The Myth of Attribution with Kaylee Edmondson

Lauren Volpi's headshot on a blue background

Kaylee Edmondson is the Director of Demand Gen at Brightwheel—the #1 platform for early education. She was formerly the first Director of Demand Gen at Chili Piper.

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

 

  • The limits and benefits of using attribution data
  • Why marketers shouldn’t be 100% reliant on attribution
  • The reason companies should question what they see in their attribution data
  • How to get close to, and connect with, your customers
  • Best practices for customer calls—and 6 questions to ask
  • How to effectively communicate the value of marketing

 

Resources:

Morning Brew

Marketing Brew

Retail Brew

The Skimm

Chris Walker

Dave Gerhardt

No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

 

Connect with Kaylee:

LinkedIn

Twitter

 

Connect with the Host:

Jeff Sirkin on LinkedIn

 

Connect with Sirkin Research:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

LinkedIn

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. My guest this week is Kaylee Edmondson. She is the director of demand generation at Brightwheel – the number one platform for early education. She was formerly the first director of demand generation at Chili Piper. Kaylee and I had a great conversation about attribution, a polarizing topic in B2B marketing. We talked about the limitations, but also the benefits of using attribution data and Kaylee had really great insight in how to effectively communicate the value of marketing and the best practices she’s putting in place today. So without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Kaylee Edmondson.

Jeff Sirkin:
Hi Kaylee. Thanks for coming on Long Story Short.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m pumped to be here.

Jeff Sirkin:
So I want to start with your background. Can you tell us about your role at Chili Piper and what you’re doing now today at Brightwheel?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, absolutely. So I don’t know how in depth we want to go, but I joined Chili Piper beginning of the pandemic, April of 2020. They had just raised their series A and really hadn’t built an in-house marketing team yet. So I joined as their first director of demand gen to build out that function quite a broad role of responsibility at that point. We were a super nimble team. There were three or four of us when I got on board did that stent at Chili Piper for what? A year and a half or so, maybe a little over a year and a half, and then decided to join the team at Bright Wheel and do pretty much the same thing. Bright Wheel is a little further along. We’re a series C company with, we just passed 400 employees. So a little bit further along in progression, but quite honestly the roots and the foundation of the work that’s ahead of us is very similar to the work that I did at Chili Piper.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. And so the big topic I want to discuss with you is around the role that attribution plays in marketing. And in a big picture sense, coming from someone in demand generation, I’d love to hear just first and foremost, what is your perspective on attribution more broadly? And then we can get into some of the specifics.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, I think that I should probably look back at when some of these MarTech companies really started spinning themselves up. But I think that the crux of it is that when some of these MarTech attribution based software started spinning up, marketing itself, fundamentally shifted to lean on the power that some of these platforms could provide you in terms of insights for your business, your brand, your marketing, et cetera. And I don’t know, at some point we’ve like crossed way over that threshold of leveraging it for directional insights versus completely relying on it as a critical crutch for how you operate your business. So most marketers, I think today are 100% reliant on attribution, but knowing good and well that we are all buyers. We all buy something. Me and you, we buy something, whether it’s e-comm based things or actual software for our business.

Kaylee Edmondson:
And we don’t buy in the way that the attribution software says that we buy. All day, every day, no matter what your business or your ACV or your series, or however far along you are, your attribution software is probably going to say most of your traffic is coming from direct or organic search. And then all the others are some smaller percentage of that pie.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yep.

Kaylee Edmondson:
So you’re going to spend all your time chasing after, trying to optimize your paid search funnel or your paid social funnel, or, I mean, maybe even your organic social funnel, whatever it is. But to what end?

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Because you’re not really getting closer to your customers. Long Story Short, I think that attribution today plays probably a more rigid role than it even should. I think that companies should really start questioning what they’re seeing in the data, using it directionally to help inform, provide initial insights, et cetera. But some of these things, especially for businesses that really grow by word of mouth, or people meeting up with others, networking, community, none of that will ever show up in Visible or Marketo or any of those. And so I just think that’s so… It’s so overrated. Attribution is overrated in its current state and I think that it’s long overdue for some evolution.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that perspective. And just by way of my background, I spent 15 years running marketing analytics and building the attribution models. And so I couldn’t agree more. And so the way I like to think about it is I think attribution’s really good at showing you how demand is getting captured. It’s like when somebody’s actually ready and they’re raising their hand, attribution does a good job of being able to say, “Yes, this is how they came in. Here’s the front door, the side door, whatever. Here’s the content that was resonating with them.” But to me, the part that’s really crucial that gets missed is, to your point around like word of mouth and dark social and all these other things. It really doesn’t show you in any way, shape or form how demand’s being created.

Jeff Sirkin:
And unfortunately, I think it’s this thing that, to your point, I think people want, marketers want this certainty. And I think they come from a world… I’ve been in this long enough to really before the days of attribution and it was this, on a one out of 10, they had like zero insight in terms of what was going on in the business. And it was almost like attribution, they took it as a way of, “Oh, great. Now we can go from zero right to 10.” And it’s like, well… It became this thing where you either have to lean on it completely or reject it a hundred percent. And I don’t necessarily think either, to be honest, are really the right place.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, no, absolutely. I think it should almost be… I am not a mathematician for whatever it’s worth. So just bear with me for this really terrible analogy. But I think that attribution should almost be taken in three segments. So what you can get out of your data attribution, whatever that is. If it’s first touch, last touch, whatever. Whatever you’ve made sense, works for your business. I don’t know that any is better than the other, because again, it does show what you’re capturing, so I think you’re spot on, on that analogy. But take it for what it’s worth, use it directionally to help inform, but not rely solely on.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah.

Kaylee Edmondson:
You should add some type of… I know that there’s some pushback in the community right now around adding an additional form filled that’s like, how did you hear about us? I actually think it’s brilliant. Chris Walker is doing it in open form filled. And I think it’s brilliant. For those that are like, “Oh, we can’t do that. It’ll reduce conversion rate. It’ll be messy data to clean up.” Whatever. I still feel like there are plenty of ways to get around that. And at least at maybe move it like an e-comm brand. On the back end of buying a pair of Nikes, you know good and well, they ask you, how did you hear about us?

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Kaylee Edmondson:
After form submit it doesn’t affect conversion. Some people will fill it out. Some people won’t. But the people that will fill it out are probably the people that you actually want to be finding anyways.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Take that as a viable source. And if you still have issues with that, tell your sales team, when they pick up the phone, “Hey, how’d you hear about us?”

Kaylee Edmondson:
It’s so conversational. Add a trigger in Gong, that’s just like, “How did you hear about us?” It’ll purpose all the data, you can scroll through it qualitatively and be like, clearly a lot of people are coming from X. I think that’s second pillar. And third pillar, pick up the phone and cold call them cold. Call your customers. I’ve been doing it here for sure at Bright Wheel. I’m new enough to this industry, I don’t quite understand our customers as well as I want to yet so I’ve just been cold calling them. Going through the database and picking it up. I’ve got a 50% connect rate and almost all of them stick around on the phone and chat with me. And of course I ask, how did you hear about us? So I think those three things should go into modern day attribution. And it’s just not going to be as pretty as maybe your CMO or CEO wants it to be, but it’s far more insightful than what you’re going to get just out of straight up attribution reporting.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and I think that’s the piece, it’s one of these, I think we all need to come to the conclusion that marketing just… The value of marketing cannot be boiled down to a single number. It just can’t. There’s not going to be at one single report. And to your point, the word you use that I want to really highlight is directional. Because I think the idea, and this is something I’ve heard you say, so I’m going to use your words back to you, is that frankly, it’s taking these directional insights and figure out where you want to place your bets. Essentially it’s about saying yes, we know that generally these are some of the things that are effective. It is not the be all, end all.

Jeff Sirkin:
That does not mean that because some of the paid social we’re doing or something like that is not, that traffic is not converting, does not mean that it’s worthless. We really don’t know. We know that right now, how demand is being captured, so yes. We feel a little more confident directionally placing more bets here, but then it’s a matter again, of more of like a test and learn.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think that’s the best approach. And every business is going to be different. Regardless of what you think, even if you did it and it worked at your last gig, that doesn’t mean much of anything in terms of how it will work at your new gig. It’s really important to get close to your customers, however you can manage to do that.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And so with all that in mind, as you’re building out, as you’ve talked about the foundation, the tech stack at Bright Wheel. What are some of the best practices that you are now trying to leverage with attribution?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, absolutely. We’re definitely taking it almost back to the basics here as well. Don’t get me wrong, we had an attribution model. It’s fine. Directionally, it’s fine. I think it could be better. We’re going to leverage that traditional. We have HubSpot for our MA, Salesforce for CRM. That’s our tech stack today. We’re going to stay with that for now. No need to rip and replace. We don’t have conviction to do so, so we’re staying on HubSpot, regardless of all the people that want us to move. We’re going to say for now, because there’s no need to rock the boat completely. We’re going to leverage HubSpot’s native attribution reporting. They have a native cookie, it’s first touch last touch. Cool. We’re going to go with that for now. We’re also going to stand up a form filled on the back of submission. People that are coming and raising their hand on the back end, we’ll ask them how they heard about us.

Kaylee Edmondson:
It’ll be optional. It’ll be open text. But thankfully our sales team for years has already been asking how you heard about us. We don’t have the triggers yet set up in Gong, but we’re working on that. And then for my cold calling activities, I’ve set up a random spreadsheet that’s not beautiful by any means, but gets the job done. Where I’m just documenting conversations I’m having with different providers and different demographic information about them, how they heard about us and then asking a couple other questions about positioning messaging and things of that nature just as we try and figure out what our strategic narrative is for the market.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, that’s the approach we’re taking. And yeah what we might evolve over time. Maybe we learn that these people… We also have a community. Maybe we lean in heavier to the community about how these people found us there as well. We have a couple of different outlets that we can lean in for more quantitative feedback, which would be helpful. But for today, those are our initial foundation building steps that we’re going to take to just get ourselves in a more firm place where we feel more conviction around what we’re doing.

Jeff Sirkin:
And the thing I want to highlight there is that as we covered that attribution in and of itself cannot be the be all, end all, cannot be the one thing that rules all of marketing, but neither can any of the other thing. But I think the point is you need all of those pieces, you need all of the different perspectives. We talked about community and especially from my perspective, that provides a really real time feedback loop. And we talked about both from the form and from SDRs on the first conversation, asking where you heard about us. You’re actually getting some insight as far as the customers know, about dark social and the people that are raising their hands and so much of that too. And the other piece, and especially when you’re talking about calling your customers, it’s qualitative feedback.

Jeff Sirkin:
And I think to be perfectly honest and I grew up professionally in purely quantitative, but I think qualitative has really gotten the short end of the stick because nobody has known what to do with it. You can’t make qualitative feedback quantitative. And so as a result, it’s sort of, “Well, okay, that’s nice, but what are we going to do with this?”

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah. No, and I think that’s great feedback too. And that’s why my point earlier was around, it’ll never be pretty.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yes.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Because it just won’t fit into a pie chart or a graph or whatever you’re used to seeing. So it is, fundamentally, it looks different, it feels different. It’s harder to say… Everybody just likes really round numbers. Like, “Oh, if we do this thing, it’s 85% better than this other thing.”

Jeff Sirkin:
Yep.

Kaylee Edmondson:
But it’s just like marketing is this beautiful blend of art and science and for this much of it, it’s art. I just think it will help you stand out against your competition much better because it’s different and because it’s hard, more than likely it means your competition’s not doing it. If you can beat them to understand better how your customers think react, respond, how they talk to each other, where they hang out by just asking them where they hang out. I mean, it just seems really obvious but it’s just not as one plus one equals two, which is what we’re used to at this point.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right. And that’s so well said, and I want to come back to that in a second, but I want to ask you about something that’s a little tangential is that one of the components around attribution that doesn’t really get talked about enough is how that gets communicated within the organization. And so I’m curious what you’ve done to ensure alignment both with marketing leadership and then with other departments and sales as well. How are you getting everybody on board with the idea that attribution is a piece of the puzzle, but not the entire thing. And how are you then communicating the value of marketing?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah. I think that’s such a great question. And I wish that coming into Bright Wheel I’d had more pushback so that I could have a really firm like, “Oh, this is the hill I was up against. And this is how I fought this battle and all these things.” But really it wasn’t like that. Obviously when I’m coming in, I’m coming in with a mindset of like, I’m new here, I know next to nothing so I’m here to ask questions about everything and just question the status quo for what we’re doing and why. There are so many things here, especially that we’re doing and we’re doing really well, but I’m still coming in with that same train of thought. “Oh. But why did we do this?” Because it’s going to be very different here than it was at Chili Piper or Campaign Monitor, any other company I’ve ever been a part of.

Kaylee Edmondson:
And so part of that was of course attribution. And especially since I have a lot of feelings about it, one of the first things like, “Oh, what’s our attribution model? How do we think about it?” And everybody was honestly really open to understanding more because it’s hard. It’s like, even though we had this attribution model that they’ve been working from for years and years, they have all the data, they have the reports, but they still didn’t feel conviction in the marketing activities that we were deciding to stand up and take to market for existing products, for new products, any of it. They just didn’t feel this level of conviction that the activities we were doing were the right ones, where we were spending dollars were the right places. So I think that left the door a little bit open for me to be like, “Oh, but what if we thought about it like this,” and really just get the team rallied.

Kaylee Edmondson:
So we have weekly stand ups with what we call an inbound huddle. All of the inbound operators, so myself, our product marketing leader, our COO, our CSO, our sales leader, and then sales leadership as well. SDR leader, AE leader, all of those people. Anybody that makes the inbound funnel work. We meet weekly. And so one of my first weeks with them, I was just like, “Hey, y’all, here’s the situation, but it doesn’t seem like you guys feel super strongly about what we’re doing. Not that we’re missing on any big bets, but we could be betting more or less and shifting our media mix. How do we feel about that?” Everybody had the same sentiment like, “What are you thinking? How are you going to get closer?” Pitching out these couple of ideas about, “I don’t know. Maybe we should just ask our customers and here are some really practical, easy light lift ways we should be doing it. Here’s how we could synthesize that data. And then actually take something to market that we feel really strongly for.”

Kaylee Edmondson:
Everybody was on board. I just wish that it was a harder conversation, but I think that there’s irony in that itself that I bet your other business partners, if you’re a marketing leader or a demand gen human or whoever you are listening to this episode, if you’re feeling stuck or you are not feeling conviction, there are probably others on your committee that feel the same way. If you could come to them with something tactical and actionable that you can work towards as a team to really overcome some of these hurdles, they’re probably more receptive to that than you think.

Jeff Sirkin:
I think the piece there that’s so important is coming with alternatives. Because I think it’s either, if you just come and say, “You know what? I don’t necessarily trust our reporting.” It’s like, “Okay, so this is the way we’ve been reporting up to it.” And I think it’s so valuable, especially in your case as you’re really building the foundation because I think in a lot of organizations, there’s probably people saying, well, we’ve been doing the same, we’ve been reporting on marketing the same way for the last five years and breaking that is going to be really, really hard. And it probably will be, to be personally honest. But I think it’s great that you’re in a situation that you can really build it right the first time.

Kaylee Edmondson:
And honestly though, even if you’re walking into something that’s already built, does everybody that has a seat around that table feel strongly for the way that you’re doing it? Probably not. And it’s really not that hard to rebuild. I can’t speak for all tech stacks because by no means and my marketing ops expert, but I can speak well enough to the HubSpot, Salesforce tech stack. And I can say that, even if you have something built, it’s really not that hard to slowly create a blended version. Keep your existing attribution model, don’t completely rip your business apart by trying to go down an attribution hole. But keep it, build the secondary one. If you really believe strongly that you’re only looking at first touch and you really should be looking at last touch then start standing up that reporting alongside your existing reporting and figure out if maybe those two levers together actually tell you a better story about what’s getting people into your database versus what’s actually getting them to convert.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Depending on your business model, if you have a short sales cycle and it’s a velocity game, maybe first touch is really going to do more for you directionally with these other levers, than last touch is doing right or vice versa. If you have a really long sales cycle, maybe that means something else for your story in terms of what data you can pull. But I just guarantee that there are more people around this committee that are feeling iffy about it, just like you. And they are just smaller changes that you can make that really aren’t that big of a lift. I think marketers like to make a big deal out of everything, myself included and we make it seem like it’s such a big lift to do things. “Oh my gosh, it’s going to be so much work to change this,” but it’s really not that bad, especially if you can like compartmentalize the work and just heads down, get it done. It’s actually not that large of a lift, but could be a huge impact for your business.

Jeff Sirkin:
And the other thing that’s come up a couple times that I really want to dig into a little bit now is the idea that you keep coming back to listening to customers. And to me, I think the perspective is always… And at the end of the day, if we are honest about it, that’s what attribution is meant to do. What are they trying to do? What content’s resonating? All that kind of stuff. It’s putting the customers at the forefront and letting them guide that. And I think I really want to dig in, and if you can just expand a little bit on what you’ve been doing, especially early on at Bright Wheel, in terms of those customer calls. I think that’s such a fascinating story in terms of what you’ve been able to do.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah. Okay. Look, I’m leaving Chili Piper and joining Bright Wheel. And quite honestly, even before my days at Chili Piper, I’ve almost always found myself in a MarTech space. Marketing to marketers, which seems like, “Oh, I understand these people because they probably have the same pains and frustrations that I do.” Now I’m joining this ECE space, early childhood education, where we’re marketing to teachers, educators, center directors, center admins. All that I know is that I have two young children that go to a preschool so I can see firsthand, our center director and what she goes through on a daily basis to take care of all of us crazy parents and make sure that all of our children are fed, happy, educated, all of the things. And run her business. Her day I cannot imagine.

Kaylee Edmondson:
That’s all I know is one solo experience where I see her for 10 minutes a day. That doesn’t really mean that I know our customers. First and foremost for me is like, I know zero about our customers and I really need to spend time getting closer to them. I reached out to our CS leader to be like, “Hey, do we do anything? Is this totally off limits? Would I mess up any process if I call them?” And actually we do have a monthly gathering here where we invite people, Bright Wheelers, to join a Zoom call. The CS team dishes out a list of existing customers and we call them. Now this list of customers specifically that we do in that activity are people that have recently left us feedback in an NPS survey. Call them, chat with them about their experience, all of those things.

Kaylee Edmondson:
It’s very much from a customer success lens but it’s still a really great forcing function to get other members of the Bright Wheel team, to reach out and chat with customers, to really understand and empathize what they’re going through, what their day looked, how Bright Wheel can help them or how it’s already helped them. It’s a really good initiative after I got a taste of that, I was like, “Hey, I love this so much and felt so much energy from it that I actually selfishly want to make these phone calls to people outside of this NPS list as well and ask more marketing driven questions. Is that in bounds?” And of course she was like all day long, “Let me know if I can help you build the list.” And I was like, “Oh no, if you’re fair game, I can call anybody. I got this.”

Kaylee Edmondson:
Anyways, dug in Salesforce. I am randomly populating existing customers that aren’t up for renewal or anything like that so that I’m just not messing with our retention team’s efforts. Anybody else is fair game. And cold call them when I get them on the call, my connect rate is 50%. Somebody listening can tell me if that’s good or bad, but I feel like it’s relatively okay. I’ll chat with them and ask them six questions/ first thing I want to know is why do you buy? What I’m trying to do is identify a pattern and value prop/ we know for marketing, what should we be saying to these people once they know who we are and we can get in front of them with something that means something to their day, or can show you value in a quick scroll stopping motion.

Kaylee Edmondson:
What problem were you hoping to solve when you bought Bright Wheel? Problem based language. I want to hear the way that they describe their issue. I don’t know their language. They probably use all kinds of words that aren’t in my vocabulary, but need to be, as somebody that’s running, advertising, running our email programs, all of those things. It needs to be the way that we are talking to them as well.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yep.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Oh, what were you afraid of? Concerns, challenges, issues, when you were going into the buying motion with us so that we can go ahead and surface objections upfront. Pages that should be on our website. Things that maybe we put in our marketing, advertising, et cetera, to go ahead and bias those objections up front and say, “Oh, not a worry. Like we can actually solve for that.” Favorite part of the product.

Kaylee Edmondson:
What’s something that you love about it. Something that you find value in, something we could also surface earlier on in people’s discovery of who we are and what we can do for them. And then, oh, what’s changed the most? Biggest impact, lift, whatever. Are you saving admin time? Are you getting more billing from your prospects or customers? Whatever that is. What is your upside to having Bright Wheel? And then how would you actually describe what we do to another center director? What are we? What do you think we are, so that we can really figure out what category we want to try and either claim or dig deeper into. If these people are describing us completely different from the way we are describing ourselves, then we’re already way off base.

Jeff Sirkin:
There are so many things I want to touch on there. First of all, I love the fact of really going into this and owning the fact that you’re new and let’s be honest, 90 plus percent of people don’t market to marketers. You, as a marketer listening, you are very likely not in your own ICP. You are going to come into any new situation not necessarily knowing your customers. You’ve been able to lean on that because you’re new. But what I would recommend to anybody out there listening is you don’t have to be new to do this. The idea should be, if you don’t have a sense of what your customers are dealing with day to day, then this is something that should be a priority for you in marketing.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah. All day. And I think for now my opening, I’m not a salesperson. I have no idea what it’s like to actually make cold calls. I have no script. I’ll just say all of that front. And I still feel like these calls have been very successful for me. By all means if somebody wants to stand this up with an SDR mentality and really dig in deep, you could probably be far more successful than even I have been. But I’m just going to, “Hey, this is Kaylee from Bright Wheel. I’m new here. I’ve just joined to help lead a function of the marketing team. And I really want to better understand our customers that we can help more early educators with Bright Wheel and our tool. Do you have a couple minutes to chat?” Every single one of them… I mean, these teachers are literally organizing an army in the background with their children.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Every single one of them that answers the phone has agreed to chat with me right then. Cold call. I’m like, I feel like there’s still so many levers of optimization that could happen there. But honestly it’s just like a passion project at this point that I’m like, I have to connect with at least X amount of customers in the first 90 days. Yeah. I don’t know. And it’s also been a really energizing exercise. These people are some of the most grateful and really hardworking people and such an underserved sector. And so it just gives you a lot of good energy to go back and understand the value that you’re doing as a marketer to help impact other people.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and I think the biggest thing that you’re saying is it humanizes them. You see the human behind what they’re dealing with. They’re no longer just a blip in a spreadsheet or in a Salesforce report. And you humanize them, you’ve understood. And frankly, that empathy is really what all marketers need to understand the empathy and understand what their customers need most. Because some of the other things you called out are like understanding the language. So many companies, and I’m sure most people listening will be nodding their heads, is they do it inside out. They see it, what do we call this? Even as you said, the product category. There’s so much of that we just say, we do this. And it’s like, but so often your customers will probably describe it differently.

Jeff Sirkin:
But the whole idea is if they’ve found, and this is why I love, especially I always recommend that if you’re going to call customers and especially in a more structured, intentional way, call your very, very best customers because chances are, they’ve found something special in your product that’s probably not on the forefront of your messaging. They’ve found the black box. But now how can you surface that to everybody else? And you even mentioned the same with objections too. And I love that perspective of what were your hesitations? What were you afraid of? Because how can we proactively address those? And all of that again is meant to be in service of how can I help this person? As you’ve humanized them and you’ve built that empathy, now the marketing comes easy. Because now you feel like you’re actually having a conversation and it’s no longer just okay, which message and AB testing and all that stuff’s relevant. But you feel like you’re talking to someone.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think that’s what it’s all about. If you can identify trends in this type of qualitative feedback process, that’s your gold mine. Obviously you have to do enough of these calls to actually identify trends. If you connect with three customers and you say, “Oh, that’s what we’re doing. I just don’t know that’s correct.” I feel like there’s not enough stat SIG there to make that really actionable. Yeah. Figure out what number makes the most sense for you. For whatever it’s worth for like a benchmark. I am trying to make 40 connections in the next 30 days. That feels good for me. And then of course we’ll figure out an ongoing pattern that’s sustainable and repeatable for not only myself, but for also others on the marketing team.

Kaylee Edmondson:
This shouldn’t be a one man band situation. If you have people on your marketing team, by all means, deploy them. Figure out how you can do this at scale with a team, it doesn’t have to be one person. Stand up a spreadsheet. That’s pretty easy. Format it. Answer the questions. You can go through as a team even to review your feedback and what you found. I just think it’s like find a way to make this process very simple because it really doesn’t have to be a meaty lift to have a conversation with your customer.

Jeff Sirkin:
And I promise it will be the best thing you’ve done. It will be the biggest unlock for your marketing, for your confidence to feel like you really know what your customers are dealing with.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Agree. 100%.

Jeff Sirkin:
Okay. You’re ready for some not so rapid fire questions?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Oh, let’s go. 100%.

Jeff Sirkin:
Okay. What would you say is the most overrated marketing activity?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Marketing activity? Oh, attending conferences. And I’m almost concerned. We’ve had a nice… A nice lull period in the last couple of years where obviously conferences have not been on most marketers menu of things to be doing or blowing cash on. However, I do feel as though there lots, at least popping up in my feed, things I’m getting invited to for the return of the conference era. And so I feel like it’s coming and I would just, I would love to question marketers on like, but why? Why is it ideal for you to go and spend, I don’t know, a hundred thousand dollars on a 10 by 10 booth where you’re… Those conferences where you’re picking out the color carpet and how many plugs you need and ordering your furniture. Versus deploying those dollars basically any other way. I think conferences are so overrated.

Jeff Sirkin:
I couldn’t agree more. And I love the perspective of obviously we know so much has changed over the last two years, but a lot of that change is going to stick. Sure and I’d even argue, I think there’s probably going to be a bump as conferences come back, but then we’re going to settle back, closer to where we are now, where it’s like… Because to me, it’s kind of, if you actually break it down and… Even if you think about it, not just from a marketer and trying to get badge scans and leads, but think about it from a conference perspective the organizations that we’re putting on those conferences, it used to be, that was really the only way to get everybody together and share a whole lot of content.

Jeff Sirkin:
But the thing is nowadays, you don’t need to wait for this one day on the calendar as a pillar, to share that content. They should be creating and sharing and cultivating that content 365 days a year. It’s like, they’ve moved more towards and always on model. Frankly, I like to think the way it used to be won’t ever come back in the way it was, but I think your point is very well taken.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think too, it’s like, “Oh, okay, well, if we’re not going to spend a 100K on events, then where are we supposed to spend it?” Obviously that’s going to be different depending on who you are. And some of these other activities that hopefully you’ve already done to identify where your customers actually hang out and where they find value. However, I do still feel like, especially we’ve been remote, we’ve been working from home from our pajamas for years, so there is an unmatched value or impact that’s made in making real human connections in person with other people. Most people, I can’t speak for all people, but most people do really find a sense of joy, an emotional lift in meeting up with others who I don’t know, spend their days similarly to the way you spend your days.

Kaylee Edmondson:
You can create a sense of camaraderie about like your struggles, your wins, et cetera. And I think there are other ways to facilitate that same feeling, not saying 100% virtually, but even smaller, self hosted event opportunities that still get the same bang for your buck. There could be actually substantially cheaper with higher ROI if it’s a smaller, cultivated, intentional opportunity to meet up with customers and prospects around one central theme that doesn’t require them to travel halfway across the country and spend four days at a conference room with you.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and especially because what you’re saying is again, is finding the value in what did exist, but you can create that value in other ways. And especially as so many people would probably attest to, most of the value from those connections you create are from the bar and the happy hour after the day of events. And it’s like, well then why wouldn’t we just skip to that? You can just create that on a more localized basis as opposed to everything that needs to go in that box of what we think of as a conference.

Kaylee Edmondson:
100% agree. Yeah. And I think that’s what should be the forcing function for redeploying some of those dollars, if you’re a company that’s been holding onto those dollars, I feel very strongly that you would get far more return for standing up a localized strategy versus just pouring your dollars right back into that 10 by 10 booth.

Jeff Sirkin:
Couldn’t agree more. Now let’s go to the other side of the coin. What would you say is the most underrated marketing activity? Things marketers should be doing more of.

Kaylee Edmondson:
This. This right here. The podcast. The podcast is… I think Dave Gerhardt said it in his book, so I can’t take credit, but the podcast is your Trojan horse. All day long. There’s zero doubt in my mind that the podcast is your Trojan horse that should serve as the anchor for all of your other marketing activities.

Jeff Sirkin:
Again, I’m nodding along here. I couldn’t agree more. It’s funny. It’s something that started for me at the beginning of COVID. And then in hindsight, it’s like, well, why wouldn’t I have done this? Otherwise, the fact that you and I are having this conversation, I’m in Philadelphia, you’re in Nashville. And we wouldn’t be having this conversation if there was no podcast. I couldn’t agree more that again… Selfishly, I’m a little biased here, but I think it’s created the opportunity just to create real connections and I think that’s… Look, we’re all humans. That’s what we crave. That’s what we were just talking about around the events and how do we take the value out of that and bring it into other channels? And so hopefully that’s what this is doing. I love that. Now what would you say is the most important skill or skills that a marketer can possess? And especially if you think about somebody maybe earlier in their career, what are some things they could be cultivating?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah. I think that’s so interesting. When I think about career progression, I think that there is no perfect scenario in which you land your dream job or your dream role, or a lot of people also perceive career progression quite differently. Some people really want to be a principal expert without ever managing humans and others really want to manage a team and lead a function. And I think both are equally great because there are definitely some people that would serve a company so much deeper and greater as a principal expert without being forced down a management path. But I think that when I try to take a step back and understand how I’ve gotten at least here, what’s led me to this opportunity at Bright Wheel or just demand gen in general, I think that I am naturally the most curious and I find that others that I’ve had the opportunity to work with that are very curious, almost always land just in a really good situation where they’ve taken curiosity into how they’re interviewing and finding the best role for them.

Kaylee Edmondson:
And then once they’re on board really questioning the status quo for, “But why are we doing it this way? What if we took this approach? Or oh, I was curious, so I chatted with this other company and I’m trying to do some benchmarking and it seems like we have opportunity here, there.” Whatever it is. And so I think curiosity above all will get you into a place where you feel really comfortable both through landing the right gig for you at the right place. And it’s something that can’t be taught in a textbook or can’t be taught in college and I just think that you need to get into an organization and be naturally curious about everything. One, it’ll help you figure out where you really want to spend your time. But two, it can unearth some really impactful projects that you can have the opportunity to have an ownership stake in. Outside of that things that are a skill.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Obviously there’s some mix of art and science in marketing and finding success there. I naturally lean more mathematic than I lean creative. You don’t want me in InDesign or building things that are supposed to look good for you. That’s just not my thing. And so I think that you need to self recognize what side of the fence you sit on and build a team around you that supplements the rest. I find I’m very attracted to people that are creative because I know that will never be me. I also love people that are well spoken and well written. Also not me.

Kaylee Edmondson:
I think that you need to almost do some self-reflection around, what is it that you are naturally good at and don’t try and be all things to all people. I know that I will never be the words person and I will never be the person that’s in InDesign building things and making them look good. And that’s cool. I’ll go out and find others that naturally are so we can blend off of each other’s talents, but really hone in on what we’re naturally good at.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. And I always say intellectual curiosity is the thing I always say is the number one thing. And I even think about like channel your inner toddler and just ask why. Honestly, it’s like, okay, well, what is it that our customers get out of this? Why do they think that? Why is this… Honestly, but taking that approach has led you to make these customer calls, which again, it’s just all of these things really build on it. And I couldn’t agree more. It’s just the perspective of just keep asking why, and you will… There is so much that will come from that. And to your point, it’s not because you… And I think any of us that have been in our careers long enough, as we look back on it, there weren’t a whole lot of intentional decisions that led us down that path. It was really just the idea of being open to the next thing and being curious about it.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah. I agree with that.

Jeff Sirkin:
Okay. What resources, books, blogs, podcast, newsletters, what would you want to recommend to our audience? What are things that you found value in?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah. I find a lot of value, maybe it’s not directionally helpful for everyone, but I find a lot of value. I’m subscribed to a lot of newsletters. Probably too many. But the ones that come top of mind, Morning Brew, specifically the marketing brew segment. If you’re in the retail industry, Retail Brew is great, but things that are really helping you understand trends in the market, obviously marketing needs to always be current and relevant. And so I think having a quick line of sight into what’s working and resonating for others can almost always spark inspiration for you and your brand. I do find a lot of inspiration from those. I also get like The Skim and things like that, just so I understand what’s happening in the world. For marketing, there are a couple of great people.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Anybody you should follow, if at this point in the game you’re not following Chris Walker, go do that. Find him on LinkedIn or TikTok. He’s trying that as a channel, if you want to watch him try and pioneer that channel, go join now because he’s trying to figure it out, which I think is also cool that he’s doing it in such a public fashion. Dave Gerhardt, brilliant mind. He has his own community now that has sons of value in it. If you’re not in that community, I would totally recommend you join lots of AMA opportunities and deep threaded conversations with tons of experts in the space. I’m trying to think of the most recent marketing book that I’ve read. I just read this book about Netflix. It’s called No Rules Rules, Netflix in the Culture of Reinvention. It’s Reed Hastings and Aaron Meyer.

Kaylee Edmondson:
It was so good. Honestly, page turner. I read it in one sitting and I don’t read a lot of books these days, but it was really good. It’s all about culture and how they did a lot of their building in public. A lot of things you can stem from culture that confuse into how you’re doing marketing and how you’re taking your brand to market. It’s not directionally a marketing book, but I think it’s still really insightful for how other people have become really successful. You can draw trends from that and infuse them into your own strategy.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s great. And then before we let you go, where can people find and connect with you on social media?

Kaylee Edmondson:
Oh yeah. LinkedIn, please. Connect with me on LinkedIn. If anybody’s feeling empathetic and wants to find me on Twitter, you can do that too. But I just haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s great. And we’ll link to all of this in the show notes. Kaylee, thanks so much for taking the time and thanks for sharing your story with us.

Kaylee Edmondson:
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for inviting me. This was so great.

Jeff Sirkin:
I really enjoyed my conversation with Kaylee. I love her approach to making customer calls. She used the fact that she’s new to the company as a connection point with Bright Wheels customers. Frankly, we should all find reasons to talk to our customers and get to know their world. 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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