Normalize Talking about Money with Zoё Hartsfield

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Zoё Hartsfield got her start in SaaS sales 3 years ago as an SDR and pivoted into B2B marketing. She is currently the head of Community over at Spekit. In her spare time, Zoё consults with other B2B companies on personal brand, social selling, and community initiatives. She is passionate about helping others in the SaaS community and is an advocate for mental health.

Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Long Story Short:

 

  • Why it’s important to normalize talking about money
  • How not talking about money has held individuals down from earning what they’re worth
  • Steps you can take today to ensure you are being fairly compensated for your work
  • How our culture of not talking about money has only served companies, not employees
  • The tools you should use for salary research
  • How to measure the impact of community marketing
  • Why it’s critical to translate customer language into marketing content
  • The importance of qualitative data to provide context that quantitative data can’t show
  • How finding why people stay is just as important as finding why people buy

 

Connect with Zoё: 

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Connect with Jeff:

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Connect with Sirkin Research:

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Jeff Sirkin:
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Long Story Short, the podcast about storytelling and connection. I’m your host, Jeff Sirkin. On this show we talk to people making a difference as marketers, entrepreneurs, and social impact advocates. We dig into actionable strategies and tactics to help you connect with your audience and keep your finger on the pulse of your market.

Jeff Sirkin:
My guest this week is Zoë Hartsfield. She got her start in SaaS sales three years ago as an SDR and pivoted into B2B marketing. She’s currently the Head of Community over at Spekit. In her spare time, Zoë consults with other B2B companies on personal brand, social selling, and community initiatives. She’s passionate about helping others in the SaaS community and is an advocate for mental health.

Jeff Sirkin:
I had a great conversation with Zoë. She shared a great perspective into community marketing and customer advocacy and then we shifted gears to talk about money. It’s typically been such a taboo topic in corporate culture, but the truth is that not talking about money has only held individuals down from earning what they’re worth. Zoë gives insights for how this has impacted her personally and we talk about steps that you can take today, to ensure that you’re being fairly compensated for your work. So, without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Zoë Hartsfield. Hi Zoë, thanks for coming on Long Story Short.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Thank you so much for having me.

Jeff Sirkin:
So, I want to start with where you are today. Can you give us a sense for what your world looks like at Spekit?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah, so right now at Spekit, I handle community and customer advocacy. So, that’s things like review websites, helping our content team and customer marketing team get in contact with our best customers who love us, who have a high NPS score, and are willing to raise their hand and say, “Hey, put me in a testimonial, put me in a case study.” Et cetera. And build up customer love on that side of the house, as well as build community, which we’re doing by way of a marketing advisory council to start.

Zoё Hartsfield:
So, basically I’m just reaching out and building relationships with the top thought leaders and influencers in our ICP. And basically, just asking them to be a part of this tight-knit community, where we can bounce ideas off of one another. Can we elevate their voices? Can they offer us feedback on our messaging, on our product, collaborate content for us? So, really, at the end of my day, content creation, collaboration, and relationship building is the crux of my role. And it’s been a good time.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. And both community and customer advocacy are really hot topics these days in B2B. But one of the things I’m so interested in is, in a relatively new space, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all or consistent approach to measurement. And so I’m curious, how are you able to really show the value of the work, either or both, on the community or the customer advocacy side?

Zoё Hartsfield:
So, a lot of it is qualitative, but I think that you can take qualitative data and quantify it to some extent, or at least gather it, track it. So, everything from screenshots of sentiment and feedback that we get, we have a meetings book channel and a wins channel. So, anytime somebody is booking a meeting through community or through social media, we have a pretty good idea of who those people are.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I have a form in a backend, our ops person, Devon, is amazing and she helped me set up a tracking system within Salesforce. So, that it’s easy for me to throw contacts into Salesforce when it’s like, “Hey, this person raised their hand and they found us through me speaking on a podcast and they DM’d me via LinkedIn.” So, we have a little bit of an idea.

Zoё Hartsfield:
We also, as a lot of companies do, have a, how did you hear about us? Section within our Salesforce. So, when our reps are asking that and they’re taking notes, if they say something like, “Melanie, our CEO social.” Or, “I saw you on G2.” Or, “I heard Zoë on a podcast.” Whatever. We have ways to track it and no, it’s not a perfect data point system, but it does give us a good idea of, where should we double down? Where do we want to focus most of our efforts?

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And the thing I want to highlight there is the idea that, I think there’s always been this notion for years, and I grew up professionally as an analyst for 15 years, and so for me, if it wasn’t quantifiable, it wasn’t relevant. Right? And I think we’ve really, as an industry, we’ve done a 180 there. And I love the perspective that qualitative in a lot of cases is actually more important. Right? And I love the fact that using Slack channels and Salesforce and the way that almost everybody can then feel that rising tide. So, you don’t necessarily need to be as closely tied to, here is the number that proves the value of what we’re doing, but they can all feel it every day.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Totally. And I think, to your point, the qualitative data really just adds more context for the quantitative data, because if I look at an NPS score, or if I send out a survey that was like, “Do you love Spekit, yes or no?” But I never ask why, I could assume, I could make a lot of assumptions about why that person likes Spekit. And then I’m going after a target audience that’s irrelevant.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I could think that they love Spekit because we’re an excellent change management tool, but in reality, they love Spekit because they’re able to reduce head count. Like, the why can inform our messaging, it can inform our ICP, it can inform our target audience from a content perspective. And so, when you leave out the more sentiment-related, qualitative questions, or data collection, if you will, you lose a lot of context, and context is really king in this era.

Jeff Sirkin:
You’re right. I love that perspective, because we say the same thing in our research, where it’s not qualitative or quantitative, it needs to be both, right? And the qualitative needs to inform the quantitative, which then informs the qualitative. And so to your point, you get some insights from qualitative, then you test it with quantitative, and then you go back to say, “Okay, well, why?” Right? And so, it’s this back and forth. And I think that it’s so great that you to be able to take that approach, that it isn’t necessarily because yes, I’m sure someday there will be a way, “a better way” of quantifying some of this, but in the meantime, having the leeway and the buy-in from the executives, to be able to push forward when all there is qualitative, is great.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I think that it’ll be really interesting to see the shift, especially in the economic situation we all find ourselves in today, understanding why your customers who love you, love you, and understanding why people buy or what problems they’re really facing today, to reposition yourself or redo your messaging or something like that, is just going to become more and more important. Because keeping the customers you have has never been more critical than ever and understanding why you have them in the first place is only going to help you capture more.

Zoё Hartsfield:
And I think that people who’ve just been going off of spreadsheets for a while, at the end of the day, your company is a line item on a spreadsheet at somebody else’s company. If there is not championship brand love, you could easily get axed from that list when the renewal comes around. So, I think really, really building those relationships, understanding that why, is going to help people produce churn and also win more of their target market.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And I think you hit the nail on the head with talking to your best customers and understand why they love you so much, because so often what happens is, they’ve really found a black box, right? They’ve found something that’s so special about what you do, and the likelihood is that it’s not necessarily what you’re prioritizing in your marketing and your positioning and your messaging, they’ve found something else. And so now, how do you find what they’ve found and package that up, so you can essentially tell the rest of the world about this thing that you do so well?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Oh, yeah. I mean, I was listening to a customer call that our CEO sent us recently, and the customer was basically saying, “Originally, we were looking at you for change management, but at the end of the day, the value I see is the ability to reduce…” Not like to lay off anyone, but he is like, “I don’t have to hire an extra person because Spekit does X, Y, Z for me. So, it’s a justifiable expense because Spekit is cheaper than bringing on an entire extra enablement professional.” And he was like, “ROI, it’s really a buzzword.” And some people love ROI, and some people are like, “ROI is overrated.” But at the end of the day, understanding to him, what return on investment means, is more important than we would assume.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Especially since from the initial call, it probably does have in our Salesforce notes that he was looking for a change management solution. But now as an onboarded customer, he’s like, “This is super important and I can think of a million ways to use this and it reduces headcount for me.” And that’s why they stay. So, the reason people buy isn’t always the reason people stay, and that can also inform your messaging.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. And I was going to say, because those are really the two pieces of the buyer’s journey that’s so critical to understand is, from the people that are already using you and who already love you, why? And then for the people that haven’t yet, well, why did they buy? Right? Because now, similarly, how do you then go create more demand? Well, it’s going to be based on those things.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah. 100%. I totally agree with that.

Jeff Sirkin:
So, on this show, we love talking about how marketers keep the finger on the pulse of their market. And so, I’m curious specifically, how do you use the learnings from the community and customer advocacy work to help inform the messaging, the content strategy? A lot of again, how do you use what you’re seeing out in the field, to help inform Spekit’s marketing?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yes. I think there’s a couple, I mean, there’s a million different ways you could do it, but the ones that I probably spend the most time on is actually reading the reviews that people leave on G2, responding to them. Seeing if there’s a collective … For a while, there was a lot of noise around analytics, like analytics are good, they could be better. So, we double down and put more effort into our analytics. And I’m really excited for what’s going to be rolling out with that in the fall.

Zoё Hartsfield:
But paying attention to what your customers are saying when they are actively saying something to you, like you reach out and ask them for this review, they are giving you what you ask for. And so many people just leave it there on G2, because they’re like, “Okay, it’s going to help more people find us.” But that’s really valuable insight that they’re offering, a lot of times. So, there’s one.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I think, going into LinkedIn or Slack communities and literally just social listening, whether you have a tool or whether you just command F search terms that are related to your product. So, I search sales enablement, onboarding, retention, training, things like that. I follow those hashtags on LinkedIn. I search them in Slack communities. And I’m jumping into the conversations around those topics when applicable.

Zoё Hartsfield:
So, if somebody raises their hand and says, “Hey, how does enablement and marketing partner together at your organization? Do you have any insight there?” Well, I, as a marketer who works at an enablement focused company, who has an incredible enablement team who partners with them regularly, have something to say about that. So, I jump into that conversation, contribute, and then I screenshot it and I save it, because that is a thing that the enablement community is talking about right now.

Zoё Hartsfield:
And so, those are things that can inform the content we write, things we put out on social, webinars, web copy. All of that information is data points on what is happening in the community and in the market right now. And one person saying one thing is not something to rewrite all of your messaging about, but when you start seeing patterns of people being like, “We have to make our teams more efficient, because we just got our head count axed.” Or, “Making our teams more efficient because we are not allowed to hire through the end of the year, but we have super aggressive revenue goals.”

Zoё Hartsfield:
Efficiency is coming up a lot in conversation right now, in the enablement community, in the sales community, everywhere. So, that’s a thing that we should be paying attention to when we’re writing content, when we’re reaching out to prospects in the way that we message to them. So, I think all of that to say, social listening, whether it is manual and it’s a person like me behind a keyboard, searching it, or whether you have a tool, is going to be your best friend, so you can keep your finger on the pulse.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And I think a wise person once told me a couple weeks ago that, “The voice of the customer should be the loudest one in your head.” So, I think just really being able to take that perspective through all of this. But again, I mean, I think the theme here is that it’s going to where your customers are, interacting with them where they already are. Right? Not necessarily forcing them to be somewhere else. But recognizing how important, what they think is, and I know it sounds obvious, but there are just so many companies that don’t do this effectively today.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah. And I think, there’s always room for improvement, right? I can always be getting better at doing this. There’s always more questions to ask, always more engagement to be had. I could spend hours of my day searching LinkedIn and Slack groups for these conversations, and still it wouldn’t capture everything that’s happening in the market right now.

Zoё Hartsfield:
But I think dedicating some time, like for me, I started time blocking on my calendar, two different blocks in the day where that’s literally all I do, is for half an hour or sometimes even an hour, I’ll just go and … I have a community block and I have a social block, and I go and I just engage in conversation. I’ll take screenshots of things that seem relevant. I have a little folder where I keep all of that stuff and can share with the team. And that’s the stuff that will inform the moves we make.

Zoё Hartsfield:
And it’s not me just arbitrarily saying, “I think we should start talking about this stuff.” Or, “The communities seem to be saying this.” It’s like, no, we have actual evidence and proof and we’ve been collecting it for over a month and this conversational topic has come up five times. There’s something here. We should probably pursue it.

Jeff Sirkin:
So, speaking of things we should talk about, I want to shift gears and talk about money. It’s a really charged topic and something we really don’t talk about in the corporate world. And I think where I want to start here is, I’m just curious, how has not talking about money impacted you personally in the workforce?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Oh, yeah. I mean, not talking about money and then deciding to talk about money way too late in the game, has made me realize on more than one occasion that I was severely underpaid compared to usually … And I don’t think this was intentional, but that’s the whole thing about unconscious bias, is it’s not usually actively somebody’s choosing to do it. It’s this unconscious thing. But usually, I was making a lot less than my male counterparts. And so, that happened to me at least twice in my career, if not more times and I just never realized it. But the only reason I found out is because I started talking about it and I started doing the research, and I started looking into it.

Zoё Hartsfield:
And money is like, I don’t know if it’s a dirty word or people get nervous because they’re like, “Is my company going to get mad at me for talking about how much I make?” Legally, they can’t. Legally, companies can’t require you not to disclose your salary. At least not in the State of Colorado. I guess, maybe there are states where there’s different rules, but it’s like, it would be an HR violation for them to say that you couldn’t.

Zoё Hartsfield:
But I do think that there’s this unspoken pressure and not at every single company, but at some companies, where it’s like, “Oh, we don’t really talk about that.” So, I think it’s really valuable to start bringing up those conversations, because you will find out exactly where you stand and then you have decisions to make of, “All right, do I talk to my leadership? How do I make a change?” I don’t think finding out you’re underpaid necessarily means you have to leave your company. I did, both times, because the other avenues that I tried did not work, but that wasn’t my go-to. I wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m so mad, I’m just going to bail out of here.” There are other things you can do, but it’s just information. Information can empower you to make decisions. And so, I think having those conversations, talking about money, can really help, because not talking about money has really not been as beneficial to me as some might assume.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and if you think about it, I mean, to me, the reason companies love the fact that it’s taboo, right? Whether they can actually stop you from talking about it or not, I’m sure if they can, they would, but it benefits them. Right? Because if they can now be able to pay somebody less to do the same job than they may have to do for a market rate, then they win. Right?

Jeff Sirkin:
And so in general, I’ve always gotten the sense that there’s this, companies will almost always, and I’m speaking especially large companies at this point, will almost always underpay most people, because the idea is you’re now putting the pressure on them to find out and then to take action and do something about it. Because I mean, that’s the other step is, I mean, talking about it is one thing, but then the idea that, even to your point, when you knew and you took action, but it takes both of those things to be able to get to that place. And they’re really counting on the fact that most people won’t do that.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah. I mean, perfect example. Or, people might try and they will stop at the first no, I think that’s the other thing too. A perfect example is my husband. He’s wildly underpaid and we both know it, and we’ve done the research, and he tried to have one conversation and was just shot down so hard that he was like, “I’m never trying to have that conversation again.”

Zoё Hartsfield:
Now, could he leave and go to another company and make 20, 30% more to do the exact same thing? 100%. But he is super loyal to his boss. So, he’s not going to make that move anytime soon. So, he’s just like, “All right, well, this is just what you’re going to do.” And I think companies bank on that. I want to qualify this by saying, not all companies deal this way. I know lots of companies that have a lot of integrity in the way that they pay, a lot of transparency. I also know that it’s not a super black and white issue.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I actually used to take a very hard stance on, equal pay for equal work, and just thought that no matter who you are or where you were or whatever, you should make the exact same amount. And I think that there’s an argument to be made for that in a lot of different roles. Like two SDRs doing an identical job, that both live in the United States, should probably make the same, if they have the same amount of experience and all that stuff. But it’s like, when you’re a globally distributed company, laws are different, pay is different, cost of living is really different.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I think it’s more about pay equity and is it reasonable and fair based on all factors involved? And not like, everyone should make this flat dollar amount. It’s a more complicated issue than that. However, I do think that on a whole, a lot of, not all, but a lot of companies do try and underpay their employees and they’ll write a lot of justifications or they’ll look at these huge bands and they’ll be like, “Okay, the average is this much, we’re going to pay on the bottom 25th percentile, but maybe towards the top of that quartile. We’re higher than part of the average.”

Zoё Hartsfield:
Or, companies will try and be right at that 50%, but maybe they’re based in a metropolitan area where that 50% doesn’t really apply to the whole thing. So, it’s really nuanced. I think you have to be well researched. I think you also have to come into those conversations with like, “What have you done for me lately? Here’s the impact I brought to the business. This is my stats. This is the work I’ve been doing. What do you need to see from me between now and X date, in order to deserve Y dollars? Because that’s what I think I’m worth.” And that’s where I think the conversation can start and tends to be pretty effective.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And I love that. And it’s so proactive in the idea of, they’re basically setting the goal post and you’re saying, “Okay.” So, you’ve now put it up to them and said … And actually, but I want to take a step back for a second. So just, we both mentioned the idea of research. I’m just curious, just to put it out there, what are some of the tools that you would use in order to do this research, to find out some of those market averages, things like that?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah. So, I think it depends on who you are and what role you have. I used to use Glassdoor, I think there’s one called PayScale. If I was in sales, I would use RepVue all day long, because that’s self-reported too. It’s not like companies reporting their bands. It’s actual reps being like, “This is exactly what I make in my base, this is exactly what I make on my commissions.” So, that way you can see, yeah, OTE is 180K, but everybody on the team is making 130, because not a single person has hit their goal. So, that’s really helpful there too. But I would just do that.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I think the best research I’ve ever done is literally reach out to people in my network and be like, “Yo, I know this is sort of a sensitive subject, but do you mind having a conversation about pay?” I’ve done that with five or six marketers within my network, who either hold similar roles or have worked with people in similar roles, or had people roll up to them in similar roles, and we’ve had super candid conversations about pay. And so, I was able to almost double my salary, because I realized that the things that I was doing, the same person at our competitor was making almost double what I was making. So, it was like, all right, time to have that conversation again.

Zoё Hartsfield:
So, I think, actually talking to people who do the job and not solely relying on the … The research is a great baseline and something to bring into a conversation, but also just having conversations with your peers and being like, “Do you mind sharing?” You always have to ask permission because some people are not going to feel comfortable sharing and that’s okay. But I’m really grateful to have people in my network and we just have very open conversations about money and it’s a huge relief and really, honestly been super helpful for all of us.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, it sounds like a theme we already talked about a little bit, where it’s a mix of quantitative and qualitative. Right? And I couldn’t agree more from that perspective and something I had done in my past is use things exactly like Glassdoor and PayScale or even look at job openings, right? Just to look at what they’re putting out there as their pay band. Because to me, I think one of the most important things to think about is, if you, meaning not just you, anybody listening, if you were to leave your company, what would they have to pay to replace you, to back fill you? And would that be through one person? Would that be through two or three different roles? What would that look like? And that really again, is ultimately, that’s the best competitive comparison. Right? To think about it that way.

Jeff Sirkin:
And then, obviously to your point, Zoë, adding on, well, what have you done? How have you gone above and beyond? What value have you delivered to the company? And if you can show, “Hey, I brought in X millions of dollars of business. I’ve crushed my quota over the last two…” If you can show that not only have you done the job, but you’re a high performer within that, or you’re stretching into other roles at the same time. Now you’re warranting, not just market average, but well above that.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Right. I mean, doing your job is just table stakes. I would not enter into a conversation asking for more money if you are underperforming or if you have any inclination that your leadership believes that you’re underperforming. I would wait. I would get your life on track for a couple of months. If you were today, doing the research, I think if you are underperforming or if you’ve had a review and your boss is like, “I don’t know, you’re dropping the ball on some things.” Whatever. Then it’s like, all right, for the next quarter or three months, or two months, or whatever timeframe you want, my job is to get to be that over-average, over-performer. Take that feedback, eat some humble pie, get your life together, and do the work.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Then when you’ve proven that and when the next conversation with your boss is like, “Wow, I’ve really appreciated the improvement. You’re doing really well.” Blah, blah, blah. That’s when you have the, “Okay, I’ve been doing some research, I’m not asking for this today. What do you need to see from me between now and X date?” Or, like whatever. “These are the things that I think I need to do. What else can you gap fill for me, that you want to see between now and X date in order to make Y dollars?” And that’s when you can start into that conversation and then you got another quarter to crush it.

Zoё Hartsfield:
So, I think you can go from being, I wouldn’t say an aggressive underperformer, you’re probably going to get let go if you’re an aggressive underperformer, but a slight underperformer, to a raise in six months reasonably, if you just actually break it down into two sections of like, “All right, start crushing it on my job, make the ask.” Three months later. And have an agreed upon date to circle back and review and sign that new contract kind of a thing. So, that’s the way that I would go about it. But yes, being good at your job is table stakes when you ask for more money.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and one of my favorite things about this podcast is the idea that it’s about “marketing”, but it’s really not. And what I mean by that is, as marketers, we talk about positioning and things like that, but in reality, our careers, we are all marketers ourselves of our own career. So, just for us to think about that, so now how do you need to position it? Right? And so, it’s a lot of these themes, the idea of, well, what matters most to your boss in that particular case, right? They’re the “buyer”, what are the things they’re trying to achieve? How can you help them do that? And so, to be able to effectively position yourself, again, to your point, make sure that you have your ducks in a row and make sure that you’re at that level of performance, but it’s all a matter of, how do you internally market yourself?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah. I think internal marketing and your personal brand within the company and the visibility that you have is really important. Your boss might love you, but if your boss’s boss doesn’t love you, they’re probably the ones signing the dotted line to approve the raise or the promotion. So, having that buy-in. I always say this, but be easy to root for. Be somebody who is easy to root for so that it is a no-brainer when somebody…

Zoё Hartsfield:
Like there’s someone on our team right now, she came in, she started bringing value within days of joining the team. She’s only been on the team for a couple of months and I would be truly shocked if she didn’t have a promotion by the end of the year. And she’s only been here for what, like two months? But if she doesn’t have a promotion by the end of the year, my mind will be blown, because there’s just like, everybody loves her, she brings a ton of value. She is talked about on senior leadership levels all the way down. She’s like a ton of buy-in and she’s like nice to work with. She’s super, super easy to root for. And so, those are the type of people that I think are first in line and first thought of.

Zoё Hartsfield:
If she raised her hand and was like, “Hey, I think I deserve this senior title or this director title,” or whatever it would be. I would be shocked if somebody was like, “No, you’re not ready.” They’d be like, “Yes. And what else can we give to you?” So, I think there is an element of like, make it an easy, yes. Make yourself the obvious choice. And you do that by crushing at your job, being helpful. Somebody told me once that likability isn’t a skill. They were like, “Likability isn’t a skill, Zoë.” And I was like, “I don’t know. I think it helps.” It might not be a skill. It might not be something you put on your resume, but it definitely helps you internally get buy-in when you’re making asks for things. So, being likable, whatever that means for you, can go a long way.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. So, make it an easy, yes. Be easy to root for. And most importantly of all, recognize that not talking about money is hurting you and it’s hurting everybody. It’s only helping the companies. So, again, I think those are really powerful ideas. So, are you ready for a couple of not so rapid fire questions?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Hit me.

Jeff Sirkin:
Okay. First one, what is the most overrated marketing activity that you see out there, things that marketers should be doing a little less of?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Should be doing a little less of, I think, gating content. I just think, gating content. Okay, there’s some circumstances where if you’ve got a team who’s like, “We need measurable outcomes.” Right now, everybody is vying for ways to prove that they are a profit center, not a cost center. So, I understand content teams wanting to gate content, just to generate leads and those sorts of things. But I just find that when you give your best things away for free, when you lead from a place of abundance, abundance will follow.

Zoё Hartsfield:
And so I think, I love the trend towards not gating as much content. Like sure, if you write a really high value ebook, or I don’t know, a really, really important research report. But somebody gated their case studies on a website that I was looking for. And I was like, “What? You are making it so hard for me to buy from you.” That doesn’t make any sense to me. And so, I just think, yeah, that would be the one thing that I would say is, in a lot of instances, is overrated. I understand certain circumstances, but in a lot of instances, gated content.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. I love that. And I think frankly, even just back to the abundance mindset you talk about, the idea that each little micro team within an organization needs to have their own specific set of goals and KPIs. And I think to me, I think that’s where a lot of this starts, right? So, it’s like, if you’re a content team, how do you prove the value? Well, it has to be leads, right? So therefore, you end up doing these things that are actually not in the customer’s best interest, in the buyer’s best interest, probably not even in the company’s best interest, but it’s in your best interest.

Jeff Sirkin:
And so for me, as an economist at heart, I’m all about incentives, and how do you create the right incentives? In this case, it’s measurement system within an organization to get everybody pushing and rowing in the same direction. And so I think to your point, gating is something that came up as a result of that, is we need to prove leads, but it’s probably not beneficial for even the big picture.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah. Agreed.

Jeff Sirkin:
So, how about the opposite? What’s the most underrated marketing activity? What should they be spending more time on or should companies be thinking about doing more?

Zoё Hartsfield:
I think equipping your team to be brand advocates. There’s so much value on organic, social user-generated content and employee-generated content, that doesn’t feel manufactured. Like when a company puts out, I don’t know, an article, and then puts it in Slack and is like, “Everybody go share this article.” And then employees, you got 15 sales reps and marketers posting the article with no added context and it’s just like this weird spam of the same thing from like 15 different profiles, that doesn’t do anything for anybody.

Zoё Hartsfield:
So, what I mean is, giving people the skills to be their own micro-influencers and thought leaders, because people will see your brand attached to that name. When I post on LinkedIn, people see Zoë Hartsfield at Spekit. So, I think, there is a value and it’s not a lot of cost. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. I think some people are like, “I don’t want my people wasting time on LinkedIn.” But I think if you even time blocked 15 minutes a day, each person to go interact with people on LinkedIn, post content. Twitter, if that’s where your people are spending time, in communities, what have you.

Zoё Hartsfield:
By leveraging your personal brand to be a syndicate or an advocate for the company brand, it is a low-cost, high-reward channel to get a lot of word of mouth and organic traffic. And honestly, it’s demand gen. The number of people who would DM me and be like, “Hey, so tell me a little bit more about Spekit.” Just because I write content about enablement sometimes is like, honestly, even if one person does that, it is a free inbound lead that you pay $0 for, other than whatever time you spent on LinkedIn to do it. So, I think that is super underrated, super underutilized, entire team should be trained on social selling and personal brand training, because I think it is huge in terms of a marketing channel that’s untapped.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. This is one of those things that amazes me that it’s not more commonplace still, at this point where we are, and people want to hear from people not from companies. Right? And so to your point, when companies push the thing out and say, “Okay, everybody post this.” And they just blindly just put it up there or re-share it or something like that. It’s like, that’s not hearing from people. Hearing from people is what you do. Right? But frankly, even like Apple, the most powerful brand in the world today, Tim Cook, who is not Steve Jobs, who’s the CEO of Apple, has twice as many followers on Twitter as Apple the company does. Right? And just, we take this for granted, but people want to hear from people, we don’t want to hear from companies.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Oh, totally. I mean, I run Spekit’s social and my personal page has double the following of what Spekit does, because yeah … I mean, not to say that people don’t care about brands at all, but oftentimes, brands don’t really have a personality. So, I think step one is, give your brand page a little bit of personality if you can, but you’re just going to get so much more bang for your buck, so much more ROI on your time, if you equip individuals. Because these platforms are not incentivized to boost the reach of a company, because they want money from the company, for you to pay for ads.

Zoё Hartsfield:
But they’re also really generating this creator economy. So, they’re hyper boosting individual content creators. That said, if you can equip 10 people in your company to be content creators for your company, the reach is like 100X what your one company page will get you. And you can distribute that work across 10 people, as opposed to just have one person hustling over and over and over to try and generate demand from the company page that’s honestly going to be crickets most of the time anyway.

Jeff Sirkin:
So, what would you say, what are the most important skills a marketer could possess? And especially somebody, maybe earlier in their career who’s getting into marketing, what are some of the skills that they should be thinking about developing?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Okay. So, I think there are three and I think one of them, I actually lack and am working on actively. So, copywriting, number one. I think if you’re in sales or marketing, copywriting is the number one skill you could equip yourself with. And that just comes with practice, whether it’s writing website copy, whether it’s writing email copy. Just get good at saying a lot with a little and being conversational. So, that’s number one.

Zoё Hartsfield:
I think, listening, which sounds super dumb, but social listening, being able to listen to your peers, being able to listen to the market, being able to have conversations with customers and actively listen, is another very, very helpful skill to have. And then, the one that I’m not good at, that I’m working on, is quantification and proactive reporting of your activities. So, not activities, but like what you’re doing and what it’s generating.

Zoё Hartsfield:
My VP doesn’t want to have to reach out to me every other week and be like, “Zoë, what are you up to? How is this going?” Like, if I send him a biweekly update of like, “Here are my three crystal balls for the quarter. Here’s how we’re tracking against all of those goals. Here are all the dashboards and spreadsheets you can look at to see what’s up. This is the TLDR of what’s going on. This is what I have in flight for the next two weeks. Stay tuned for the follow-up at the end of the month.” Whatever. That is going to alleviate pressure and stress and instill more trust. And it’s something, again, I’m not good at this and it’s something I just started doing. And I’m still figuring out like, all right, what do I report on? What do I not report on? But I think, proactive reporting, even as an IC, will only help you in your career.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. And I think, again, especially as we talked about earlier about, it’s all about marketing yourself, but also in this particular case, it’s how do you make sure that your goals and the metrics that you want to define those by align with what your boss is going to care most about? Right? Because, when you can get on the same page for, “Here’s what I believe would be super valuable that I can do, that are going to be my objectives for this quarter, half year.” Whatever. Right? And then, “Here’s how I want to measure against those.”

Jeff Sirkin:
And then if you can get alignment, right? Like now, great. Because at the end of the day, your boss is then going to communicate that back out to somebody. Right? So, it’s like, make it easier for them to be able to say, “Hey, look, here’s the things we’re working on. Here’s the progress we’re already making. We look like we’re going to crush the quarterly goal in the first six weeks.” Or whatever, right? So, I really love that. So, what resources, books, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, would you want to recommend to our audience?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Ooh, I think the best thing that I have learned and grown from is following other people and just conversations with other people who do what I want to do, or do what I’m currently doing, or are in the seat that I want to be in five years from now. So, just having one-to-one conversations with people smarter and further along in their career than me, have been the best resource. Mentorship has been an incredible resource, communities. As a community marketer, I am part of communities that are specifically for community marketers, but there are communities out there for every role. There’s communities for salespeople, for marketers, for demand gen, for content creators, things like that.

Zoё Hartsfield:
So, I would say, find a couple communities related to your role and join them and join the conversations. Find at least one, if not two mentors, who do what you want to be doing five to 10 years from now, and be meeting with them on a regular cadence. And then follow people, content creators who talk about the things that you face in your day-to-day or want to be doing down the line. And those are free, low lift. You could do that in 30 minutes of your day, or less. You could probably do it in an hour of your week, or less, realistically.

Zoё Hartsfield:
And those are the things that I would highly recommend and have honestly been the most beneficial. I read books, I listen to podcasts, but almost none of them have anything to do with business. They have more to do with like, how do you focus your mind or overcome anxiety? Or, I listen to comedy podcasts. And I think that actually makes me a better writer, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it … There are implications that translate to marketing, but none of them are like, “This is a B2B marketing book or podcast.” It’s like, I’m listening to a comedian tell jokes and how the punchline hits, and one-liners. And I’m like, could I implement something like that into an email subject line? And that’s the way that my brain works.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. The thing I really want to highlight there is especially when it comes to mentors, people who are doing what you want to be doing. And I think that we lose that thread sometimes, where it’s following people or seeing people out in the sphere and say, is that the path you want to go down? If it’s not, then don’t be overly concerned about what they did or how they got there.

Jeff Sirkin:
But to your point, needs to be, as an entrepreneur, right? For me, it’s people who have businesses that have gotten to the place that I want to get to as a business owner. Right? And again, obviously, and that will change over time as your goals and your idea of where your future wants to go changes too. But to ensure that that’s something, that at least as of today, you could see yourself wanting to do in five to 10 years.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah, because it could change. I mean, gosh, three years ago I thought I was going to be a BDR manager, someday. And now I work in community and I don’t do any real business development work, so totally different.

Jeff Sirkin:
And then finally, where can people find and connect with you on social media?

Zoё Hartsfield:
Yeah. So, Zoë Hartsfield on LinkedIn. I have no idea what my Twitter handle is. I think it’s Mrs. Zoë Hrt, but it might not be, I’m not sure. And actually, it’s Mrs. Zoë Hrt, but no A, so H-R-T, and that’ll be coming at you here shortly, some TikTok content for B2B sales and marketers.

Jeff Sirkin:
Awesome. And we will link to all of those in the show notes. And I just want to say, I mean, anyone out there listening who doesn’t follow Zoë today, you need to be. I mean, she covers a wide range of topics. She’s so real and honest and is a real inspiration for me. Well, Zoë, thank you so much for being here today and most importantly, thank you for sharing your story with us.

Zoё Hartsfield:
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jeff Sirkin:
I really enjoyed my conversation with Zoë. Money is a very charged topic that brings up a lot of uncomfortable feelings for people, but our culture of not talking about money has only served companies to be able to underpay people for what they’re worth. It’s time to normalize talking about money and Zoë’s story is a great example of why it’s necessary.

Jeff Sirkin:
If you want to learn more about the resources mentioned in the episode, you can find them in our show notes. In addition, we’re publishing the full text transcripts of our episodes on our website at sirkinresearch.com/podcast. Thank you for listening and I hope you’ll join us for a new story next week on Long Story Short.

 

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