Episode #015: Leslie Bloom, VP of Marketing at Dozuki
Perfection. Control. My fellow Type A personalities know what I’m talking about on this subject. So many of us are engrained to not make mistakes from such a young age and it often continues with us into adulthood. While striving for perfection may seem like a good idea initially, it actually tends to hold you back in your marketing career if you’re constantly waiting for perfection and increasing your time to market. Years of experience has taught me and many other marketers that speed is definitely better than perfection.
In this episode, we chat with Leslie Bloom, VP of Marketing at Dozuki. She has 15 years of marketing and design experience. She’s previously worked at Experts Exchange, San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition, political campaigns, and her own agency.
We’re talking about what it’s like to be a recovering perfectionist and learning to get over needing to have constant control, handling feedback, leading marketing in an industry where you don’t have previous experience, and so much more.
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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. There's absolutely not bullsh*t allowed here. 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, have exceptionally high standards, and surround myself with people who get sh*t done. On this show, my guest and I will push boundaries, share the real truths about marketing, and empower you to become a real marketer. Where are all of my recovering perfectionists at? I know I'm definitely one of them. I spent all of my childhood, and a portion of my adult life, trying to be perfect until I realized that it was exhausting, and it was okay to let it go. I didn't have to be perfect all the time. I didn't have to have complete control. Don't get me wrong. It was scary at first, but it was ultimately really freeing. That's exactly what I'm talking about with today's guest. In this episode, we chat with Leslie Bloom, VP of marketing at Dozuki. She has 15 years of marketing and design experience. We're talking about what it's like to be a recovering perfectionist, learning to get over needing to have constant control, handling feedback, leading marketing in an industry where you don't have previous experience, and so much more. So, my first question always is tell me something that very few people know about you?
Leslie Bloom: Gosh. Start with a small question, why don't you? I would have to say, myself, not a lot of people know, probably because I try to hide it a little bit, but that I am a reformed control freak. So, meaning I used to be perfect, perfect, perfect. Everything has to have my say, my approval, and things, but have since let that go, roll off my shoulders, for all sorts of different reasons.
Stephanie Cox: Preaching to the choir. Same for me. It's been a struggle, I think, especially early on in my career, to realize I can't, in fact, control everything, and especially I'm a mom of twin 14- year- olds. You definitely can't control teenagers.
Leslie Bloom: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: I try.
Leslie Bloom: I haven't even thought about applying that to parenting, but yeah. Holy cow. That's a whole other reason to do it.
Stephanie Cox: It really is.
Leslie Bloom: For those listening, if you haven't given it a shot, try it for a week, and see how it goes. It's worth it.
Stephanie Cox: It is. So, tell me a little bit about how you came to that? How do you go from wanting to control everything to being okay with this idea that you can't, but you can still feel accomplished at the end of the day, even if it's not done the way that you would want to do it?
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. I think, for me, there's, like you mentioned, parenthood. There's so many different contexts in our lives where you can be a control freak. For me, some of it became a mental health, " Gosh, I just feel so stressed all the time. It's a burden. Why is this the case?" With work in particular, having been an individual contributor for years, you want to put your best foot forward. You want to produce things that are going to wow and just knock the socks off of everybody, but you can't have a home run all the time. Wanting to have that burden on your shoulders, with the idea that you're striving for perfection at all times, it's just unsustainable. You can hit it sometimes, but to give yourself some slack and some leeway to say, " Sometimes a done is better than perfect here," and that I've just got to move onto the next thing. Then all of a sudden, the clouds part. You see the sun. You're just like, " Wow. I'm still accomplishing everything I wanted to, be it in my work life, or at my home and personal life, and I'm just letting the small stuff go." It just is liberating. I've found at least I can still achieve everything I want to without just being so wound tight about it all the time, or worried it's not going to go exactly how I imagined.
Stephanie Cox: Do you think that part of that is harder for marketers? Because we're held to these, I would say, somewhat unrealistic standards, that everything gets knocked out of the park all the time. What you see on social media is every marketer is killing it always. Do you think it's harder for us to sometimes be willing to let go, because we're so afraid of failure, or we're so afraid that it's not going to be done right, and someone above us is going to call us out on that?
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. I would definitely say so. As marketers, our job is public. The work we do can be very public. So, it's going to be scrutinized from every which way, from people of all different perspectives, internal, external, and that it's just... It creates this pressure cooker that can be hard to try to protect yourself from. I think it's definitely unique for marketers, but I'd imagine there's other, like aspects of any organization, might feel the same way. Product would come to mind. Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: No. I completely agree. When you were saying that, I was just thinking, " Why is it that everyone feels like,'Hey, I saw this on the website. I have an opinion about that?'" I'm like, " I would never come tell you I have an opinion about how your code looks. Why do you feel like you can tell me you have an opinion about the tagline, or the headline on this page?"
Leslie Bloom: 100%.
Stephanie Cox: It's just interesting. Right?
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. You can't be everything to everybody. I have a background, I was a graphic designer for a while, too. Everyone's also a designer. " Well, why is it that color? I'd move it this way. I don't like the way that looks." But we're not hitting for 100% perfection, or approval here. We'd be happy if we hit 50%, or whatever that threshold might be.
Stephanie Cox: So, you've had, obviously, leadership roles before. How do you balance that, when everyone does have an opinion? You can't be all things to all people, but everyone still feels the need to tell you their opinion. How do you get people to say, " Well, you're not our target audience. So, while thank you for your feedback, I also don't care?" How do you go about handling that in your career? Because I feel like that's something that every marketer deals with, and no one wants to talk about, is when you get the feedback where you're just like, " That's great that you feel that way, but let's be honest. We're not selling to you."
Leslie Bloom: 100%. Yeah. So, one of our company values at Dozuki is actually communicate fearlessly. So, we invite that. I can't say that I'm the best at accepting it. I know I can always do better. But there's certainly a tact, like you said, to maybe taking the can, or internalizing that, or having just a running list. For me, I think, a valuable tool is just actively listening, even if you're not formally documenting. There's value there, that you can sit on. I'm guilty of this for sure, that my gut reaction might be to be defensive and say, " Oh, no. Ugh. I can't hear that right now." Right? That's not helpful. If you're an active listener, you internalize it, sleep on it, wake up the next day with a fresh perspective, there might be something there, that then you can go attribute some credit to that person who seeded that idea to you. Rising tide lifts all boats. So, why wouldn't we try to at least be open to that. Frankly, easier said than done. Right? It has to hit true in all aspects of our life, not just work. That's a question for the ages, I'd imagine.
Stephanie Cox: It really is. It made me think of something else, this idea that I'm hearing your feedback, and you're pointing out something, like we already know, where we have a plan to fix. How do you, in those situations, respond to it without it coming across as defensive, when in reality, you're trying to explain to them, " Thanks for the feedback. We're already aware. Here is the plan to fix it?" You're almost trying to educate, but I think sometimes when... I've seen other people do that. They're like, " Oh, they're being defensive." I'm like, " Well, they're also just trying to let you know that this is a known issue." How have you handled those situations in the past?
Leslie Bloom: At our company, we're not super huge. So, it's easy to communicate across teams right now, or internally with all groups. It's definitely to at least provide a little bit of background or education to that person who raised the point of how you reach the conclusion of what's out there that's receiving feedback. Because I think sometimes that can then become a two way conversation of not only saying, " Hey, we didn't just randomly do this thing. We're thinking through the decisions that we make, even the smallest ones, someone has a thought process behind it. Here's maybe where we diverged, and where your feedback would have come into play, or was mentioned, and we took the right turn instead of the left turn," or something. While also trying to be authentic and say, " Hey, listen. Trust us. We're the marketing org. We think about these things in a different way, because it's our area of specialization. We understand the audiences in these different ways." It would be a lot harder if it really was just a gut call, which we all have to make sometimes. That's where I don't think I would be able to have a really solid answer. But I welcome any thoughts from you, if you might have had a similar experience, and something to learn from that.
Stephanie Cox: Well, sometimes my gut response that I say quietly inside my head is, " I mean, because I know what I'm doing." I don't say that out loud. I mean, because I've done this for a long time. Yeah. I mean, for me, I think it, a lot of times, is I've just realized over the years it's so important to, when someone gives you feedback, understand what the goal of their feedback is. Right? Some people just need to be heard.
Leslie Bloom: Totally.
Stephanie Cox: They don't expect you to do anything with it. Right? But they want to know that they contribute to the process. Whereas, other people want to put their fingerprints on it. They need you to hear what they say, and even if you disagree with 100% of it, you take some aspect of it and use it to influence it, because that's how they drive value, or receive value. Especially, I think, at the senior leadership level. So, that's how I've really handled it in the past. But there have been times, too, where... Some of my listeners have heard me say this before, where I know I'm 100% right, because I've done this a long time. I'm like, " Oh, that's an interesting idea," which people who know me real well go, " When Stephanie says that's an interesting idea, it's not an interesting idea. It really isn't."
Leslie Bloom: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: But I'm about to humor you. Typically, what I'll do is I'll say, " Okay, well, let's test that out. Let's test out what you want us to test." Because I know right now it's opinion. I know I can put data behind it, and I'm pretty confident that I know what the answer will be. So, a lot of times I'll say, " Let's run a test between what I'm thinking and what you're thinking. Let's see what the data shows us. If I'm wrong, let's do what you're thinking." Most of the time I'm not, but occasionally I am, and I'm just like, " Awesome. Great idea. Let's look at that implemented." That's how I've handled it. Now, I know in your situation, in the company you're at today, you're selling to manufacturers, and you have no experience as a manufacturer, or selling to manufacturers prior to this role. So, there's a lot of opportunity, probably, for feedback to you on so many different levels. How do you think about trying to figure out how to sell to an audience that you've never been in their shoes, really at all?
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. So, I think this really does dovetail to accepting that feedback from other people, because when you have a challenge like that, where you're flying blind at first here, and there's a lot of self education that has to happen, to whatever industry that's totally fresh to you. You really have to humble yourself. You really have to say, " I don't know squat. I need to learn. There's people here, maybe, at my organization, maybe there are CSMs, maybe there are AEs, who have had conversations with folks in that industry that they can share with me. So, I have to really welcome that feedback," and, like I said, actively listen to it. Because it's going to help me do my job a lot better than if I just went out into the world and tried to do it myself. Why wouldn't I try to leverage this internal brain trust that I have right in front of me, who we have shared collective goals? Why wouldn't we work together here to try to accomplish this? Why would I start trying to read industry reports, or whatever, just start Googling, when I can call someone up? Well, we are remote now. So, Slack them, or call them up, get on a Zoom call to talk about these things. Previously, in office, just walk over 10 feet to their desk and ask them for an hour of their time, or whatever. That's been really eyeopening for me, in terms of cross departmental functions and relationship building. Because once I was able to come into the org and ask those folks to share their experiences and any stories with me, it really opened the door to accept that feedback that we're talking about, that we might not want all the time. But it also has provided an avenue for me to provide feedback in that way, and just have stronger relationships with more people across the organization, that I didn't really expect. I like working with people. I like being a part of a team. That's like a side effect of getting to know the industry and its challenges. But it's been a boon, as well.
Stephanie Cox: So, when you first took this role, what were you thinking around how you best prepare, just even starting out, to sell something to someone, where you haven't done that before? Because I think a lot of times, by nature, a lot of marketers, and even just really any business professional, we want to do something that we've done before, or at least a large portion of it enough where we can come in and kick ass right away. So, in this situation, obviously, you've done marketing before successfully. Did you have any fear that was going to translate to this new industry? How you would get up to speed, and prove that you were the right hire quickly, and have those quick wins that so many of us seem desperate to have when we start new roles?
Leslie Bloom: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: Tell me a little bit about what that was like for you.
Leslie Bloom: So, that was, I think, some of what led me to become a bit of a reformed control freak. Letting go a little bit and knowing, " Hey, I'm going to fail along the way here." Our product, I didn't really know what we were building even, because my peers on the product side of the organization were also going through the learning process of what do manufacturers and industrial companies need? What challenges are they solving? So, I'm not going to fail alone though. I'm grateful that I work under leadership and in a culture where that's not the end all, be all. You're not going to get canned because you failed early on a couple of times. What am I trying to say here? It really was about giving yourself the grace to try something, and that's where you have to get something out there, like you said, and test it, and see what happens, and learn from it, and improve. So, you're just taking these baby steps until you can really start to feel that momentum behind you, and then one day it pretty much was this light bulb idea of, " Holy cow. No one that's selling to manufacturers in this software space is really, truly doing content based inbound marketing." We can win here very quickly and very easily, because we failed the few steps along the way. I inherited, pretty much, an event driven, trade show attendance... Probably 90% of our marketing and sales funnel was driven by trade shows. So, I just was putzing along in that framework for quite a while, in the back of my head knowing, " This is not sustainable. We can't do this forever." Then once that, " Let's do inbound," learning about our potential competitors, " No one's doing this. Let's go there," we were off like a rocket, which was fantastic. But that was because I let myself fail in learning how to talk to those people, what they cared about, what influenced any of their decisions at all in the manufacturing world.
Stephanie Cox: Well, one of the things that I just thought of when you were talking was this idea of failure, and how no one fails alone. I think it's such a powerful message. A lot of times, we all think that if we screw something up, or we don't do it the way it's supposed to be, or we don't get the results that we were hoping to get, we're the failure. But in reality, you're not alone. Right? Unless, I guess, maybe you're a consultant, and you're doing it by yourself completely.
Leslie Bloom: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: Right?
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: You work as a team. There are other people that have contributed to the idea, that were part of the process. So, your failure is absorbed by everyone, and ultimately impacts the business, not just you. I think sometimes separating yourself and saying, " I didn't fail. We failed. That's okay, because we're going to learn from it and move on," versus, " I failed," and taking that all and internalizing it. I think it's so hard for people sometimes to recover from. crosstalk Especially early on in their career.
Leslie Bloom: Totally. I think that when that whole concept of, " We don't fail alone," there's probably a fine line where you're not becoming a finger pointer. You're just like, " Well, this wasn't just me. Everybody else is going down with me," type of approach. That's certainly not what either of us would be advocating for. Right? Some of it's going to come down to the personalities at play. Right? Like most things do. You might have a really ego driven leader that you have to work for, who is going to pile it all onto you, which would be tough to work under for a long time. We've all had bosses like that. I know.
Stephanie Cox: Yes. I think the next thing that would be really interesting to talk about is around teams. Right? So, I know that you, obviously, manage a team and care a lot about your team. So, I'd love to talk about, as you think about getting feedback from your team, as you think about leading them, how do you structure a team to be successful, and really able to deal with these constant changes, and wins, and failures that you have? Especially as you scale a company.
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. We all have these challenges. I think one really easy place to start, and that I've learned a lot from, is just how I run one- on- ones with my teams, my direct reports. So, what is that time for? I've worked for people where I get the ear, the undivided attention of my manager for, whatever, an hour a week, an hour every week and a half, and he's not giving me his attention. He's on his computer multitasking, because he's got a million things on his place, and I'm frustrated because I'm trying to do a good job and get feedback from him of how to do better, where we need to improve. But he won't give me, frankly, the time of day. So, that's a pretty easy place to start. If you're going to have a one- on- one with a member of your team, focus on the one- on- one. Don't try to multitask and use it as a time to answer your emails, or respond to Slack messages and stuff. Because, frankly, I just think that's disrespectful. It's always helpful to put yourself in the other person's shoes. How would you perceive something like that? Then what do you talk about in the one- on- ones? I think it's really tempting to use that undivided time to just do status updates, talk about performance, maybe what they're doing wrong, or missteps, or what you want them to do in the future. In our one- on- ones with my team, we probably spend the first quarter of that time just shooting the breeze, building that rapport, getting to know each other. It's not just one way, getting to understand them and their interests, maybe what they are all about as a person, but I share that about myself, as well. So, really being authentic, I think, builds a really strong rapport, two way trust between the two of you, so that if they do have a problem, or a challenge, or something, you don't want them to withhold that. You want them to tell you, so you can resolve it, so they can do a better job. A big thing that you can learn in those conversations is what motivates them. There's tactical ways of doing that. Not, " What motivates you?" Some people, it's money. Some people, it's responsibility and growth within that organization. For some people, it's just doing cool stuff, being experimental, or having a leeway to have 10% time or something, where 10% of their time is spent learning something different that might be able to be applied to the organization, in a different capacity or something. I think that this is a huge topic. Right? Managing your people. But it really just comes down to building a rapport and being authentic with them, so they see you as a person and not just a boss.
Stephanie Cox: Well, that's why I think if you do a good job with that, people want to work for you for multiple years at different companies. When you go somewhere else, they follow you, which, to me, is the best definition of a good leader.
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. I haven't had the privilege of being able to move to a different role, like take my people with me type of thing, but yeah, that would be great. Of course. Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: Well, it was interesting when you were talking about one- on- ones and focusing your time. I think we have similar approaches. I tell my team, " Our one- on- one is your time."
Leslie Bloom: 100%.
Stephanie Cox: We talk about what you want to talk about. Right?
Leslie Bloom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Stephanie Cox: Because I'm going to give you realtime feedback on your performance. Whenever you've done things really well, or when there's areas for improvement, I'm going to see... If I have a question about a status report on a project, I'm going to look on our project management tool, and if not, I'm going to Slack you and ask. Right? But this is the time for you to talk to me about what matters to you. That might be, " Hey, I need you to answer these questions." It might be, " Do you want to talk about your career? What's next?" We want to talk about why was this decision made, and help me understand the things that you thought about when you made it. Right? I want to learn better. To me, it's always what matters to you? I think the other thing is I've been that person, and this happened to me, actually, in a one-on-one this week. Personal quick story, my stepfather was in a really bad accident. He fell 23 feet a couple of weeks ago. I never answer my phone during meetings. My mom usually doesn't call during the day, but she called, and I didn't answer. I was like, " Oh, that's weird." Then when I did listen to her voicemail, there, obviously, was very much an emergency. Since that happened, she'll call me during the day. My reaction when I see her number pop up on my screen or on my watch, and I'm talking to someone on video, my whole team knows. I'll be like, " I'm really, really, really sorry, but I need to pause for one second and make sure that there is not another emergency with my family right now."
Leslie Bloom: Totally.
Stephanie Cox: Or there've been times... We're a software company. There is a legit emergency. I don't try and continue what I'm doing and pretend like I'm paying attention. I'll say, " Hold on for one second. I am very, very sorry, but I need to respond to this. Because it literally cannot wait." Otherwise, I don't try and multitask while I'm on a call with someone, that is a one- on- one, because I feel like, to your point, people just hate it. They know you're not engaged. I think sometimes, too, and I don't know if everyone else is feeling this way or not, but I use a webcam for Zoom. It's on top of my big widescreen monitor. So, it looks down. So, I'm always wondering, " Does it look like I'm looking at the camera? Because I'm looking at your video, which is not... My eye contact is not the same place as my camera is, but where I can see you. I'm highly engaged, and I hope you know that." These are all my inner thoughts.
Leslie Bloom: Let's be real. Everyone's looking at their own video when they're on a Zoom meeting.
Stephanie Cox: I know.
Leslie Bloom: Right? I mean crosstalk
Stephanie Cox: I know we're not supposed to, but I can't turn it off.
Leslie Bloom: I know! Yeah. Well, I think what you mentioned there about saying, " I'm so sorry I have to do this," is a form of being authentic. You're not trying to answer a text message or whatever at the same time. Just a time out real quick. Is your stepfather okay?
Stephanie Cox: Right. Oh, yes. He is. Well, yes.
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. For real. I hope he's doing okay. Because that sounds tough.
Stephanie Cox: It was definitely rough. Well, it is. I think I'm on a heightened sense of alert, because it was rough. My parents have 128 acres. When he fell, my mom wasn't home. Thankfully, he didn't hit his head. So, he was able to call 9-1-1. They had to send out search and rescue, and keep pinging his phone to find him. It took them 90 minutes to find him. He broke both of his legs.
Leslie Bloom: Oh my God. Wow.
Stephanie Cox: Ribs. All kinds of stuff. Very, very lucky to be alive. They talk about that sense of fear or worry. I'm not normally that way, but now every time my mom calls me, I have this sense of, " Oh, God. I hope everything's okay." I think, eventually, that will go away. Probably once he is able to come home from the hospital and stuff. She did that to me today, and I was on a one- on- one with someone. I'm like, " I am so, so sorry. I need to answer this, because I don't know what's going on."
Leslie Bloom: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: This is the funny part of it now. My mom is calling me today, because now she's been conditioned over the past couple of weeks that I'll answer my phone every time she calls. So, she's calling to ask me about the things she needs to get before my stepdad can come home from the hospital, and where she should get it. I'm like, "Can you just send me a picture of what you need? I will just order it and have it sent to your house. I can't talk to you right now." Right? Then yesterday when she called me, and I wasn't in a meeting, but it was during the middle of the day, she actually really did need me for something super important. So, it's this weird situation now where I'm conditioned to answer my phone now when I see her number come up, no matter what's going on. Now, because I do that, she's been conditioned that she can call me during all times of the day. Whereas, before this, if she did that, I would have been like, " Mom, you know I have a job."
Leslie Bloom: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: "I know you're retired..."
Leslie Bloom: "I can't just chat in the middle of the day." Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: Correct. I'm working. " Well, you're working at home." " I know, but I'm actually working more than I was in the office."
Leslie Bloom: Now I feel like we've pivoted into a therapy session. So, yeah. Lay back on the couch. Yeah. Tell me more about how your mom is calling you at work at all hours, and how you set boundaries with your mom.
Stephanie Cox: Right? If anyone has any solutions, let me know.
Leslie Bloom: Yeah. I think that should be your next podcast for sure. Marketing therapy. Something like that.
Stephanie Cox: Right? Ugh. Yeah. It's fun. Right? Back to your point about being authentic, we're all people, and we're all dealing with these situations, both personally and professionally, and trying to do the best. I think sometimes if you just tell your team, " Here's what I'm dealing with," or... I try and be as transparent as I can, especially with company decisions. There's things, obviously, I can't tell them, but as much as I can, I try to, because, one, I want them to learn why a decision was made, what we considered, but then, also, because I just find the more open and upfront I am about things, the more trust, I think, I get. Also, they understand sometimes hard decisions are made, and they're not easy. Sometimes decisions that seem easy should have been a lot harder, and there should have been more thought into it. I try and help, especially managing a young team, and share as much of that as possible, because it's surprising how much every single interaction you have with a leader will influence the rest of your life, from a career standpoint.
Leslie Bloom: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I'm right there with you. Being as transparent as you're allowed to be, you said you can't share everything. I think when you do that, you provide a level of empowerment to people to feel like they're involved in that destiny that we're all trying to work towards, because they know the map. Whereas, if you are just doing your job every single day, and you've got your performance metrics that you're trying to hit, that we go through the motions of, but there's no sharing of that larger context for the company. It doesn't mean as much. It's not as motivating, maybe? You feel like you're in a vacuum, especially now that most of us are all working from home. It's even harder to feel like you're part of something bigger. We all, I think, at some level, want to feel that way. If you can do that, those folks since nod their heads along, and you say, "Okay. Okay. Cool. Yeah. I can impact that. I have purpose." That can be a huge motivator for people. Like you said, forever and ever.
Stephanie Cox: Exactly. Forever and ever.
Leslie Bloom: Mm- hmm.
Stephanie Cox: This is for all of my fellow type A personalities that strive for perfection and love control. We all need to be a little bit more like Elsa and just let it go. Perfection is overrated. Trust me on this one. Marketing and life is a lot more enjoyable when you stop trying to be perfect and control everything. You've been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review our podcast. Don't forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness shouldn't be kept a secret.