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Going Global

Kerry Guard • Monday, August 9, 2021 • 48 minutes to listen

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Opening

Hello, I'm Kerry Guard and welcome to Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

Did you listen to the first episode of season eight with Mark Schaefer? If you didn't... be kind, rewind. This is a season where all the episodes work together. So if you keep going, you won't get the big picture of what this whole season is about, which is the third marketing rebellion as it relates to customers, and clients and buyers of how they want to interact with marketing and advertising. The world is changing, the buyer is changing, and we need to change with them. So if you haven't listened to the first episode, be sure to go do that so you know what I'm talking about as we keep going here.

For those who have listened to the first episode, and you're ready to jump into Episode Two, thank you for tuning in. I loved my conversation with Frida Ahrenby who is the CMO at GetAccept. What's so cool about it is that I now live near Europe. And in doing so I get to connect with Europeans. And Frida is in Sweden.

What she's doing is building a global team to support GetAccept and helping GetAccept break into new markets outside of Sweden. The way that she's approaching building her team is just beautiful. It is people oriented. It is finding the right people and giving them the autonomy to do what they do best. It is beautiful. I loved this conversation. I loved our energy. She is calm but passionate and it comes through with shining colors. I can't wait for you to listen. So I'm not going to take up any more of your time and I'm gonna let you get right to it. See you on the other side.

Conversation

Kerry Guard: Hello, Frida. Thank you for joining me on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

Frida Ahrenby: Hello, Kerry. Thanks for having me.

Kerry Guard: Oh, so excited to have you and at 10 o'clock in the morning. My time. This is so great and unusual because you are in...why don’ t you tell our listeners where you are.

Frida Ahrenby: I am in Stockholm, Sweden. So it's 20 past 11 here.

Kerry Guard: So cool. I love this. Going global everyone.

Frida Ahrenby: I’m kind of surprised since I work a lot with the US. We're almost on the same time.

Kerry Guard: I know! Isn't it great? It’s nice to not have a meeting at eight o'clock at night.

Frida Ahrenby: Exactly.

Kerry Guard: Frida, before we get into the bulk of our conversation and where we're gonna sit today, why don't you share with our listeners your story. What do you do? And how did you get there?

Frida Ahrenby: I am currently the VP marketing at a company called GetAccept and GetAccept for those who don't know, provides a sales engagement platform so mainly towards salespeople or sales organizations to have a good platform to interact with prospects and potential customers and take them through the customer journey on our platform. And I joined GetAccept one and a half years ago, November 19. And before that, I spent a couple of years within the FinTech industry. So at a company called Bambora. It's a global payments company. But it's actually founded by Swedes as well. So it started in Sweden and then grew globally.

Kerry Guard: I've heard of them.

Frida Ahrenby: And before that, I spent a couple of years within the telco industry. So at one of the bigger telco providers in the Nordics.

Kerry Guard: So what did you do at each of these in terms of your role and responsibility. I know that we're all marketers, but the way that we each approach our roles is different.

Frida Ahrenby: Actually, I'm a salesperson by heart. I started out within sales. So when I was done with my university, I started out in sales. First I joined a company, which is not that well known. It's a company that is operating within the fashion industry. And I joined there to work as a key account manager and work towards the bigger fashion companies that that company had as their customers. So starting off within sales, and after that, I actually joined them, the telco company called Telia within sales, so continuing within sales for a couple of years, and then I stayed at that company for eight to nine years. And continued working within product management, which later led to business development. And the last thing I did, Telia, before leaving was actually building up a new global business area, which provided SaaS services to their SMB customers. So that was sort of my first touch point with the SaaS industry. And also, at that time, I was responsible for sales and marketing within these new business areas. So that was more or less when I went from sales to product management to business development towards digital business and more marketing.

Kerry Guard: So You've done it all.

Frida Ahrenby: Seen it all. And after that I joined the FinTech company called Bambora, heading up their marketing team and building up their digital business for a couple of years. And then that led me to GetAccept in the role that I have now.

Kerry Guard: So I want to ask this question without putting you too much on the spot. But I'm curious because obviously, you're doing marketing right now. And that's where you... Well... It sounds like you straddle both because the way that Frida and I actually met was on LinkedIn. I know, shock, surprise. But she had shared this picture of swag that was around sales and women and it was just so cool. And I was like, I gotta know what's going on and what's your story? And so we connected but it sounds like you still have a big piece of your heart that still sort of lives in sales.

Frida Ahrenby : Absolutely. Definitely. I always say that I have a sales DNA. I mean, it comes from when...I started working early.

Like when I was 12 or 13 in my uncle's flower shop in the city centre of Stockholm selling flowers during the weekends and school holidays. So I think that's, that's when it all started, you know, he taught me. He taught me. He was a very special character. He taught me so much in terms of how to sell, how to upsell, how to think about, you know, if you have this customer tried to get, you know, this arrangement in or put some extra flowers into the bouquet and then you can charge some extra.

He was really, you know, just watching him doing this, which was his passion, taught me a great deal. And he was also very, very customer oriented. He had this little poster in the flower shop's kitchen, saying that the customer's always right. Which was such a reminder to all of us who work there, that, you know, whatever, whoever comes into that door, whatever weird question they might have, or if they're having a bad day, or if they're not nice, you just have to be nice because that's your customer and you want to treat him or her well. And you have to listen to what they want and try to help out. And that has definitely, definitely stuck with me.

Kerry Guard: And you find that true even today?

Frida Ahrenby: Yeah, yeah, always. It's always something that's in my head like being very customer centric and trying to understand what does the customer want? And how do we sell towards the customers? And what are we really saying here? And how do we communicate our product value in the right way so that the customer understands? It's not us internally who needs to understand. How we communicate, so the customer understands what we're trying to say or sell. So yes, to answer your question, sales is something that is definitely in my DNA.

Kerry Guard: I love it. What a beautiful story. And thank you for sharing about your uncle. I love those. It's like, it just gives me so much. You can't see me right now. I'm so glad to see you. But I have this huge grin on my face. So in terms of GetAccept, and your current role as it stands today, what's one of the biggest challenges you're currently facing?

Frida Ahrenby: I mean, GetAccept is a company in hyper growth. So we're growing, almost doubling down in terms of turnover every year. And so I think one of my biggest challenges is, you know, scaling the marketing team. I was brought into the company to scale the marketing team and to scale the inbound marketing efforts. So, of course, a challenge is how do I scale the team in the right way in terms of competence, but also timing wise? How do I find the right talent? And where do I find the right talent? And how do we make sure to deliver upon our highly set targets, to be honest, at the same time? I would say that those are definitely my biggest challenges but also the reason why I joined of course because I think it's super exciting.

Kerry Guard: I agree. And you have had, you have found some amazing people actually got to talk by happenstance, total happenstance. I got to talk to Tara.

Frida Ahrenby: I know!

Kerry Guard: Complete accident. I swear I was not stalking. You just put out this lovely post about all the sale swag. And then she put out this lovely post about her family. And I think maybe you liked it, or you commented or something on it, which I didn't even notice. I just saw her post and absolutely loved how she was sharing something so personal in a business oriented way. And I had to talk to her, which we did and it was lovely. And if you want to go find Tara’s podcast, you should because she's amazing.

Frida Ahrenby: I will.

Kerry Guard: My question to you Frida is, I agree. I'm struggling too, in recruiting. It's so hard. I don't know if it's especially now given COVID or just in general, because it's that hyper growth and you need a lot of people but the right people. But yeah, I feel like I found somebody on LinkedIn. I'm extremely excited. And I reached out and they’re like, “No, I'm good.” I’m Like, “really? Are you sure? Have a conversation?” Are you finding that too where people just don't want to move?

Frida Ahrenby: Oh, that's a good question. No, not necessarily. But I think finding them to start with is more of a challenge. If I compare it to a year ago, or a year and a half ago, we had more problems attracting the talent once we found them. But we've done, if I can say so myself, quite an amazing journey the last year in terms of employer branding, and so on. So now we are much more known in the markets that we operate in. So it's easier for us now to attract talent. Because we're perceived as an exciting company and an interesting company, but I find it harder to actually find the talent.

Kerry Guard: Yeah, let's sit there for a second because you said something interesting. Employer branding. Does that mean that externally you're branding yourselves almost as if a potential employee is the customer? Say more around that.

Frida Ahrenby: It's more that we put a lot of time and effort into making sure that we tell our story. What kind of company are we? What are we trying to achieve? What is the journey that we're on but also highlighting many of our employees? What are they doing? What are their strengths? Why did they join? What's their story and also the company values that we have? So we're pushing our story out much more. We've been focusing much more on that last year. And we also have a lot of people within GetAccept that are extremely active and helping out in pushing the story out through their private LinkedIn accounts, for example.

Tara is a good example doing that. She does that a lot. Which means that our story gets out there, we get more known, people understand much better what we are about. And they also seem to like what they see and what they read. And they seem to get excited about the people working at GetAccept, and to a much further extent, other people also want to join. And that is a big difference. If I compare to one and a half years ago, when I joined, there were three people in the marketing team back then, and I started to recruit right away. I had to spend much more time telling our story directly to the candidates to get them hooked and understand this is a fantastic journey. And then I have to do now, because we're much more known.

Kerry Guard: So in terms of recruiting then, because this is where we want to sit for our conversation is how you do this. Because that's your joy. You mentioned when we talked a few weeks ago, the reason why you took this job was for the challenge of building the team and a global team. Tara is in the US, you're in Sweden. I saw that you just hired somebody for Europe. So you're building a global team. First of all, why does that bring you so much joy? What's the excitement for you?

Frida Ahrenby: I'm a builder at heart, I think. I just get so excited about starting from something small and having this vision and understanding where we are to go with the company as a whole. And how can I, from a marketing perspective and a marketing team perspective, make that happen by adding the important pieces to the puzzle? How do I connect different competences and create that structure so that we can step by step deliver on the overall company vision and strategy and goals. And to see that evolve and just to see these people starting and how they collaborate and how we create a lot of cool things that just starts being spread in the world. I'm really excited by that.

Kerry Guard: I agree, especially if you can sit high up and sort of look down at all of the moving pieces. It's almost like a game of chess.

Frida Ahrenby: Yeah. And then just to see how they develop each other, how they grow from one another, how they almost feed off of one another and become so much better as a team and when we add more competence, and that being exactly the right competence at exactly the right time. Then all of a sudden, we can do so much more. And I just found that super. It's really something that I find exciting.

Kerry Guard: So for you and building a global team, you're hiring for each part of the world, essentially. And then are you relying on them to then build their own teams? How are you involved in this because it's bigger than just Sweden?

Frida Ahrenby: Yeah, definitely.

We're operating in or we have offices in six markets but we have customers in many, many more markets. In terms of the marketing team, the structure that I've built is that we have a couple of functions that are global that sit under me. Then I have two regional teams which Tara is heading out of one of those teams in the US and then I have the regional team for Europe which is a person that is coming in a couple of weeks time to head up that team. So I have six direct reports to report to me. And then they have their own teams. So they are responsible for recruiting their own teams. But many of the people in these teams since when I joined were only three.

So step by step, I have grown the marketing team from three to the 20+ that we are today. And during most of that time, all these people have been reporting directly to me. So it was only a couple of months ago that we restructured the marketing team to have these teams within the team. In some teams, there are already team members, and we won't need to recruit more people into those teams. But for some teams, we do need to recruit more. So it's a little bit different. But of course, all the team leads are responsible for their own recruitments. And I support them as much as I can, or as much as they want me to.

Kerry Guard: Let's talk about this, you said that there was some functionality with the global team that sits with you versus the market teams, which is in different countries. So can we just try to paint a picture for our listeners in terms of what functionality have you kept for a global view versus which ones are your individual teams hiring for?

Frida Ahrenby: And so the global functions that I call them are brand and bus. So we have a global brand and bus team. We also have a global content team. And we have a global partner marketing team. Which means that they set the global strategy within these respective areas. But they of course, support the regional teams because we're doing a lot of brand and bus team in all local markets. We're doing a lot of content for all the local markets and we're doing partner activities in all the local markets. But to be efficient, I want this team to be global instead of having separate partner brand and bus content people in each regional teams. That's going to be hard to scale in the long run and not that efficient if we have people in all the regional teams as well when we can cover it more globally. And then in the regional teams, those are mainly focusing on demand gen I would say. It's almost like a corporation. They are supported by the central teams.

Kerry Guard: Got it! That's really smart. Because all of the content is essentially centralized in the way that you want to tell your brand story and then deliver it out to the regions and then localized. That's a lot less work for the markets to have to localize content rather than trying to develop it from scratch every single time.

Frida Ahrenby: Yeah, at the risk of us moving in different directions in terms of content, strategy, brand strategy, partner strategy is minimized as well. We then put that together globally and then we execute it locally or regionally.

Kerry Guard: Do you find that you get any pushback from your markets to say this isn't something that is going to resonate with my market? Or any sort of challenges you're facing in doing it this way? Or has it just been the dream?

Frida Ahrenby: Not that much. so far. I'm expecting it though. I've been in organizations where it's been global versus local. It's been more decentralized so that the local markets have been more in control and vice versa, and so on. So I think we will come to that. But I try to keep the team very tight in terms of collaboration and communication. There might be initiatives or ideas that come from local coordinators and those are as important to take a look at as ideas that come from the global direction. So I think it's important to be able to talk together on what we are to focus on. So far, it works very well, but of course there will come a time where there will be ideas that we need to push back or won't be able to take in consideration and so forth.

Kerry Guard: Communication at work came up a couple of times when you were just talking and I am so curious now because we're not really a global company. I'm the only one outside of the US. But we are across all the time zones in the US. And we've certainly found ways to navigate that. It's only three hours between the East and the West. So now having lived in the UK, three hours is nothing. You're dealing with eight hours between me and the Pacific Time Zone. But I'm curious for you, since you're talking about six markets, being centralized in Sweden, and then having to connect, you're talking about so much connection happening between you and your teams on the ground. How are you able to do that given the time zone differences?

Frida Ahrenby: Europe is more or less the same time zone. So that isn't really a problem. It's one or two hours, depending on where you are. And then in terms of us, we've actually tried to hire most people on the east coast. That makes all the difference, I would say. So what we can do, then if we run meetings where everybody is to participate, we do that after two o'clock, European time, which then is about eight o'clock in the morning, US East Coast time. And that works fine, but then we have like, four hours together. If we push it a bit on the European side, then we can actually work together. So in that sense, it works. But I spend some evenings continuing to work with the US side. I actually tried to minimize that. So it's realistic in terms of getting everything together.

Kerry Guard: Yeah, I try and minimize it too but I can't help but find myself making dinner and checking my phone and answering messages. And I don't know if it's because I feel like I have a lot to do or I just have complete FOMO of feeling like I'm missing out on what's going on. And I don't want to wake up to having to catch up.

Frida Ahrenby: It's a combination. I think it's okay to check emails, some slack messages and so on. It's a bigger thing if I accept meetings during the evening to sit in three hours back to back meetings in my evening times. That's definitely something I try to avoid.

Kerry Guard: Oh, I just did it this week. I did it. Everybody looked at me at 930. They're like, Okay, so we're gonna try and be snappy with this one.

Frida Ahrenby: But it still happens. But you have to be careful of your time.

Kerry Guard: Yeah, it's unusual for me to go straight through. So when it does, it's like, oh, now I realize I remember why I try and not do this because I'm tired. So I agree that boundaries are important. And that connectivity of channels. You mentioned Slack, you mentioned email, we use a project management system Asana, do you also have a centralized?

Frida Ahrenby: Yeah, we use Ricoh and that works great. So all major projects or assignments are in Reich with everybody who needs to be connected with clear deadlines and responsibilities. There was a time in the beginning where we were figuring this out and then it was more of a chaos than it is now. So I'm very happy for this tool.

Kerry Guard: I was just reflecting on what we did before project management tools because we started with Basecamp, like six years ago, and then we found Asana and we've been living in Asana. But I was like, Oh, it was email! Where you would try and clear out your inbox but then flag your emails with the ones you need to come back to.

Frida Ahrenby: Your inbox was your to do list. At GetAccept, we’re actually true to not sending many emails internally. So I sort of found myself, which is unusual for me because I used to spend a lot of time in my inbox. But nowadays, it can be days where I'm like, Oh my god, I forgot to check my emails. Or I do it once or twice a day only. So it's a different way of working and approach in terms of emails.

Kerry Guard: In some ways it's more effective. And in other ways, you're switching between so many systems. It makes it a little tricky. I agree to check your email. We actually have some people on the team where they block off their calendars to say don't book them. So it's like, Okay, I'm gonna check my email here and here. And I'm gonna check Asana here and here and that's it. I'm not allowed to go into these systems. Otherwise, I have to be heads down to get actual work. Is there anything else around here? Have you built multiple teams and now globally? Is there anything that you've learned that you wish you knew from the very beginning of building teams from the ground up?

Frida Ahrenby: What I do when I step into a new assignment or when I'm about to start scaling a team is try to understand the overall company strategy and how marketing in this specific company connects to the overall company strategy. So what's the reason for marketing to exist within this company?

In some companies, it can be more about building a global brand. In some companies, it can be more about building thought leadership towards enterprise customers. And in some companies, it can be more about building inbound marketing or demand generation. And depending on that, it becomes easier to understand what kind of marketing team you are to build. And what kind of people you need to get in. What's most important depending on what kind of people we already have in the team? And then I joined some companies, there's already marketeers in the company, and then I had to understand what competence do these people sit on? And what do I need to add? So I think that is something that has, of course, become more apparent, the more times I've done it. To really start there.

I also think that everybody knows that being data driven within a marketing team is key. But that's also something that I've learned that the sooner I can get the right tracking up and the right way of measuring the full funnel, and making sure that that's anchored throughout the whole company. So that sales i\has a touch to it, product has a touch to it, marketing, of course, has a touch to it, then also management has a touch to it, the better I can continue working with the activities that we have planned to do. I would say another learning is probably in terms of recruitment. It's really hard to recruit them because it's really hard to find the right talent. So the more you recognize that and understand that it takes time, the better. Earlier in my days, I stressed about getting people in and and taking chances on people and that's not good for anybody. So even though we want to grow fast and we need to find the right talent fast. It's okay for me if it takes a longer time to get the right person in instead of making a mistake and not getting the right person in.

Kerry Guard: It’s so much when you have the wrong person in the wrong seat or not a fit for the company.

Frida Ahrenby: It's extremely time consuming for me and the team but also for the person feeling out of his or her place, not feeling that he or she can contribute, trying to adjust and trying to find the way for both parties. And then if you have to make a new decision and you start all over. So instead then, recognizing that early in the recruitment process and letting you take time is better in the long run. And that is definitely something that I've learned.

Kerry Guard: I could talk about that all day because I've definitely experienced the struggles of recruiting and finding the right people and creating the right process to unearth those people early or find out that maybe they aren't right early, so that we're not wasting their time or ours. Having that transparency as upfront as possible. And it's clear and frequently as possible on both sides. I think it's just so key. But yeah, it takes time. And you're right, I think taking the time to let it take time is important and definitely a hard lesson. I've learned.

Frida Ahrenby: Yeah, I think it's a good thing to let more people within your company be involved in the recruitment process so that you are able to be questioned and and have other people's perspective on the candidates. I find that that helps us to make the right choice. That is definitely something that we become better at at GetAccept.

Kerry Guard: Yes, having a review process before anybody's even put through an interview loop is so key. I agree. And I don't believe in rigorous. I don't believe that you need to put a candidate through a rigorous exercise. I think that's kind of mean, actually. And having been somebody on that receiving end is really hard. And frankly, unfair.

Something we do a quick 4 question, Google form. Just answer these questions. We just want to see how you think. Please don't take more than 30 minutes. Before the interview. So if they send in their resume, and the resume looks good, we just have them fill in this four quick questionnaire to just give us some indication of how they think. So I download the LinkedIn resume, and I block out names and locations. And then I use that questionnaire with the resume and upload it through the team and see how people react before I put them through an interview loop. I found that to be incredibly helpful. So finding out what works for you and your team and taking the time to vet those people before the interview, I think is key to getting your team involved.

Frida Ahrenby: We usually have some kind of case, but I would say case in a positive way. So always a case very connected to the role and a relevant assignment to solve that’s well connected to what that person would work with in the role. And then you have to present it and I will question everything that you've done but more discussion based. Let's talk about this. This is interesting stuff. So it becomes an interaction. An interactive discussion, instead of a very stiff presentation.

Kerry Guard: I love that. And we do take the questions before we're on the fence about the way it was answered. Let's take that into the interview and have a dialogue about it. I totally agree. It's a nice jumping off point, especially when people are nervous. Internal people are nervous about doing interviews so it's really nice to have that guide. I totally agree.

Oh, well, I could sit here all day. And riff on this recruiting challenge for both having it or come up with these cool solutions on how we're, we're combating that. And I totally love how you're talking about when you walk into an organization, you have to build a team from scratch, sitting down and really understanding your company's why.

What's so cool about your story of Frida and that's really hitting home for me, versus some of the other stories I've heard which I don't think there's a right or wrong, I think it's what works for the person or if you're going into the same company, the same company, the same company, maybe knowing exactly who you need to hire right out of the gate makes sense. But for you What's different?

What I love is that you take the time first to really understand the company's why and how you're going to build the strategy of the organization around that and personalizing it. That creation that builds, as you like to say, for each company you've been at, I think is so unique and special. So thank you for sharing. Thank you for being here. I have loved this conversation. Thank you. Before we go, it's nice to talk to you. Yeah, yes, yes. Before we go by three questions. Are you ready?

Frida Ahrenby: Yes.

Kerry Guard: Okay. My first question for you is, in the last year or so, beyond a year, I like to say in terms of the pandemic and shifting, I don't wanna say we have more time because I don't think that's quite right. But having this mental shift of not having to commute or being at home, or whatever the case may be, Have you picked up any new hobbies?

Closing

That was my conversation with Frida. Her passion SHINES. I’ve been watching her grow her team via LinkedIn and she is bringing in some amazing, and smart, thoughtful people. Including Tara Pawalk, who is the head of marketing in the United States, who just so happens to be my next guest. As mentioned in the beginning of this episode, having both Frida and Tara was a complete happenstance, but so cool because now you get to hear how Tara is building her team in the US and what’s important to her in terms of culture and maintaining that culture that Frida has set and bringing that to the team in the US. So keep listening!

If you’d like to learn more about Frida, you can find her on LinkedIn. Be sure to pay attention to Get Accept too. What they’re doing as a brand is very in tune to what Mark Schaefer is talking about in terms of how to market to people.

Thank you for tuning into this episode of Season 8. Keep listening to hear Tara’s story.

Thanks again for listening to Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders, the podcast that helps brands get found via transparent, measurable digital marketing. I’m your host Kerry Guard and until next time.

This episode was brought to you by MKG Marketing - our digital marketing agency of agile experts who specialize in SEO, PPC, and Analytics. It’s hosted by me, Kerry Guard - CEO and co-founder of MKG Music, mix, and mastering done by Austin Ellis. If you’d like to be a guest, please visit mkgmarketinginc.com to apply.

Frida Ahrenby

Chief Marketing Officer at GetAccept responsible for the global marketing strategy and execution in all markets, leading a growth oriented marketing team focusing on PR and Brand, Demand Generation, Content Marketing, Product go-to-market, Website dev. and Partnerships.