Get ideas for humble leadership, conducting business with the federal government, and effective collaboration by listening to episode #31 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had an informative, enthusiastic conversation with Ariel Glassman, Director of Marketing, Sage Communications.
Glassman discussed flexibility, agility, patience, and much more.
This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“Form a cohesive picture of value,” Flint McGlaughlin taught in Above-the-Fold Psychology: How to optimize the top 4 inches of your webpage.
Not only can that approach help you get more “yes” answers to your conversion goals, it can help you judiciously use the word “no” as well, a topic I discuss with the latest guest on the How I Made It In Marketing podcast.
You can hear that conversation, filled with lesson-filled stories from her career, in my discussion with Ariel Glassman, Director of Marketing, Sage Communications. Glassman has worked in small businesses in the federal government marketing space for 20 years and has worn many hats in her career.
Listen to our conversation using the embedded player below or click through to your preferred audio streaming service.
Some lessons from Glassman that emerged in our discussion:
They instill confidence, push their teams to grow and take on responsibility, and show what it truly means to believe in teamwork and value individual team members.
To a very large degree, marketing to the federal government hinges on the federal client trusting that you understand their goals, and that the goods and services you are supplying are going to meet the needs of the agency’s mission, especially in the realm of technology solutions which is the world Glassman lives in.
Because of that, thought leadership is core to success. It’s critical to be able to demonstrate thought leadership in multiple ways and it many times begins with a bio because they are included in bids and proposals. At Deep Water Point, Glassman worked with a team of about 300 subject matter experts – or SMEs – and their offering came in the form of the intelligence, expertise, and leadership of their principal consultants.
These were people who knew the federal market because they were the ones leading or supporting federal programs before leaving and entering the world of consulting. These bios were not filed away in human resources folders. They were marketing data sheets and collateral. Marketers are storytellers, and the stories Glassman told were 30- to 40-year long tales that needed to be told in one page or less.
She enjoyed each challenge, especially because it afforded her the opportunity to speak with some very fascinating and impressive people. She interacted with top military and intelligence leaders and C-suite executives both from federal agencies and from industry. A theme that ran through most (not all) of her experiences was the humility of these men and women.
These individuals had every reason to have huge egos based on what they were involved in creating and standing up – but most had them in check and led with their minds and hearts – they truly cared about the work they were doing and the people they were doing it with. These were people who rolled up their sleeves and got stuff done.
It also initially surprised her that she had much to share and help them with. She thinks many times we can feel like people who advance to a certain level or station in life must “know it all” and not need any guidance or instruction from others.
Not only did she realize she had something of value to share with them, but they also sought it out from her and were appreciative of her contributions. She referred to this crew many times as the “rock stars” of the federal government. That’s when she knew that she had either been in Washington too long, or that this was just the sector she was meant to work in.
Glassman encourages marketers to develop a genuine interest in the people with whom you connect – not only for the sake of your business goals but also because you care and find the person across from you to be interesting and able to add value to your work/life, too.
Be invested. Work is much more enjoyable and rewarding when you find ways to work with people who you value and who value you.
As the marketing manager at a small, product-based business, she was tasked with finding new ways to increase brand awareness in the US federal marketspace. They decided to explore creating their own in-house PR program headed up (and staffed) by Glassman. It seemed a bit daunting to find a way to get attention in such a noisy market sector. Why would any national or federally focused publication care about what this small company saw as exciting news and the developments they had going on?
Glassman learned how to use and manage the PR news wires, started coming up with angles she thought would be of interest to the publications, and began writing and sending press releases. And…nothing. She decided to try a different tactic.
Instead of focusing on the publications, she started to look more closely at which writer was focused on which topic areas and tailored her communications and stories to them based on their areas of responsibility. That got her a little farther and she started to receive some interest here and there. The real magic happened when she reached out more directly to reporters after researching their focuses and finding out more about them as people.
She started to become a known quantity to them, and vice versa. For example, she found Brad Bass, an editor at Federal Computer Week. They met for lunches and coffees and got to know each other as people, not just someone who was looking for their next story to write and someone who had potential content. They started out as people who may need something and became work friends looking to help each other out with their individual goals while moving their own business goals forward.
Decades later, and years after moving on from positions where she was responsible for pitching stories, she is still in touch with Bass and other reporters because of the connections they made beyond the transaction of business. Thinking about work as only B-to-B, B-to-G and B-to-C is transactional. The real beauty comes into play when you begin to realize that at the heart of it all, it’s H-to-H…human to human.
The summer before her senior year of college, Glassman landed an incredible opportunity to intern at the Emmy-nominated PBS children’s program, Reading Rainbow…and live and play in New York City for a few months. As a production intern, she was primarily spending her time proofreading scripts, checking prop inventory, learning how to work with vendors and saying “yes” to whatever the production team needed when the team was on location.
If this was the net of her experience, it would’ve been enough to consider it a successful, valuable experience. And then came a moment when she was glad her mouth moved more quickly than her brain. The production needed someone to participate in an on-camera role and they came to the interns to see who would be interested. A few of them were standing around at the time, and somehow, “yes” came out of Glassman’s mouth faster than it did anyone else’s. And that was that.
She didn’t even know what the assignment was at the time, but somehow, she processed that this was going to be an Andy Warhol once-in-a-lifetime moment. This was her 15 minutes. She had learned a lesson about regret earlier in life when she passed up an opportunity to take the lead in a school production. She said “no” out of fear. She wasn’t going to let that happen again, hence ending up in a Reading Rainbow episode.
The scene was filmed at Astor Place Barber Shop in Greenwich Village with Glassman in a chair, letting the stylist create an outrageous hairdo that involved 16 ounces of strong holding hair spray to hold her hair up in five spikes that were then covered in red, white, blue and green dyes. Had she hesitated, someone else would’ve been in that chair, and she would’ve again missed out on a unique opportunity.
Creative Sample #1: Ariel Glassman with spiky hair during her cameo on Reading Rainbow
Glassman also shared lessons she learned from the people she collaborated with:
via Margo Dunn, Founder, Insiteful Studio
Deep Water Point (DWP), a federal consulting firm comprised of former C-level executives from industry and government, was a decade ahead of the world in terms of successfully running a business where everyone, except for a small back-office staff, worked remotely.
To keep everyone connected and to provide up-to-date content and information, Glassman had created an internal collaboration portal that worked well for years, but it was time to update it. Dunn joined the team as the architect of the site because she had experience with the platform they were going to be using. Their marching orders were that Dunn was taking care of the technical building of the site and Glassman was responsible for the content.
That sounded clear enough, but as they began working together, it quickly became apparent that there were more gray areas than black/technical building and white/content. Adhering to rigid roles in this case was not serving them or the project well. They created a plan that involved a lot of coordination, communication, and flexibility between the two of them. If they had gotten hung up on “this is my role and this is your role,” they wouldn’t have succeeded.
There were times when it wasn’t clear who should handle what because they were involved in both areas, but between being open minded and flexible regarding what their areas of responsibilities were, and clear and regular communication, they got the job done and it was very well received.
via David Gorodetski, CEO, Sage Communications
Having worked in small business her entire career, while she was primarily responsible for marketing, she always wore multiple hats and took on tasks that probably would’ve been handled by an operations, HR, or even tech department at a larger company. If someone asked her to take care of something, she’d typically say yes, and just handle it, or say ‘yes’ and teach herself how to complete the task and get it done.
When she joined Sage Communications, in one of her first conversations with David Gorodetski, Sage’s CEO, he asked her if she knew how to say ‘no.’ At first, she honestly didn’t quite understand the question. Why would someone want her to say no to a request? While Sage isn’t a large company, it is a marketing agency comprised of around 50 people Glassman calls “extremely talented, clever, smart, and creative,”and the largest marketing team she’d ever been a part of.
The question made her think and realize that not only in this new setting couldn’t she do everything by herself, but she shouldn’t be taking it all on. She needed to know her limits, both in time and ability, and work with her teammates who were experts in what they did, whether it be writing, coordinating events, designing etc. so that she could manage the project and bring the best value she could to her clients.
This ability to say “no” also applies in the business development component of her work. To grow a company in a healthy way, leaders also need to be able to know when to say “no” to a potential client. Not all prospective clients are the right match, so just because someone comes knocking on your door, doesn’t mean that there’s business to be done with them.
They have a clear “go – no go” protocol at Sage so that they can best serve their clients based on the types of projects and the types of audiences they are looking to reach. It doesn’t serve anyone well if the criteria they need to bring the most value they can to a client aren’t met. It’s still difficult for her to completely say “no,” but she has at least gotten to “not yet” or “not now” or at least “yes…we as a team can get that done.”
via David Gorodetski, CEO, Sage Communications; and Howard Seeger, Managing Partner and Murray Sewell, Partner, both of Deep Water Point
When Sage Communications approached Glassman to consider joining the leadership team, it occurred to her that not only might it be a solid career move for her, but also for the company she had thought of as family for over a decade. DWP and Sage are focused on the same federal sector community and their offerings are complementary.
Deep Water Point’s go-to-market strategies involve capture management and thought-leadership-centric plans. Sage’s expertise is in creating marketing and PR campaigns for the federal government and companies looking to work with the federal government.
Shortly after joining Sage, she floated the idea to Sage’s CEO, David Gorodetski, and he thought it was something to explore and gave her the go-ahead to do so. In her mind, this was just a matter of having the company leadership meet, talk and move forward. But business doesn’t typically work in a straight line or so quickly. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t.
They engaged several times over the course of many months, meeting with different combinations of stakeholders. There were periods of silence, rescheduled meetings and questions that needed to be answered along the way. It would have been easy to get busy with other projects and let this opportunity slide, but she felt strongly that there was value to be had by the two firms working together to serve clients.
Having the confidence to trust her gut and having the patience to see the venture through were key to keeping the conversations live and on track, and the eventual development of an alliance partnership benefits the clients they all look to serve.
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 tough transcript of our discussion.
Daniel Burstein: Five years into my career. I got the opportunity to work on communications for high level leaders in very large corporations. These leaders had thousands of people who reported to them all around the globe. I had a bit of experience under my belt by that point, but let's face it, I was still pretty green and I wish I had heard the story our next guest is about to share.
She says humble leaders provide more than expertise and direction and shares a story of working with very senior leaders who she worried would be know-it-alls. But in reality, they needed guidance and instruction from her and others as well. And they started out and they were appreciative of these contributions. That's beautiful. It's just beautiful. And if you find yourself in a similar position, I hope you find it reassuring. That lesson comes from my next guest, who will share the full story, along with many lesson filled stories. I'm so glad to be welcoming Ariel Glassman, Director of Marketing at Sage Communications. Thanks for joining us, Ariel.
Ariel Glassman: Thank you so much, Daniel. It's a great opportunity. Thank you so much.
Daniel Burstein: So we were talking you have been in the federal marketing space for 20 years now and you've worked with small businesses. You've gotten to wear many hats. We'll learn a lot of that from your stories today. But tell us, what is your day like as Director of Marketing?
Ariel Glassman: A day as a Director of Marketing at Sage Communications looks different every single day. I think working in small business my whole career. Sage is probably the largest of those and it is just under 50 people strong. And so every day it's marketing, quite honestly, internally and externally. It’s making sure that the messages that are clients are looking to get out to the federal government, which is their primary target, are clear, concise and that we're on top of every detail as well as wide angle that they need to do. As well as a Director of Marketing I'm also working to get the word out about Sage. And that, especially in the pandemic world, means getting the message out to the world about sage, but also marketing to the people who work at SAGE to make sure that we stay cohesive and bonded and keep the culture really clear and in focus so that we can all work to together to serve our clients the best that we can.
Daniel Burstein: I love that the internal marketing is something that's all too easy to overlook. And when me and Ariel were talking, she was worried, like, Oh, federal government, people are going to be bored. I'm like, Hey, when a client has trillions of dollars to spend, it becomes pretty interesting. Well, let's take a look at some of the lessons from the things you made.
So we as marketers, I like to say, you know, I've never worked in another industry, but I don't feel like a podiatrist or an auditor or something really makes things. We get to make things. We make campaigns, we make brands and make so many fun things. And this is your first lesson. I mentioned in the beginning, humble leaders provide more than experience and direction. So tell us about this story. How did you learn this lesson?
Ariel Glassman: Sure. Well, at a previous employer, at a company called Deepwater Point, they are comprised of former senior level executives, both within the federal government and in the industry that supports the federal government and to a very large degree, marketing to the federal government hinges on the federal client, trusting that you understand their goals and their goods and services that you're supplying. And at Deepwater Point, these principles, these consultants now had 30 or 40 year long careers.
And when they came to Deepwater Point, one of my tasks as the marketing communications lead was to take their 30, 40 year long tales and put it on to one page. And in other types of companies, larger companies A bio might be fodder for the HR Department or Operations. But for the federal government, it's core to any marketing strategy. And everybody who came on board because they had these 30, 40 year long careers had every reason to have big egos and to lead with it. But these particular leaders were leaders who really led with their heart and with their head. They cared about the mission that they were responsible for within the federal government or supporting the federal government and it made it really...
Daniel Burstein: I think something that was interesting that you mentioned to me, because I've experienced this as well, is, you know, so you've been this big leader. You've been able to do all these things in your career. That's very hard to break down onto a one page bio. Like the hardest things I do in my own career are talk about myself. It's weird, it's awkward like any type of interviewing for a job. So I think that's where maybe having that other person there to help, like, did you interview them to pull that out? Like how did you get to that one page bio?
Ariel Glassman: You know, it's interesting. A lot of times I didn't actually interview them. I think as marketers, we're storytellers, that's what we do. So this is their 30, 40 year long story and being able to break it down into the most important components as well as having in mind what is it that they are coming into Deepwater Point to be the expert on, and making sure that we continue to keep the audience in mind because we were not selling their thought leadership expertise.
So we needed to speak to the audience. They might have had a long career, maybe starting out in military and then going into the civilian world and then going into industry. And it was a matter of making sure that taking that maybe four page long resume and making sure that we highlighted the points that are going to resonate with our audience.
And what I did learn with many of them, because you would think that that people coming out of these C Level type positions is that clearly they have a lot to teach and they've had many, many different types of experiences. I think that what I learned along the way and surprised me at first was how much they not only could learn from my from my experiences and where I was coming from, but that they were interested in doing so and they sought me out as a result.
I think one thing I've learned from working with these, what I call rock stars of the federal government, which to me either meant I was in Washington too long, or that I had just found the exact right place for myself. Was that they were all multidirectional learners and that was a huge lesson for me. It's not just a matter of someone being in business or in government for such a long time that they were the ones who were all knowing. They not only had much to learn, but were interested in continuing to seek out and learn. And I really appreciated and enjoyed that.
Daniel Burstein: That's, you know, I speak in college classes sometimes. And one thing I tell the college students is, you know, when you're starting in a career, you know, I remember when I started in an ad agency, you know, we were running print ads in the Wall Street Journal is what we did. And so I did kind of start at the bottom and it's like, okay, you have to learn from the more experienced people, but especially today. I mean, I think what you said is always true. If you have a good leader, they're multidirectional. They're trying to learn from your experience as well. But especially today, I think this interesting inverse has happened where if you're starting out, you know, a lot more just natively about some of the different technologies and some of the different communication mechanisms that are going on, right?
So when I started with print ads that hadn't changed in 100 years. But you're coming out now like everyone starting because they know more about Snapchat and Tik Tok and whatever all these other things are than the most senior leaders. So they have kind of something in their arsenal as well. You know, when they're going in there to talk about it. And a smart leader is someone who wants to learn from them from what they've picked up naturally.
Ariel Glassman: Absolutely and I think, though, that there's also a balance because there were many times what I was learning, especially from I worked with leaders who were coming out of the Department of Defense, as well as civilian agencies, as well as the intelligence community, as we referred to as the IC. And in talking about technology and using technology, getting people some of some of these leaders, they would not touch LinkedIn with a ten foot pole. And learning from them about how to strike a balance between being able to implement technology, making sure that the government has what they need to function and be the most effective, and at the same time to protect the citizen. And I think that's a toughie. But that's what a lot of these guys were involved in doing and making sure that that safety and security was there while making sure that the government had what they needed to move business forward in that sense.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. Can you think of any specific anecdote where maybe you were with a leader and, you know, they were like, hey, wow, this is a very senior leader. They learn something from me and I'll tell you one of my own real quick. It was, as I mentioned, is about five years into my career, and I started going from a copywriter to being more into sales enablement and communications consultant. And I was working with a very large software company, global software company, the head of sales, who speaks on the earnings calls. Who’s got thousands of people reporting to him around the globe, is pulling them all together. They have their sales kickoff. Thousands and thousands of people around the globe are going to be sitting in here. And I was working on his presentation. I was with my partner. I was working on his presentation. And I was like, you know, I would get on these calls with him and his, you know, exec admin and his team, not just him, his team. I'd be like, what can I add to this? You know?
And so then when we finally get to the presentation, we're kicking it off. They were growing into $1,000,000,000 software company and more, and there were very few companies that that were actually billion dollar software companies they wanted show it. So I built up and I showed a few of them and I showed for each company there was an image that really reflected that company. And so, you know, for Symantec, it was their command center where they look for viruses. For Oracle, it was, you know, their yachts they were famous for that. And then the biggest software company at the time, maybe it still is, was Microsoft, but also Microsoft was their biggest competitor and sales was just going head to head with Microsoft.
So when they were building up and seeing all these different software companies, we saw each really tailored image for them. When it got to Microsoft, it was just a blue screen of death with the blinking cursor to just the blue screen of death. And the sales team just roared. I mean, I got to sit in the back there, 1000 people in front and the sales team just roared. And it made me realize it built up a little confidence in me early in my career that, yes, hey, this guy, he's the head of sales. He's working with thousands of people. He can be on earnings calls. Right. But he's working with me for a reason. And there's something I could bring to the table, even if it's just a blue screen of death with the blinking cursor, a little funny joke in a PowerPoint. That helps him get his message across. And that's something that all these thousands of sales folks who many of them don't get to work with him directly or maybe interact with him directly at all. But will just kind of see him on a on a meeting here and there. They'll have that personal experience with him and kind of get to know him that through that. And that just kind of gave me some confidence. So, I wonder for you Ariel, was there any moment that really hit you or you're working with some senior leader and then you bring some of your communications or market expertise and you're like, Well, I, I brought something to this person.
Ariel Glassman: I think the one of the items that comes to my mind is that I had produced over 130 market intelligence briefings with each one of these leaders as our featured speaker. And with one of them, I decided to do a panel discussion and each one of them individually could hold down a particular conversation. But all together, there was a lot of coordination and management that needed to happen to make sure that they stayed on task, that they spoke to the particular areas that I needed to them to speak to. And I think that being that glue and seeing that just because someone has the technical experience and the content to put out there doesn't mean that it's going to be communicated well.
And having that pipeline and having the platform and again being that glue between all of them and making sure that those puzzle pieces come together in a way that's going to be valuable to the audience, was definitely something that I brought to the table and I think that the way that it was described afterwards was that I was a good cat herder.
Daniel Burstein: And I hope that's great encouragement to anyone listening who's earlier in their career has to work with the senior leader. I know it can be intimidating at first, but you've got skills too, and hopefully you're bringing something to the table. Let's talk about your next lesson. Successful business happens when the focus is on relationship building, not the transactions. Plus, it's much more rewarding and fun. So how did you learn this scenario?
Ariel Glassman: You know, we talk about the business that we do, in my case, B2G or B2B2G or a business to business or business to consumer. And it's very removed from what we're actually doing. And it occurred to me kind of early on about how at the end of the day, this is human to human. We're really all in the H2H business. And I kind of came to that in my career. I was working at a company called Network Software Associates. It was a small business. It's my M.O. and they had tasked me with creating a PR program. They had not focused on PR maybe ever, and came to me and asked me to take on the challenge of creating something.
And it was daunting at first. I mean, in a really noisy market sector such as the federal government. Why would that audience be interested in our 3270 emulation software, which is mainframe to PC software? Again, really exciting stuff. To me it was working, with the federal government, I think very, very exciting place to be.
And so I started out by learning the basics, understanding how newswires were, coming up with different angles I thought would be interesting to the publications. And started writing press releases and sending them out, and nothing, quiet. I really didn't get a response and I didn’t want to prove myself right, that it was too noisy for us, but that was the direction I was going in. So I decided to try something different. Instead of focusing on the publications as a whole, I started to look more closely at which writers were writing stories that were focused on a particular areas. I tailored my communications specifically to those people and their areas of responsibility. And that got me a little bit farther and I started to receive some interest here and there.
But really the magic happened when I started connecting with reporters. One in particular was Brad Bass, and Brad was an editor at Federal Computer Week, and he was in our space. He was in connectivity software, among other areas. So he was the right guy. And we started talking, just one on one. And not only about what my company was doing or what his needs were, but getting to know each other. And this is an example of a number of different people that I ended up connecting with. So we met over lunch, we met for coffee, and we both had something that was beneficial to each other. But again, the reason why I think that we enjoyed figuring out how we could work together is because we enjoyed working together.
And I'm still in touch with him today and this is decades later. He's moved on. I've moved on and that connection stayed. And even though we're not directly working together in that capacity, we've definitely helped each other in different types of mentor roles or suggestions or advice over the courses of our careers. And having the opportunity to work with him again if I ever did, that would be amazing. And that's one story there. There are many, many others. And to me, that's where, again, this comes into play. Business gets done when you're connecting human to human.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I've written before the best press release is no press release. Right. Because you just try to connect with people. So actually, you know, it brings up can I talk about our story about how you kind of got on this podcast? Is that okay?
Ariel Glassman: Absolutely.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And I'd like to hear from your perspective to our Ariel, like I only saw it from my perspective. So I really like this story because at Marketing Sherpa I am on the receiving end of I mean literally hundreds and hundreds of pitches a week to get into our articles with case studies to get, you know, as a guest on to the How I Made It Marketing Podcast. And I appreciate that because what we're looking for at Marketing Sherpa, we're looking for external sources to bring you real stories of how it really happens. So we need that right. However, it definitely feels being on the receiving end, I think people sometimes handle their content a lot this way is, some PR people, it's just a numbers game. They're like, If I can get this many press releases out, if I can send this many emails, you know, you know, if I send, you know, a thousand, I get a 1% conversion and I'll get this many placements. And it definitely feels like then again, I see people doing this with their content too. It's just if I get enough keywords out there with AI-written content, you know, we'll get enough links and we'll get traffic or whatever.
As opposed to what we try to do with this content. And what I wish more PR people would do is like, look at it as humans on the other end. You're human listening right now. That's why we made this podcast, right? Some podcasts I've been on you just show up, you start talking it’s not about anything. Ariel will tell you. there's been a lot of prep here, so we have really good stories for you because we know there's humans on the other end. And as a reporter, as a podcast host, I'm a human too. But again, I get pitched it feels like a big numbers game. And then when people get, you know, rejected, we can't interview everyone, there are sometimes friendly emails that ask us, and there's sometimes less friendly emails that think how dare you? Why did my guest not get picked? Why did you not pick this person to interview on the How I Made It Marketing podcast.
And so I've kept a folder of how many applications we've got. Now I can see a numbers game. I was telling Ariel I've written someone recently I think we've gotten at this point 2004 applications to speak on this podcast. I think this episode now will be number 31. So you can see the difference there. And you know, I tell people this. But again, it's more like, hey, there are some entitlement or there's I've sent all these out, you should do this. The interesting thing with Ariel, I will say someone from her company, I guess a PR person from your company pitched it, didn't seem like a fit, you know, said, hey, thanks, but no thanks. But then Ariel found me on LinkedIn and you know, she didn't say I should have been on there. We just we had a nice human conversation and actually what she said, if I can can I say this is, is okay she said, I listened through your podcast. I understand why you decided not to go with this.
And then, you know, we had more of a conversation and I realized, well, there's a really interesting and compelling human being here, and maybe I've made a mistake in overlooking, you know, what you just see in that application. Again, we get a lot in you got to go through them pretty quickly and you're looking through, you know, things that really stick out. So anyway, I'd say kudos to Ariel what a great human approach as opposed to just trying to send out a bunch of crap or whatever and saying like, Hey, you've got a sense of entitlement how should I not be on. It was such a nice human connection. It stuck out to me. So how was it from your perspective, like what were you thinking?
Ariel Glassman: Yeah, and I appreciate that. And to me, I think it was sincere. It's like, yeah, exactly what you said. I listen to your podcast, I get it. I work in small business. People don't know the names of the companies that I've worked for. They know my client because they're the biggest employer in the United States. But as far as what I was talking about with those types of stories and reached out to you. I understood or I thought that I understood. So it was more of a thank you and appreciate you taking the time to even consider my application. And yeah, it was really a sincere note. At the same time, I think on my end I'm like, okay, well maybe this isn't the right opportunity yet. You don't know what's going to come down the pike and you make connections with people and you don't know when you're going to necessarily be able to help them or bring value to them or vice versa.
So I honestly, you know, people talk about how do you turn no into a yes. And itt really wasn't so much an active thought about like, all right, I'm going to figure out how to do this. It was more of like, all right, this looks like a cool opportunity. I enjoyed what I heard with the other podcasts I listened to. I looked into as you said, I researched you. I researched where you work. And Marketing Sherpa is one of the programs there. And I thought, well, it doesn't need to be a door closer. It could just be that the door's not quite open yet.
Daniel Burstein: I'm glad there's another thing you said there that was really key that I want to hit on, because how do you turn no into yes? And so what I get, I'm also on the receiving end of a lot of sales calls, you know, because of my role here, Marketing Sherpa they want us to use their whatever CMS technology or social listening technology or a million other things.
And so when they get the no, it's always, well, what are you using now? And this is how we're better than what you're using now versus what you did Ariel, where you said, well, let me learn about this person and just have a connection and maybe we can add value to each other over time. And that's a great example, actually, just last night was yesterday I was having a discussion with our CEO, Flint McGlaughlin, and we're talking about, you know, we offer a free digital marketing course.
We're building out these workshops, these Build Classes where we work more directly with marketers, where they can get some like hands on work and some of the tools and building some of these things. And there was a specific type of vendor we're thinking about and looking for, and I said, Hey. And it popped in my head. I had been on this guy's podcast, I don't know, however long ago he had reached out to me when I looked in the email, it was actually like three or four months ago. He was wanting to give Marketing Sherpa some of his free service in exchange for us doing a case study for him, which it didn't work out, we weren't looking to do that. But this is something that might have worked. And it popped in my head because we had made more of a human connection, you know.
And so, again, anyway, it's such a sticking point for me that be human in your marketing, be human in your PR, be human in your content. I see all of these AI and machine learning tools now that it just seems that people feel like they can flood the market with content, with whatever, they can just send enough emails, they can do enough programmatic advertising, they can have enough AI written blog posts and that will work.
And so the other thing that because I want to get on the second half of what you said here, you said, Oh, let me make sure I find it and I want to get it exactly right, you said. Plus, it's much more rewarding and fun. Because it's not just a success. I like dealing with other human beings. You mentioned Ariel, you've worked at home way before the pandemic. One thing working at home now for me you know you have less of that human connection. Sometimes you go to events now with COVID lifting, but like is this just a chance to have human relationships as well, right?
Ariel Glassman: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that one of the thoughts that came to my mind as you were talking was also about what are the needs of the customer. I think that we as marketers and people who are looking to sell our products and goods are all about sometimes focus on what's the greatest and best about what it is that we're putting out into the world. But if that's not what your client needs, then that doesn't serve anybody. So to go in and it jogged my mind when you were talking about like, well, what is it that you're using so that I can then play offense against whatever that is.
And I think that especially in the federal government space, it's very mission based, which I think is why it's so rewarding. That it's not marketing just for the sake of marketing, but to really, in my mind, help the government be more effective and efficient with our own tax dollars, by the way, and, and introduce them to technologies in my particular space. But , they need everything under the sun that they actually need and that will be valuable to them. So it's about asking the customer what are your needs? And if you're not supplying what they need, if you're podcast, if I can't supply your podcast with what it needs, then it's not the right fit. I think that that's a question that also goes to this human component of getting out of your own way and finding out what they need.
And it might not always be the right match and being okay with that because you will at some point hit that right sweet spot for both sides. And that's where the magic happens. And it could be that that human that you've run into, that's not the right match in the moment. Like I said, could be down the road at some other way and form.
Daniel Burstein: And I get why people do it. I get why PR people do it. I get why marketers do it. You got those numbers right? You got those numbers. You got to hit those numbers. They're blinding us, right. But again, I would encourage you, maybe you get you get up, push, push, push, push mentality. You get a few more leads or whatever you're looking for media placements, and you are like this works. Try that pull mentality. Try that mentality of learning about people and really serving them and just give it a chance. If you're listening now I'm just saying just give it a chance. Give it a chance.
Ariel Glassman: Agreed.
Daniel Burstein: So here's a really fun story. Now we talk about the federal government, Ariel’s like ahh it’s going to be boring, people don’t care about the federal government no. This is a really fun story of moment in your life, I like this. You said, don't hesitate to say yes when presented with a cool, unique opportunity Carpe Diem, so tell us about this story Ariel.
Ariel Glassman: This is early on in my career even I would say maybe at the very beginnings of I was still in college at the time and I think that that's where the kind of the connective tissue from this story I'm about to tell, having to do with being in television production and marketing, really had to do with an interest in messaging and communication, and that's what I was focused on in college.
So I had an incredible opportunity to intern at the Emmy nominated PBS children's program Reading Rainbow. And I got to live and play in New York City for a couple of months, which was a blast. And as a Production Intern, I was primarily spending my time proofreading scripts, checking for prop inventory, learning how to work with vendors, and really saying yes to whatever the production team needed when we went on location. And honestly, if that was the net of my full experience, it would have been enough for it to be considered a success and a valuable experience.
And then came a moment where I'm very glad that my mouth moved a bit quicker than my brain. Production needed somebody to participate in an on camera role. And they came over to the interns area to see who would be interested. A few of us were standing around and somehow, yes, came out of my mouth faster than it did anybody else's. And that was that. I didn't even know what the assignment was at the time, but somehow I processed that this is probably going to be an Andy Warhol once in a lifetime moment, this is my 15 minutes. And I had also learned about this type of regret earlier in life when I chose not to take the lead in the school play that I was being offered.
And that was really out of fear and anxiety. So I didn't want that to get in my way this time around. And that's how I ended up on a Reading Rainbow episode. This particular episode, Reading Rainbow is focused on different books. This particular book was called Lady with a Ship on Her Head. So every segment had to do with the brain or the head or hats, and this one had to do with the hair. So we went down to Astor Place, a barbershop in Greenwich Village. It was about three stories at the time, absolutely known by anyone who knows the village. And I allowed this stylist to create an outrageous hairdo that involved 16 ounces of strong holding hairspray to hold my hair up in five spikes, think like the Statue of Liberty. And it was covered in red, white and blue and green dye. And at the time, my hair was probably below my shoulders. So it was it was quite a deal. And absolutely a memorable experience and had I hesitated, someone else would have been in that chair and I would have again missed out on a unique opportunity.
Daniel Burstein: The thing I love about this story, well, first of all, now thank you I've got that reading rainbow song stuck in my head. That reading Rainbow theme song. If anyone’s watched the show, I'm not going to sing it, but they'll all know the song. You know, the thing I really relate to from this story is, you know, when I got into content marketing, inbound marketing, my background had been more of traditional outbound marketing and I really thought that's all there was, right?
Where if you're not familiar, you know, like I said, I early in my career print ads in the Wall Street Journal. That was a big thing. And so nobody is buying The Wall Street Journal for the print ads there are very few people. They're buying it for the reporting. And hey, my ad just happens to be in there. We're getting in front of them.
So getting now into the inbound marking, the content marketing space where you're creating something of value, you’re creating content of value to try to pull people in. And so, you know, get people to there were some podcasts back then, but inviting you know, you know, do a guest blog post or be interviewed or these things and you know, you're busy. And so I turn a lot down. And then I had an interview. I think…I want to attribute this correctly…I'm pretty sure it was Joe Chernov who's worked many content marketing roles, who was working at Eloqua at the time, which has since been bought by Oracle. But I was interviewing him I think for a blog post or something about, you know, what is it like a content marketing career this was like 2009 or something. So it's still fairly early in the in years of content marketing.
One piece of advice he gave and I've stepped this, he's like, say yes a lot. You know say yes a lot, that’s really the content marketing ethos, that's really the inbound marketing ethos. So when people invite you, you know, for an interview and I mean in fairness, he’d said yes to me, right? That's why I was interviewing for that blog post that when people invite you for an interview, say yes a lot. And so that's something I've done. So I've spoken on all sorts of, you know, one thing I don't do and, you know, I think some people do is I don't ask traffic numbers or interaction or how many podcasts they've done or whatever. If it’s their very first podcast. I've kind of leaned into saying yes and trying to do a lot of those just with the ethos of kind of like you were talking about earlier, Ariel just with the ethos of helping that audience. Not even to promote too hard it ends up coming back. That story I just mentioned, it was on someone's podcast and something, got to have that connection then. And then when we needed that type of vendor that that had popped into my head, hey there, there's this type of vendor there. So I think that's great I mean if you're ever offered a opportunity to act on an Emmy nominated show. Yes. But that's also great in our careers when we have, you know, we're offered different opportunities like that.
So in the first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons you learn from the things you've made in marketing. In the second half, we talk about lessons you learn from people you collaborated with, because I think that's the two things we do in marketing. We make things, but we make them with other people. Like you're human to human lesson, we make them with other people. So let's look at that. Your next lesson, you said flexibility and agility are key components of a successful collaboration, and you learned that by working with Margo Dunn, the founder of Insiteful Studio. So how did you learn this from working with Margo?
Ariel Glassman: As you mentioned earlier, Deepwater Point was over a decade ahead of the world in terms of running a successful business where everyone except a small back office staff at the time worked remotely. To keep everyone connected and to provide up to date information and content. I had created an internal collaboration portal and it worked well for years and it was time to update it.
Margo joined our team as the architect of the site. She had experience with the platform that we were going to be using and it was going to take us to the next level. Our marching orders together were that Margo was going to take care of the technical building of the site and I was going to be responsible for the content. It sounded clear enough, but as we started working together, it became quickly apparent that there were more gray areas than black technical building and white content. And if we had adhered to those rigid roles, it was not going to serve us or our project well.
So we created a plan that involved a lot of coordination and communication and flexibility between the two of us. And if we had really gotten hung up on this is my role and this is your role, then we wouldn't have succeeded. There were definitely times where it wasn't clear who should handle what. We were involved in both areas, but being open minded and flexible regarding what our areas of responsibilities were. Again, with that communication, always at the core of everything, we got the job done and it was really well received.
Daniel Burstein: So I wonder, is this an issue, especially in the Federal Government space, that rigidity? Because I'm seeing this issue with big enterprises too, because one example I saw in my career when I would work with like Silicon Valley software companies, startups, very, very nimble, very agile, very flexible. But then I worked with a company that spun off from a baby bell, essentially from from AT&T originally. And so some of the people that were working there had still they I mean, they had been there 25, 30 years. They started their career at AT&T. And that for me was at first smack upside the head of such a rigid culture of the difficulty of moving quickly. So I wonder, you know, my mind a federal government marketing I'm thinking of RFP’S and I'm thinking of, you know, very specific restrictions. And so how do you use that flexibility mindset in the federal government space?
Ariel Glassman: I think that with certain businesses, there's a lot of what I would call siloing being done. That everybody has their own space and that's where you stay, I think, especially in larger companies because everybody has their area and especially working I think within the federal market space, there are many times where not only are you siloed into a particular job function, but also into a particular part of the larger sector. Whether you're specifically working for a DOD or you have your eye set on some of the federal civilian agencies. That it is easy to get very rigid in your thinking and working.
I don't know if it's a small business large business thing or if it's a federal or a nonfederal. All I know is that when working within small business, which is what I do, if you're not able to take on different things or be able to say yes to a number of different areas which may not have anything to do with your title, then you're not going to do as well as if you are open to whatever it is that comes your way and working with people. Again, that multi-directional learning from whether someone's been in business and is your senior for decades and decades or someone who's just come into the workforce. I think it's both. It's being flexible and agile because of the experiences that people have as well as the actual skills.
Daniel Burstein: But sometimes you have to know when to say no, right. And I think this going to tie into our next lesson you mentioned saying yes. So let's talk about when you have to say no. So your lesson, be aware of your limits challenge them, push them, know when to say no, especially when you have people on your team who specialize in the tasks that need to be done. And you learned this from David Gorodetski, the CEO of Sage Communications, where you work now. So tell us about learning to say no. You were just talking about saying yes. I want to say yes all the time, too. I get it. Tell us about learning how to say no.
Ariel Glassman: Yeah, it's hard. This is like I said, I've worked in small business my entire career. And while I primarily work in marketing, both internal as well as external, I've always worn multiple hats. And it would never occur to me to say no. If someone asked me to do something, I'd say yes and just handle it or say yes and teach myself how to do it and then get it done.
And when I joined Sage just about a year ago now, in one of my first conversations with David Gorodetski, he asked me if I knew how to say no. And at first, I honestly, I didn't understand the question. I didn't understand why someone would ask me if I knew how to say no to a request. Someone asks you to do something or asks you to help or contribute or collaborate. It just didn't compute. It just didn't.
And while again, Sage isn't a large company, it's a you know, it's a marketing agency with under 50 really talented clever and smart, creative people. And it was the largest marketing team or is the largest marketing team that I've ever been a part of. So the question really made me think that and really realized that not only in this new setting couldn't I do everything by myself, but that it wasn't beneficial for anyone involved for me to even try.
I need to know my own limits. I like to push myself so I know my limits. And then I'm always sort of trying to push the envelope. That's just the way I’m built, that said, I needed to know what my limits were in both time and ability. And to work with my teammates who were experts in what they did, whether it be writing, coordinating events, designing, that allowed me to do my job better. It allowed me to balance my own time and attempt to stay a little bit sane. And it also allowed me to bring the best value that I can to my clients.
But what I also realized is that this ability to say no also applies to the business development work that's part of what I do. And to really to grow a company in a healthy way, leaders need to also be able to know when to say no to a potential client. Not all clients are the right match. So just because someone comes knocking on your door doesn't mean that there's business to be done with them. Kind of going back to what we were talking about before with that human to human and what are the needs? What is that best match going to be? So we do have a clear go, no go protocol at Sage and that way we were able to best serve our clients based on the types of projects and the types of audiences that they're looking to reach.
And again, it really doesn't serve anyone very well. If the criteria we need to bring the most value to a client, you know, can't be met. So yeah, it's still difficult for me to completely be able to say, no, I've at least gotten to not yet or not now, or at the very least I can say yes as a team, we can get that done.
Daniel Burstein: Nice, so when you're talking about saying no to potential customers, I think you're talking once a company becomes a lead right or whatever you might call it. But, how do you provide this clarity with your marketing messaging upfront, like before they become leads, like what your organization offers better than anyone else and what they can't serve best.
So for example, we have a free digital marketing course and in Session #14 Flint McGlaughlin teaches, form a cohesive picture of value. And he's talking about, you know, to the customer cohesive picture of value. I think one of the things you're talking about in your organization, you kind of get a cohesive picture of value. You understand what you can do best, what someone else can do best, you know where you should do it or where you should collaborate with someone else to get it done, where you should delegate. But do you have any examples of how you do that in your marketing messaging to show the cohesive picture of value in your industry to the customer? And show where your organization fits in, what solutions it would be better for them to go somewhere else. You know, in other words, saying yes to the right customers with your marketing messaging upfront and no to the wrong customers.
Ariel Glassman: The first thing that comes to my mind is something that I actually learned from a family member – my sister's child was sick and everyone would come and say, Oh, what do you need? You know, I'm here for you. Whatever it is that you need, call me. And what she said to me at once is that, you know, if you're offering everything, you're really offering nothing. You need to be much more specific, especially in times like that. And so I think of this as like everything to everyone is really nothing to anyone. And being very clear and precise about what it is that you're bringing to the market is critical. That's what we do as communicators. If we're not doing that well, then what are we doing?
And I think that having that clarity of we’re experts in a specific space, in this case federal and even more specific than that, if there's a Venn diagram between the two, while we do work in, it's not only tech, but much of what we do is that connection between the federal government and the different types of technology solutions that they are looking for. And making sure that that comes out in all different ways, shapes and forms when you are going to market. I think less is more. And being able to hit those points over and over again for that clarity will bring in the clients that we can say yes to more often than not.
Daniel Burstein: And likely that you can more profitably serve, that you can more successfully serve. I mean, those things too. You want to get the right clients so you can have success, I would imagine.
Ariel Glassman: Yes, I agree.
Daniel Burstein: Oh, that's good. On a marketing level. Like when we talk about, you know, the essential value proposition question you should be answering as a company. If I am your ideal customer, why should I choose you over any of your competitors? And so that key part not to overlook, you know, sometimes people focus on the why. Well, let me give them all these answers. It's the, if I am your ideal customer, focusing on who is that ideal customer and how can I message to them and be clear when someone isn't an ideal customer. But you also when you're talking about saying no on a personal level, on a on a level of, you know, work with your coworkers. Or it also got me thinking sometimes I take the improv approach to yes and. You know what I mean? So it's not necessarily saying no. Here's my interpretation of the improper approach and I could be interpreting it wrong, yes. And I'm saying essentially no to the thing they want, but yes and to the thing that I need.
So as I mentioned, at Marketing Sherpa we will get pitched, there's hundreds and hundreds of pitches every week and obviously we can't publish them all. But it is valuable because we are looking for, it takes going through a lot and a lot and a lot of those pitches to get through the haystack and find the needle I'll say. And find a really good actual marketing case study that we publish in writing to show, you know, the audience really here's how someone actually did something.
And so what I'll do when I get all those pitches, I never ignore press, even if it's a just a mass press release or anything, I never ignore that. I just have a response I send telling them what we are looking for. So I don't say no. I said yes and, here's what I'm looking for. And so, I mean, unfortunately, it takes going through a lot of those to find the cases we actually publish. But that's something to think about as well. You know, there are some situations where probably a flat out no is appropriate, but there are some situations where maybe you can say yes to the thing that would be the best fit for that person and for your skills.
Ariel Glassman: Absolutely. And I'm actually glad that you brought up improv. That's one of my one of my loves as well, especially applied improv. I think that there's actually a lot to be learned from what is done, let's say, and people think of whose line is it anyway, or comedy sports, there's so many business lessons to be learned from becoming comfortable with improv.
Actually, one you mentioned obviously the principle of yes. And one of the exercises or games that I've played that works really well when you're talking about marketing is one called Half Life. And that's one where you basically tell a story in a minute. Going back to the very first story we were talking about with how do you take a 30, 40 year long career and boil it down into a page? Half life is taking a story, telling it in a minute. And then telling it in 30 seconds and then try telling it in 10. And what you get when it's distilled down to the 10, it's probably to the core of what was important to say anyway.
Daniel Burstein: That's great. That gets to your core value proposition in your elevator pitch. That's great. Let's talk about one more lesson. You say trust your gut and have patience. You learned this again from David Gorodetski, the CEO of Sage Communications, and also Howard Seeger, the Managing Partner and Murray Sewell partner, both of them are at Deep Water Point. So how did you learn this from this group of leaders?
Ariel Glassman: When Sage Communications approached me to consider joining their leadership team, I was at Deepwater Point, and it occurred to me that it might not only be a solid career move for me, but also for the company that I had thought of as family for over a decade. I don't know if it comes through in this conversation here, but I think one of the benefits and values to me of working in small business was that I really cared about what we did. I think it'd be really challenging for me to market or to be involved in a company that I didn't feel passionate for, not only what it was we were doing and being able to get behind that, but the people that I work with.
And so both Deepwater Point and Sage are focused in that in the same federal sector community and their offerings are complementary. So while Deepwater Point focuses on involving their market strategies, involve capture management and thought leaders centric plans Sage’s expertise is in creating marketing and PR campaigns for the federal government and companies that are looking to work with the federal government. And the offerings together really bring an extraordinary amount of value to clients. So shortly after joining Sage, I floated the idea to David, Sage’s as CEO and he thought it was something to explore and he gave me the go ahead to do so. In my mind, it was obvious. It was just a matter of time that the leadership of these companies would meet and talk and move forward.
But as we know, business doesn't usually happen in a straight line or so quickly and most of the time it doesn't. So while we engaged over the course of several months meeting different combinations of stakeholders, things get in the way. It was my first, you know, I was three or four months into this new job. Not only did I need to get to my responsibilities and serve the clients that I was now serving, as well as get to know the company as they say, you know, drinking from the fire hose is one of these sayings that said a lot. There was a lot being thrown at me and I was loving it. And I still am, but there was a lot.
And this was a project that I felt very passionate about. I really saw that there was value that could be brought with these two companies coming together. So I stayed on it even though I had other responsibilities. A client always comes first and and other things that were going on. I needed to keep this at top of mind. So when meetings needed to be rescheduled, it didn't deter me. It didn't make the spark go out or lessen it. I stuck with it. And I think it was because of that that strong feeling that this really could help our clients as well as the businesses. That having that confidence kept me staying the course and trusting the gut and having the patience to see it through and on track was really where my mind stayed. Always with the client in mind and how we could benefit them.
Daniel Burstein: I think to have patience is such a key lesson. I think it’s just gotten so hard today, especially as digital's growing, things move so quickly, you know, just the urgent just steals the time that we have to work on the importance. So, I was interviewing Dhiraj Kumar, the CMO of Dashlane, earlier on the How I Made It Marketing podcast, and he's telling us a story when he was at PayPal and he was looking at, you know, how I can improve results of PayPal. And he had, you know, some research and some ideas. And I want to say it took two or three years before it started paying off and the fact that he didn't pull the plug or anyone else at PayPal didn't pull the plug before two or three years. I mean, that is ions and ions in digital time.
So, when you're talking about something like you're talking about like not mergers and acquisitions quite, but a strategic partnership, you know, there's a lot of humans involved. There's a lot of process involved. There's a lot of branding issues involved. So if it's something that truly has value and figuring that on the front end, staying the course because it can be easy to shift and have a new strategy, you know, pivot every three months. I have a friend who likes to joke around, you know, what's our long-term strategy this week?
Ariel Glassman: yeah, that’s fair
Daniel Burstein: A forward thinking, forward looking… …so was there a moment there where you were like, Oh, the urgent was pulling you in, like you said there was a client, there was this and there was that, and you're like, you know I got to step away. I got to take 30 minutes and call someone or have a lunch or do something to just keep this ball moving a little bit more so we don't totally lose it.
Ariel Glassman: I definitely old schooled and put a post-it note right on my monitor to keep it front and center. I also think that it goes back to what we were talking about before with this human to human. Life comes up too, so yeah, we all get busy in work. But some of the reasons that things were rescheduled is because of life issues and happenings in multiple people's lives. So giving that grace, and to myself almost, of wanting this to go forward and having confidence that it would. But also being able to keep perspective and really believe that if it was going to happen, it was meant to happen, it will happen. And at the same time realizing that things are going to get in the way.
So I think that continuing to be human centric here too, while we want these things to happen, you know, these are not life and death situations. We have time and being able to stay in the moment and keep that kind of perspective and that patience, that's a tough one in this day and age. I agree. I think being the mom of three boys has helped in that department with me a little. But yeah, I think that that's how I did it. I physically kept it in front of me with a post-it note and truly believed that it was something that was going to be valuable. And that's how I kept it front and center.
Daniel Burstein: Well Ariel, we've talked about it just a whole host of things a marketer has to do these days from, you know, being able to say no, to building those relationships, to even using improv skills and the skills that you learn as a mother, which is fantastic. So if you had to break it down, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer?
Ariel Glassman: I think the key qualities of an effective marketer for sure are listening, because if you're not listening, you're not going to hear the needs of the customer. So that's front and center to me. And that also goes right hand-in-hand with knowing your audience. If you're not listening and if you're not really hearing what they're saying, then you're going to fall short as well.
And not just listening. But also hearing. You can listen and then go right into your pitch, which speaks around what it is that maybe it is that what you've just heard. So I think that that always resonates very strongly with me. I think as marketers, you have to stay curious, asking questions and then asking questions about your questions.
I don't think it's ever a wrong way to go. As long as you're not asking the same question five times in a row. And being open, being open to new experiences, new people learning from those who might be similar to you and for sure learning from those who are not.
Daniel Burstein: Well Ariel, it's been great listening to you today. Thank you for joining us.
Ariel Glassman: Thank you so much. It's just been so fun Daniel, I appreciate it so much.
Daniel Burstein: And I'll take Ariel's advice. We want to listen to our audience, too. If there's a way you see for improving the How I Made It in Marketing podcast for you, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you for listening.
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