In the episode, ‘’The People Part of Leading Marketing: Employee Development and Organizational Competency’’, Brandi Starr was joined by Maija Hurst, a marketing strategist who has worked for big-name brands such as REI and LG to leverage data...
In the episode, ‘’The People Part of Leading Marketing: Employee Development and Organizational Competency’’, Brandi Starr was joined by Maija Hurst, a marketing strategist who has worked for big-name brands such as REI and LG to leverage data driven insights to evangelize purposeful marketing content.
In this episode, Maija discusses the importance of nurturing employees, offering advice such as including your fresh-out-of-college intern leadership meetings. Why? Because, the more you invest in your employees, the more likely it is they’ll stick around, grow, and make great strides for themselves, their team, and their organization - providing a win-win for everyone involved.
Emphasizing the importance of investing time and effort in helping new employees grow, Maija believes that a culture of learning is a crucial first step in fostering an environment of enablement. Maija also discusses the importance of prioritizing soft skills over hard skills, as well as resiliency, agility, and a positive, can-do-attitude. Maija talks passionately about how, although revenue, metrics, and KPIs will also be important, at the end of the day, its people, relationships, and legacy are the most important - both in marketing, in business, and in life.
Filled with solid advice around relationship building, people management, and what really matters in marketing, we guarantee that you will get so many gems of wisdom from listening to this episode!
Focus on relationship building to better your company culture. This can be simple: take some time, stop by and say, ‘’hey, how's it going?’’. Talk to your people, shoot them a slack, and offer them some help. You’ll be surprised at how encouraging these simple acts are.
The term ‘’disruption ’’, because as Maija points out, it does not have a positive connotation. When you look at job descriptions, or a lot of startups, they're really clinging to this buzzword of disruption, but as Maija discusses, marketers should create less disruption, less friction and focus on relationship-building with customers.
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Welcome to Revenue Rehab, your one stop destination for collective solutions to the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders today. Now head on over to the couch, make yourself comfortable and get ready to change the way you approach revenue. Leading your recovery is modern marketer, author, speaker and Chief Operating Officer at Tegrita, Brandi Starr.
[0:34] Brandi Starr:
Hello, hello, hello and welcome to another episode of Revenue Rehab. I am your host, Brandi Starr and we have an amazing episode for you today. I am joined by Maija Hurst, she is a marketing strategist who has been in the trenches working for brands such as REI and LG to leverage data driven insights to evangelize purposeful marketing content. Maija is also a connector and loves to find ways to make things work by connecting all the dots and the right people. With two decades of marketing Moxie, Maija works to make impactful and lasting connections between brands and their audiences. Most of all, Maija is a firm believer in the power of listening more than talking, collaboration and community. Her team and the individuals we are trying to reach through storytelling are always top of mind and at the heart of what she does. And in addition to being this amazing person, Maija is also a good friend of mine. Maija, welcome to Revenue Rehab, your session begins now.
[01:51] Maija Hurst:
Hi Brandi! I'm so happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me and I'm ready to dig in. Get the media going.
[02:00] Brandi Starr:
Yes, I am excited to have you. And we are talking about one of my favorite topics, which is the people that are in marketing. But before we get there, I like to have a little icebreaker or whoosah moment that I like to call buzzword banishment. So tell me Maija, what buzzword do you hate and wish people would stop saying.
[02:22] Maija Hurst:
Disruption Brandi, I can't ignore disruption.
[02:27] Brandi Starr:
I was going to say, disruption as in my kid who walks in here every few minutes.
[2:34] Maija Hurst:
That's exactly it, it does not have a positive connotation. But if you look at job descriptions, or a lot of startups out there, they're really clinging to this buzzword of disruption, when really what we want to do for our customers as marketers is create less disruption, less friction and bring them in the way that they want to come in and meet the brand. It's a relationship. And so as you know, as a mom, more disruption leads to more chaos. So we want to avoid that.
[03:09] Brandi Starr:
This is true, and you are so right, that there are so many brands who really take pride in being a disruptive brand, a disruption to the industry. And it's like you're saying you want to be problematic. It's like, that's not quite where you think you might want to be going. But I like that one. So we are going to put disruption in the box, we're going to throw away the key and we are not going to talk about that today.
[03:37] Maija Hurst:
Sounds good to me.
[03:39] Brandi Starr:
Awesome. So now that we've gotten that off our chests, tell me what brings you to Revenue Rehab today.
[03:47] Maija Hurst:
So as you mentioned, at the top of the show, I've been at it for a little while, and marketing. And really, what I find is the place that a lot of people trip up within a marketing org is having enough resources to do the work. And even if you have those resources, what it takes to really develop those resources into killer marketers. And so throughout my career, I've worked with people coming up in the marketing world, but then also managing up as a huge part of that too where you're really focused on educating the rest of the organization that isn't involved in marketing, into what marketing does and what our capabilities are and what our capabilities are not.
[04:36] Brandi Starr:
Yes, and that has come up quite a few times here at Revenue Rehab. I know when I talked to Christina in episode four, we talked a lot about having to communicate up and laterally around what marketing is doing, what we're up to, in order to have the right influence. And then summers also talked about in building the brand and bringing people along within the organization. In episode five, we talked about that same thing of having to communicate, having to pull things along. So excited to kind of tackle this from a different angle talking about the people. And I believe in setting intentions, it helps us to stay focused. And it also gives our audience and understanding of what we are going to cover today. So Maija What are your best hopes for today? Or what would you like to be different after our session?
[05:35] Maija Hurst:
I would really hope that the people at the leadership table would understand that if you're getting an entry level person or an intern into the marketing or that it won't necessarily reduce the workload, it may actually increase the workload.
[05:52] Brandi Starr:
And that is a great point. So thinking about our current climate in the marketplace, like we know it is an employee market right now, that employees are really dictating the hiring process, the salaries the way things look. And so a lot of marketing leaders, and really leaders across the board, are having to make the decision of do we hire at a lower, more entry level role, and conserve our human capital budget. You can hire a little bit less, you still want to pay a liveable wage, but less for someone earlier in their career, where you do have that trade off of having to invest more time in developing them, or do we hire someone more senior who comes in with all the skills, but we've got to spend more per head? Any thoughts on kind of how do people tackle that decision?
[6:54] Maija Hurst:
I think, it's definitely one that I've been part of for quite some time. And I think, either way, there's an investment in time that needs to happen. There's always an on ramp time. So to think you're going to hire a growth market or bring them on board and they're going to be ready to go within a couple of weeks is just not realistic. Because there's so many moving pieces of a product or the organization itself, that you just need to acclimate to, in order to do your job. And finding out the right person for the right piece of information takes time. And then also just understanding the culture of the organization. Wherever you came from, is obviously going to be different than where you are now. And how people communicate and share information is always going to be something that you need to figure out. So right now, I work with an intern and she's wonderful. But really, I want to keep her and I want to make sure that after she graduates, she still wants to work for me. And that takes a good amount of time on my part to make sure that she's comfortable in the role that she's in now and that she sees the value of staying with the organization long term. And then likewise, it's setting expectations with those that she interacts with within the organization that hey, just remember, this is someone who's still in college, this isn't a seasoned marketer. So things are going to take a little longer, it's going to take a little more investment on your part to get her to the point where she understands the message that you want to convey.
[08:36] Brandi Starr:
And I think you hit on two really key points there. I know, I can say, in my career history, I have not had the greatest luck with interns. And that's a different conversation for a different day. But we did bring on a marketing intern, she was in her last year of college. And when she graduated, we hired her and she's been with us, I think three, maybe four years now. I totally don't want to butcher her tenure, but it has been amazing. And if I just look back at the work and the level of guidance that she needed, when she started as an intern, or even when she was first hired on full time versus where she is now, gives me a little bit of pride as a manager in seeing that growth and the outcome of that investment. So, my first question related to that is, when you are leading marketing, you are constantly pulled in different directions. Any advice or even lessons learned around being able to invest that time in those that are early stage career in order to be able to give them what they need?
[09:56] Maija Hurst:
I would say involve them in as much as possible in the process. So for me, it might seem odd that she's sitting in on interviews, it might seem odd that she's sitting in, in leadership meetings. But all of that is giving her context to the work that she's doing. And so I think, the more you can involve them, and then we'll have side conversations. Last week, we just had a conversation about what it's like to fire someone. And that's a whole set of skills that you need to develop throughout your career. And I know the first time I had to fire someone, I had no clue. I sat in that room and then just felt sick. I didn't know what to say. I don't know that that actually ever goes away. But being able to handle that human to human connection, and understand that some things that happen in an organization are uncomfortable. And it's how you work through them, and how you persevere through them it brings you success. And so being someone that is relatable and as I said, someone that listens more than they talk is often a great skill coming out of the gate, because you're just a huge sponge when you're first out of school. And you're taking in all of this information, and just really understanding the organizational dynamics. The process for firing someone's different at different organizations, the process for hiring someone is different. So all of those intricacies and the people involved in those decisions to hire or add to, because it is an add to the budget, and how that impacts the budget, and then what that means in terms of a return on investment. All of those things are conversations that you can start having out of the gate with people don't feel like they're just out of school, they won't understand. The sooner you expose them to it, the sooner they do understand.
[12:03] Brandi Starr:
And that's a really great point, it's almost like attaching them at the hip and bringing them along into conversations and situations that they wouldn't normally have access to prepare them. It may be years before this person is in a role that they have to terminate someone or be the one to hire someone. But when they get there, they have that foundational understanding and even I mean, you're right, you never really get comfortable with letting someone go, but even that comfortability in, I know what I'm doing helps with that. I think the other thing that you hit on with your initial answer that is really key that I want to go back to, is the transparency across the organization around where someone is in their career. Because I do think, just human nature, we all are busy, we're all trying to get things done. Sometimes it is really easy to get frustrated or annoyed with someone. It's like, why are they getting it? Why are they asking me this again? Why are they asking so many questions? But creating that transparency to understand, to give that perspective of here is where this person is. And I know one thing that we've done, like transparency across our roles is a key part of our organization and like pay, and responsibilities, and levels, and all of that is, not public knowledge as in public, public but public across our organization. And we have published expectations at each role. We call them our core competencies or core contributions. So that every person, if I'm a level and there's four or five levels. If I'm a level two, and someone's a level four, I know what I should expect from them and vice versa. And so I think that perspective helps our people internally to really understand and receive people where they are and be able to work with them at their level. What have you seen on your side work well? I know you mentioned just having that conversation, but beyond just the one to one conversations, are there things that you have seen work well at scale, for helping people to really understand where people are and have that kind of transparency?
[14:35] Maija Hurst:
So what marketers do and I hope good marketers do, is really show the value to the person on the receiving end. And so similarly in this situation, you want to show if you invest time in this person, and it's selfish even on my part, I know that down the road that return on investment is going to pay off. So if I spend an hour right now running through how to segment HubSpot campaign and make sure that every step of the way that person understands those pieces, I know that down the road, when I ask her to do that she can just handle it. Upfront, it's a bigger investment in time. And so as I speak to our product teams or speak to the sales team, it's cultural too I think. It really is a culture of learning, and then also expecting feedback and giving feedback in a constructive way that we can all grow from. And that's even, for an intern to tell me, listen, what you're doing isn't helpful. Or you skipped, often just the way I'm wired, I'm 10 miles down the road and forgot to tell everyone I was leaving the house. So it's really about making sure that they're comfortable and that comes from asking that question, do you understand? Does that make sense?
[16:17] Brandi Starr:
Yes. And I do think it speaks to you, as a leader, when you have someone that reports to you or someone who is early in their career, who is comfortable pushing back and being able to say, look, this is not working for me or you're making my life more difficult. Because that can be really, really difficult for people to do. I mean, I know people who have been in their careers for quite some time, and they still struggle with being able to speak up and say that something that their direct superior or someone more senior to them, that what they're doing is just really not working.
[17:00] Maija Hurst:
As leaders too, we also have to set boundaries for ourselves. We're not your friend, we work together. I mean, you got to be friendly but oftentimes what I find they're trying to make a connection with you personally, and just setting some guardrails around that is really important too. I'm here to help guide your career, but we may not hang out on the weekend. And keeping those boundaries well defined, and those expectations well defined, so they know what's expected and then they can be held accountable to those expectations.
[17:44] Brandi Starr:
Yeah, that is a great, great point. So I do want to shift gears a little bit and talk about organizational competencies, which some people often call the soft skills. And there is a little bit of a debate that I hear people have that I'd like your take on, whether it is more important to hire for the clear hard skills, like the tactical things that someone needs to do in the role, and kind of work with them to develop their soft skills or their organizational competencies or do you hire more for the competencies and teach the hard skills? What's your take on that debate?
[18:30] Maija Hurst:
I love this question. And I have a very definite feeling about this, which makes it even a better question for me. And you're right, it is debatable, but give me someone with a positive attitude and who's hungry to learn and ready to be challenged and a problem solver, that's another huge thing. I'm a person who's like, okay, well, that didn't work. What can we do next time to make it better? How do I solve this myself before I go to someone else? And then once you hit like a limit there, then you go to the next person. So I think, that's definitely that critical problem solving, that critical thinking that keeps coming up in conversation as well. Every day of the week, I would hire someone for soft skills and teach them hard skills.
[19:24] Brandi Starr:
I am with you. That is my side of the debate. And especially as a consultant, I'm like teaching people the hard skills is literally my job. That's the easy part. But finding people with those key skills, like whatever they are, because different roles are going to have different soft skills that are important. Whatever they are, it is so so difficult. And I think since I've been in a leadership role that's been one of my biggest lessons learned, because especially being technology consultants, I initially looked for people with those superior technical skills. But then what I found was the problem solving, the being able to just be agile and nimble in conversation and direction, and some of the other soft skills that are needed to be in a consulting role, some of the people with the great technical skills did not have that. And no matter how hard I tried, they can't fake that. And some people kind of muster up a little bit here and there but it's a whole lot harder to get someone where they need to be when they don't have the soft skills.
[20:44] Maija Hurst:
I mean, what marketing does for the most part is external facing. And so if you have someone that -- I always say, I'm an introvert but I play an extrovert on television, because I have to do that. That's part of my role. But I really think if you have someone where that's innate, and you know, they're resilient and they don't take everything at face value maybe and are able to talk through problems, and then find a way on the other side, and you can be that sounding board, especially for a new employee, like how do I work through this, I've kind of hit a wall. But what I really admire in people coming up is kind of that dig in and try attitude. Like, I'm going to try to solve this before I come to you. Sometimes we joke too, if you're talking about like, I don't understand what is paid social look like, you know, and I said, you know, that $2,500 machine in your lap, why don't you Google it? You can find an answer. It's amazing. There's no card catalogs anymore.
[21:56] Brandi Starr:
Oh, Lord, I still have some nightmares about pulling out that card catalog. Looking through all those cards trying to find that right? Yeah, I was...
[22:05] Maija Hurst:
I'd rather come and say, hey, I read this about paid social. Do you think this is something that would work here? That's the conversation I want to have, not what is it. So it's those people that think to do that first that I think really will go far in their career.
[22:25] Brandi Starr:
Yeah, and I think one of the things that that makes me think about is internally, as a leadership team, when we talk about how we manage people, we talk a lot about kind of the three positions you can take as a manager: ask, tell and ignore. And what you just gave us, I know I personally default to tell, where someone asked me that question, I'm going to launch into my whole spiel, what is paid social and the history. Because that is, you know, I'm an informational speaker, a consultant by nature, so tell is my default. But to your point, and what you really hit on is, in growing people living in that ask, where you come back to them with the question of why don't you tell me? What do you think about that? What are you able to research or those sorts of things? That is the place where the most growth happens?
[23:31] Maija Hurst:
Absolutely. It's all about asking more questions, instead of having all the answers.
[23:37] Brandi Starr:
Yes. Because when people figure out the answers on their own, that's when they really, have that aha, and it all sticks for them.
[23:46] Maija Hurst:
[23:49] Brandi Starr:
So let's talk about time a little bit. Because people management is only a component of what a marketing leader does. There's a lot of the strategic direction and all the other things that we have to do. If you had to give it a percentage, what percent of your time do you feel like is really invested in the people development components of your role?
[24:22] Maija Hurst:
I would say, for me, it's probably heavier than a lot of people. And that was something that I learned in my time at REI. So REI is very invested in people development, and as you become a leader, or a manager at REI, they actually, I don't know if they still do it, but at the time, they'd send us away to Seattle to go through leadership workshops, and how to develop employees and they had tools in place for employee development. So it's something that I'm very passionate about. So I think I probably give more time than some people, I would say maybe 20%. I'd say, a fifth of my time, but then it's so hard to gauge because with technology now, it's slack. If there's a question, if I can answer it in the time that it's being asked, I'm going to answer it. So there's little snippets but you know, that dedicated time for people that have those skills, those soft skills that we talked about earlier, I'm really more invested in them and making sure that they understand all the options within marketing and can help them hopefully inform what's next for them in terms of a career path, and then how to actually put that in practice.
[25:46] Brandi Starr:
Okay, yeah. And you actually answered what my next question was going to be, which was, one of the things that I've found is, sometimes as leaders, we have a vision for the people on our team and what we see as their strengths, or what we see as the potential path that they could grow, and that may or may not be in line with what they actually want. And in talking to other leaders, that seems to be kind of a pitfall or a trap that many fall into. Any advice for people listening on what you do to make sure that as you're coaching and developing and supporting the growth of your team, that it's actually aligned with where they want to be going, what they want to do.
[26:34] Maija Hurst:
Yeah, that's kind of a tough one, because I certainly have been in situations where I'm thinking, wow, this person thinks that they're really good at this, but really, they're really good at that. But at the end of the day, none of us really want to follow a path we're not passionate about. So I think, in asking those questions, and kind of identifying where they are, you can share what you think their strengths are, and how they might be applied in a marketing organization. But at the end of the day, if they're like, no, I'm a great writer and you're like, you're an okay, writer, you're much better at this instead. But if they want to get better at writing, I'm going to help them get better at writing. Because that's, that's their belief. Now, they might come to it themselves after a while, because what I'm also doing is holding them accountable to the data side of writing, and seeing what kind of return we're getting for the copy that's going out there. So sometimes those conclusions happen organically.
[27:42] Brandi Starr:
Yeah, that's a good point, when you are able to put some of those tangible metrics behind the work that someone is doing, even if those are not the business metrics. Because I know most often we focus on the revenue metrics, the things that we are measured as, as a department, but there is also a growth component where there may be some KPIs for the individual that have a tie to revenue and what we're doing, but that really helped them measure their effectiveness in their role.
[28:14] Maija Hurst:
I think, you know, we can get hung up on a lot of different KPIs as marketers, but at the end of the day, that revenue, one is the only one we are really concerned about. So how does it contribute? And some of that is a long play. You're wanting to gain customers and gain, attract customers, and then create a relationship and that ultimately, they're going to buy more from you. And then also, once you have that customer, it's all about retaining them and having them in your referral network. And so a lot of that is all a longer play that you might not see the initial return on. But I think, at our point in our careers, you kind of have a sense of like, yeah, this is working, this is feeling good. I'm feeling like people are attracted to what I'm doing. This seems to be working. And that's a pretty good gut feeling. So I don't want to say it's all metrics but, if every time we're putting out a blog post, it's not doing anything, we're not gaining any traffic, that might tell you that maybe either we need to try something new or the writing just isn't there.
[29:33] Brandi Starr:
So my last question for you is another common debate. When it comes to legacy as a leader, some are of the school of thought that your legacy is the work that you accomplish. So people talk about how they've been able to grow companies or kind of develop products or whatever those things are the actual work. Some people are of the mind-set that your legacy as a leader is more in the people that you've been able to touch, and you know, the employees that you've been able to grow. What's your take on your legacy as a leader?
[30:16] Maija Hurst:
Well, I think you could probably answer this for me. But definitely the people and what is so important to me, and one thing that I value, probably more than anything, is those relationships that I've made along the way. And people that come back to me and say, when we worked on this, that was really a great experience. I have people that are making career decisions constantly, especially right now, that are coming to me and saying, what do you think, and that is huge. I mean, I appreciate that so much on a couple levels. One, just, being able to stay in contact with people and seeing how their careers are developing, but also knowing that they trust me enough with these huge life decisions.
[31:04] Brandi Starr:
Yeah, and we definitely are of the same mind-set there. I know, I think a lot about my funeral, which sounds morbid but in a positive way of what do I want people to get up on that stage and talk about? I don't want people at my funeral talking about man, she drove so much revenue and too the company from 2 million to 10 million. I really want people to talk about how the work that I'm doing, has impacted their lives. And as a result of that impact, yes, I also generated a lot of revenue and did all these other things. But that those are just more the accomplishments but that the people is the legacy.
[31:51] Maija Hurst:
Absolutely. I mean, no one worries about their inbox when they're on their deathbed, they worry about who's going to come and see them.
[31:58] Brandi Starr:
Yeah. And so talking about our challenges, it's just the first step, and nothing changes, if nothing changes. So that means we got to do the work. And in traditional therapy, the therapist will give the client homework, but here at Revenue Rehab, I like to flip that on its head and I want to ask you to give the rest of us some homework. So if you could summarize your key takeaways, and give our listeners that one thing that they can do to help to pour into and be a better people, manager and developer of people.
[32:37] Maija Hurst:
So absolutely, what I see as a trend is we're doing more with less, across all organizations, regardless of the industry. Technology is supposed to fill that place but as we all know, the technology is only as good as the people that are using it. And so as you look to your organization, and as you're bringing in new talent, or the new generation of talent, I should say, I think it's imperative that you take some time, even if you just stopping by and say, hey, how's it going? Talk to these people shoot them a slack, like how are you settling into your new role? Is there anything you don't understand about my role that I can help you with? You can't always take him for a coffee, but plan 15-minute conversation, let me tell you more about what I do and how it, how it might help you and then your resource. So it's really about building a culture within the organization, that we're all a team and we're all working towards a common goal. And just knowing that that investment, which might seem big on the front end will only come back to pay you in spades on the on the other side.
[33:54] Brandi Starr:
So there's our takeaway for each of us to find one person on our teams, either that is new that we can check in with, or even someone that's been around for a while that we haven't talked to, or don't talk to as much and have that quick 15-minute conversation with them to understand where they're trying to go and how you may be of service to them. I love that as a quick like one thing. I always like so often, I listen to podcasts or go to conferences and you walk away all hype about what you need to do, but then it's kind of like, okay, where do I start? What do I do? I don't have time. So I always like to focus on that one thing. What's one thing we can do today is scheduled 15 minutes whether in person or virtual, to have that conversation with someone.
[34:43] Maija Hurst:
[34:44] Brandi Starr:
Well Maija, I have enjoyed our conversation, but that's our time for today. Thank you so much for joining me.
[34:52] Maija Hurst:
Thank you so much for having me Brandi, it's great to see you. And I'm so honored to be a guest on your podcast. This is wonderful.
[35:00] Brandi Starr:
Well, I appreciate it. And thanks, everyone, for joining us today at Revenue Rehab. I hope that you've enjoyed my conversation with Maija. I can't believe that we're at the end already. Thanks to everyone for joining, see you next week.
You've been listening to Revenue Rehab with your host Brandi Starr. Your session is now over but the learning has just begun. Join our mailing list and catch up on all our shows at revenuerehab.live. We're also on Twitter and Instagram at Revenue Rehab. This concludes this week's session. We'll see you next week.
Every brand has ideas. Big ideas are the most valuable when they're translated into reality and reach the people they're designed to help.
I'm a marketing strategist who has been in the trenches. Working for brands such as REI and LG to leverage data-driven insight to evangelize purposeful marketing content. I am also a connector. I love to find ways to make things work by connecting all the dots and the right people. With two decades of marketing moxie, I work to make an impactful and lasting connection between brands and their audiences.
I excel at data-driven decision-making with an integrated, research-based strategy designed to bring brands and their customers closer together.
Most of all, I am a firm believer in the power of listening more than talking, collaboration, and community. My team and the individuals we are trying to reach through our storytelling are always top-of-mind and at the heart of all that I do.