Strategy Sessions Podcast Episode 18 A Lessonly In Marketing

Featuring Kyle Lacy

In the episode we discuss:

SaaS Marketing

  • Why you shouldn’t measure brand campaigns (really)
  • Surprise and delight prospects and customers
  • Using repeatable templates to speed up marketing activity
  • Working at a software firm that gets acquired
  • In praise of Salesforce
  • Content v content marketing
  • Use of personality in SaaS marketing


  • Using Predictive Index in recruitment
  • The challenges of recruiting the right people while growing fast (40 – 215 people)
  • The importance of diversity of background in recruitment
  • Matching culture and marketing
  • Unlimited vacation policies
  • Juggling family, work and WFH

Everything Else

  • The history of content marketing
  • Killing push notifications to improve productivity
  • Using direct mail to stand out
  • What’s old is new in marketing
  • Making sure marketing has business impact
  • The Stockdale Paradox

Kyle’s Book Recommendations

Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow

Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth by Patrick Thean

Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High Performance Teams by Taylor Baldwin Kiland and Peter Fretwell.

Things we talk about in the show

Salesforce’s ad that is one of the best around

The Stockdale Paradox

Kyle Lacy  

Kyle Lacy brings over 13 years of experience in marketing with a slice of revenue. He is currently Chief Marketing Officer at Lessonly.

Prior to joining Lessonly, Kyle held senior positions at OpenView, Salesforce and ExactTarget. He is also the author of three books, Twitter Marketing for Dummies, Branding Yourself and Social CRM for Dummies. He wears monotone, loves history and hates onions.

Find Kyle on LinkedIn and Twitter

And Lessonly are here:

Andi Jarvis

If you have any questions or want to talk about anything that was discussed in the show, the best place to get me is on Twitter or LinkedIn.

If you don’t get the podcast emailed to you (and a monthly newsletter) you can sign up for it on the Eximo Marketing website.

Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast every fortnight and if you enjoyed the show, please give it a 5* rating.

Andi Jarvis, Eximo Marketing.

Interview Transcription

This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.

Eyup and welcome to the strategy sessions today I am joined by Kyle Lacy, who’s the chief marketing officer at Lessonly. Kyle, how are you doing?

Doing great. Thanks for having me.

Thank you for joining us today. It’s great to to cross borders across continents and to hear what people from different parts of the world have to say and think about marketing, especially, I’ve got to say, in America, where I look here in Britain and Ireland, we tend to look at what’s happening in the states from a marketing lens and go, OK, they feel like they’re a little bit in front of us.

So it’s good to tap into people who are living right at the forefront of what’s going on. So welcome to the show.

Happy to be here. Thank you.

Tell the listeners about Lessonly. What is it? How do you describe it? What’s the product?

Lessonly is enablement and training software mainly focussed on sales and customer service teams. So if you want to decrease onboarding, if you want your reps to practise, if you want to take a resolution, you know, it’s mostly focussed on front line teams, customer facing teams.

OK, and what type of customers are in the sweet spot or in the bullseye customer for you?

Bullseye customers are usually software companies that have raised money. So if you think about if you’ve raised 20 million A to hire 50 AEs or you need to hire a product team or you’ve got a you know, you need some type of software to help you with onboarding and persona. And that’s like the the education of the rep. And then you need you need help practising, you know, if you practise email pitches or phone calls or video or whatever.

So it’s software. And then on the on the larger side of the business, that could be retail sales, it could be large call centres. So we’re not we’re kind of industry agnostic. It’s mostly the team is where we’re focussed.

So with that focus on team and solving problems for your clients in the chief marketing officer chair, there’s a lot of different things you can focus on.

You’ve got so much competing pressures on on where you spend your marketing dollars.

What sort of processes do you go through to decide, look, these are the things we’re focussing on this quarter, all this year or whatever the planning cycle is? So we so we try to this is the first year where we have we have set up a six month planning cycle. We usually recorded a quarter. And the way that we focus on it from a budget perspective is seventy five percent of spend, headcount and programme spend goes towards demand. Jen, because marketing the marketing team and lastly owns a revenue, no direct source revenue.

And then twenty five percent of it goes to brand building, culture building, community building.

So the key there, which is very important and something that I preach quite constantly, is that that twenty five percent shouldn’t be measured. You should not sit with the team and say this brand campaign, you need to get X, because what happens with Creative’s, in my opinion, is that when they have a revenue number or a traffic number, whatever it stunts, their creativity and great ideas are usually irrational and not based off of data. There’s a great book by Rory Sutherland, who’s the chairman of Ogilvy.

He has a book called Alchemy that’s all about irrational thinking. And I have built a lot of how we do our planning around that book, because I believe that I want my team to have fun while also driving revenue. But you can only have fun if you drive revenue, right, because you can’t just have a bunch of brand campaigns that don’t do anything right. Yeah.

So, yeah, the the demand generation kind of buys you to take it to the game and to have fun game for brand marketing. Okay.

It’s interesting that you say about not measured by revenue, but do you measure it by any of the softer factors, whether that’s just search volumes, traffic to the site, sentiment analysis, anything like that?

We don’t know. We don’t. And there’s probably there’s there is always you and I both know there’s always work to be done and what we do.

Right, like it’s a high growth venture, back sass.

It’s a it’s usually none of us know what we’re doing. Right. So but what I do know is that my team can can pull all great experiences off.

And my success is really when we get feedback from prospects or customers, I don’t it’s not really an score. It’s when somebody shares something is when we get a feedback from an account manager on how delighted, you know, we want to be. I took this from ExactTarget, which just in my past life, but surprise and delight, prospects and customers. And you can’t do that if you’re 100 percent focussed on revenue generation, in my opinion. So giving the team the ability to do that stuff, we’ve done board games, gold, golden llamas, all of our all of our virtual events are not measured.

It’s like the experience is all that matters because frankly, in a features war, which we’re all in, that’s all that really matters in the long run. It’s really interesting. I think my view of such marketing is that it does become a dog eat dog world of bottom of the funnel conversion activity. You know, everyone’s measured on either monthly or annually recurring revenue or UPU.

And you kind of you have a real target and a real and if you miss those numbers for a consistent number of weeks, you tend to have somebody knocking on your door going.

Thanks. See you later.

So, you know, it seems like a really brave decision to carve out a significant chunk of your budget, a quarter of your budget, and go way longer to measure this. This is big brown building activity.

That’s a brave move. Yeah, I mean, but if we didn’t hit if we didn’t hit our revenue numbers, which we do, you know that, you know, I’m not sure that I’d be given that latitude from the board. Right. But. We because I was blessed with a team that is just the most creative people I’ve ever worked with. Honestly, they they deliver things that that that rival consumer marketing, in my opinion. And if you can get a team to do that and you’re seeing I think you’re seeing this with some of the e commerce brands like Fast and Gorgeous and some of these other Shopify, you know, in the Shopify ecosystem where they’re starting to look more like consumer marketing because you and I were talking earlier.

What how do you define, B, to be a B2B boring to boring market that I one hundred percent. And I don’t I don’t understand why. Like, why why do we have to be that way. Right. Like in Dave Gerhardt’s a great example that a privy like he also talks about that Wistia great example of they believe they need to be a media company, not a software company. Right.

So I feel like there’s a lot of us pushing pushing people towards, you know, marketers towards the way we should do things, in my opinion. But in the long run experiences is all that matters. I don’t care if you’re buying a coffee pot or a piece of annual software. I think the thing I see is that in a lot of industries, not all industries, really, there’s a lot of copying of competitors going on. So why or how B2B became boring, too boring or just focussed on feature feature feature?

I’m not sure.

But it becomes the way that people look at it. They’re looking like, oh, well, they’re doing it that way.

They’re a big company. It must be the right way. We’ll take that.

Or when they apply when they’re recruiting for business, recruiting for staff, sorry, they put it in the up. Job application must have experience in the service industry or in the construction industry. So all you do is you bring people who’ve done something one way and one place into a business and you kind of end up with a filter bubble of ideas. So nobody thinks differently until you bring a consumer marketer into a SaaS company and they go, why do you do this?

Yeah, you don’t bring the outside thoughts in which it takes us nicely to recruitment. You spoke lovingly about your team there. What do you look for in people? I mean, we we rely pretty heavily on predictive index, which is a personality profile. I mean, I’m butchering what it actually is, but, you know, gauging gauging what people are good at and how they approach work and how they approach life.

Right. We rely heavily on that and our interview process because. We have we are pretty like we will hire the best marketer that I’ve hired was at a minute, like he wasn’t even a marketer. It was a mystery in Illinois. And we hired him because he knocked his presentation out of the park. So there’s two things that we are going to be very prescriptive here. There’s two things we do. Number one is we have predictive index at the beginning and we have some type of form fill or whatever, like, hey, tell us what we should do with the homepage.

And then we have a presentation at the end of the interview cycle on your first 90 days. And what that shows we have made we have we have flipped hiring decisions twice because somebody was better at presentation. Like, it was just more creative and so I think that allows us to to keep bringing people in. What I do see changing, which is interesting and, you know, the community and listeners I love opinions here is as you grow and hit different revenue bands, there is more pressure to hire people that have experience that grow the revenue band.

And I’m having a hard time navigating that as a leader because I will always kind of fall back on this idea that our CEO, Max Yoder’s said it best hire over potential, not credential.

And I don’t know if he made that up or he heard that somewhere, but that just stuck with me ever since he said it to me and that’s the most important part.

But you feel that pressure as revenue grows and the targets maybe get steeper or the company gets bigger to then start picking up players who’ve worked at the big BTB or the big size companies before. OK, can we take that person from HubSpot because they’ve got that on their CV or pressure that you’re.

Yeah. Who’s experienced that growth stage? That we’re not necessarily I would not pluck them from Salesforce or HubSpot right now. Right. But it’s that growth stage. Like the question is, can you find leaders that that and and even individual contributors that are repeatable, much like our product market fit. Right. Is that possible? Does it exist? I’ve seen it a couple of times, of course. But and you know, the team when I joined the last we were 40 something people and now we’re we’re two hundred and fifteen and and the company changes as you do that as you hire and grow.

And you’ve got to break all your processes, haven’t you? When a company grows every time, I mean roughly every time it doubles in size. But there’s lots of different ways of looking at that. Everything that worked for you, then you have to break and start again. The number of people, how many of them? The marketing team.

Now, we will end January with, I think close to 40. But that’s because outbound. So the borders and report into marketing. Got you.

So you got more people in marketing by the end of the month. And the company had when you joined all those processes, you know, your team meeting was probably just you in three faces, looking back at you at the time. And, you know, it’s like, OK, so everything from not just marketing but finance and all the processes have to be and grow.

And that’s that’s part of the fun of the job, though, right? Isn’t it? Going through those stages and having to find New Years?

Yeah, but I think my. Yeah. One hundred percent. That’s why I love it. That’s why I love I will never get out of software. I love it. And because of the speed that you move. But I would say the most important part is playbooks and templates and having some type of foundation and breaking them like you said. And that’s what I look for. Like I will hire somebody with no experience as long as they are a fast learner and proactive because they will pick up playbooks and then they’ll look at it like what Ben Battaglia did when we hired him.

And now he’s the VP of marketing at another company here in Indy. He will he breaks all of them because he doesn’t have any head trash, but he’s smart enough to understand what is valuable in each playbook. Right. And if, for example, if I were to ever become a S.R.O. and run a sales team. I think it’s complete crap that people say you have to have sold are BNA to be Akaroa. Right, just hire a great V.P. that’s great at sales and you help them break playbooks because you have to there’s there’s no way around it.

So I think it’s the playbook and the foundation of how you. It in a community of people around you that will help you learn and help you grow. That’s even more important. It goes back to the point I was making.

I suppose if you just keep employing people with the same background on the same thought process, you just end up with no diversity of thought. And it’s not necessarily about gender or background or the school going. Went to let you know those first 10, 15 years of the career, they taught the same thing. They think the same way. And you bring them in, you go, why do we keep doing the same thing? I wonder why.

Well, it’s just it’s and it’s it’s it blows me away that and I worked I worked at ABC for so so I feel like I can say this. It blows me away that we keep pushing on hiring and revenue bands when every business is different. Like, every single business is different. The people that you hire the products, and so we need to be a little bit better at how we hire talent and not just did you experience X amount of growth over X amount of time?

Yeah, no, no. Good point. Very good point. So in terms of stay on sort of higher income people and we’ll mention coronavirus because well, you know, it’s January would deepen it still and we can’t we can’t not mention it.

Your whereabouts are you based geographically, which was the office and how is it affected you now? Have you got remote teams?

Are you looking at hiring people all around the world? What what’s the what’s the present and what’s the future?

Yeah, I mean, you talk about process change and breaking playbooks is when we all went remote in March, like so we have at the time we had one hundred and eighty people that were most most of them are here in India. So one hundred and sixty of us were going in the office every day. And then when we all went out, we had we had a pretty good idea of how to run remote meetings and stuff. It took a month or so for us to really figure it out.

But what has happened is that as we’ve opened up hiring again.

We we are hiring from all over, mostly in the actually not all over in the US. And. Number one, you have you have a a greater community or greater network to choose from to hire, which is great. The downside is that it is ungodly competitive right now because everybody is hiring remote. Right. So the talent team, which I’m going to give them. A ton of credit, they had to completely redo the way we thought about hiring because most of our hires were in Indy, Indianapolis, Indiana.

So it’s it’s changed the way we’ve built our company. It’s starting to shift culture in a positive way. You’re bringing on different modes of thought because you’re hiring all over the United States and it gives you a bigger pool of people. Just so happens that that big pool of people also has a big pool of people trying to hire them. Right.

Everybody chasing that talent and you need talent to grow is an organisation that’s it’s essential to it on location as well.

You mentioned you’re looking at sometimes VC backed firms and things like that that are growing as great clients for you. What’s the view of being based in Indianapolis compared to maybe being in San Francisco or New York or somewhere that maybe has a little bit might be seem more traditionally is a place where you’d find those companies? Yeah, I mean, you know, our founders are all based here, and we the cost of living here is doesn’t even come close. So the talent’s here because ExactTarget was here who was bought by Salesforce.

And there’s a lot of software talent here. Sales force’s second largest offices in Indianapolis, surprisingly because of that marketing cloud purchase. So it makes sense to stay here. And now we’ve we we have we have that. We have all the other people outside of Indiana to hire as well. So we’ve got a great network of people here. Cost of living’s cheap and it’s cheap to have office space, so it just makes sense. It’s also the reason why people are hitting Nashville and Atlanta.

All of us that I think is getting too expensive now, but why why those other cities are Columbus, Ohio as well?

Yeah, Atlanta is where melting pot best, isn’t it? That’s the case. Yeah, I think so. I think they’re. Yeah.

So what about time zones? I mean, the U.K., we don’t have everyone’s on the same time zone dealing when I try to organise interviews with people like you or dealing with people across Europe and working with a university in Finland at the minute time zones just melt my mind because we never really have to use them. Is it just part of the everyday challenges of life for you guys in the States where you span a number of time zones anyway, or how has that even thrown more problems into the mix?

It hasn’t thrown problems. We actually most are either central. Or Eastern, we just on my team, we just hired somebody in Washington State, so she’s three hours behind, so it hasn’t been difficult.

We’ve just shifted stand ups and meetings forward. So she’s not jumping on a call at 6:00 a.m..

Yeah, there’s sort of three hours difference, obviously, to West Coast, but only five hours to London Island where I am. So I you know, is that kind of the next step in the plan, looking at global talent or certainly talent within a certain time zone reach?

I think it really depends on the international strategy to begin with. Right now, we’re focussed on North America. So, you know, when the time we do have customers all over the world, but the majority of them are in the in the United States and in a. As as we continue to grow in scale, you know as well as I do that you have to expand internationally eventually, right? So when that time comes, that is when we will start really building out that that team.

But for right now, it’s pretty much North America.

Yeah, OK. No, no. Well, look, let’s go back a step as well. So before you are, blessedly, you’ve worked a business that’s been acquired. So give us a little bit of the just the sort of details of the acquisition not into what happened and why, but just what’s the headlines of that acquisition? Well, I.

So just to be clear. There were I joined ExactTarget in 2012, we were email marketing software, it was it was the market leader when I joined. I’m pretty sure we hired five hundred people the year I joined. So me being involved in the acquisition is a nice way to say I worked at a company of two people that was acquired.

Just to be clear, just to be clear to the audience here, however, you know, we we experienced, you know, the year I joined, we bought two companies, we bought Pardot and I go digital. We went we went public. And then we we were bought all in a span of of three years, two and a half years. And I think that the the experience as an employee, because it was so valuable, I mean, we at the time we were sales force’s largest acquisition, then this was 20, 15.

I think two point two point six dollars billion, and it was exciting because we we now had a much larger group of people to work with, right. Like we were part of the Salesforce ecosystem. And then you learn how people deal with acquisitions and you like Salesforce. We spent we spent a year as the Salesforce ExactTarget marketing cloud because ExactTarget had such a strong brand. On the flip side, I’ve heard that Oracle completely it doesn’t matter who you are, they will get you to an oracle the day you’re born.

Right. So first, for Salesforce, it was. It was cool because we were now part of this bigger entity. What was interesting was a lot of us had to report to VPs in San Francisco. So you were actually pretty removed from who you were reporting to because everybody was still trying to figure out how to integrate the company. So. It was a great experience, mainly just because you got to witness firsthand how large software companies make acquisitions and you got to see.

I mean, everybody has their opinion about Salesforce. There’s one thing that I will always argue, they are the best brand marketing. Marc Benioff is friggin brilliant at it, and he always will be, and I learnt a ton just watching him, just watching how they went about messaging and goal setting. And they they have a system called V to mom that’s basically a waterfall waterfall goal orientation for the entire team. And so me as a senior director of Global Content Marketing could track my objectives all the way up to Marc Benioff.

And you know, a company of 40000, that’s that’s powerful, right? So, yeah, I mean, it was awesome. It was awesome. And then I just learnt pretty quickly that I was not built for a forty thousand person org where, you know, there were there were a thousand vice presidents.

And so to think I want to come back to that point. I just want to tell you about marketing professor guy called Mark Ritson, who hopefully will be on the show at some point. But keep my fingers crossed for that. He was asked recently what one of his favourite ads of all time is, and he said usually, you know, you people just talk about apples and they talk about the odds of various things. So he said, I wanted to give something different.

And he thought about it for a moment. And he came up with Sales Forces graph, which is the just the chart, which shows you how much bigger is than everyone else. And he’s like, just think about this for a moment. He said, it’s the ugliest age you will ever see and it’s the most effective ad. You look at that and you go, why would I go anywhere else? It just tells you everything you need to know about it.

I’ll put a link to that in the show notes so that you can say and animal across the they they paste it right on the front of the Wall Street Journal, like right on the very front page.

It’s just like it’s just so much bigger than ever. And like everyone else in it. And competitors are named as well. And there’s some big names in there and they don’t wipe the floor with the money.

So, no, I’ve never seen a big fan who said I’m a big fan of Salesforce as a company.

Good. So talk to me about your experiences there, because I know Fitz is a really important part for employees, not just product market fit. And all that fit for employees is really important. And I know I’ve found I’ve struggled sometimes when I’ve been in the wrong culture or in the wrong size of organisation. So what were your experiences then when you went into a because you were ExactTarget were a big company anyway, but you then went into a company that was 40000 people.

Did it just feel wrong for you? I don’t yeah, but I would it felt wrong, but we’ve got to keep in mind that ExactTarget was my first job in software I had I had worked in I had worked at an agency and then started an agency and owned one before that. So I didn’t really I didn’t really know what I wanted. Right. So what I did know was that I wasn’t at the time. Decision by committee, which you have to do in a company that big, I was not fond of and I didn’t really like, and also the fact that my.

The guy I was reporting to was in San Francisco and was kind of. Left me alone, was a no touch my manager, which I actually like for the most part, but but at the time I was kind of I was craving, like more mentorship. And because I wanted to learn and then what I and then I just I discovered pretty quickly that what I loved was the fast paced growth which which we were still having at ExactTarget. And that’s why and then that’s how I came across the the opportunity with open view.

And then at lesslie. And it feels much more at home now and in that fast growth area and, you know, the different challenges that you faced with that.

Yeah, and that’s because, as what I love is breaking things and and failing. Just just. Constantly testing and trying to figure out what works and and change, and in large organisations, you don’t need to write because the models there, it’s built like that. Salesforce is a freakin machine like you, don’t it? It is just unbelievable. So for me, I just learnt that that was not that was not what really drove me.

Yeah. So let’s keep going. But the agency that you built and the rollout, ExactTarget with content marketing roles, is that right?

Yeah, it was it was a we had a it was interesting because it was the first real content marketing team that I knew of at the time. It was we were it was basically a thought leadership team. So we had four people and all we did was speak at conferences. So instead of having a product person, you’d send one of us and we would talk what the the what was different was they were doing primary research. So if if an example is if ExactTarget was going into Germany, they would go do consumer research in Germany like.

Fifty seven percent of German consumers bought a second purchase purchase twice because of an email. And they would produce that research and then launch it into any country for free press. And we were doing that in twenty twelve, right, and now everybody does it right, and so that that was the content that we were producing and we had we were producing primary research. By the time I left, we were producing primary research in six countries and four different languages because it’s what was working.

And and the reports are still there, like the cell, the state of the sales cloud instead of the marketing cloud. All those are generated out of ExactTarget. Brilliant stuff, and that probably opens up a question about content versus content marketing. You’ve got an industry now where people, marketing consultants like me are forever on stage writing blogs saying create more content, create more content, create more content with very little for often about how you distribute that content or who it’s for or what audience it goes to.

And there is so much content now that even standing out can be quite difficult to. So what do you see as that demarcation between that just creating content and content marketing? And what are the maybe a couple of key lessons people could take away to say, right, how do we do this really, really well? I think I think it depends on your channel mix and what your go to market strategy is, because for us, organic is a huge driver.

We produce a lot of content because organic search, we we need to maintain organic search. Right. And that’s a whole nother we could talk an hour about that, but. And then from a from just the content production standpoint, it’s again, I’m going to go back to the surprise and delight like produce content that people want to read in a way that people want to read it. And I and I will be the first to say that I don’t think I’ve ever been to a point where I feel like it’s perfect.

Right. I think the closest we’ve gotten is is using Dreft on our site where you can read like we don’t get anything. Pretty much the only thing that’s gated is our demo. So you can read everything. And if you want to chat with us, you can chat with us. If you want to chat with Obama, you can chat with Algoma. So so content for us is mainly production because of the organic search component. And then we have one or two major pieces that would be more mid or bottom of the funnel in order to help support sales. So, you know, for for people to be able to do what we were doing at ExactTarget, I mean, I’m pretty sure. This is not headcount. My my pro- programme budget, just for the research, was a million dollars. Well, that didn’t I had a team of 12 in Indy for exactly like that, we went hardcore because and we had you know, we had the opportunity to do it. So it really depends on the channel mix, depends on the strategy, depends on a lot of things.

The channel mix depends on the strategy, depends on a lot of things, yeah, and I suppose lessons change over time, don’t they? Some of the things that were working in 2012, if you just rinse and repeat, it might not work now.

But what were the what sort of process steps that you take to to try and ensure that you get more hits than misses and testing and learning is important, but you obviously want to try and get your win loss ratio. So what are the process things that you have to help you do that?

It’s it’s really hard for us to do it unless and mainly because we look at content as a part of the overall experience, not a demand driver. Right. So, you know, for us, it’s its production, but it’s also how are we including customers? How are we including our community? How are we making content that people want to read? So I wouldn’t say we have a system where we are constantly evolving what we’re doing other than having we do a lot of S.R.O. testing on the site, but for creative activity.

We’re just constantly pushing each other to do things that are different, like, right, instead of doing a PDF, why don’t we throw the concept into our products and people can go take a lesson on it. Right. So, you know, it’s it’s hard because we don’t really retro content because we don’t drive demand and be a content that will change as we’re we we have a really good relationship with Forester.

And as we started doing more with them, I think I think that changes. But that’s also because we move up market and we sell to large companies. And I think that’s a completely different content strategy than than somebody selling it to us. Andi.

Yeah, no, no. Makes perfect sense. You touched earlier on about the llama as part of your strategy. And I want to talk about adding personality. We’ve talked earlier about boring Sabari marketing. And if he goes to the lesson he cites, a Allama pops up to greet you and you can have live interaction with the llama.

Where does that come from? Is there any pushback from people going where a serious product? Why have we got a llama? Well, those discussions that you have internally and how did it come about?

Well, the llama predates me. I think the story is that somebodies significant other drew a llama on. We were in a we were in an old school building before we moved to our new office and there were chalkboards everywhere. They drew alarm on a chalkboard and for some reason it kept popping up and it never went away. The cleaning crew never raised it and it was just as lava. And eventually Mitch Cawsey, who is the third employee, he was the director of marketing at the time, he said let’s let’s use the llama as a mascot, because I think that was like 2013, 2014, where where there is this huge trend to just have mascots as software companies.

And then they came up with Ali. And when I when I came, I just the opportunity because it was tasteful and it fit our culture. To to maximise all Allama and to use to use Óli to differentiate us was just too big. So we just we doubled down on Ali and we never we haven’t come across any one customer or employee or prospect to has been turned off by it, because I think it’s tasteful. I think it’s done in a way that’s not corny.

And there’s a fine balance. You and I both know where you can have a corniest hell mascot and it will screw you up in the future. But I just I think a lot of it just has to do with how we how we evolve, Ollie. Like we actually have a real life Ollie on a farm in New Jersey. That we sponsor and gets on Zoome calls and has less, and we like blanket that it wears and it’s pretty fun really.

So it’s even though I think what you’re saying is, even though the mascot was there when you started, the reason it stays is because the culture and the ethos of the organisation, it might change. If it didn’t, you could park the llama and leave all alone.

Yeah, yeah. It double down because and this is this is how kind of taking culture and building it into marketing, because I think culture also can help sell something. We give a golden lama every quarter to an employee that. Best represents our culture and values and. We decided to. Send golden llamas to customers and prospects to give to their employees, and I remember we found a manufacturer in Michigan that did these three inch llamas that I had to spray paint gold.

So I’ve probably spray painted like twenty five hundred of these llamas. I’ll die, I’ll die young because I inhaled all this spray paint.

But we’ve said we’ve sent close to five thousand of these out and it doesn’t sell the product. And it’s just like here here is an award to give to an employee that you feel is doing great work. And because of the Golden Llama, because that direct mail campaign worked really well, we continue to do it just all continues to evolve. And the next day we launch an e-commerce brand in December called Orli Llama and Co. that has no affiliation with lesslie.

It’s just a clothing brand. So. So it’s it’s. And that’s an example of what we talked about earlier, like no software company other than fast, I think fast is the example where they set like thirty thousand hoodies to people. No software company should be doing an e-commerce site at all. And, you know, we’ve we’ve surpassed a thousand orders of just clothes with llamas on it.

I mean, it’s just what do you say to the the strategists, to the marketers and the people who are saying what you’ve done there? It’s great. It’s lovely, it’s fun, but be losing focus. You’re in a difficult market. You’ve got revenue targets to hit. You’ve got brands. You’ve got people have only got so much time. Why are you wasting your time doing that? As nice as it is, why are you wasting your time doing that?

Well, we built it into our sales process, so ultimately it’s not wasting time because we can give gift cards out to do prospects to go buy gear. And it’s all it’s all about the experience, right. Like, I am not going to send a prospect, another freakin custom yeti or T-shirt or a blanket like we don’t need any more of that. But will I send them to a beautiful custom e-commerce site for them to order something and their size and the colour that they want?

Hellyeah Because none of my competitors are doing that. So, yes, it does. And I. Creative people, people that you hire out of agencies, consumer marketers, you’ve got to you’ve got to continue breaking the model for them to stick around like you turn creative is when you start when you keep doing landing pages.

I’m very passionate about this particular topic. If you can’t tell. Absolutely, absolutely. I just, um. Yeah, if I see one more, how to design the perfect landing page, basically, I’m going to screw someone sent me one this morning. I was like, oh, my God, God, it’s 2014. Uh, right.

So I’m sticking with people. My mission statement strategy times people equals performance. So I talk as much about marketing and strategy stuff as I do about people, which is why we still go.

But what about the non, non, non work people, family? You know, you’ve spent a lot of time working at home now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you get to spend more time with the family. How do you juggle commitment of two young kids, full time job, lots of other stuff going on. My wife’s a saint. Number one, number two, I try as much as possible to and I haven’t been great about this over the past couple of months, but unplug whenever I leave this room that I’m in.

For those of you who are listening, I’m in a office in my house. I try to unplug. I try to leave my phone in the office as much as possible and just just have you know, if I have four hours with my kids just trying to be president. And it’s it’s been very difficult recently. And just because of everything that’s going on in the world and the business and like in the quarter and all this stuff, but I try to just unplug.

I also don’t. And this is very tactical, but I don’t have push notifications, so I you know, I don’t I am not getting pinged every time somebody tweets or sends me LinkedIn D.M. or, you know, sends me an email. And that’s probably that’s probably the best part of all this is just shut off your notifications and you’re going to get some time to breathe because you’re being constantly bombarded.

You know, I in the summer just gone. I killed all my social media notifications. Text messages. Yes. I leave them and nobody text me. So what’s up? I tend to leave WhatsApp, an email on work, email only everything else is shut down. So I must have gone.

I must have cut my number of notifications per day by to about 20 percent just by killing all social media. And it’s glorious, isn’t it? Brilliant.

Yeah, you should do that anyway, and then, you know, I usually I try to take two weeks out of the year where I delete everything off my phone. And just have text messages. So I’m completely. Unplug for two weeks and you guys over the pond are way better at this than we are in America, where you have like six month holidays, but that we, you know, try to unplug at least a little bit is important.

It completely baffles me how Americans can get through a whole year. You guys get like 10 days annual leave, is that right? Or something like that.

And that’s just the way we look. We work at trendy software companies, so we have unlimited vacation.

I would get you know, you don’t if you don’t have the numbers or if you don’t want to share them, that’s fine. But do you track only a limited vacation? How long what’s the average number of days people take? So we don’t track that?

What we have done is we actually mandate when people have to take time, like earlier, later and later last year, 20, 20 at a campaign internally, which was take five by 12 five. And each manager had to manage their teams and the team-mates had to pick five days, they were taking off and the managers were held to saying each person has to take five days off. So I don’t I I’m not I hopefully I’m not mis misrepresenting what we do on the talent side, but I don’t think we’re tracking it.

But we are definitely it’s front and centre for us because we spend a lot of time and energy as a as a team investing in mental health and having conversations around that. We have a support network that helps them with helps the team with therapy sessions and you could go get counselling and all that stuff that we provide to the team. So taking time off is definitely part of that.

Brilliant. No, no, that’s that sounds great. But I think some of the companies and I know in the UK who first started introducing unlimited holidays did track that.

And what they realised was the people, because they didn’t have the target, would say, you know, taking a holiday. So it was a bit.

But they recognise that and then put some structures in place where they mandated certain leave and various bits. But it’s interesting, we do seem to get more days off here than a standard employee would in the states, let’s put it that way. So I think that’s a historical thing.

So, yeah, I remember it exactly where where we would we would build go to market campaigns around Australia and holidays because we knew that that they were going to be gone for like three months. So you’re not going to do any campaigns to our APEC or APEC network during that time? Yeah, absolutely.

Absolutely. But I think that there’s a historical element to that as well. And I think, you know, the rise of the the unions and it goes back. I think there’s cultural reasons to go with it.

And even look, if you look at just the European Union, it tends to be I do find going on Twitter sometimes quite hilarious because there’s a whole raft of Americans who think that the European Union is essentially a sleeper communist state because of some of the policies that it can like worker protection and things like that.

And, you know, it’s like you guys are commies and like you really don’t know what communist means there. But so there’s a very different cultural approach in in Europe, in the UK than in America.

But if that’s if that’s the worst thing you found of what Americans are saying, then I agree that this is anyone listening has probably come to this show because it’s a marketing podcast, marketers talking about marketing, and that’s why Cale’s here. But when we were doing the research for this, Kyle happened to mention that he’s a fan of military history, which is one of my great pawpaws.

I love talking to people about history. So we’re just going to go for a few minutes just because I want to talk about history.

So you’re used to to TA preferred set of periods in history, the US Civil War and World War Two to seismic events really in the history of the U.S. that shaped the country. You know, the civil war sort of shapes it. And then the Second World War changed it and reshaped it again. Um, do you see and we’re asking your opinions on it, but do you see some of the events of recent times being another seismic event that can change how the states is going to be for the next 50 to 100 years?

Yeah, yes, I mean, I don’t I don’t think any community of people or institution can go through what we’re going through right now and not change. And I think you’re seeing that with with little like know at the time of this recording. We’re we’re experiencing all this Robin Hood, GameStop, like investor communities fighting each other, which is reminiscent of like JP Morgan in the nineteen twenties before, you know, Black Tuesday or Thursday or whatever they call it.

Yeah, I think I think this nation is changing and I think it will I don’t I’m not sure I would put it on the same seismic level as a world war or a, or a rebellion, a true rebellion. But it’s definitely changing. And I and I think that it’s going to be very important for us to continue trying to meet in the middle as a country. And, you know, I think that we will I think in the end, it will.

It will. It will happen. I think so in the UK, we have that in in schools, there’s a fairly predictable syllabus of education things and we’ve got a very long history as a country.

You know, you start learning about the Romans. We don’t really do the Greeks. But you still learn about the Romans coming up to modern day. And there’s so much that you don’t get taught about British history because there’s so much of it.

But one thing that rarely makes it onto the syllabus is the American Civil War. I think there’s a look at it because it was is it the beginning of the end of the empire and stuff like that.

But it was I don’t think many Brits and less have taken time to go and look at the civil war, really understand just the scale of it and the fault lines that kind of came because of it.

And I’ve spent a little bit of time reading about and watching a few programmes and just being blown away by the numbers of people who were involved and the number of deaths on site given when it took place. That would be a phenomenal amount of people percentage wise. They’ve been affected by it.

Yeah, I don’t I don’t remember the actual percentage. What’s fascinating about the at the beginning of the Civil War is and this is going to get really dirty.

So sorry is the is the tactics that they employed were so far behind the the technology. So the Smoothbore Muskett got really, really, really accurate and they still walked people right in front of them. And it was the carnage was. Was. I mean, nobody had ever seen that type of carnage, and they didn’t until World War One, right, where, you know, that’s just a completely different level of madness in World War two.

It’s amazing how generals who aren’t on the front line seem to take quite a long time to learn the lessons over and over again, isn’t it?

Well, that’s what’s fascinating about civil war. Think about. You’re talking hundreds of thousands of people like 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 mile long train cars, not well sometimes trains, sometimes wagons of supplies. And there were no like it was just people writing notes to each other, riding horses back and trying to figure out where the hell everybody was. That was half of it that nobody knew, nobody knew where anybody was. And you’re talking like battles and and tens of thousands of people would die because they randomly ran into each other in Tennessee.

Right. And that that didn’t happen that often. But it I think that it’s I think if you get that really deep and trying to understand that’s why Stonewall Jackson was such a great general, is that he pushed his troops so hard that they can move so fast. That’s how he won most of the time. And then he got shot by one of his own people and died. Like it’s just I have a it was a terrible war. It needed to happen.

We we were we emerged as a stronger nation, in my opinion, through us as a president after it. And I have there’s some romantic. I romanticise it a lot because there’s just so much that happened in that 10, 10 years, give or take, depending on how you want to look at it. And you’re talking about a nation that. Brothers were actually shooting at each other. I mean, that’s crazy, but it’s crazy. So, you know, and and it’s part of it’s part of our history and we actually don’t do a great job educating either on it here in America so that we could eat more of it’s woven into the fabric of the country.

And it’s just one of those things that that the mythology is or is is more powerful than the facts of the situation as well. You know, you start to read about some of the characters in there and some of the people and some of the battles, and that’s not what I thought that battle would be. So it’s interesting how it goes and going to try and take an awkward Segway back into marketing, if you can stick with me on this.

But I think you mentioned there about the the issues with the Civil War and how those lessons took a long time to learn in the First World War. The generals did the same thing.

One of the reasons I like history is that very little that I see in the world is new, right? Everything that we see, if you look back in history, you see the same stuff over and over again.

Yeah. And and content marketing is one of those.

I did a webinar just the other day, but we were talking about this where people think content marketing was invented in about 2003 or 2004, but far enough feel like, no, not John Deere were doing the Furrow magazine in 1880.

Something about Ben Franklin was doing content marketing. Yeah. I mean, you could look at a Wedgwood pottery in England. They used to give their expensive pottery to basically influencer marketing. They would give it to Sir So-and-so and Lord and lady thingamajig so that it would be all right. They’ve got this. Where did you get Wedgwood pottery? It was influencer marketing. It’s just they were doing it without Instagram. Right.

So you look back at history and you start to see these trends and, you know, are you looking back at anything now and going, this is what we’re going to use next.

This works in the 80s and we should bring it back now.

I mean, we do a lot of direct mail. We were doing a lot of direct mail when I joined.

In terms of direct mail, I started to direct mail.

I love it. So, you know, I’d say that.

But what marketers love to do is name things that are just recreate like account based marketing, like, give me a break. It’s. It’s what it’s what it’s what you should be doing, like named account list, personalised outreach, deliver the thing that they want to get them to take a meeting or whatever.

I’m completely butchering it. But content marketing is the same thing. And you’re right. I mean it marketing as a function is just trying to figure out what gets people in the door. Like I’m in the middle of Ron Chernow’s book, The House of Morgan, which is about JP Morgan. And it’s huge, like I’m listening to it’s thirty eight hours long, like it’s just a beast and what they did and they did it in London as well. They didn’t do any marketing.

There was no sign on any of their doors. You had to be introduced in order to bank there. And that is marketing just as much as what Chase was doing or National City was doing at the time, selling bonds. Right. So I just I’m fascinated with this idea of how do you how do you build a story? An experience around around what you sell and make it different, and I think that that’s I think we’ve been doing that for centuries.

The Romans were doing it. Yeah.

I mean, there is nothing new is that we just need to find a way to to make it relevant or to accept that sometimes the delivery channels change, but the idea is still the same.

Make it fun. Just make it fun. Yeah. So I’m presenting probably about the time this episode comes out in early March. Anyway, at a conference SMK Munich, I annoyed I’m not going to be there. I’ll be presenting from a bedroom upstairs.

I love that great city.

But the presentation is called, which means that and it’s about trying to get away from features to get to advantages and benefits and content. No, this isn’t new. Right?

This is sales training, one one from the 1970s. So don’t just tell them something which means that I talk to market is about and they look at me like I’ve just invented fire. They’re like, wow, this is blowing my mind.

And they’re like, this is from like the, you know, the telesales one or one book. Right? Oh, OK.

Yeah. I mean, this is the impact. You got it. You’ve got to be able I mean, Leslie, we’re just now getting to the point where we have, you know, the customer involvement for us to show business impact and business outcomes and start using it in marketing. I wish we would have done it sooner. But yeah, I mean, you’ve got to show the outcome. And that’s and you can you can have a you can send a ton of board games and they’re really cool and you have a bunch of gold llamas.

But if you don’t have business impact, you’re not going to grow into reality. Exactly.

Well, listen, we’re coming towards the end of the interview. When we’ve covered history, we could do maybe a part to just talking about history in the Second World War from the British and the American viewpoint, because, yeah, you know, we see different things and we started at different times. But rather than lose all the lessons about now, what one is that?

There’s a couple of questions I finish by asking every guest. The first is about what books are you reading now? You’ve already mentioned Alchemy and the House of Morgan. Are there any other books that you would recommend for marketers to to pick up and read or even podcasts or newsletters or. You know. Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, I. So I would say. You’ll be able to find links to all of the books that we’ve talked about and all the things in the show notes, so you’ll find them, click on them and you can go off and buy them.

So I’m I’m a terrible reader of marketing material. I actually don’t do a lot of it, most of its history. But this was this was this book was referred to me by Manny Medina, who was the CEO of Outreach. It’s called Rythm. Patrick fan, yeah, it’s more about execution through scale and then I have not started this, but I bought it to read it next. After how some organ lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Oh, it’s basically leadership lessons from.

I think it was it’s a Vietnam and whose it is up by and we’ll. It’s a it’s with him, but it’s about him. Yeah, because he was part of it, I think.

So that’s what I would recommend. But I like because I just get so much more value of reading about the past, both because I love it. And you can gain a lot by learning how Benjamin Franklin did stuff for Thomas Jefferson or JP Morgan and, you know, Rockefeller. And so but those are those are the ones on my bookshelf now. Definitely not.

The Stockdale paradox has been keeping me going through lockdown, you know, basically go and have a look. Google the Stockdale paradox and you’ll find it. But it’s effectively don’t don’t lose hope, but don’t expect that it all be over tomorrow. Yes, because the Potbelly’s you were thinking they’ll be out by Easter when it got to Eastern lost hope and died and those who thought we’d never get out of here lost hope and died. So you had to expect it to finish at some point, but not know when it finished, which is a perfect lesson for living through a pandemic, isn’t it, at the moment?

Yes, it is for sure, definitely.

But look, the last question before we go, are there any questions that you’re usually asked that I haven’t asked? You know? Why I hate onions. Oh, controversial. I thought that most of my bios on social usually somebody ask me why? Because they’re terrible. That’s my answer.

I will stand around raw onion. Sorry. Let me be clear. I will, I will, I, I, I will not eat raw onion, period. And it’s very rare that I want onions cooked or not on anything.

So I don’t I mean I think you’re missing out on a slow cooked sweaty don’t you. And where it gets nice anyway, I’m going to be off on a rant about unions that we don’t nobody needs to listen.

Kyle, thank you very much for your time today. It’s been really wonderful. I hope you’ve got loads from this. If you’re listening, we might have Kyle back for part two, the history sessions, but we’ll talk about that another time. Kyle, thank you for your time.

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