April 05, 2023

Servant Leadership in Marketing: We are only as good as how we handle humbling moments (podcast episode #54)


Get ideas for partnering with a visionary, overcoming imposter syndrome, and more by listening to episode #54 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had a disruptive conversation with David Apple, Chief Marketing Officer, Intuitive Health.

Listen now to hear lessons from a CMO about experiences vs. experience, marketing buzzwords, a data-driven mindset, and leadership measured in character.

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

Servant Leadership in Marketing: We are only as good as how we handle humbling moments (podcast episode #54)

The How I Made It In Marketing podcast is underwritten by MECLABS Institute, the parent organization of MarketingSherpa. To learn how MECLABS Services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding, visit MECLABS.com/results.

I think this one of the biggest challenges for when you grow in your career…

When you get into a certain role, you – and others as well – have a general idea of how someone should be in that role. Let’s call the it ‘central casting version of a CMO.’

And yet, in my life I’ve been more successful when I’ve been able to drop the mask and be as much of my true authentic self in my life – even in my work life – as possible.

Our next guests is here to talk about that overcoming imposter syndrome by valuing your experience – he words the lesson as “There is a big difference between 10 years of experience and 10 years of experiences.”

Our guest on Episode #54 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast told us the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson-filled stories – David Apple, Chief Marketing Officer, Intuitive Health.

Intuitive Health treated 467,000 patients in 2022. Apple manages a $10 million marketing budget, including joint ventures.

Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on Google Podcasts

Stories (with lessons) about what he made in marketing

Some lessons from Apple that emerged in our discussion:

There is a big difference between 10 years of experience and 10 years of experiences.

Apple has had to overcome imposter syndrome. He is still dealing with it, but at least it doesn’t paralyze him anymore.

He remembers sitting with a new CEO appointed by the company’s equity sponsor, as the company at the time had just raised a big Series B and started to make revenue headway. Then he was the VP of Marketing, and all things sales, marketing, and paint-color-picker-outer, when the CEO appointed him Chief Marketing Officer. The United States was in a deep recession, they were executing smartphone tech at a time of 5%+ (and growing fast) smartphone penetration, and all eyes were on them.

An initial phase of excitement was immediately followed by an image of the $300 blue jeans, white shirt, sports coat, MBA, perfect teeth CMO coming into his head – the exact opposite of what he was then and still is today. Could he do the job? Could he be a real Chief Marketing Officer? One of the key lessons that has emerged in the 13 years since that moment, is there is a big difference between experience and experiences.

Apple was never going to be the Ivy League graduate or TED Talk speaker image he put in his head the moment he was appointed CMO. He needed to shift, and shift quickly, to what he did have – experiences. He was where he was because he had unique experiences. He had fulfilled his promises in every experience of leaving a concept or company more profitable and better for his tenure and has continued that today.

Fancy terms can lead to bigger missed expectations.

Falling back on the above experience, as Apple progressed in his role as a CMO, his interactions with marketing leadership expanded. As a student of listening, he always believed this time in front of globally sized company marketing leaders was free education. Mainly, he considers his network and list of mentors extensive and is where he is due to it.

With that said, a lesson that emerged was the marketing buzzword vomit dump coinciding with budget bragging typically showed a general lack of any real experience and a massive reliance on delegating and job padding by having the ability to blend in vs. lead and drive marketing initiatives.

Make “it” work.

Patience is a virtue, and Apple didn’t have it. The perception always seemed to be that everyone else was getting it done with some magic switch – “Brilliant!” would be followed by “Damn it, why can’t I think of that?” The reality was clear; nothing worked on the first try. Ideas build, brands build over time and benchmarks and goals are rarely, if ever, achieved on the first go. He has adopted a very analytical and data-driven mindset, asked many questions and made the customer the only authority.

Lessons (with stories) from people he collaborated with

Apple also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with.

Partner with a true visionary.

via Anthony Iacovone – Founder of Augme Tech, AdTheorent, BioSymetrics and friend

If Apple could wish one thing for his kids, it is to partner with a true visionary, one so brilliant their social cues are off, they have weird ticks and inconsistent dressing habits, but they need you, and when they speak, the words are brilliant and the problems they solve change evolution. 

We are only as good as how we handle humbling moments.

via Charlie Brignac

We are only as good as how we handle humbling moments and moments when we let someone we love and respect down, and they tell it to us. Brignac was a global packaging executive, a spiritual leader, and someone who, if they like you, it feels like you can do anything. Apple let him down, and it was one of his worst moments, but one that changed how he carries himself forever. 

Leadership is not measured in years, but in character.

via Lisa

If the Jennifer Aniston character in the movie “Horrible Bosses” had an inspiration, Lisa was it. It was laughable; she lives in fakelore with the hundreds she influenced. But the lessons were insurmountable in what not to do and seeing the absolute 0 on the pH scale allows you to find a balance and understand that leadership is not measured in years but in character, Apple says.

Related content mentioned in this episode

The Radical Idea: Customer-first marketing prioritizes customer experience over upsells

World-Class Consumer & Retail Brands: What right do we have as a brand to be in that business? (Podcast Episode #15)

Public Sector Marketing and Communication Leadership: Multi-directional learners, multi-colored spiky hair, and wearing multiple hats (podcast episode #31)

Copywriting Contest: Write the best-performing subject line and win

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.

Podcast guest application

If you would like to apply to be a guest on How I Made It In Marketing, here is the podcast guest application.

This article was distributed through the MarketingSherpa email newsletter. Sign up for free if you’d like to get more articles like this one.


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

Daniel Burstein: I think here's one of the biggest challenges for you. When you grow in your career, when you get into a certain role, you and others as well, you've got this general idea of how someone should be in that role. Let's call that the central casting version of a CMO. And yet in my life I've been more successful when I've been able to take off that mask and be as much of my true, authentic self as possible in my life, even in my work life.

Our next guest is here to talk about that overcoming imposter syndrome, avoiding the marketing buzz word vomit dump. Oh, my gosh. I love hearing that, though. I'll say that again. The marketing buzz word vomit dump that can coincide with budget bragging and many more or less unfilled stories. So thank you for joining us today. David Apple, the Chief Marketing Officer of Intuitive Health.

David Apple: Great to be here, Daniel. Thank you very much. Having a great day.

Daniel Burstein: So let's just I'm cherry pick from your background in business people know who we're listening to. You were the director of business development at CBS Television Stations Group. You were the CMO of Ogbe Technologies. And for the past eight years you have been the CMO of Intuitive Health. Intuitive Health treated 467,000 patients in 2022. And Apple, you are responsible for a $10 million marketing budget, including joint ventures. So give us an idea, what is your day like as a CMO of intuitive health?

David Apple: I typically beg for more money on a regular basis as a marketer should know where we're really dynamic group or a pretty small company, a fast paced growth company. And so as a preferred model, a model I prefer is, you know, no day is the same. So we have facilities all around the country. We have different demographics around the country. We have different payer mixes because it's health care, so it's not the singular customer. So that's exciting. So we get to be here to write, create, educate on a regular basis all around the country and get to learn so much about this unique dynamic micro I call Micro-Markets because we are where we're not e-commerce, we're still physical retail.

You have to walk in to generate revenue so that that it's very old fashioned capture the consumer at that moment. So it no, no, two days are like not to use that common cliche, but it really is. And we look at the challenges and we are performance centric on a daily basis. And what that means is we look at volume, we look at performance, and in quite a few key numbers that we can get into on a daily basis. So it's kind of a militant type of operation. You look at the you look at the daily workload for 24/7, every single one of our facilities never closes. So that's another, you know, dynamic. So you are always on. But we're looking at those daily numbers on a regular basis and reacting and building from there.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, it's great. I think there's a lot of health care marketers that can learn from you, but also just people, physical brick and mortar locations, franchisees, because that's kind of similar to what you're doing. People interested in joint ventures, you know, brand partnerships. I think there's a lot we can learn. But one thing I did want to mention when you when you talked about budgets, so we used to at Marketing Sherpa, we would have benchmarks of all different things. And, you know, every year we would ask marketers, you know, what's your biggest challenge? And it didn't matter if the economy was booming or if the economy was doing horrible, whatever was going on, the number one challenge was always like, my budget's not big enough. Yeah, my budget's not big enough. Isn't that so funny? But it's what you do with your budget.

Not it's not the size of your budget. It's. It's what you do with it. So let's talk about what you've been able to do with it and what lessons you've learned in your career. The first lesson you talk about from some of the things you made in your career. You said there is a big difference between ten years of experience and ten years of experiences. So what do you mean by that and how did you learn that?

David Apple: Well, that's the excuse I had to make because I wasn’t an Ivy League and nobody was going to pick me up because of academics. I'm sure I could have been straight A's my whole entire life and graduated from prestigious college. But I must have made those choices differently somewhere along the lines. But I realized that this ability to be a curious learner and listener puts you in situations where you can gain some key, key experience.

You know, I did all my education in New York City was with the big guys. The big agencies was part of a CBS television stations group when they were transitioning to this big digital rollout model. And we were consolidating radio, TV, multimedia all into one really specific platform. And if you sat back and you took that as an experience, not a job, and you got to listen to these great agencies and these great content developers and even just the great sales, you know, sales guys and leaders on how they address those, You say this is an experience that I know for a fact I'm going to take through the rest of my career. And it was and I always kind of was, you know, a big advocate and felt a little bit upset when people didn't look at it that way because it's free education. I mean, this is  cutting your teeth with the big guys and, you know, sitting in a in a meeting with the NCAA and listening to how that really works.

So you could say this is a terrible organization that's not about kids, athletics, academics or anything like that, that on the surface you could you could probably say that. But if you really sit down and listen to how it works, where you can take advantage of it, that's an experience that is learned and earned on a on a really regular basis. And so I realized that, you know, again, I wasn't going to be picked out of the crowd because of, you know, my Harvard degree. I was going to be picked out of the crowd because I had real experience. I was able to take zero revenue, make it 10 million and make it 56 million, make it 80 million, and have a plan and deliver a plan and execute on it.

So it's really it's kind of an excuse. It's kind of a way out of saying, hey, I got you know, I've been doing this for 20 years, but let me tell you what I've been doing for 20 years. The experiences are pretty broad. So that's really that's really how I, you know, address that. And as you get older, you kind of I think, you know, I'm 46 now. I've been doing this. I started at CBS when I was 22 and really never took my foot off the gas. And you're still pulling from those experiences, right? And every single day, no matter where you go and and you have better ways of dealing with adversity and challenges because of those experiences. I take that all day long. I never really understood companies who could say, you know, these mobile I worked in mobile technology. We can get into that a little bit. But you know, what's funny to me is we were sitting at, you know, smartphone penetration at five, 10%, right in the early days of the Apple one iPhone And all these companies were emerging and these agencies were hiring mobile groups and they would say, we have 15 years of mobile experience.

And you go, what are you talking about? Like, we're not even we haven't even defined what this space is yet. You know, we can't even deliver content yet to all the phones. And you're telling me there's somebody out there with 15 years of experience? How about somebody with two years of hardcore experiences in mobile actually delivering the content and delivering results? I always thought that played better. So I always had trouble understanding, you know, just the listed experience.

Daniel Burstein: Well, I like what you're saying and a lesson I've learned in my career is especially like when you're going through the most painful times in your career, like going through layoffs and all these other things, like having to layoff people in your company. And I've learned that, you know, like this, a good, good way to look at it is to reframe it as well this is an education. This is a horrible thing to go through. And maybe never want to go through it again, or especially feel empathy for the other people going through it with you. But boy, there is an education here and I'm learning, you know, it's one thing, as you know, when times are good and all the boats are floating pretty high, you know, and I mean, it's one thing to be successful then, but to be successful when it's really hitting the fan, to be successful in a really tough economy. I think we both lived through the kind of 2008 and 2009 downturn in our career. I mean, I always looked at that as like, man, this is this is the hard earned lessons I'm going to get.

So I really like what you're saying there. And maybe someone listening might be going through something difficult and maybe it will help them to kind of reframe it and understand it that way of like, this is where I'm going to get the lessons when the times are tough. But I want to ask you another another version of experiences, because this is something I've done in my career. What about your experiences as a customer? Has that ever informed a campaign or a brand or a product? And I'll give you a specific example from my career real quick. I wrote about customer first marketing should prioritize the customer experience over upsells because I would go to Barnes Noble. I love Barnes Noble magazines, newspapers, that physical experience. And every time I would purchase they would try to upsell me on the membership hard, you know, the cashier. And I realized, you know the value proposition here, the differentiation between Amazon and Barnes Noble, because I could easily just buy subscriptions to these things online is there to experience. I'm walking in them, smell the coffee, I'm getting the physical newspaper, whatever it is, and they're just undercutting that experience by trying to upsell me each time Let that cashier who's probably passionate about the same things I am, you know, magazines, newspapers, reading, Let them have a real human connection. So it's different from Amazon, you know? So I just wonder for you, like as a customer, talk about experiences.Yes, our experiences in our business career, in our work life. But as a customer has that ever influenced any campaign or product you rolled out?

David Apple: 100%. So I have quite a few examples of that, but I'll give you one that's key and kind of close to home. You think about, you know, what Intuitive Health does. We have a really specific value proposition we’re a dual model, emergency room and urgent care under one roof and we build in really specific trade areas. So the places that you are comfortable going, getting your groceries, going, you know, getting your massage and, you know, go in the Home Depot, you can get care now and it's easy. It's accessible, it's full service. It's a high attention to customer service. We can get into all of the training mechanisms and the components to that. But it has to be true.

So the problem with health care today is the brand is a lie, right? So the expectations of health care is low. So, Daniel, you're sick, your son is sick or your daughter is sick. You're having a crappy day. Your expectations of walking through that door at a hospital are super low. You know, you're going to be disappointed for the most part, we can accept that. I think we can all unanimously say that's kind of the general sense. We're transitioning that 100%. We'll get into that. But we think as a consumer, I had, you know, quite a journey. We were moving from Texas back to New Jersey in 2012, getting ready to close on a house that we're going to tear down and rebuild. I got a young family, Hurricane Sandy hits Superstorm Sandy by the time it hit New jersey. Destroys the house that we're supposed to be moving into. So we come back to Texas homeless basically. We rent a home. We were literally looking for a house as we were driving back to Texas. We find a home in Frisco, Texas, about a mile from our first Intuitive location, ironically, right? No, that wasn't planned. We have no furniture, and I put a couple of chairs up in the kitchen and so me and the kids are eating at the counter. My young son jumps up on the on the chair to, you know, get on my lap. He's two years old. He falls over, breaks his foot, 100% we know it's broken. It swells up. You know, the kid doesn't cry, doesn't he's got that high threshold for pain as a two year old. Oh, man, it's broken.

Okay, I grab him, I'm calming down. My wife goes and packs an overnight bag of clothes, blankets, food, everything. Because her expectation and my expectation is I'm going to walk through the hospital door and I'm going to be there until the sun comes up. You know, it's 8:00 at night. I'm going to be there until early in the morning, right. That's everybody's expectations. I said, before I go to the hospital, I'm going to go down to that little place on the corner. It says it's an emergency room. It says it's open 24 hours. Let me just give it a try. And she said, you are not taking our son to that little doc in the box thing. They're going to do something and they're going to screw up everything. I said I have to try. I'm not staying at the hospital all night. Okay? Because back in our day, right, we would have just wrapped it in a blanket or something or put some ice on it and just walked it off, right.

Daniel Burstein: Walk it off.

David Apple: Walk it off, right.

Daniel Burstein: Take some aspirin. Yeah.

David Apple: So I go down to this little place, low expectations. We just talked about that, right? Thinking it's going to be, no, they're not going to know what to do. I walked through the door. The lady behind the front desk. There's no glass partition. There's no nothing. She's dressed normal. She's got a huge smile on her face. She says, Oh, give me that baby. I mean, let me get him. She grabs, takes him from me, she's rocking him, she gets him a lollipop, she's hanging out with him. Walks right through the door down back to the puts him in a room, we have an x ray. Daniel in 45 seconds we were in the x ray machine. Everybody was playing with him nurses, doc doctors, everybody was calming him down. Within 15 minutes we had full x ray, we had splint started. I was back in my house in 45 minutes.

I didn't even care about his foot anymore. I handed him back to my wife. I said, You're never going to believe what just happened. That place is going to be on the corner of every corner in America. It was awesome. It was exactly what it should be. This is going to change the world. And from there, that's where you know, that's where my journey with Intuitive started. Because believe it or not, and this is probably for another podcast, but I forced myself in here, I said, these guys are going to raise money, I'm going to keep an eye on it. They raised capital. I literally came over here, knocked on the door and said, I'm going to be your Chief Marketing Officer. And they said, we don't need a Chief Marketing Officer. I said, you will, I'm going to be the Chief Marketing Officer. So that's how I got the job here. Basically, I kind of forced my way in because I was such a believer in the model and as a believer because I was a consumer first. And throughout this company, you will find that on a pretty regular basis. Where they have tried the experience and they said, Wow, this is different. I understand this. I am in this industry. And they got here through that path.

Daniel Burstein: So that I mean, that's an amazing story and I think that's a good lesson there for anyone also interested in franchisee marketing, right. Which is essentially I know they don't call it that, but very similar to what I see franchisees do. But I think the other lesson I think about when you talk about that is and this applies to really everyone outside of health care too, any industry is there are a lot of costs outside of the monetary cost for our products and services. And a lot of times we overlook that, like you said, for health care. So, yes, if you need to go to emergency room or urgent care, there's going to be that price of it. You know what I mean? There's going to be, you know, maybe your insurance covers it, maybe it doesn't. However, that works. Right. But one reason that sometimes and it's funny when you said that I really even thought about one reason I've sometimes not gone in the middle of the night or just kind of waited is because of the cost of the horrible experience you're about to endure, the time, the friction, all those things are going through.

So I think that's a great lesson too, for everyone going through and thinking about, you know, your experience as a customer, going through your product or service purchase or just even experience of the product, and thinking beyond that monetary cost and what you can do to reduce friction and anxiety.

David Apple: Well, yeah. And if you think it just want to point out, because you're absolutely right, if you think about the like our model in any model retail, it's time and money, right? What are consumers most upset about that you took advantage of is their time and their money. And it's no different in for what we do. So it's really at the pinnacle. I mean, you look at our tagline, it's right care, right price, close to home. That's it there's nothing else to share there, it's a pretty simple proposition It's changing health care that takes a little bit more education and a little bit more convincing. But it's really simple because it's time and money.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, well, I'll give you one other quick example, not health care related. And this was during the height of the pandemic. So in fairness, that might have made things more difficult. You know, we're going to pick up food because you can't, you know, you know, eat at places really at that time. And so we go there's this big upscale luxury mall, namely called Saint John's Town Center. And so me and my kids wanted Chipotle, but my wife wanted, I won't name them. And it was an upscale, you know, restaurant that was cost ten times Chipotle or whatever. And so we go we grab probably boom, and then we go, you know, they're supposed to have this drive up and, you know, give you the food type of thing.

We go we wait there. My daughter came with me where I think 45 minutes at least for this food that's supposed to be ready, you know, right away we ordered at the same time time as Chipotle. And she probably and she called out this one. I didn't even notice this huge thing of the experience. She's like, once we got it, she's like, do you notice how on that Chipotle bag it has a specific time when it's going to be ready and it didn't have it on the bag for this other restaurant that was like, that's a great insight. I was like, it had nothing to do with the monetary cost, I am not putting myself through that time cost again. That is just not worth it. That's right. Let's talk about another lesson here. You mentioned fancy terms can lead to bigger missed expectations. So how did you learn this lesson?

David Apple: Yeah, you know, I was always really nervous about this part because I think this kind of plays in the role of, you know, the imposter syndrome, too, as you grow in your career and in you go, do I match up with, you know, these people I'm going to be working with? I have an exceptional amount of responsibility now, and I have an exceptional amount of revenue, responsibility and job responsibility. People work for me. And, you know, can I keep up? And I always thought that the difference between somebody kind of trying to space their self themselves from the daily grind and the people executing the daily grind was the fancy terms.

And, you know, I had this really unique experience where Augme Technologies, we were a mobile startup and, you know, things were really going well. And we got an in to these major CPG brands, the big ones, all of them Kellogg's, Kimberly-Clark, Sara Lee, I mean, you name it, we were working with them because we were solving a very specific, you know, problem. Now you think about it was recession time, 2008, you know, housing bust. You know, a lot of these big CPG companies were laying off, you know, every day in the news 1500-2000 people. It was actually more exciting to be at a startup, I think, than it was to be had a big safe, you know, CPG company. And so everybody was on edge, which they should be, right? Everybody was looking for job security. And mobile was the answer that everybody needed because that was going to be the new delivery methodology for content and branding, you know, as it is today, right.

So not that we predicted it would be this big, but we predicted this would be a very sophisticated channel. So we ran into a lot of, you know, chief market officers, big strategy title people at these CPG companies who were trying to out vocabulary us on a pretty regular basis, like you don't know what you're doing, you're just a small startup. We are the big brand. We have all the power and we're going to use these terms to make you as, I don't understand what that is. As soon as you say that, then I have the advantage, you know? And so it felt like we were running into that a lot. And in the end of the day, if you put a, you know, maybe a financial calculator, you look at a timeline, and there was a lot of mixed expectations in that.

So it seemed like the more pushback we got from people who weren't willing to partner, work together, solve the problem together. The bigger the missed expectations. And honestly, I don't even know if I just personally I just don't have any patience for it. I'm pretty contrarian, you know, when it comes to these types of things. I’m like just say what it is. Don't make me Google the word just because it makes you feel important that you have a, you know, leg up on the word, especially when it relates to, you know, a specific technology or a process that we're all going to work on together. We can keep it simple. We don't have to get too complicated. So you know, I don't have any, you know, hard statistics. But a lot of the people that met us, you know, head on and were pretty challenging as to really specifically wanted to show their clout using, you know, the fancy terms. Yeah. Did not work out very often, you know, in the end.

Daniel Burstein: What advice would you give for someone having to work with someone like that? So I think it's easy at the CMO level. The advice is don't hire them. And where I've seen it happen more is with consultants. Where it's like, Oh my gosh, this consultant is just kind of like trying to make it sound like they know what they're talking about. They don't really. But let's say if you're, you know, kind of more junior in your career and you're working an agency, you've got to work with people or at a vendor, you've got to work with people that does brand or vice versa, you're stuck working with people and it's agency or a consultant and you see this going on. Do you have any advice, you know, having lived out of how can you handle that and still be successful?

David Apple: Yeah, I do a little bit. And whether it's good advice or not, I don't know. You just go up there and you just smack the crap out of them and you shake them and you just say, shut up, no, no I am just kidding. Don't do that. But, you know, I you know, one of the repetitive themes that I have is, is people I mean, I'm here because of people, my mentors and people I've met and the characters, the cast of characters that I've, you know, been involved in for sure. And I think if the way I handle it now is obviously there's a certain level of maturity now and kind of comfort in who I am now versus maybe back in those days when we all were striving for a job security and we didn't know if we were going to have homes and paychecks. And next week it was a kind of a scary time.

But now my advice would be you can learn something from everybody, hands down, be patient with people. If somebody is really using that as a way to create power to sit higher in their chair, there might be some fundamental flaws there, but let them talk. They're going to say something that you can take. You know, we can learn something just as much from the from the heart of relationship as we can, from the from the better relationships. And we deal with it on a on a regular basis now. And we have some young team members and you know, we're working with massive health systems Huge, huge The biggest in the country. And there's a lot of people who do these things that, you know, you guys are just a small company. You have no idea how challenging this and we just say, look, this is how it's going to be. We're not going to challenge this person's character. We're going to listen. We're going to empower them. And once we make them feel important and listened to it usually comes down honestly.

Once they have established the pecking order, we usually see a real transition in kind of character and, you know, lack of a better term pushing this. And, you know, they kind of feel more collaborative once they feel like they have the control back and they've reestablished, you know, that pecking order and that hierarchy, you know, And so to me, it's, you know, hey, we can learn. We say it all the time. We have a servant leadership culture here. And we talk about, you know, we don't bash any of our customers. Even the toughest characters, we say, hey, they're making us better, you know? And I think that every single one of those relationships can make you better if you leverage it the right way. So that would be the advice I give, you know, don't shut down, You know, stay true to your passions and your callings. But listen, you know, keep those ears open because they typically have the experiences that you can leverage for sure.

Daniel Burstein: And I imagine and this ties into the next lesson I want to ask you about is also might be specifically being in the health care industry. So I haven’t worked in that industry as much, but working in the tech industry where I do not have an engineering background or any of those things, there's definitely also it's not just from other marketers, it's from technical people like, well, wait a minute, like do you even know these things? And you're a marketer and coming in here. So I imagine health care could be the same with, you know, especially an industry that doesn't even know marketing as much could have the same issues.

 So I want to ask you about this next lesson. And I imagine that whole imposter syndrome can tie in there as well, you say, make it work? And one of the things that I really appreciate when I saw, you know, just so people listening understand, we got I think we've gotten like 200-2600 applications so far. This is going to be an episode in the fifties, you know, 53, 54 something like that. So, you know, we get a lot of these applications. One of the things that really stuck out to me about yours, not just the humility and the lessons you're clearly explaining right now, but I had read in Florida Trend magazine about I didn't know Intuitive Health was a company involved in it, but it was a major local health care brand, hospital brand that was opening this new type of thing down the road from my house. And it was a mixture of an urgent care center and an emergency room. And it's basically like, you got a problem, you just come here and we'll bill you properly. You know, not you're not sure, like, should I go to the E.R. for that? So I go to the, you know, urgent care for that? We'll bill you properly, just come in.

And what really struck me about that was there I have not seen much of a unique value proposition in the I guess I don't know what's called health care services or patient services field like, obviously when it comes to technology, when it comes to drugs, yes a patent, you have some unique proposition or medical device, but actually not health care services. It's always so difficult who do I choose? You know what I mean? It's very not patient focused. All the things you mentioned, very not cost focus. So when I saw that just jumped out at me, right. Like, wow, there is a unique value proposition, you know, for this type of thing. And it is it seems more kind of customer first marketing. The things we talk about, which I haven't seen in that field.

So I want to ask you, when it comes to making it work, you mentioned you came in like many franchisees maybe, when it was a one location. Now you're rolling it out across the country. You're rolling it out in an industry to kind of tie back in to what you were just saying, that is filled with health care professionals, not marketers, or maybe people that understand the customer. You are also working in an industry where the people showing up are not always paying the majority or any of what of the cost because there's a third party payer. So give us a sense, maybe there's one specific lesson in this and how did you, as you say, make it work?

David Apple: Yeah. And it's kind of two parts and I feel like you that was a great explanation. So I appreciate you really understanding the model. I feel like if I could rip this microphone off, I would just drop the microphone and say, we’re done here. We got it. We're good. I finally reached a customer after eight years. This is great. One of the lessons was for me, one of the lessons was for, you know, this brand and this company. And a lesson for me was maybe being from the Northeast and being that, you know, kind of, you know, especially growing up in New York City in those days, early career, I mean, it was fast, fast, fast, fast, you had to be first.

And I had to learn patience because and I learned this through some really great mentors and great people that say just don't accept the first answer. Just keep building, keep building. And, you know, it is funny. And that was hard for me to do, it really was. And I strongly suggest all marketers should do that, should collaborate and build and build on ideas because the third and fourth and fifth ideas way better than the first, even if it was like the greatest aha moment ever. The fifth is going to be even more aha than the firs. It t 100% works out that way. So that was the first lesson was really the patience. Let things build, ask the questions and build on the idea. Don't rush it out, rush it out the door. And because also once you rush it out the door, it's everybody's.

So someone can take that first iteration and then build on it and be like, I can't believe they missed all these great points to this. And now we're just going to build on it. So, you know, deliver the best product for sure 100%. But then they make it work as it was related to Intuitive was you said, how could we you know, how  are we going to convince the Daniels of the world with, you know, kids and stuff that this is a safe place to go, right. And we had all this you know, you think about when I joined the organization as a fresh capital raise, Wild West. No idea how this is going to work. We don't have any IP. We don't, there's nothing I mean, I'll tell you something that's probably going to blow your mind. We are a emergency room who chooses to build people who don't need emergency room at urgent care. We're making that choice.

If you went to a health care executive, they’d say that's a stupid idea I've ever heard. If you're going to see 100 patients, why not just bill 100 patients Emergency room? You're not doing anything illegally. We're saying we're doing something ethically illegal, right? That person just had the flu. Why are we going to charge them 1900 dollars in facility fee because of the flu? So it’s a stupid idea, Daniel, I mean, it's a stupid idea to everybody trying to make a living in health care, right. But we said we're customers. It's a fantastic idea. And people, you know, people won’t understand it.

So when I came in, even our equity group said, you know, marketing can't influence the health care decision. And I said, maybe, maybe not. But we're not talking about health care decision. We're talking about retail health care decision. You add retail on there, people are making their own choice to come through that door. I guarantee you we can influence that choice. That's a marketing problem. Now. We can now we can do it. And by the way, here in Texas, I'll give you another little stat that will blow your mind. This is, you know, retail health. This is the Wild West here. This is the state with the easiest legislation. Florida is probably second. Colorado's in there to is. We have six locations in north Texas, four in central Texas now. But in the six locations in north Texas, we have 480 competitors. And I am not counting hospitals. So just in our drive time, our 13 minute drive time to these facilities, we have over 400 competitors. So I'm telling you, it's on every corner. It's pretty significant. So to me, heck yeah. Let's bring on a marketing problem because now, you know, you have accepted the fact that you can get urgent care and even emergency room care in these retail sized facilities. We're talking 6000, 10,000 square feet, not much bigger than a QSR, you know, facility, right. So they're blended right in there. They're in the shadow of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and Publix in Florida. You know, they're right in the shadows now people are convinced, the market is training them, now we have to influence them to our to our brand over that brand.

And it's the model that's the difference. So what we wanted to make work was educating the consumer on this dual model. You don't have to choose. And then you would say consumer says, well, what you're going to do is you're just going to use the  urgent care to lure me in, and then you're going to charge the emergency room. Okay. How do we make that messaging work? Well, here's the data. You know, we see 500,000 patients a year, 400,000 of them get billed that urgent care level. So those 100,000 patients are emergency room patients, true blue. It's not subjective, is objective. We have an objective process to determine that we're fully in-network, meaning your insurance company and payer accepts that notion. So we had so we had to really test. So you think about it's the we can't really control cost, right. That's that's one of the unique things about health care is like we can't really control cost because it is the third payer model. You know, your employer has a specific contract with your, you know, insurance company. So we can't really say, oh, it's $15.No, we're going to give you $15 off. We can't incentivize a visit that's against the law. I can't say, hey, every time we see you in your family, Daniel, you get $10 off your next visit. We all go to jail for that statement to put it out. So, you know, we go into it.

So we had to really make the content work and we had to prove it with data. We had to prove it with data and we had to prove it with experience. And that experience part is a whole another, you know, element to that. So you think about this evolution. We're talking years and we're still doing it, and even our private equity firm who said, you know, marketing has an influence. I mean, they told me, they said, hey, just come get us established, put the components in place for a marketing, you know, division, hire your replacement and then move on to the next private equity backed. Well, we're going to need you for eight months. And that was eight years ago, right. But I just you know, we fell in love with the model and the growth. And we were making an impact right off the bat. It was costing us about $125 to acquire a new patient customer when I started. And now we are sub $20 in basically every single market. So and that's with 22 to 30% same store sales growth year over year since the beginning. And so and we're just driving, you know, costs down because that messaging and that service level has created that earn patient. So people are coming in, I don't know how many kids you have.

Daniel Burstein: Two..

David Apple: You have two kids, we see your size family 25 times a year. Because they go in and they have every sore throat, every headache, because it's a no brainer. You go there at the lunch break, the nurse, the school nurse tells you to go there. Hey, just bring little Joey over there. I just want to make sure it's not strep. He can come back to school in 20 minutes. He comes into our facility. He's done, you know, and he's back in school in 45 minutes. So people have just adopted this really simplistic, you know, care component. And that's the result of the messaging plus the experience. So it's probably an over explanation of the make it work. But you have to understand there's still and there always will be this reluctance to create loyalty with health care because there isn't any. The brand means nothing on the side of a hospital. It's just where it's placed, right? It's the closest. You know, it's the brand doesn't have as much equity as it does in a specific, you know, retail. But it's the fact that it's easy to get into time and money or consider, you know, are being considered all the time. And then your satisfaction is being considered all the time.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So first of all, I mean, and this is very true for any industry that or anyone going through something where it's difficult to change, an industry is difficult to change a company. So I think there's a lot of lessons there. But are you saying your competition is as vast as going from a primary care doctor or pediatrician all the way to a hospital with an emergency room? Because that is a you know, you talk about all those different types of customer segments that might be involved there.

David Apple: Yeah, that's right. That's right. So it's pediatrics to Medicare, right? I mean, it's the full it's the full gamut. But from a competition standpoint, I'm just speaking of urgent cares and freestanding emergency rooms, that's how many there are here in Texas. Because of the licensure and everything else like that. I'm not even you include, you know, PCP’s and everybody else into the mix. We're talking thousands of options for care in Texas is probably the most accessible care state in the whole country by far.

Daniel Burstein: Well, let me ask you this question for the B2B marketers, right? Because we talked a lot about the B2C, but for the B2B marketers. So I know in this market what drew my eye. Like I said, I didn't even know Intuitive Health was the company behind it. I don't even know if that is how you public messaging. You're messaging with a major local health care brand. Now that major local health care brand has emergency rooms, right? And so I would imagine just the way health care is set up. And I again, I'm not a health care marketer. They're getting a certain percentage of the business no matter what, and they're charging emergency room rates for it. So how do you go into and I think you JV joint venture all around the country when you're introducing to the local market markets, which is great because that's helping in that local market. You've already got that, you know, trust with the health care provider, which I'd assume would be huge for something like health care, actually trusting, you know, who's going to who's going to serve you there. So how do you make that sale, though, to these groups that probably already have the emergency rooms? They're already going to get a certain percentage of the business. They can already charge that, like, wait a minute. Yeah, 80% of these people charge at the urgent care rate.

David Apple: Yeah. Yeah. So what typically happens is we're not building in the shadow of their core emergency room, right. So out by you, it's University of Florida. It's a great, you know, great partnership. We're building these away from the main hospital to gain market share, right? Because you might have two or three hospital options to get care. And so we're really strategically we put a lot an emphasis on location. We have a really sophisticated real estate selection process and it's awesome. You know, the marketing teams evolve on that side as well. So we want to make sure we have the right, you know, throughput and we have these kind of core components that we look at from a from a locations standpoint, you know, proximity to schools and rooftops and, you know, the you know, your home, you know, where we're the two plus kid homes are things like that.

So it is a very specific market share, you know, a geography grab. But you said another kind of core component to that is like, why would they why would they want to do this? Well, you think about, you know, transitioning an industry. We're talking about 12,000 square foot facilities. There is nothing in a health care systems vocabulary that's 12,000 square feet. They can't even think along those lines. And then we tell them that in these 12 to 15 room facilities, which that's all they are, we're going to push through 100, 125 patients a day in 45 minutes and they go, That is crazy. You know, that just can't happen. It takes us you know, it takes us hours and hours to get 60 patients through the hospitals. So we really sell them on this specific kind of brand awareness. So if you if you say, okay, now the closest front door you have to University of Florida Daniel now is our facility on Bay Meadows down you know close to your home. That's a great first impression to the broader UF brand.

Now you go in there with your child and let's just say he's having trouble with his knee. He had a sports injury. You go in there, you have a great experience, and he says, hey, I have a great orthopedic, by the way. He's part of the UF system and they’re going to recommend to you, boom, we have captured a patient. We're keeping them in the market. That would have never happened had you have to drive 45 minutes to the main hospital. So now we've just captured another patient for UF services. And if God forbid it's more serious, which you know is always hope it's not. We have a very easy transfer process. So you come in to our facility and if it's cardio stroke, something very, very high, what we call high acuity, you’re transferred very quickly, systematically, right to the hospital door, everything is transferred.It's easy access. So they are doing it with the intent of gaining more patients and leaving, you know, potential revenue on the table with the urgent care always pays itself back in loyalty, right and recommendations and referrals for sure.

Daniel Burstein: So that's a great lesson there with anyone who's scared of cannibalizing their own offering because you know the business you know, textbooks are littered with companies that had a pretty strong position, would not cannibalize their own offering and someone else came across to do it. So if you're in a similar industry facing, I think there's some lessons there from David.

So in the first half of the podcast we talked about lessons from the things you made. In the second half we're going to talk about lessons from the people have made them with. That's a great thing we get to do as marketers. We get to make things, you know, online. I always say, I've never been a podiatrist or an actuary, but, you know, I've never been those industries. But I feel like we get to make things and I don't think everyone does, and we get to make them with people. So before we talk about that first lesson, I just want to mention as well that the How I Made It Marketing podcast is underwritten by MECLABS Institute, the parent organization of Marketing Sherpa, and to learn how MECLABS services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding. You can visit MECLABS.com/results.

But now let's jump into one of your lessons from people you made it with. Partner with a true visionary, which I like. And you said you learned this from working with Anthony Iacovone, who is the Founder of Augme Tech, AdTheorent, BioSymetrics and a personal friend. So how do you learn this from Anthony?

David Apple: Yeah. So it's Anthony Iacovone, I can sense the text message coming through right now, still getting it wrong but yeah, he’s a good guy. And I say true visionary because I think you know you can't just put on the same blue hoodie every single day and same jeans and call yourself in an eccentric and you know, a founder. And I think there's a certain quirkiness and a passion to these really true visionaries. And I don't even think that they recognize that they have competition. You know, this is somebody that's like, you know, this is the best. And  you could say, hey, that's a weirdo. They don't understand the market. Or you could say, I can get on board with this person and learn from this passion. And where I've always fit, and I've just kind of identified this as being real to myself is, I partner really well with these visionaries because I can keep them in check. I'm a great go to market person. I love this idea, Anthony Iacovone, right. I love the fact that you pace around the room and you, you do all these, you know, weird things. But to keep innovating, just keep spilling out the ideas and the direction. Let me paper them, put them into a process, find out how we get into Kellogg's and, you know, Kimberly-Clark and, and those are really rewarding experiences because you find out when you're not in a process environment, meaning like somebody like Anthony Iacovone, when I met him, I fell in love with him right away because I'm like oh, this guy is great. His ideas are great and he's weird as hell. And I love this. This is the guy you watch on CNBC talking about, you know, billion dollar valuations, you know, three, years in because he's got this really, really strong vision. And he's he was talking about, you know, mobile marketing before when we were still flipping our phones open, right. And looking for reception.

So, you know, I gravitated to that so that a visionary and what the lesson for me was, hey, I have no guardrails. There's no COO saying, okay, here is your project management process, we had to build from from scratch. Not only do we have to build the product, we had to build the delivery methodology. We had to build the account management team, we had to build the sales team. We had to build the, you know, tech team and you want to learn something about yourself with the pressures of a visionary. You do it in that kind of environment, you know, because they're not going to stop and you're either going to keep up or you're going to fail. And that's where you know, really, you know, I learned so much from him and he's just a wonderful person, he's wonderful entrepreneur, he's wonderful friend. But he set a pace for me, even at a time when I had my first two kids were itty bitty. I was traveling all around the, you know, I but I believed in it. And I think if you can really have just one opportunity in your career, and I've been so fortunate to have basically every single one of them have the same feeling, But I believed in it. You know,  you know you would not die in the literal sense, but you know, I'm going down this we're either going to succeed or we're going to and I and I believe in it and I see it work. And that's what that partnering with that visionary is so powerful.

And it is again, it's that recurring theme for me is of people find the right people, right. Find those mentors that really mean something to you and believe in you. It's always nice to be believed in too right. You know, you get that phone call in the middle of the night as he would call. I'm not sure he ever slept.But, you know, it didn't matter if it was 1:00, 2:00 in the morning, I have this great idea. This great idea. And you know, the fact that you say, well, dude, I need to sleep for a second, you know, I got infant babies that we're trying to feed. I need sleep for a second. But you go, I look in the mirror and go, He's calling me. He believes in me. He believes that his great or kooky idea can be executed through me. I'll take that all day long. We had a general counsel from Harvard. We had the COO advisor from, you know, a big bank in Silicon Valley. He was calling me, you know out of all people. So that meant a lot that helped me get out of this, you know, kind of imposter syndrome and said, hey, man, just do it. Let's just do it. And you can really believe in it. It's contagious when you meet that right person like that.

Daniel Burstein: So, I mean, I love what you're saying there about when you're partner with someone like that, to be able to be that operational person that can execute on things. But I also wonder, is there anything that you've learned from him that you've taken on in your career? And I'll give you a quick example. I interviewed Derek Detenbur, the Chief Marketing and Merchandizing Officer at Batteries + on the How I made it in Marketing. And he mentioned learning from his CEO, just seeing upfront and personal how he was able to press for change yet keep a calm demeanor, right. And that's something he took with him in his career. I wonder if there's something you took in your career. Because as marketers, we also need to be those innovators, right? Yeah, we need to execute.

David Apple: Yeah. And yeah. And I take like I said, I’m a lesson hound and a curious listener so I got lessons, and lessons and, you know, in books and things along those lines. But I think from Anthony, you know, I learned this kind of fearlessness, right? And he didn't see Johnson and Johnson as a, you know, $60 billion conglomerate. He saw it as an opportunity. And I said, we're going to just walk into this place. he's like, yeah, we got kind of a warm intro, but like, what kind of intro are they expecting us? Well, not really, but just follow me, you know? And it worked out. You know, it worked, right? Because we had something good. We knew we had something good. And if you look back at kind of good ideas that failed. It's a lot of times it was because they didn't have that fearlessness,  right. They didn't get it to enough people or they hesitated or they tried to over complicate it. And if he saw an opportunity, he just went for it. And sometimes he pushed me first through the door and said, go make it happen. But, you know, he created that fearlessness. And when you believe in it, it's fear, but it's also confidence. It's like, if I do get this persons ear, you know, if I am sitting with the president of L'Oreal, which we did on a on a regular basis, I bet we can sell him. I bet we can convince him, you know, because he's going to see this passion. And he did. And so that was a great lesson of kind of that go for it, you know, attitude if you have something that you really believe in.

Daniel Burstein: Well, let's talk about another lesson. So you're kind of talking there about conquering the world and climbing mountains. I think another lesson you mentioned, we are only as good as how we handle humbling moments. And you learn this from Charlie Brignac. So I feel like there's probably some painful story behind this.

David Apple: Oh, yeah, Yeah. I you know, I think, and I tell some younger people that I work with on a regular basis. I think you have to be humbled on a pretty you know, you should have humbling moments and they're going to happen. I have, you know, quite a few of them because like I said, I didn't have the best education or best academic, you know, background. And sometimes it got brought up. And Charlie Brignac he was the gentleman who came on to Augme who got us into these big consumer packaged good companies because he was a packaging leader, believe it or not. And we felt the physical print space was a great place to launch mobile because you could activate through SMS, you could activate through QR codes. I mean, all the stuff that people didn't understand back then. But, you know, it's kind of normal vernacular now. But we were innovating that. And so he got us through the door. And he's a spiritual guy. He's a gentle, kind person. He loved you. And if he respected you, you felt amazing. You felt validated. You felt he's just a really good person again, still somebody that's, you know, deep in my life and a good friend. And he's another one who is passionately a believer. You know, he'd go through that door with us on a on a regular basis.

And I had a moment where, you know, like I said, the company will be a made for TV show at some point. It's kind of like maybe the Office meets Game of Thrones meets Jack Ryan. I don't know some if some writer out there I'll do the data dump for you if somebody can figure out how to put it all together. But as in any fast-paced startup, we were growing really big. Our covering bank brought in, you know, Paul and Phil, that's all I’ll call them, you know, with their suit and ties and it's like they read the Microsoft manual and walked around the room telling everybody that they're going to be millionaires and we make everybody millionaires. And that was the first sign that we were going the wrong direction.

But these guys came in and you know, kind of took over, wanted to start suing people who were using our IP as they thought were legal. And here we are, you know, deep, deep into Kellogg's and all these big CPG companies. And we're getting agency record contracts as 6 to 15 person team. You know, the year we signed an agency record, this is a little side note. But the year we signed an agency of record contract with Kellogg's. They had 125 agencies on their roster. And because of the recession and sales figure, you know, everybody was going through cuts. They consolidated down to 16 and we made the cut. So that is a champagne popping, you know, moment. And these guys just kind of sucked all the fun out of the room because they were like, well, then they have to sign this big legal binding document of, you know, $1,000,000 a year for our license. And, you know, and if not, we're going to sue them. And you know, the court expenses, you know, all this kind of stuff was really, you know, really upsetting.

Well, things got things got tenser because I'm a big equity holder. Anthony Iacovone’s is a big equity holder. Charlie is a big equity holder, right. We were kind of the original Amigos and we grew this company and we felt very passionate about it and felt passionate about the people we hired and, and we were really involved. So things got a little tense. We had a meeting with some key leaders. Charlie was looking at me as the guy who knew everything about the company, the brand, the direction, you know, because Anthony is the visionary, right? So you weren't going to ask him those questions. And I let my emotions get ahead of my words, and I cursed a little bit. I was little bit downtrodden and he pulled me aside after, it was a really important meeting and said, I'm super disappointed in you. And that stung so bad. It hurt, it hurt, and immediately, was this emotion of your right? You brought me here to represent you and me in this company. And I had the perfect audience to win them over. And I went the wrong way. I got my emotions ahead of me, we’re tired, we’re grinding an now you're disappointed in me. That's the worst thing I've ever heard. Worse than the meeting, worse than anything.

And that was a huge, huge, humbling moment. Because it was later on in my life too know, I'm a dad. You know, we're making money. I'm in the press all the time. I felt like I was really kind of rolling along. And here's a guy that I love, like a family member say, I'm disappointed in you. That was a terrible performance. Stop with the bad language. You're better than this. You know, we need to kind of reset,  and I remind him on a regular basis, you know, that was a big moment. You know, that was a big moment for me. And it changed the structure of everything, changed how I lead, change how I hire, change how I interact with you know, my team members and other leaders in the company for sure.

Daniel Burstein: Well, I want to ask about how you lead, because I know your servant leadership on your LinkedIn profile. So one way we learn humility is through painful stories like that people experience, but also we learn there's a positive. And I'll give you an example real quick of how we learned just by seeing humble leaders ourselves. And so like, for example, I interviewed Ariel Glassman, the Director of Marketing at Sage Communications, and one of her lessons was humble leaders provide more than expertise and direction. And she talked about she works in the federal space and government space, and she works with military intelligence leaders. I mean, these generals and these people that are probably just deciding the outcome of our society and our planet at a level we probably don't understand, right. And they were so humble in how they work with her because she had a specific expertise that she brought in to help them, you know, communicate. And now as they were kind of moving into consulting. So I wonder from your perspective and how you lead, how do you bring that humility to that leadership in a positive way where, you know, we don't always need that horrible fail story to understand the importance of humility?

David Apple: Yeah, well, I do share stories because I think you have to you have to see people as humans, not as bosses, right. We you know, the servant leaders there's a lot that goes into the servant leadership culture, but it's kind of a reverse paradigm, right. So that customers at the top, you know, not the CEO. So we're not looking up all the time and we hire along those lines, right. So all of these leaders that are in our organization are just fabulous. They're from different walks of life, they're from different industries, and they have great perspective. But you'll know more about them as a human than as a professional before anything. And that's how we've set it up, right. So we know spouses and husbands and partners and, you know, kids and life and, you know, what are you into and hobbies and things along those lines before we really know the professional person. And that you know that certainly helps so you know share a lot of stories you know, have that human interaction but also learn together.

I think the thing that we try to do is I like I'll be very transparent. I don't want to be a manager. I don't ever want the title. I don't ever want to be a part of it. It's not my style. I want we're a team, you know, I'm not a boss. We're a team. So one of the things that we try to do is, is learn together. Let's learn together. This is going to be a very difficult client, for example, right? We know that this is going to be a very difficult client. I am not going to dictate how we do this. Let's do it together. Let's learn from this. Let's build upon these, you know, relationships. We'll read books together, really specific books that we we are a an NPS till you die organization. So Net Promoter Score, earned patient revenue, all these things that are just really, really innate into our organization. You won't see any that listed publicly. It's about our operational performance, but you have to learn. You have to learn on a regular basis. And we share failures. We share failures, and it's not to chastise anybody. It's not to say, you know, nurse, Nurse Daniel, you know, you guys screwed up again. It's hey, let's look at we see three specific components in this experience that we can improve on. And let's do it. You do it, you improve on it, your scores go up, things go well.

Now, Daniel, we're going to empower you to lead. The other seven organizations or seven facilities that are having the same challenges, you know, So now you've gone from having things that you have to fix to now leading how to fix them. So we're constantly empowering, you know, leadership and, you know, opportunity. And I think that really, really that really helps. And honestly, probably similar to the example that you just gave for your other podcast guest Title has nothing to do with it. There is not a you know, Yes. You know, our CFO is an amazing guy.  This is a marketing podcast. As a marketer, I'm telling you, I don't know for all the listening audience, I don't know how I got so lucky. Every single CFO I've ever worked with has been awesome. So I  know that's not that's not the norm, but it is very, very collaborative. So yeah, our CFO has all these great experiences that he brings into it, but he's a big your listener as I am a listener, as a CEO, as a listener. So we're listening, we're learning and we're empowering on a regular basis.

So there's really no hierarchy like, Oh, the CEO is talking and we're going to do it, you know, this way. And we share the burden. We share burden every day, volume, you know, performance. We share the burden. You know, we are still private equity back and funded. There's a burden to that. If anybody listening, you know, is in that same organization, you understand that burden. They're not bad people, but it's a burden. And so we share it together. We don't expect the CEO to have all of that burden on it on his shoulders, we share. So that's one of the components. And we're big enough now that, you know, there was some thought was we there was only five of us when I started in 2015. We have over 1000 employees now. And we, you know, we thought could can you scale that kind of culture and we have been because those leaders are strong and they're hiring the right leaders and we will leave a position vacant for longer, if necessary. The wrong person creates cancer all the time. It's 100%, you know, every single time. If you just except some mediocrity or the fact you had to fill the role, it won’t work out. And it never has for us. So that's kind of our philosophy There.

Daniel Burstein: Well, let's talk about learning from the wrong person from your perspective. So your final lesson here, Leadership is not measured in years, but in character. You said you learned this from Lisa. Only Lisa. We're saying only Lisa. We'll see in a minute why. Can you tell us a story about how you learn this?

David Apple: Yeah. So as a young as a young buck, I went from Viacom International, which was a, you know, the conglomerate owner of you know, Paramount, and MTV. And I was in mergers and acquisitions and worked on the Viacom/CBS merger and then found out that, oh, you do that you might not have a job. But as you know, a 22 year old, I didn't care. I was like, I'll go back to the beach for an extra, extra day. But because of those relationships that I made and it was just this amazing organization that again, some mentors there that I met that are still a big part of my life, but they said, Hey, go over to CBS. There's a lot of great opportunity for guys of your skill set and to have a really great career went over there was probably about a four day transition and next thing I know I'm at, you know, CBS and there's where I met Lisa and I probably if I didn't have strong enough morals and character. I probably would have thought the entire world was like Lisa, But you could identify quickly that it wasn't.

And this was somebody who never led by example, you know, pushing people out the door. Numbers, numbers, numbers, you know, those kind of things. And a lot of pressure. And she was truly the horrible boss. Like when my wife and I watched two horrible bosses the movie for the first time we said this has got like she has to be involved in this somehow because she also has and she was not of Jennifer Aniston's make up, let's just say that way. And but that's something she would do. She would say, Oh, I'm best suited to be played by Jennifer Aniston. So we were totally convinced that this was this was her movie that she had she had written.

But it was it was when you're in the moment, you say, this is terrible. This person's bad. They don't have any interest in my performance. They don’t have an interest in my career. They're not interested in my growth. They are only interested in making their numbers with as little, you know, friction as possible. But then it’s that realization, you step back and you go, Well, I don't have to do this. I don't have to be a part of this. I don't have to lead this way. And Daniel, what you find out, is really the bad people and the bad leaders and the people with bad intentions don't have any longevity. It works itself out. 100% of the time. So, yes, it can be painful while you're going through it, but there's always an end game to it if you don't get suckered into it. If you stay, you know, keep your distance, you learn from it. It works itself out all the time. I mean, I just I've never not seen it, you know, work out. I have, you know, plenty of people I network with and friends that, you know, say very, you know, similar things. But you know,  it just works itself out. But that was quite the experience she lives in folklore with hundreds and hundreds of my former colleagues. So we hope she's doing well but we don't send her Christmas cards let's put it that way.

Daniel Burstein: I think there's some great career lessons there. But I can't help but think like, is there a lesson in how you interact with the customer, right? Because I think customers have the same challenge you'll see externally. And you mentioned this before too, about, you know, the number of years. You know, some companies talk about that the you see externally there's a certain brand around something or certain around the people that work at that brand. But then you know, have experiences with and it's horrible. So then you just start thinking, I mean in health care specifically too, as we mentioned, like you start thinking like, I'm going to have this bad experience there. Yeah. So I think like for an example of us, you know, MECLABS, Marketing Sherpa we have been around since the early days of digital marketing. We do mention that sometimes, but the thing we do more is we try to give customers positive experiences. Like for one example, we had a copywriting contest with our audience. So, you know, as opposed to saying we've been around since the early days, we know a lot about copywriting. We say, let's do this contest together and let's, you know, kind learn together and you have that experience from it.

And so I wonder, I don't I can't imagine how you could do this in health care, but I just want to ask or maybe some other, you know, industries you've worked in, how do you try to give them some of that experience? You know, the aside from saying, hey, we're the oldest brand here, you know, since 1863, we got a hospital here. You know, how do you kind of give them a bit of that experience when they've had other negative experiences?

David Apple: Yeah, well, I love that example because we've learned the brand promise at these bigger hospitals is sometimes a lie because there is always that big story or the scripture on the wall, you know and people are they're reading it, but they're getting more upset because they're not living it while they're, right. And that's, you know, frustrating because I'm sure the intention is always good, right? I mean, especially those health system to go back, you know, 100 years and, you know, yeah, it was it was the change, you know, via created a healthier community, you know, all that stuff. But they kind of live they live by that lie.

And that was one of the, you know, kind of the founding principles of our model was to really create a consumer customer service model. And what we needed to do by that is don't let them leave this experience without feeling that they can provide feedback. So we saw 500,000 patients plus last year, we got 350,000 pieces of feedback from those from those patients. Are they all good? No, of course not. Are majority of them good? Yes. But we're not saying leave us review. We're asking for feedback. How can we improve this experience? And the greatest part is, is that, like I said, sometimes we see people with the same last name 15, 25 times and they say ten this time, nine this time, ten this time, five. I was really upset. You know, usually I'm in here and it's great. It was a little dirty, the waiting room. I didn't like this new doctor, you know that. Do we tell them that's just stupid observation, the doctor's fine. You know, he's from Notre Dame, and his dad was a prestigious doctor. No, of course not. We call them up. We call 100% of our patients. We have a whole feedback methodology. Hey, tell us a little bit more about your experience. Yeah. You know, with the doctors so we can improve for the next time. Your loyalty is super important. And what's the number one answer we get all the time when we do that. Oh, you read this?

You actually read the feedback? Yeah, we read 100% of them. We read 100% of them. And that really kind of triggers this emotional connection, right? That's where they're not getting it other places. And so we really talk, even with the toughest consumers, you can imagine health care, like I said, we get a lot of people having bad days and bad months, bad years. There's a lot of things going on. And we've heard it all at this point. I mean, we you know, F you you’re the worst in the world, I hate you. I'm going to kill, you know, everything about you, you know, stinks. Hey, we're sorry to hear that. How what part? You know, can we improve on what's you know, how can we help you through this building problem? How can we help you through this?

So we really it's the same interaction that we have in the walls as we're proving to consumer, too. So the same way I'm going to talk to, you know, our employees and our clinical staff is the same way. I'm going to talk to the consumer like humans who we appreciate. This is something that health care doesn't do either. You think about it. You go into the hospital right now and you went to a hospital in a hospital, and your son was totally convinced he was his leg was broken. And you go in there and it's not broken. And then there says he didn't need to be here, right. That's not a positive experience. It's negative experience, right. We say we're happy you're here. How can we help you? Yes, we would have came into. We're concerned, too. I have kids. I would have done the same thing as you, Daniel. Good on you for getting in here and getting it checked out. Just transitioning that language and that way we talk to the consumer has changed everything for us. There's a lot of money in that, you know, there's a lot of profit in that, There's a lot of loyalty in that and there's a lot of revenue, you know, in that. I mean, we're seeing 70, 80% of our first patients come back within 12 months, you know, for you know, different ailments and obviously drives our cost way down as well.

Daniel Burstein: Well, David we've talked so much about all these different elements of what it means to be a marketer from an empathy and humility to what you're doing influencing choice even in an industry like health care. So if you had to break it down, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

David Apple: First, I'd say, you know, listen to the consumer, right? So what is the market telling you? What is the consumer telling you? What are the challenges that they have? Don't ever ignore that by any means. Two, be a consumer. I love the secret shopper. I love you know, you know, I love the opportunity to experience the brand. We do it with our own brands all the time. Experience the brand, find the loopholes, find the challenges. And then third as I have said often is, listen. You know, it is so dynamic right now, even in something as boring as health care and as challenging and regulated as health care is changing every single day. So go to the conferences, go to the webinars. Just learn, if you think you're a SEO expert, listen to another SEO expert. Listen to how their approaches just open your mind up in your opportunity to broaden your, your experiences and get perspective. It’s totalitarian, kind of I always thought this, maybe it kind of goes back to your fancy terms missed expectations .It was always just like totalitarian you know aspect. Like I came out of the womb as the best marketer on the on the planet. You know, I came out as you know CMO and you know that's not true. And it was this inability to change perspective, right? It’s like this way or no way.

And I think that's not going to get you in a world where these new platforms are emerging every single day. And there is the Anthony Iacovone’s out there in the world that are visionaries changing the world every day. If you're not paying attention to that pulse, you're going to be left behind. So I think it's, you know, listen, learn attend, ask questions, you know, ask those questions and collaborate with your competitors. You know, we, not necessarily here in in in Texas, but since I'm involved in this, you know, health care, I'm constantly, you know, networking with other health care marketing executives that are trying to solve the same problems. Yes, we are competing for the same patient, but there's no harm in just, you know, asking the questions. Be a good person too, you know. I think having a cocktail with a competitor and knowing a little bit about their family and being you know, kind of involved in their lives and just being a good friend . And part of that, I think you broadened so much of your experience and you may need and at some point in your career as well, I don't think it hurts to network. Because you’re essentially kind of solving the same problem and you’re also feeding your families. I'm trying to solve those same problems, too. So I don't think it hurts to collaborate anymore, especially with this just open network, you know, flat world now that this has got us so intertwined with each other.

Daniel Burstein: Well, thanks for sharing so much of what you've learned in your career with us today. It's just been a pleasure listening to you, David.

David Apple: The pleasure's all mine. It's been a lot of fun. Daniel Thank you.

Daniel Burstein: Thanks to everyone for listening.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions