling the core story that someone has told you from a journalistic perspective.

But I was doing public relations at the time for our retirement plans business, and I was with leaders who involved me in a lot of the leadership conversations and what I started to see was the incredible power of data in helping to not only craft stories, but stories that really help people. And so in this case, you know, it was really understanding the things that we knew about how people were saving for retirement within their 401k. And, you know what, what it looked like when they were overwhelmed by choices versus when their choices were more streamlined. And what their futures looked like and how they could envision those futures differently. And the ways in which the data drove that really keyed in something for me that had never been there before, that started to make me say, you know, I think maybe I want to be in marketing. I think maybe I want to be more on the business strategy side. I think that looking at understanding data and then translating data into action is where you can really make measurable change for people, right?

When you think about it and when you're in an industry like mine where that measurable change is the difference between, at this point when I was in the 401k business, maybe being able to stay in your home in retirement and having to leave it. Or in the business that I'm in now, you know, knowing that you're protected if water starts, you know, busting out of your pipes or knowing you're protected if your house burns down. Or G-d forbid, a car accident, those are things that really matter. And there's so many ways that data helps us help people avoid perils and have a better life. And that's something I'm really excited about.

Daniel Burstein: I wonder if you could think of kind of most aha moment you had when you communicated to someone or, you know, an audience, a message of something you learned in the data. Because I think it's really interesting what you're saying. One, you know, insurance, retirement accounts, these are products that, yeah, we all know we should get. I mean, I should exercise and I should eat healthy. It's not that we're shocked that we know we should do this, but it's not fun. It's not where we want to spend our money. So you really do need to kind of get that story.

You mentioned fiction. I love you mentioned fiction because I've heard someone say this fiction is truer than nonfiction. Right. Like really good fiction it taps into this deep human truth and it gets people to think differently and act. And I think that's what you need to do in insurance. And it got me thinking. I interviewed Michael Diamond on an earlier podcast episode. He's Academic Director for Integrated Marketing at NYU. And he used the term I love this. He used the term data poetry. And that's why when you said fiction and he quoted Alexander Pope “what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed”.

So again, when you've got this message that we all know is right, nobody thinks it's wrong. Yeah, I should have insurance, yeah I should save for retirement. Are there any thoughts you had of like, wow, data really helped tell the story. I think I remember I saw a video of you telling a very personal story. I don’t know if it was your father or your grandfather, someone who like really not having the right insurance retirement account really impacted him. So I just wonder how you like kind of tap into that personal, those fiction writing skills to actually tell that data story.

Tiffany Grinstead: Yeah, you know, I think at the heart, I love that, I'm going to have to think about that like data, poetry. Is that what it was?

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, data poetry

Tiffany Grinstead: Data poetry. I love that because, you know, emotion is at the heart of everything. Right? And it's where data meets emotion that I think you get this confluence of story that actually drives people to change, right. And I I've talked a lot over the years, you know, I have my own theory about change which is I've got to get into your into your head, down into your heart to get to your hands, right. And so, you know, it's what people are willing to entertain, be aware of and know about. Then you know what's going to be that emotion that touches their heart. And then does that get them to do something different, you know, to change what they're doing with their hands.

And that, you know, that goes in so many different ways. I'll often use the analogy with that one with, you know, pro-choice, pro-life. And it really doesn't matter like what side of the of the spectrum you're on. But I always just ask people to just go ahead and raise their hands if they've ever had a bumper sticker on that topic, change their mind. Yeah, I've never yet seen a hand go up, right. And then I'll ask them if they've ever seen a bumper sticker on that topic make them angry. And usually about half the rooms hands go up. And so you're playing with fire in this space of when you get to heart. I mean, obviously not all issues are as polarizing as pro-life, pro-choice. But, you know, when I'm trying to understand that data that says people are overwhelmed, they're clearly not making choices.

The more choices, let's say we give them 600 choices. And at the time that was the predominant thing was this arms race of how many choices for funds in a retirement plan can we add. And there are still people who really like that and who are DIY’rs with their retirement plans, who really want that. But the truth is, what the data told us was, that most people were just getting overwhelmed and paralyzed. And they really weren't making choices at all. And so, you know, the industry had to deal with that. And a big outcome of that was something called target date funds, which will allow you to just put in the year you want to retire. And then that's your conglomeration of funds, right? And that's the only choice you have to make. I want to retire in 2050. And so, you know, the heart story to that is getting you to envision retirement versus getting overwhelmed by the fact that the stock market is really hard to understand and maybe this is a gamble and maybe I shouldn't do it and oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, right.

When what we want as an outcome is, I envision the day that I'll be able to hang up my apron and stop working, you know, whatever my career is and enjoy my life and start to envision that life. And so, you know, that's just one example of the ways in which data can make a difference. Another kind of more recent one is distracted driving. We all kind of know it's a societal issue. We all kind of know we shouldn't look at our cell phones when we drive. We all kind of know it could end up killing someone, you know, somewhere down the line ourselves, someone else, right. But I think if you ask people to honestly put up their hands, a lot of people would say, yeah, I, you know, I drive distracted, right. So, you know, being able to use that data to understand.

Something that's really big in insurance right now is telematics, which is this opportunity to have an app and kind of be rewarded for safe driving, right? So we added to our app that people who use our are Smart Ride and Smart Miles programs this opportunity for them to just be alerted when they're driving distracted. So the app would just tell them like, yeah, you're distracted. You should probably put this down. And we saw a 10% decline in distracted driving behaviors because of that. And then that connected with the heart story really makes the difference of getting people to change their behaviors and that's good for insurance, obviously, fewer accidents. But even more important is the way that it's good for society because we have more folks who get to live their lives uninjured.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's great. You know, and it gets me thinking, too, you know, a lot of the time, people, they hear these data and statistics and stuff, but they don't think it applies to them. You know what I mean? Like what's the data like 80% or 90% of people are above average drivers, right? So, yeah, they hear all that.

Tiffany Grinstead: We recently had a study on that where, you know, the majority of people said that they did agree that people were driving reckless. But when you ask them if they were, the majority of people said no, they were safe. So there's definitely a disconnect there.

Daniel Burstein: It’s always the other person. And so that's where when finding out really who our customer personas are, our segments, and then finding ways to really kind of paint that picture for them. And that, I think, goes on to our next lesson here of how you've done that internally in an organization. So now we're going to talk about some people that Tiffany collaborated with because that's what we do as marketers. We make things and we make them with people. And. Karen Eisenbach, Chief Marketing Officer Voya and she said “people won't put you there until they see you there”. And I love that because again, it plays off with a customer that the customer just doesn't see themselves in that, you know, it's someone else, it’s someone else. And so how do you do that internally? Like you said, how do you make sure your business leaders see like, yeah, you're that person, you should be in that role.

Tiffany Grinstead: Yeah. You know, I had been mentoring with Karen. She was at Nationwide at the time and I was trying to break through into people leadership. And, you know her advice was this people will not put you there until they see you there. So what are you volunteering for? What are you taking on? How are you doing that extra to show that you can already operate at this level, right. How are you doing this strategic thinking that might be expected of the person two levels above you. And just doing it, just getting in there and making that part of your job so that one day folks will turn around and say, oh, my gosh, she's a what level? No, she's got to be two levels above, right? We got to rectify that. And that was her theory and it was really, really a great one. And she encouraged me to do those things, to be enthusiastic. And I had an opportunity when one of the leaders on the team went on maternity leave, I volunteered, I'll do my job and I'll on an interim basis, manage that team. And so I did. And that was a lot of extra work that maybe contributed to needing to get to that other queue of better doing triage. Because, you know, I was taking a lot on. But, ultimately that colleague decided to come back part time and was not going to be a people leader going forward. And I ended up being permanently put in the job because I was doing a good job with it.

I think sometimes people get resentful, I don't want to do that. That's not to my role. But when you're talking about trying to move up in an organization that kind of resentfulness, or not my jobism, that doesn't get you there, right? It's you look at the people who do get those opportunities and it doesn't necessarily mean someone has to leave for maternity leave. It could just be how you are doing your job at that next level. And just showing that with positivity on a regular basis. So that was one of many lessons I learned from Karen and was lucky enough to mentor with her and then go on to work for her for a few years as well.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And so like I was mentioning, I wonder like how do you do that for the customers? Well, we mentioned data, but are there other things you do to kind of help get that customer to see themselves? They're like, you know, one thing I've heard about retirement accounts is helping customers see themselves as older people. They will make wiser decisions.

And so one example, you know, we talked about fiction writing, a great maxim in fiction writing is show, don't tell, show don't tell. And one of the things we teach is marketing experimentation, right? And so we held a public subject line writing contest where basically we've done this for organizations like Consumer Reports and events we had. Where we have our whole audience say like, here's the emails we're sending, give us some subject lines. We’d pick some of the best subject lines, and we'd test them. They would see the results, we'd see what we learned about the customer, the hypothesis, all this stuff. Where you know, you could just say, Hey, testing and experimentation hypothesis are important, right? Versus you could say like, Hey, let's do this together so you can see it. So I just wonder in your industry, have there been any things you've done that you found worked really well to kind of show your customer there, show them as a retiree, show them as someone who needs insurance, anything like that?

Tiffany Grinstead: Yeah. You know, we do find and I think that's at the heart of a lot of what we would call, you know, content marketing or thought leadership, right. How do you sort of get people thinking about, you know, and it can be the simple things like, you know, the study that we just talked about, right, where you get the data to kind of get people to show people sort of, oh, I'm disconnected. Those quizzes that folks can take to kind of see where they are. We're rolling out a new digital tool to help our agent partners understand where their digital evolution is compared to other agents like them. So they're able to kind of take this tool, take this test, and then see where should they invest their next dollar based on what they've said their priorities are and how they've filled out the survey in terms of their digital evolution. You know, those kinds of interactive tools, those things that get to my hands to get me to try things are really important, right? Because the more that folks can envision it in their head and then try it with their hands, the more likely than they are to see you as a as a long-term partner for sure.

Daniel Burstein: Get them to start moving, get them to start typing, yeah. So now your next lesson “marketing can be fiercely competitive”. I mean, definitely on the agency side, it can be brutally competitive. But this is a story even on the Corporate side. And you learn this with Gretchen Weller, well, I'd say maybe not from her, but maybe with her. Gretchen Weller is now the Vice President of Content Marketing at JPMorgan Chase. And you learned define your relationships for yourself. And how did you learn that?

Tiffany Grinstead: Yeah. So Gretchen and I, she was on the creative side, I was on, I think the, the media team at the time, media relations and some internal communications work. And we just consistently found ourselves on opposite sides of the issue. We had leaders who had different visions. And oftentimes, you know, we were the two directors, each of us under them, and we would kind of go out and do the good battle right on behalf of our organizations. And it was a different time. I think Nationwide is a lot more collaborative 20 years later in ways where I don't think this would happen. But we were very young and we were following, you know, the leads that we were given.

And, you know, it wasn't necessarily personal, but it was also not a thing where we went out of our way to love each other personally either. You know, it was just we weren't yelling and screaming. That's not part of Nationwide culture, but we weren't cooperating and we frustrated each other. And I was talking to an older colleague, a male, about a meeting I just had, and I was like, I met with her and, you know, I said this and she said this. And, you know, I got my way. So was really good. And, you know, he looked at me and I will never forget. He said, I really wish I could have been in that room to see two young, overly ambitious women clawing each other's eyes out.

Daniel Burstein: Oof!

Tiffany Grinstead: And I thought I had just been smacked across the face because that was not how I perceived that we were behaving. And you know, just playing into maybe some sexist tropes there or, you know. So I went and grabbed her and just said, Hey, someone just said this to me and I and I said it to her and she stopped and kind of froze in place. And, you know, together we said, you know what, let's just go to lunch. Let's just go to lunch once a week. And so we started going to lunch once a week and we got to know each other personally. We grew up in really similar towns and really similar households. We had really similar value systems. We really enjoyed each other. You know, when I when I was going through some personal issues at home, she was the friend who kind of stood up and was there for me. We got in the habit of talking to each other on the way to work every single morning, on the way home, every single day. And, you know, I was just recently the maid of honor in her wedding. She is no longer at Nationwide. She's now at JPMorgan. And we still talk on the way to work and on the way home every single day.

But what I really took away from that and I talk to younger folks about it is, you know, you have to define your relationships for yourself. You need to recognize, you know, that the people around you truly are people and the person that, you know might be in an organization that sideways from your organization could potentially be your best friend in the world if you are open to it. And what was interesting about Gretchen and I was as we became better friends, our teams became almost like the model for what collaboration needed to look like. And a lot of the problems just went away because we would just get in a room and we would just figure it out. And both of us kind of went on to have careers where we were known for collaboration. And I think that this lesson for both of us was a really big part of that.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's a beautiful story. There's something funny that happens with us. You know, there's this false construct of these corporations and these organizations where we as human beings work in them and it can dehumanize us to each other. But I mean, even more so to our customers, right? They just become numbers in the database. So I love that. I think what you did essentially was bring the humanity back to that conversation and back to that person. Because I'm guessing if you were not in that corporate construct, if you were just out in the park or wherever else we might meet, probably would have had a very different interaction because you would have found out you had all these similarities and really liked each other. So that's very nice. So let's talk about one final lesson here. This one comes courtesy of Dan Amodeo, Vice President of Strategy at Nationwide. And he taught you how to think like a business leader. How did Dan do that?

Tiffany Grinstead: Yeah, you know, I started at Nationwide as I said as an intern. And in my mind, I was going to write for the newsletter. Maybe I'd stay at Nationwide or maybe I'd be a journalist, or maybe I'd do, you know, some big fancy media relations storytelling type job. But I was there to be creative, right. And I didn't see why I would want to learn something boring, like insurance. You know, I was 21 years old, and I just didn't see that at all in numbers. I majored in journalism, so I didn't have to deal with numbers. right.

And Dan was the head of our investor relations at the time. He's now the leader of our financial services strategy organization. But I remember I was assigned to work on something with him as an intern and he was like, Wait, you don't understand this balance sheet? You don't understand the business strategy? No, no, no, no, sit, I'm going to tell it. I'm going to teach you. And he's a tremendous storyteller. And so I found myself getting more and more excited about the stories he was telling as he was bringing all of this to life. And then I found by understanding those things, I was doing better in my role. And then all of a sudden I wasn't just writing for the internal newsletter. I was getting assigned projects to work on because I had this sort of business knowledge that wasn't sort of the norm for an intern who was brought in to work on the internal newsletter. And I transitioned to being an intern that worked on business projects from an internal communications perspective. And then later, you know, moved into roles where I had external communications and then eventually marketing.

But, you know, the fact that he was like, No, no, no, not only am I going to teach you this, but I'm going to show you why it's important. And if you can't understand the business, then you can't market it and you can't counsel business leaders. Like you have to get in there and you have to be invaluable and you have to be a business leader. And not only is that important, it can be really fun, too. And so that was just early in my career, something pretty fantastic that Dan brought into view that I just hadn't been exposed to before.

Daniel Burstein: Now, when you're managing a team, context could be so motivational. Why behind what they do things, not just what they're doing. And I remember one story that always stuck with me. I heard on NPR or read it somewhere is that these reporters went to like one of those Foxconn factories in China where people were building the iPad. And there was this woman. All she did all day was take this one microchip and glue it to this motherboard all day long, you know, 10 hours a day, six days a week, whatever it was. And then they showed her an iPad, which is what she was building. She's never seen an iPad. She only saw the insides. And she wept just to know that she was part of this process of creating this thing. And we're not in manufacturing, but the same is true in marketing of where, you know, making sure, one, you're creatives. That's a great way to motivate your creatives or everyone on the team. What is the bigger value proposition of our company? Why do we do things? What are the internal workings and how does it all play out? So I love that story.

And I wonder, you know, one place marketers are really challenged, I found, is that internal marketing, especially to business leaders, you know, they really challenged at explaining why they need to budget what they're doing, what they want to do. And I wonder how that understanding of the business helped you. And also, you know, something like we talked about is understanding different types of customers and how you can communicate to them. You know, one thing I wrote once was Seven CEO Personas, to kind of give you that idea too, of we think of these customer personas, but internally sometimes we forget there are different types of CEOs, right? There's the technical CEO, the sales CEO. You know, some CEOs come up from the HR Department, some come up, you know, from the technical side and they tend to be different people.  So I wonder how you use that knowledge ever to communicate internally and to better understand your business leaders and where they're coming from so you could better communicate with them.

Tiffany Grinstead: You know, to me, it's been the difference maker and it's actually one of the reasons why I love being part of a business leadership team. Because at the end of the day, we don't do marketing, so we can do creative fun stuff, right? We do marketing so that we can grow our business, retain our customers. And that's really the core in the heart of the business strategies. And to do that profitably right. So for me, you know, bringing customer segmentation and positioning and value prop work into the business line is a really, really important thing. Because then you're at the table helping to define who are we going at, how are we defining our strategies, right? And then as far as that business strategy is being built, it's a business strategy that's sort of inherently marketing ready, if you think about it, right?

So by playing that role and being somebody that the business line can count on to understand the industry, the competitors, the dynamics, to be part of those conversations and to bring in then this is why we segment this way versus that way, and this is how that comes together in positioning. And then here's how that positioning and value prop, then drive our stories that we're going to take to market. right? And so spending that time to me is kind of like the foundational building block because then when you build your marketing strategy, it's really just an outgrowth of the business strategy. And if I'm continuously checking back in with the marketing strategy to the business strategy, the marketing strategy to the business strategy, the scorecard to the outcomes, to the business outcomes, and holding myself and my team accountable to that. Well, now, marketing is not an expense, is part of the business, part of the strategy. And as soon as it sits outside, as soon as it's about me wanting my advertising dollars, or as soon as all I can talk about is awareness. And I can't connect awareness to consideration, to trial, to the funnel in a way that feels actionable to the business that I'm in to show them how I'm driving profitable growth. Then marketing is an expense. It's a whole different kind of conversation.

Daniel Burstein: I think that's a very tacit, actionable example of the collaboration you were just talking about our last story. So that's great. All right. Well, Tiffany, we've gone all over the world at this point. You know, we talked about data, we talked about failure. We talked about how to manage yourself personally, how to manage your team. If you had to break it down, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer, in your opinion?

Tiffany Grinstead: Well, you know, I think an effective marketer is strategic. So first and foremost, you've got to have that strategic thinking sort of underpinning to be able to you know, I've heard people talk about like the five questions, right? You've got to ask all five questions to get back to be able to have those business line conversations that set the strategy up in a way that then connect it to the marketing strategy.

I also think in today's interconnected world and environment, you know, you have to be collaborative. You absolutely have to be able to work across lots different folks to be able to find allies, partners, peers, learn from others, whether that's outside organizations, whether that's agencies, whether that's inside your own organization if it's matrixed, or with your business partners. If you can't collaborate, you're not going to be able to win. And so you know that I think is really, really key.

And then, you know, I think passion goes a long way and that's passion for marketing, for the work we do, for getting better at the work, it's not a static thing. You know, 20 years ago, marketing was very different than it is today. You know, we weren't talking 20 years ago about some of the kind of personalization tools we talk about today. The way that data drives into a CRM system’s, that wasn't happening the way that it is sort of mainstream happening now.

So if you don't have the passion to grow your knowledge to talk about your craft, to get better at your craft, then I think you can fall behind really quickly. I mean, social media isn't anything like it was. I mean, I had a MySpace account and that's completely useless right now, right. If you aren’t somebody who's curious about getting on Tik-Tok and figuring out what that is, then you're probably in the wrong career, even if your company is not using TikTok yet. The fact is you need to be passionate and curious and kind of constantly keeping your own skills up to date.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, I started out writing print ads in the Wall Street Journal, so things have changed since then. But I love that word that you used, craft, such a beautiful word to describe what we do as marketers. You got to look at it as a craft and I love your passion and you shine through in this conversation. So thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Tiffany Grinstead: Thank you so much.

Daniel Burstein: And thank you to everyone for listening. I hope you got some ideas from Tiffany for mastering your craft.

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