Stop Being an Order Taker

Episode #047: Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights, Salesforce

Most of the episodes on Mobile Matters so far have been focused on hearing from B2C marketing and tech leaders so it was time we hear from a few B2B marketing rockstars. And Mathew Sweezey definitely fits that definition. He’s currently the Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce.com, author, podcast host, multiple award-winning marketer, pioneer of the marketing automation space, and regarded as one of the top minds on the future of Marketing. In this episode of Mobile Matters, we talk to Mathew about how frustrating it is when everyone seems to have an opinion on marketing, why marketers need to stop being order takers, and how he’s been able to find valuable mentors throughout his career.

Stephanie's Strong Opinions

  1. Everyone has an opinion about marketing no matter their expertise. Learn how to respectfully push back and use data to prove your point. 
  2. There is so much marketers can learn from each other. We all need to start sharing with each other more. No one is an expert at everything.
  3. Embrace failure. You’re going to fail at marketing a lot in your career. Learn from it and adapt quickly.

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Episode Transcription

Stephanie Cox: I’m Stephanie Cox and this is Mobile Matters. Today, I’m joined again by Matthew Swayze. Matthew is the Principal Marketing Insights for Salesforce.com, author, podcast host, multiple award-winning marketer, pioneer of the marketing automation space, and regarded as one of the top minds on the future of marketing. In this episode, Matthew and I talk a lot about how frustrating it can be when everyone in your company has their own opinion on marketing, why you need to stop being an order-taker, and how he has the detail prices for finding mentors. And make sure you stick around until the end, where I’ll give my recap and top takeaways so that you can not only think about marketing differently but implemented effectively. Welcome to the show Matthew.

Stephanie Cox: Well when the things I was thinking about when you were talking about all this was how much of it is also because every executive thinks they know marketing too. So how many others, like I don’t go to the CFO and tell them how to do the books.  

Matthew Swayze: And once again, the reason I believe that’s the case where that’s not the case for other industries, for other departments, and here’s the reason why I think that’s the case. We are the only profession where our product is seen by everyone and everyone has an opinion on its effectiveness because every person sees an ad.  So you know, the one the company I helped start and I have had to walk away from because they had a radically different idea of what marketing was, and to your exact point…all of them were telling me what we should be doing, and I’m like no that’s a horrible idea. We see other people doing it. Exactly to the point before,  because they see these things they believe they know what’s effective and they want to tell us what to do. We just become their arts and crafts department, rather than actually intelligent people who are experts in the field. This is why I feel the doctors after WebMD kind of felt the same. Everyone is coming to us, telling us what’s wrong with them and how to fix it. 

Stephanie Cox: Well, and one of the things that’s so fascinating about it is, I’m like especially early on in your career, you take all of that because you think of someone higher up in the organization, I should take all of that feedback and I should listen to it and like I’m not saying you shouldn’t but the same token it took me a couple of years to realize I have to ask like, “Why do you think that way? What’s causing you to do that? Is it like your own personal opinion? Is it because you don’t like it? Is it because you saw a competitor do it? Is it because someone else was doing it and it was really successful, but you can provide me like no numbers know nothing about it. And you’d like for us to go ahead and do it and then when it’s not successful, you’re going to be mad? Great. That sounds like I mean, sure let’s go do that.”

Matthew Swayze: Yes it if we knew that was the case, none of us would have thought this career was as sexy. I mean, when I was a kid, we wanted to be brand leaders,  like Coca-Cola and these creative things because we think it’s like glorious and fun rockstar life. And then we really get into this house. So I’m just someone else’s whip and post, I’m just their errand boy and a more fancy clothes is pretty much what it comes down to sometimes.

Stephanie Cox: Well, and that’s why I think it’s important, to your point earlier is to figure how you impact the balance sheet and to really question why you’re doing what you’re doing and if that’s what you should be doing. 

Matthew Swayze: Yeah, and there’s some other specific ways we can get around this. This is a problem, let’s just talk about it for a second. This is a problem we all face.  Everyone faces this problem so let’s just talk about some solutions that we can use the past it. I think what you just said was a great easy one. Tell me why you feel that way. Tell me where this idea comes from…tell me so it helps me understand better. And I think that’s a phenomenal response, and I’ve never used that..I’m going to start using that because I think that’s so empowering for us.

I think a second is this idea of testing. We should not argue about creative. We live in a world where tests are easy, they’re cheap and they’re instantaneous with instantaneous feedback. So we should move to a testing culture. What that means is we need to think about a couple of specific things. So one of the larger things that I’ve been a big proponent of is this idea of a stretch budget, which essentially operates like a line of credit. If anyone’s ever taken out of line of credit personally or with a business, there are a couple of specific things that happen. First off, you have to negotiate the credit upfront. Right, so there needs to be a meeting with executives or your boss or whoever, to say “Hey, listen, we look at marketing dollars as investments, right?” They are going to say, “Yes.” if we are able to prove a tactic that has a phenomenal return, can we set aside a preset budget to double down and invest further in that thing that got us a phenomenal win, right? We already know what is a great return, can we double on that and double down.” So they say, “Sure, we need to set up a budget to take 10, 20, 50, whatever your budget can allow for, and set that aside and call that the stretch budget fund. 

Then when you run a campaign, you know, you need, well going back to the prior conversation. What will it take to access that budget? And so maybe it’s 50% over goals. So if you really campaign that produces better than 50% results over the goal that automatically opens up the stretch budget.  So now you can take that money to whatever you did that was different and double down in that tactic to build out another internal case study to make your case. And then the final piece is that you don’t take all of that money at once. You take a predetermined portion of that, right. So maybe it’s a tenth, maybe it’s a fifth, or maybe 20 percent, or maybe it’s negotiable each time…these are all conversations, but the plan is you’ve got to have the conversations upfront to set that aside you got to make sure that there are defined find ways to access it and then that helps get you into that testing mentality. It helps get that business…starting the testing, seeing the value of testing and as well as then produces for you two case study points that you can use when you go back annual budget meeting next time is that, “Hey, we’re asking for more budget. Here’s what we’ve been able to do with that budget already, here is we can think we’ll be able to do with that a larger scale.” So I think, that’s a larger, you know, way to kind of proved it out. But that’s another way of seeing that works very well and get these ideas tested…and then I think we also have to then make sure that if our executives are giving us a list of all the ideas, that we agree with them and say “I’ll test drive whatever you want, but we are going to follow what data shows what the data says. But we’ll test drive it, we will put $10 behind it…throw a Facebook ad up. If it works, we will continue.  If not, please don’t come back to that idea.

Stephanie Cox: Well, that’s what I did, for at least a long time in my career. You know if you have an idea, I’m happy to test it and to see what happens. But I’m going to test your idea, and I’m going to test if I were to do this how I would do it and we are going to test it against each other, see what happens because otherwise I’ve gotten in situations where you test an idea without anything else to compare it to or how you would do it differently and it maybe it works initially like a little bit and then we go we should double down on this and then you realize well to your point earlier picked up some of those low-hanging fruit and now it doesn’t work and we just double down an idea that I didn’t think was a good idea, to begin with but I didn’t stand up and say well if we’re going to try this channel, we should do it this way. I just kind of took an order and created the apple pie they wanted and delivered it. And then people were surprised when it was like a peach pie. 

Matthew Swayze: I mean I think you also hit on something that I’ve had to realize in my career and you’ve obviously realized in yours, it takes a while until you get a comfort level of being able to say these things to people inside your organization. Like you’re going to have to act like….well I guess a person fresh out of school is not going to, in my opinion, is not going to be able to say these things because they aren’t going to feel comfortable saying these things. They are probably going to rely on everyone else. You know, so I guess a good question is like when what does it take to get that comfortable to be able to say these things? Like what is it get? What does it take us like do we have to have successes under our belt? Do we have to…I mean what does it take? I’m an author of multiple books and sometimes I don’t even feel like that I am able to say some of these things to people. It’s tough. 

Stephanie Cox: It is tough. I think part of it is for me like something I struggle with too, well it’s almost like imposter syndrome right, like I know I’m good at it but then I question well, why do I have the right to do this and say this. I think what is been really helpful for me is I just realized how many times have I done things in my career because someone else gave me the order to go do it and I knew it wasn’t the right thing, especially early on. And how many times did that frustrate me and I did not speak up and it did not work and everyone was surprised when I knew from the very beginning it wasn’t going and what I started at least doing it was realizing and just accepting like there are things I am very good at and there are things I’m not as experienced in but if I’m if it’s something I know that I have confidence in,  then I’m going to speak up and I’m going to share it and I’m doing a super like respectful way which is part of the reason why I asked when someone brings me an idea, I’d like to tell me more about like why you’re thinking this way, where did it come from to get some of those insights and stop saying like which is sometimes in my head, I’m like, “That’s a dumb idea we should not do that.” But I want to know more of like what are they really trying to convey because a lot of times it’s not always like run this ad or why aren’t we doing this, why aren’t we at the show? It’s really like something that’s more, like a higher-level concept and then I can say well, you know, we could do that or what you’re saying is really we should be thinking about potentially doing X, Y, or Z. 

It’s just kind of like if you approach it in a really respectful way., once you start to feel confident about your own experience and you’ve proven out that you know, you know what you’re doing, which is the big key.  When there’s like a trust factor. So when I push back on something, people trust that I know what I’m doing. And there’s not like years of experience with that, for me at least personally I’ve gotten that way on different topics and at different points in my career. So, it’s hard, even today sometimes I’m like, “Oh, why would I share my thoughts on this like on social media?” And then I talk to other people like I’ll have coffee with other people and they say, “Oh, you really should talk about this more.” And I’m like, this is what I do. II never felt like I was good at like necessarily like good at it enough to share it with people until I have those conversations.

Matthew Swayze: Yeah, I 100 percent agree. 

Stephanie Cox: And there’s just so much we can learn from each other and I think part of it… 

Matthew Swayze: Yes! You hit it on the head right! So, I’ve started these things called office hours. 

Stephanie Cox: Yes, I know! I love them. I haven’t been to one, but I need to come. I saw that you started a couple of weeks ago maybe? Or has it been longer than that?

Matthew Swayze: It’s been around three weeks. Don’t everyone jump on…it might flood it., The point is…well this is kind where it all started right? So during my first startup, I back to the exact point you just made right? I’m very good at specific things that like sales and marketing but I didn’t know anything about you know, growing business, technology, you know, all the other aspects that start-up has to have.  And so I said, “All right, well..” I think I was twenty-five at the time, right, “So here’s what I need to do. I need to find a group of people that are smarter than me that can help at all those things. I created this thing called the Gang of Five. It was actually eight people, but you know we just like things that sound cool. 

Stephanie Cox: We like cool names!

Matthew Swayze: Yeah, we like cool names. So we created the Gang of Five…and you know, everyone had different expertise and were all in Atlanta and we would meet every Friday at 11 at the Starbucks on 10th and Piedmont in Atlanta and it was essentially free consulting for each of us because we would all work together and everyone had amazing insights that just helped everyone in immense ways and we are all better because of it. So I started these office hours and you know, if you get on one you’ll notice the first thing I’m trying to say is this is a conversation between all of us. We all have insights and intelligence to share. You know this is not a “Ask me. I’m your Guru,” session. You know, this is a let’s just all work these things out together and we just take topics as they come, and I propose questions just as much as other people propose questions and it’s just ask and answer and it’s so refreshing when you start to learn from each other in these collaborative ways and you realize everyone is got something to add, you know, whether it’s a new tool you never heard of whether it’s an example of what they were doing, a fresh perspective, but you need to take on an existing idea. There are just so many ways we can learn from each other. 

And once again, people are self-selecting into that. So if you’re wanting to learn, then you’re already probably in that mindset of you’ve been doing a lot of learning, which is cool you get to work alongside those kind of people.

Stephanie Cox: Exactly, and that’s why I like one of my own personal rants is like, how are you people share images like on LinkedIn or conference presentations of their tech stacks and I’m like, that’s awesome. Except you just basically told me how much you spend on technology. You didn’t tell me exactly like how you use any of it, how many people are in your team that are required to do at what your strategy is. Like that’s not helpful except now someone else just saw a successful company uses this platform and now things they should buy it.

Matthew Swayze: Yeah.

Stephanie Cox: That’s where for me it’s like what’s more helpful is for me, for you to tell me, “Oh, here’s who I use for my video and let me tell you why I use them, how many people it takes to run that, what it was like to get it up and running, and what my strategy is behind that. it how much time it takes,” like that is actually helpful to people. So I wish we could do more of that. I wish people would be more willing to do more of that and stop acting like what they’re doing is like the secret..secret recipe that they can’t share with anyone else.

So this was a great conversation. I would love to know if I’m starting out my career like fresh out of school….I’m super fired up about marketing, what would you tell someone that they should be thinking about or doing or how do they be successful overall? Like I know you talked about learning a lot. But is there anything that you would suggest they should think about? 

Matthew Swayze: Yeah, so you probably have to think about right. So let’s talk more about like life advice rather than marketing advice on this one. So there are two things I think that you have to do if you really want to be successful. One is you have to be a constant learner, and that means constantly learning…however you want to do that, whether that means listening to your favorite podcast within the means, reading authors, whether that means, you know reading blogs, going to events,  it needs to be a standard and normal part of your every day. And then let me give you a really clear example of how this plays out and how a few people do this. 

Like when we were hitting rocket ship growth at Parot, right? We’re interviewing so many people cuz we’re growing so fast and one of the questions that we would ask during the interview was what did you want to be great at…what did you really in life. And people would give you all kinds of things. They wanted to be an Olympic athlete, whatever it was, it didn’t matter. The follow-up question was, “What did you do to do that? Tell me the process you went through to be great at that.” And you’ll find out really quickly in what people’s actual level of want is right if they say I want to be X, yet they never practiced yet. They never went to any events. They never got a coach. They never did any of these things right there. They have an idea that they want to be good, but they don’t understand what it takes to be good. And so who we would hire are the people who actually would give us exactly what they did and had very detailed processes. So it’s people like, you know, I read this book, called this author, went to these events, am apart of these communities… people that are active and learning and moving themselves forward. 

The second is you’re going to have to get a mentor. You need to have someone on your side to give you personal direction and be able to help you and help guide you through these things. Mentors have been one of the biggest factors of how things have been awesome in my life. I’ve got a very specific process of how I find a mentor, what I do with them of how I get things, that’s not important. What’s important is that you realize that you need to learn in multiple ways and that you are active in learning in these multiple ways. 

And number two is expand your idea of where you’re going to find learnings from. You’re going to realize really quickly you can only read so many marketing books until you hear the same thing over and over and over. You can only read the same business management books until you hear the same thing over and over again.

Stephanie Cox: There are so many great insights from my conversation with Matthew that can really help transform how you think about marketing. Let’s drive in my top three takeaways. First, you may think it’s crazy to give your CFO advice on how to do their job, but don’t be surprised, if everyone your company finds it completely acceptable to tell you how to do yours. We’ve all been there and it’s frustrating as hell. I wish I could tell you how to make this not happen, but I haven’t found the Magic Bullet yet and I honestly don’t think there is one…but you can better control it. So stop being an order-taker and start being the Kick-Ass marketer you are. Start asking “Why” when they think you should do something different. You need to find out what’s driving their comment, then and you need willing to test everything. I’m a huge proponent of testing ideas that others in the organization bring to me. I’ll test them against what I think we should do instead and let the data prove what’s the best strategy. There is no reason why you can’t rely on data to drive results. And you need to get comfortable with pushing back. Earlier in your career, it’s going to be harder…I get it, but some point you need to learn how to respectfully push back. You’re the marketing expert. You know what you’re doing… don’t forget that. 

Next, there’s so much marketers can learn from other marketers. I wish more people were willing to share what works for them and what doesn’t.  It’s not a secret recipe because what works for you may not work the same for me and my industry and that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from it. So I’m putting it out there if you have any questions about what I do in marketing, just ask…I’m happy to share any time.

Finally, one thing about marketing that I think some marketers often forget, is that part of marketing is learning how to deal with failure. Nothing you do as a marketer will always work, you will fail. Sometimes it’ll be a small failure like sending an email with a misspelling and other times it will be an epic failure. You need to learn how to deal with failure, how to learn from it, and how to move on from it. Now here’s my marketing challenge for the week: make a list of 5 marketers or other leaders you want to learn from. Do your research and creatively reach out to them with a detailed reason why you want to have them as a mentor and what you want them to teach you. All of them likely aren’t going to say yes, but you’ll never know unless you try.

I’m Stephanie Cox and you’ve been listening to Mobile Matters. If you haven’t yet, be sure to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. Until then be sure to visit Lumavate.com and subscribe to get more access to thought leaders, best practices and all things mobile.