Defining the Modern Day Marketer

Episode #049: Brett McGrath, Vice President of Marketing at The Juice

Episode Information

If you're focused on creating thoughtful experiences, not concerned about volume gain, and are results-driven, then you may just be the embodiment of the modern day marketer.

In this episode, we're chatting with Brett McGrath, Vice President of Marketing at The Juice. Brett has spent the past 12 years in the B2B SaaS industry in various marketing functions and leadership roles. Brett believes the content marketing function is the catalyst for change in B2B marketing and spends his days learning from other marketers on the 3C (Curating Content Creators) Podcast. In addition to his current role, Brett's evenings consist of creating content in the sports cards industry with his show Stacking Slabs.

We're talking about what defines a modern day marketer, why marketers should be invested in the long game, why marketers don't need to track every dollar, and so much more.

Stephanie's Strong Opinions

  1. Shift your mindset to look at your target audience as the hero of the story because, at the end of the day, people remember stories.
  2. The modern-day marketer knows it's all about the long game. They build trust over time with thoughtful experiences.
  3. If you want to get better at marketing, don't just read a business book. Go experience other things outside of work; you'll be surprised at what can spark an idea.

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Stephanie Cox: Welcome to Real Marketers, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat and there's absolutely no bullshit allowed here. And I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola. I have exceptionally high standards and surround myself with people who get shit done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truths about marketing, and empower you to become a real marketer. So first question, it's my usual. Tell me something about yourself that few people know.

Brett McGrath: Few people know, well, I got really bored working from home at the start of the pandemic. And I've always been a collector of things, and I got back into sports cards. And I decided that it was... As I was getting back into it, it was a lot different than when I was collecting as a kid. So as a marketer, I figure there's a lot of people in my age demographic that are getting back into sports cards. I decided to talk about it, so I created a podcast at the very beginning of the pandemic, and it's called Stacking Slabs. And I just share my experiences about what I'm learning with sports cards, and then also have a show where I bring on collectors from all over the world to talk about their experience and process. And it's been running. We've got 150 episodes under our belt at this point, and it's just been amazing. It's kind of ignited a passion for me, an escape from the madness of B to B marketing. And I've met some really great people from just across the globe that I consider friends at this point. So yeah, I don't really talk about it too much. But it's when I'm away from work and The Juice, I'm kind of focused on that side hustle.

Stephanie Cox: I love that, 150 episodes. How many are you doing a week?

Brett McGrath: I do two a week, so I have one on Wednesdays that I drop, where it's kind of like me talking to myself, just short, here's some things that are happening in the industry and the market. And here's some things that I'm experiencing. And then on Fridays, I drop an episode with a person in the industry, a collector, someone who I want to learn from that in turn, hopefully, our audience can learn from too. And through this process, it's really I think made me a better B to B marketer because I have got down in the weeds on building audience through social media, through Twitter, through Instagram, and just the community aspect of it. And it's growing, it continues to grow. And I honestly pulled up my Instagram handle the other day and looked at it, and I was just like, "I can't believe there's almost 10,000 people that are following this brand right now." It's blowing my mind. But I have since taken some of those things and infused them into some of the marketing that we're doing at The Juice. So it's served a lot of different purposes and a lot that I guess I wasn't necessarily expecting, but I'm happy I'm doing it, mostly because I'm meeting some awesome people.

Stephanie Cox: I love that, and I think it's one of the things to me that's the best part about marketing is oftentimes, people say, "Well, if you want to get better at marketing, read a book. Read a business book. Go watch a webinar. "I'm like, " No, go experience other things," because so much of it that feels unrelated can spark ideas and cause you to think about how you do your day job differently.

Brett McGrath: I love that. And I often, I've talked about for a while on becoming a better marketer by drawing on inspiration from just completely random things that are unrelated to B to B marketing that I'm passionate about. And one of the things is just like I'm a big music guy. I love music. I've got a vinyl collection. And I just think and look at some hip hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and how he's built his brand and following and audience, and how he communicates. And I try to take little things from those people who've gone from nothing to something huge, and it doesn't always translate. But I think thinking outside the box for areas of inspiration has always been something that's helped me out.

Stephanie Cox: Well, speaking about thinking outside the box, we were talking before the show started around a phrase that you use that's different than anyone else. And I absolutely love that and want to kind of kick off the conversation there. So typically, when you talk to especially B to B marketers, but I think any marketer, you hear phrases like ideal customer profile, buyer personas. And you see marketers that spend a ton of time crafting these ICPs and buyer personas. And that's the terminology used. But you use something completely different, so tell me what that is and why.

Brett McGrath: Yeah. So just when we were catching up before you hit record, I use the term hero. And I use that term very pointed, very pointed when I use that word. And I try to use that word internally and externally when I communicate because we talk about ICPs, ideal customer profiles, and those types of things. And those are things that we're creating for us as the marketer, but they don't necessarily... We think that they represent the people that we're going out and trying to reach out to, build awareness and connect with, but oftentimes, I think just through my experience of going through that, it's fallen a little flat. People change. Your message changes. And so for me, I'm really in the mindset of trying to get myself and our team in the storytelling business, and communicating through stories, whether it's me on the podcast talking with another marketer, or Kate, who's in sales for our team, communicating to the market, or Jonathan, who's in the middle of raising funds, who's our CEO, talking to the market. And I just think people remember stories. And we're a business that is just getting off the ground, and anything we can do to stay top of mind with individuals I think is important. And so hero might seem like, oh, yeah, okay, you're a hero. But to me, as someone who's trying to synthesize notes and form an opinion on who we think is the best person for our solution, hero really rings a bell because these are individuals who are again, like we used it, but thinking outside the box, nontraditional marketers. And they're not... I say, me centered marketing is what I've been doing for a majority of my career. It's all about my metrics, my numbers, my process. And really, we need to shift that. And so modern day marketers is what I've branded our hero because it's really, their mindset is about the value that they're giving and creating for their audience. And so that's what I'm trying to do. And it's early, but I didn't want to go through the process of pulling out that sheet that we've all pulled out, and checking boxes and filling in the gaps. I really wanted to figure out who our hero was from just having those conversations and talking with hundreds of marketers throughout the first nine months of being at this company. So that's really the origin story, is just hero relates more to me with stories. And to me, the people that are driving change in marketing and B to B marketing, who we want to be working with, are heroes to me because they're different and they're pushing for change, and it's good change.

Stephanie Cox: So when you talk to people and you say the word, who our heroes are, what's the reaction? Do they still want to talk to you about ICP and switch to that logic, that nomenclature? Or do they immediately gravitate to, which is my reaction, which is I absolutely love that? Why doesn't everyone talk like this?

Brett McGrath: Yeah. So I haven't really been on a call or talked with someone and said, "You're the hero of what we're doing," and gotten that feedback from them. It's been more along the lines of understanding from the individual's end. What are the things that you really don't like right now about B to B marketing? And what are the things you're doing to get away from those things? And on the other end, how are you solving to get away from those things? And how are you fixing the problem? And so I've been in this drum beat of conversations where gathering all of these perspectives, and then I just sent my team a Slack right before we got on, with we're in the process of building a visual identity around the modern day marketer. And I went through the process of just, here are 12 traits that I think represents the modern day marketer. And we're going to use that and infuse it into trying to create some visual design around it. But yeah, I think the more I've gotten in this process and deep into it, the more I've realized, and admitting that I've been guilty of a lot of these things we do in marketing. And now when I see them happening or see other people doing them, it really stands out to me. And as I push forward with this hero message and push forward with this modern day marketing message, I know based on the conversations that I've had over the last nine months, that I've gained some validation and had individuals help contribute to this message, so that when we are going to market and we are in those conversations, and we're referencing these things, they're not ideas and items that I'm just pulling out of thin air. These are actual qualities and traits that represent the people that we think would be great customers for The Juice.

Stephanie Cox: So tell me a little bit about what a modern marketer is then. How did you come up with that phrase? And what do the characteristics and qualities that they have, that's different than maybe how people might think about marketing in the past?

Yeah. So I think first and foremost, to me the modern day marketer is value-driven. The modern day marketer is more concerned about their audience than their metrics. I think we get so caught up with hitting our KPIs. And when we unpack our KPIs, we look at them and it's like, "All right, number of leads." Okay. So if we're thinking about the number of leads, then we start creating activities around, let's put a bunch of money into this, and let's try to generate all of these leads because we believe, in SaaS, the more leads we generate, eventually there's going to be sales conversations that go from those leads. And then it goes past to our sales team. And in that process, a lot of that is we do get customers from those activities. Some of those customers churn. And so I think for me, it's like one, the modern day marketer's really not concerned about the volume gain. It's quality over quantity. So that's one thing that really stands out for me. It's the idea of collaboration, the idea of not thinking about collaboration as co- marketing. And we've all been there before where it's, let's get together and let's do some co- marketing. And then we can share some lists. And you're going to give this list to our STR team, and we're going to call down on these lists. That's ultimately, I can't ever remember really generating any great opportunities in my career through doing that. And the adverse-

Stephanie Cox: Spoiler alert. I was going to say spoiler alert. No one does. Right?

Brett McGrath: No one.

Stephanie Cox: But to your point, what's crazy about it is everyone, I mean, I can tell you how many brands do exactly what you just talked about.

Brett McGrath: Yeah. And it's just what we've always done in B to B marketing. And the modern day marketer though doesn't do that because the modern day marketer knows that adversely affects their brand. And that's what the focus is on. It's about protecting the brand, building brand, and building trust. And being one big thing that we, the area that we play in is around content and creating frictionless experiences around content. When I hopped back in at The Juice and started observing and talking, I was looking at how marketers were communicating. And everyone was sharing ideas and open on social and in communities. And people were sharing their content with forums. And I said, "Man, this is so different." The access to content is so different than when I was back in the space six years ago. So those are some things that stand out. The modern day marketer is really being thoughtful about experience and creating great experiences for their audience, and knowing that these individuals aren't going to read your article and hit request to demo, and become a lead, and then talk to your sales team and become a customer. It doesn't work like that. It's really a long game. And the more that we as individuals who do marketing and are aspiring to be modern day marketers come from a place of abundance, and use something like our content to build trust over time, I think the more we win. And that's the hypothesis that I'm working through right now.

Stephanie Cox: So taking that a step further, as you started to think about the content you create for the modern marketer, how do you figure out where you should focus, what that content should look like, the form factors it should be delivered in? What does that strategy session, which is ongoing, I assume, look like for you?

Brett McGrath: So my hope is that when we get into the next phase of our business, I can bring on some really smart content marketer who can teach me a thing or two about structure and strategy. But my approach right now is, hey, I'm not going to focus in on dialing up a bunch of keywords and trying to write for the Google algorithms and machines. What I'm going to do is I'm going to write for people. And I want to write about what I'm learning and the experiences that I'm going through to uncover this in the process that I've been through because I believe in distribution and I believe in the importance of distribution in this era of marketing. So really, my process has been, let's share everything, everything we're working on, ideas that are going on in my head, ideas that are going on in the rest of the team's head, and then be dedicated to finding the right places online to share content. And before we just go sharing, it's having a presence, it's being a part of the community. And that doesn't just mean I'm going to go tweet a bunch and share my hot takes. But it's more, hey, let me follow the right people. Let me respond to what they're saying and build that engagement so that when we do have a piece of content that we think the community would benefit from, that they're engaged and that they're giving us feedback on it. So for me, it's really about focusing in and sharing what we're learning, what we're working on, and why we think it benefits the modern day marketer, and then doubling down on the distribution channel, whether it's our own content through our podcast, or our newsletter, or other channels like Slack communities and the Twitters and the LinkedIn, so that's the... I don't know if it's unorthodox. It's not unorthodox to me right now because I'm gaining inspiration from watching other marketers do it. But it might seem unorthodox to marketers who are typically used to writing a block post that's stuffed full of keywords, and then hitting publish and hoping for the best, and hoping the Google algorithms do the work for them. So that's kind of the mindset that I've been taking.

Stephanie Cox: Let's say if listener hears what you just said and is like, "Yes, that sounds amazing," where do they get started? How do they start thinking about this, shifting their mind to this different way of content creation?

Brett McGrath: Yeah. So I think for me, it's really hard because this is a part of our story that we're in the early days trying to build social proof and validation for, and it's forming. And it's not exact science. But I think a really good call out, and I'll call out someone who we both know, who I saw a tweet from him, and it rang a bell because it helped validate what we're doing, where a lot of businesses in our stages, really the North Star is you build this business, you serve customers, you solve a big problem. And then eventually, somebody goes and acquires you. Then you can pay out your stakeholders and you move on. So someone who just did that was Kyle Lacy at Lessonly. Now Kyle's mindset, and he's someone who I would consider the definition of a modern day marketer, as someone who is communicating out or sharing with this community. He had a tweet about a month ago where he just said, "Hey, this is what we did at Lessonly. We spent 75% of our budget on demand generation." And this would be everything as marketers we're used to, based on acquisition and bringing new people into our process and funnel, paid ads, lists, events, all those things. And then the other thing said, "We spent 25% of our budget on experience." And the learnings they got from that was investing in experience and the things that might not be trackable helped bring in more of the right conversations for their business, and allowed their business to grow. So I think for me, I pull little stories like that one, and there's so many others out there of marketers saying, "You know what, we don't need to track every dollar in and every dollar out." And actually, when we do track every dollar in and every dollar out, it impedes us from investing in the opportunity to create content that can deliver a really good experience for someone who doesn't know we exist. And this mindset of shifting is really tough because I spent my first part of my career in demand generation. Then as transitioning into marketing leadership, I knew I needed to spend time on content and brand. And so I've lived in both of these worlds. And I think when I hear stories like what happened at Lessonly and the process that they went through, it really brings inspiration for me as I try to push our message out and try new things at The Juice.

Stephanie Cox: No, I love that. Well, and I think I've heard Kyle say that before too. And one of the things that I think is so important is when you hear other marketing leaders say that, and they've had successful companies because of it, it gives more confidence to CEOs that I should let my marketing leader do that. Right? Because I think part of the challenge, even if you are this modern day marketer like you described, part of the challenge is really around getting your CEO to be willing to make this jump with you.

Brett McGrath: Yes.

Stephanie Cox: Right? And I know who you work for, and I know he believes this strongly. But for a lot of other people, it's hard. They're like, "But leads, I want all the leads. If you just give me more leads, we could sell more things." And I'm like, "I mean, leads are like email addresses." I can get you email addresses, doesn't mean people want your product.

Brett McGrath: 100%. And it's honestly, Stephanie, in the early days at The Juice, it's the greatest challenge we're facing at this point is articulating the story around what we just talked about. And we're going to get better at communicating it. And our customers are giving really great feedback. And we're going to use that social proof. But it's an uphill battle. But for me, I know working towards this challenge, I know based on the conversations that I've had with the market, is the right thing. We might not see a ton of positive results early, but it's just like with anything in marketing, the more consistent we are with this message and learning and digging in deep, and figuring out and educating teams who can communicate to their CEOs about why investing in content and content experience matters, I think it's game over. And so yeah, it's a challenge. It really is because so many CEOs and CMOs want everything tracked and traced. And I get that. And I by no means say there's not a place for demand generation. There certainly is a place for demand generation. But I think there's a seat at the table for the modern day marketer who is doing whatever they can to not only build awareness to their audience, but then also earn trust. And earn trust is that intangible, and once you earn trust with the majority of people who can be buyers of what you're building, or what you have built, I think that's when they get excited, they become a customer, and then they tell their friends. And that's the ripple effect that so many great companies, like Gong for instance, go through and just continue to knock it out of the park and grow.

Stephanie Cox: I think I know we talked about CEOs, but boards I think also have that sentiment as well when they want to be focused on measuring every dollar spent on marketing. What's the return on investment. And I agree with you, it's important. But I also think part of it is: How do we think about reframing what demand gen is? Right? So many times, demand gen becomes equated to leads and people who are ready to buy now. Why can't we think about demand and brand being tied together more closely? Because what you're talking about, you are creating demand. It's just not demand today. It's demand when they're ready.

Brett McGrath: You nailed it.

Stephanie Cox: Right? Well, what's crazy is, people are like, "If we ramp up demand, our pipeline will grow and all of these things." I'm like, " Do you realize you can't make people buy from you if they're not ready to buy from you?"

Brett McGrath: That's exactly right. You nailed it. It is. It's boardrooms everywhere. We're talking about changing the mindset from the C- suite. It's an even bigger challenge changing the mindset in the boardroom. But I think I'd say from a marketing perspective and building out teams, I would say our biggest adversary right now is the demand gen, and in the conversations based on where we're going and what we don't do right now. And the way I think about it is if marketing teams were more aligned around the brand and aligned around the distribution problem that exists, I think that's when the modern day marketer and the demand gen marketer really work in tandem, and it's really, really powerful, where a new piece of content is created that answers a question that their audience has. And then demand generation is working hand in hand to not only know that this is a new piece of content, but understand deeply what this piece of content is about and who it's for. Everyone, a lot of people, marketers, think that all of their content is for everyone. That's not the case. And the more we scale it back and focus in on the type of person that it's for, I think the more we win. But I view the demand generation marketer being someone who is obsessed with focusing in and finding these distribution channels based on where the type of content is that the modern day marketer is producing. So I think, and I'm seeing this already with teams, and our customers are working like this, I think the more alignment there are between roles within marketing departments everywhere, the more, the less friction will exist.

Stephanie Cox: No, I completely agree. So final question for you. What is the one thing you wish all marketers knew?

I would say the one... And this is tough. This is a tough one. But marketers, I've not met too many marketers that aren't highly ambitious, results-oriented individuals. I would say a majority of marketers are. And it's really difficult as being an ambitious person to want results right now. And I wish that more marketers, and I'm almost talking to myself because this is like marketing therapy that I've gone through over the course of the last few years, more marketers were patient with their activities and didn't expect immediate results. It's consistency and consistency of the right activity, it compounds over time and it grows and it grows. And all of those things that you're publishing, you're doing, your conversations, those all compound and grow. And what this is doing is that is building your brand. And when you're not in the room, it's what people are saying, or how they think about you. And so one thing that I've learned over the last few years is don't, just because you hit publish on something, or just because this campaign's rolling, you don't need to expect immediate results right now. But be consistent, learn from those things. And the more you're doing the right activities, the more that will positively impact your brand, which creates trust, and then will lead to more of the right conversations for you and your team.

Stephanie Cox: You've been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review our podcast. And don't forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness shouldn't be kept a secret.

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