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Product & Marketing Better Together

Kerry Guard • Tuesday, October 26, 2021 • 52 minutes to listen

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Joshua Kanter

Joshua Kanter is the Chief Marketing Officer of Encora, Inc.



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

Welcome back to season nine. Hope you've enjoyed my conversations with Marguerite Yeo, Jeanne Hopkins and Chris Ott or maybe you skipped around and heard from Delitha Morrow Coles or Genefa Murphy. Either way, we drop our full season Netflix style, so you can binge or jump around however you feel. I hope you've enjoyed listening so far.

In this episode, I chat with Joshua Kanter, CMO of Encora. Josh and I dig into how marketing and product can work better together. So many times organizations are set up in silos, and don't necessarily coordinate. And Josh and I talked through how to work through that and towards a more unified organization across departments, and even better as marketers bringing the customer voice to the table in doing so, so that everybody can work towards what the customer needs. Let's take a listen.


Kerry Guard: Joshua, thank you for joining me on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

Joshua Kanter: Thank you for having me. It's been quite a while since I've had tea time. I'm very happy to be here with you.

Kerry Guard: I'm so excited to have you. Before we jump into the heart of our conversation, which I'm so thrilled to have with you. Let's introduce the listeners to who you are. Why don't you tell us your story, Joshua, what do you do? And how did you get there?

Joshua Kanter: Of course, yeah. So I'm Joshua Kanter. I am the Chief Marketing Officer for Encora. Encora is a global outsource product development company. We do software engineering services for other companies, which basically means that we build software products for companies. And we do everything from sort of strategic product roadmapping to cloud migration, cloud services, data architecture, or software architecture, core product design, DevOps, Artificial Intelligence (AI), all the things. We do all the things, UI/UX. So we do all of that work. It's an agile engineering kind of world. And we partner for long term partnerships with clients, typically, like multi-year engagements where we fully dedicate the team of engineers to the clients, and then they become an extension, a seamless extension of what the clients are already doing. And because we staff our teams with engineers that are located in Mexico, or Costa Rica, or South America or India or Asia Pacific, we're able to relieve a lot of the burden that the IT teams typically have. So we handle all of the hiring, the recruit, the training, and the management of the teams. And these are low cost labor markets, so we were able to deliver our services sort of faster, better, cheaper than any of the clients were able to do on their own.

So that's the core of what we do. It's an exciting place to be, I think, especially, you know, I know that the pandemic has been a difficult moment for the entire global economy, but it's actually heightened demand for the kinds of services that we are providing. And so it's been kind of a wild ride. And anyway, that's who I am and what I'm doing now.

Previously, I have been working in a number of other industries. I was the Chief Marketing Officer at PetSmart, which your listeners in the United States will know, as the largest pet specialty retailer in the US. Before that, I ran corporate marketing at Caesars Entertainment. So the casino industry in Las Vegas, which is basically the same as every other kind of marketing you could do, but because it's in the casino industry, everyone's fascinated to hear about it. So that was very fun. I did that for a while. And before that I was a consultant. I was at McKinsey. I've been a consultant for about a dozen years, I worked in a wide range of industries. And so I specialize in marketing strategy, customer lifecycle management, data driven marketing. So I've had a wide ranging career. I forgot to mention I worked at a company called Arrivia which does international travel. I did that right up until the pandemic where international travel immediately took a nosedive and became not a great place to be. But you know, I've been sort of collecting experiences and I love to learn. So moving around from company to company, to company, affords me the opportunity to try new things, learn, and I'm just constantly trying to grow and get better.

Kerry Guard: Quite the leap from Riviera to a tech company, does it feel like a leap?

Joshua Kanter: You know as a marketer, I've always been more involved with data, and more involved with technology than maybe I needed to be. I've just always, sort of, by nature, and by training, I'm an analytical marketer. And I kind of live in the data. And I think increasingly, the modern CMO and the marketing, the modern marketing organization needs to embrace new tools and technologies. And so if you as a marketer are not educating yourself and getting directly involved with new technologies, then you're sort of limiting yourself and your team's effectiveness. So I've always had this deep love for both data and technology. I have a background in strategy consulting. And so I think that the disciplines of marketing and strategy and technology and analytics are increasingly interrelated. And I sit there at the intersection of those things happy as a clam, learning and trying new things. And sure, there are leaps here and there that you have to take, and you never feel quite ready for those leaps. But when you take them, then all of the good things happen. And so I feel very fortunate to have had that experience.

Kerry Guard: In terms of where you are now, with Encora, and being the CMO at this tech service company, what would you say is one of your biggest challenges that you're facing right now?

Joshua Kanter: Honestly, the biggest challenge I'm facing is helping to hire people. And I know that that is not a traditional marketing sort of responsibility. So let me elaborate for just a moment. The way that our business works, we don't have a bench of engineers that we move from project to project and client to client, we don't do that. What we do is because we form long term partnerships with our clients, we do bespoke hiring for every client. So if we were to have a tea time with Kerry Guard, like if your company decided that what you really needed was, you know, three Scrum teams of incredible engineers and you decided to work with us, we would then set about to understand exactly what the profile of you know, do you need some data scientists and you need some UI/UX people and you need an architect, and whatever all the roles are, you need QA people. And so we would kind of map out exactly what you need. And then we have to go out and hire those people. And it's easier for us to hire because we actually have, like, 30 or 40 offices in 13 countries around the world. And so we can tap into the global talent pool, and that makes it easier and faster. But the demand for our commercial services is outstripping or outpacing the speed that we can place those people. So what happens is Kerry Guard, you know, Incorporated, would say, Okay, I need 15 engineers, and we say, excellent. But before we can start to recognize the first dollar of revenue, we have to actually find 15 engineers and get the work started. And so I, as the Chief Marketing Officer, I've been asked to lead the global Task Force on talent acquisition. Because if you think about it, there are some structural sort of parallels between a commercial marketing kind of work, where you have a very large pool of potential audience and you want to kind of reach the targeted people within there that you think are most interesting. You want to present a brand that they're attracted to, maybe some content that kind of tells them that you're a good group to talk to, then you want to start having conversations that lead to hopefully, you know, some sort of a negotiated agreement and then ultimately want to get to yes.

Well, all of that that's true for winning sales and deals is also true for recruiting where there are candidates everywhere out there and you want to attract them with your employer brand, you want to interview them and get to an offer that is really interesting that combined with the experience and the career that they can build at your company is enough to bring them in the door and get them onto the team. And so I've been kind of, this is another example of stepping into an adjacent area, applying the disciplines that I know and love best for marketing. And in this case, I'm helping to accelerate our hiring practices around the world, which in turn accelerates our revenue. So in that way, it is core to marketing, even if it's a little non-traditional.

Kerry Guard: I mean, everything aligns from figuring out your mission and your vision and your values, which you then communicate to your clients of why they should hire you. But then that even more translates I think, even more importantly, to the people you're trying to hire, to bring them in and to make them, not make them, but have them want to work for a company who has similar values to them, right. So I totally translate. I'm doing something similar, not to the scale, but just from a sales one on one standpoint where I literally reached using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to reach out to potential hires, to have them come on board and join MKG. So very similar tactics that way, just a little bit more. I'm not trying to do it at the scale you already one person. Not quite what scale you are, but similar because it totally translates. And it is such a hard recruiting market out there right now. It's so hard. I think we're all feeling it.

Joshua Kanter: It is, but it makes us better. And what I find liberating about it is, I mean despite the fact that it's super hard, but what I find liberating about it is, it's a burning platform, it requires us to be and live up to our very best selves. We have to be clear about what it is about the Encora brand that should attract talent? And then how do we talk about it? How do we live it every single day? We actually have our values, which we call the ENCODE values, right? And see what I did there. That's good. It's in our DNA, right? Yeah. But no, we have. So it's an acronym, right? It's ENterprise value, and how we deliver value for clients, and then Curiosity, Ownership, Diversity and Excellence. And those are our ENCODE values. So it's one thing to put it on your website, or put it into a kind of new hire, onboarding and training. But actually, we need to talk about these things, they need to influence the ways we interact with each other, we need to celebrate people who do these things better than anyone else, and be inspired by that and live up to. And it's only through building your culture that you can then use, sort of like, emanates as concentric circles out from the center, and it attracts people to the company. And so I love that part of it. The Encora brand is less than a year old. We were a collection of five different companies operating in parallel common ownership, but different brands all over the world. And we brought everyone together about a year ago. And so now, as a marketer, I'm like a kid in a candy store, building this brand, commercially building the brand, but then also now as an employer brand. And so yeah, it's super fun. You asked for my biggest challenge, I have a lot of other commercial challenges. But this is the one that I like, I really, I find myself kind of thinking about, more and more.

Kerry Guard: I think we all can relate to it. And I think it's a very interesting spin of thinking about recruiting from a marketing standpoint, and I'm sure a lot of people are scratching their heads going, Oh, how can I help? How can I help? Right? And which I think leads us perfectly into our conversation today because it is about how marketers can help be in the marketing department and actually influence product development and design, which I think just goes so well with what we're talking about.

In terms of getting into that conversation, let's first define these teams. I know we're all in tech and we're all in marketing. But I don't know how often, I'm on the agency side, so I'm not in the inner workings behind a brand and I can't understand, with having not sat in the seat the way that you have, how all these things interconnect. So can you just break down for me the difference between a product, obviously you know what product is, but in terms of product development, and design versus marketing, and it sounds like two different things, but it also sounds like they connect. So can you talk me through that?

Joshua Kanter: Sure, yeah. I guess, product, I mean, I'll use an analogy, it may not be helpful. We can then kind of make it, you know, if you had an apple cart, and you were selling apples, the apples are your product, but then the ways that you connect the world outside of your apple cart with those apples, and have them understand that you have apples, and that they're amazing other than that their lives are more complete when they have an apple. That's the marketing. I'm oversimplifying, but there is a difference, right? So every company wants to occupy a certain space in their target customers' lives. And sometimes companies start out kind of narrow, and then they figure out like, Oh, it's not really about this, it's really about something bigger, and then they can kind of expand from there. And that's a really helpful leap when they can make it. But at core, you know, companies need to understand what is the value that they are delivering to their end customer. And some companies start something and they don't even realize how big it is until it starts blowing up. And then they're like, Oh, my God, this is like changing the world. And, not every company gets to live, that's kind of a dream, I think that many of us have to do something like that. But the core of your offering, it can be, you can stumble into it, right? You can stumble into something that just really resonates with people, and you create it and things start going gangbusters, and then you can find ways to kind of amplify your voice about it, and you connect with more people. And that's the amplification and what you're saying that's the marketing discipline. The way I think about it is that there's a virtuous cycle going on here, right? And you can start in, I don't know if you can start anywhere in the cycle, but you could start at multiple points in the cycle. So you have a product, and let's just say that you dreamed it up one night, and you're like, I should invent apples. And so you invent an apple, right? You could do that. And then you don't know if the world's gonna, like share your dream of apples. But whatever. And they do, and then you say, Okay, well actually, I should go to the top of the mountain and yell, like, hey, I've got apples, and people will show up, and they'll climb the mountain, then come, whatever, but I'm taking this analogy probably farther than it deserves to go. But, there's marketing where you help the world connect with your product or your service. And there's tons of discipline in there. But what I think is missing that needs to be clear, or clearly articulated here is that there's a connection between the end consumer, customer consumer, if you're B2B or B2C, and then the product that you are offering. That connection should be a direct connection. And the role of the marketer is to make that connection clear. And you can get insight from the consumer about things like, Hey, I love your product, except XYZ, right? And then that's an opportunity to go fix your product. So I love your apples, except for the arsenic in the seeds that, you know, keeps wrecking with my bodily functions.

But now there's this whole, I don't remember the name, there's some guy who started a business, it's like a billion dollar business now. What he did was he figured out how to scrape amazon for the best selling products. And he would read all the reviews and find all of the complaints. Right? So take a product that has high volume consumption, find the problems, design his own products that fix those design problems. And then he sells a competitor, right? And so there's some, I don't remember what the name of this company is, but like, what a great idea, right? But the core, what's so great about that idea, I think, is that you're listening to the voice of the customer. You're giving them a platform for their feedback to manifest as improvements to your core offering. And that step is not necessary. Right? Companies can go about their day to day, week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, year to year business, they can do that, without ever listening to their customers, but they shouldn't.

What they really should be doing is they should be opening up the lines of communication in a two way, in a bidirectional manner with their customers. They should be giving their customers an opportunity to tell them, yes, what's amazing about their product we all need and want to hear that. Give them ways that they can tell all their friends in the world. Because you know, that's a great thing to do, give them incentive sometimes to do that. But also, when it's not perfect, you could pretend that it's perfect. But you're much better served in the medium term. And certainly in the long term, if you take very seriously the feedback that you're receiving, and use that to fuel innovation, and iteration to improve your product over time.

And that's, I think, the role that it is up to marketers to do that. Because last time we spoke, we were talking about this, marketers are within the organization, they are closest to the customer. They need to understand what makes the customer tick, they need to understand what the customer loves, they also need to understand what the customer doesn't love. And what do they do with that information? I mean, an easy answer is you don't talk about the things that people don't love. But a better answer is you seek to understand, and armed with that understanding, then you go back to your internal partners, and problem solved about like, Okay, this is what our core customers are telling us, how should we evolve our offering in the market, to better align with the needs and preferences of our target, right, and that is the thing that it's optional in organizations. But if marketers pick up that mantle, right, which I believe, is part of their mandate, but if marketers pick that up, then all of a sudden, they're in a strategic role, not just, you know, executing campaigns, but now they've pulled up a seat at the table. At the senior leadership, team level, I would argue, even at the board level, right, and what you're doing is elevating the importance. And a strategic relevance of the work of marketers.

And so anyway, that at core is, I think, the role that marketers need to play in product development, they're not going to go out there and write the code, they're not gonna go out there and do the product engineering, they're not going to, you know, fix the assembly line in the manufacturing plant, that's not the role that marketers are gonna play. But they can be the advocate for the champion for the customer. And they can seek to understand what's working and not, they can dig deeper, they can take these insights back to the organization and make sure that the right conversations are happening to accelerate the pace of innovation, and to improve the fit between what we're selling, and what the market is demanding.

Kerry Guard: In terms of getting a seat at that table, let's say people are ready to pick up the mantle. They didn't, they've never thought about this before, but they're ready and they get it in terms of getting that seat and getting people to hear and listen, I know this from experience, not necessarily from a marketer trying to influence product, but my husband worked at that, I don’t know which company, he worked at so many back in the valley. But he was trying to tell the team that he was a customer, he used this product on a regular basis, he joined the team because he loved the product, and he wanted to help develop it. And as the customer, here's what he would want, here's what he knows from other people in the industry of what they would want. And he just got shut down, left, right and center. And like, people didn't want to hear it. And I know that as marketers, not even being in the team, right? Like he's part of the development team, and they're still not listening to him. So how do you get heard as a marketer? When you don't even have a seat at the table?

Joshua Kanter: Well, I'd say that has a lot to do with the culture of the place. And so not every organization is going to be open. But I'd also say that this isn't about, you know, “my opinion”. And so I don't mean to say that your husband's opinions are not valued, because I know that they are, especially if he's an avid user of whatever the product is. But I think that we need to be careful not to extrapolate overly much from our personal preferences. And one of the things that's powerful about the position that marketers occupy, is that they have the opportunity to engage with a wide range of customers simultaneously, whether it's through usage patterns, right, and so data that you can see in their behavior, or whether it's through surveys, or through social commentary and reviews, marketers sort of keep their finger on all of these different pulses. And so it's one thing for the powers that be, let's just say that there's this back room, smoke-filled room with a closed door and marketers are not allowed in there, which I hope is not actually the case in any of the companies that are listening right now. But just figuratively, let's say that that happened and marketers didn't feel that their voice was welcome in that room. It's one thing to say, Hey, I have an opinion. And I'd like to speak at this meeting I'm not invited to, right, that's one thing. Another is to say, Hey, I'm monitoring what's going on with our customers at large. And what I'm seeing is a negative trend. And what I'm hearing is demand for something that's different from what we offer, or I'm hearing complaints about something in the way that we are delivering, you know, our core offering, I'm hearing a departure from what we are promising and what people are getting, right. And that message is not an opinion. That message is an aggregation of, it represents customers at large. And so look, the message needs to be synthesized needs to be articulate, it needs to call out the so what, and you can't be presumptuous, it's not like you identify a significant thing, and then you get like a $5 million budget to go do something that's just not the way it works. So there's also the question of, you have to be ready to have a peer to peer conversation with whether it's operations or the CFO, or the product organization. They have very real reasons why things are the way that they are. And even if they understand and even if they agree with what you're talking about, that doesn't necessarily dictate that they're going to make the changes that you're suggesting. Because, you know, while you have insight into the customer, they may have insight into the regulators or insight into the labor union or what have you. So there are a number of other considerations, but the strategic conversation needs to have a voice that represents the customer and it is my contention that marketing is better positioned to do that than any other group, with the possible exception of like service people, right. So if you have people who talk to customers every single day, or work in stores, and they interact with customers every single day, those people are a goldmine, because they really get it, they talk to customers all the time. And they understand. Now, not every organization has that. And in technology, we have fewer and fewer of those people. But I work in tech, so that goes back to my retail days. But in my retail days, the people who work in the store, they know they really understand it. And so that's another source that marketers can go and you know, to distill insight.

So back to your question about how you get a seat at the table, it's not as easy as inviting yourself and then feeling like you're up here to everyone who's there. But I think that marketers have a unique ability to gather the relevant insights and present them. Not just the facts, but the implications, and then the strategic options and to advocate, like on behalf of what's going to be best for consumers, and ultimately, what's best for the company. And then of course, you have to have the maturity to talk about the trade offs. The CFO may believe everything you're saying, but that doesn't change the cash flow position that you're in. And the COO might also agree, but he has to cut people, he can't add people he has to take people out. And so, or the product engineering team may also agree. And they may say, Well, you know, we're already, we have a six month backlog. And so we'll get to it, but we won't get to it until you know, three quarters from now.

And so that is the, I want to be kind of real about what it's like to have a seat at that table. It's not Nirvana, where all of a sudden everything happens just because you wish it so it is complicated. But again, I believe that marketing belongs in that conversation. I believe that marketing should be one of the strategic voices that charts the path forward for the organization to make sure that we are getting to a place with greater alignment between what customers need and prefer and what the company is offering.

Kerry Guard: I totally agree. And I love what you're saying in terms of being real and I just had somebody on a few weeks ago, Laura Morales and she talked about knowing the personas internally. Know who you're walking into the room with, and what's going to be important to each of those people. And so when she was talking about data and numbers, and what you're talking about is customer insight. And so I think that completely applies when you're talking about telling that story around the customer, and what they want, and being able to position that in a way to the people you're talking to in the room.

The other thing that makes me think about this, too, is the way I talk to my team, about these things in terms of what's your lane and what's not. And so when you're stepping out of your lane to tell another team to hand them insight or data point, or by the way, or maybe this is important to you, that's really what it is. What they do with it is up to them. And you have to be willing to let it go. It's your job to bring the information to them. But that's it. At the end of the day, it's not your job to make sure that it gets across the finish line that's up to the team on the other side to make that decision. And so I do think in terms of a level of professionalism, especially walking into a room c-suites, there has to be that, by the way, here's what we're hearing, here's the story. Here's what people are asking for. I don't know what the roadmap looks like for y'all. I don't know what the data in terms of revenue or how this impacts, you guys have all that information. So I'm going to leave that to you and what you do with this information. But here's what I know.

Joshua Kanter: I think that's really important to do. I also think that that's a first step, and it shouldn't be the last. Because this will work best for the company, certainly for customers. And for the marketing team more broadly. This works best when you do have an ongoing involvement in that conversation, because that's not a one time conversation, that conversation is happening all the time. And when you get to the C suite, we're not all scary people, I hope. So when you get to that level, you kind of know what your priorities are, and you even know what your colleagues' priorities are. And then it's just a question of navigating when our priorities align well enough that we can marshal the organization's resources to get something amazing done and get it done quickly.

Now, what I would say is that, I made it sound like when I was talking about being real, like things don't always, there are good reasons why things don't happen. There are reasons and I even say this is a maybe a controversial statement to make. But there is adaptive value to inertia. You don't want companies reinventing themselves every six minutes. There are good reasons for things to not move too quickly. But in the context of the pandemic, what I can tell you, and I work in technology, and I think that a lot of your listeners are also in technology. The pandemic has been a catalyst for all of the deferred digitization, digital transformation work, I mean, there are companies that were kicking the can down the road for years, but someday we'll get to that someday will introduce self-service online, someday will make our products easier for people to engage with through the website, without coming into a store, without having an in-person meeting. And so what has definitely happened with everybody isolated to the bubbles of their couches, in their living rooms for a year plus, is that companies have realized that they want to be relevant. If they want to compete, if they want to be in business in a year, they have got to have some of these capabilities. Because otherwise, they're not going to meet the needs of customers. Customer needs and preferences have shifted faster in the context of pandemic than ever before. I think we went through 10 years of digital transformation in 10 weeks, right? And that's just because companies know that they're not going to make it if they can't use new technology to connect with their customers. And so the good news is that there's just been a fire lit. Under the leadership of most companies to say, okay, we can't continue with what we were doing before because it doesn't work when everybody is socially distancing. And the way that we reach our customers, the way that we serve our customers, the things that we even offer, those things need to be different and if they're not different tomorrow, we may not get to like next week.

And so that, I think, is the rallying cry. And I think it's an invitation. It's an invitation to marketers, and not just marketers, but it's an invitation to serious business people to be having the conversation about what innovation needs to look like, inside of your company. Because we can't hold our breath. And hoping that if we just hold on a little bit longer, the world will go back to exactly how it was in 2019. And then everything will be alright again, because hopefully, we can start coming out of our cave, right. And hopefully, we can start engaging with each other and returning to a life that includes things like airplane travel, and movie theaters, and all the things. And I can't wait for that. I know I'm not alone. But the reality is that even when we get to that day, the world has changed, the world is no longer the same. And I think that a lot of the changes are going to, even when they're undone, they won't be undone in the same way. Like it used to be that we would all go to the office and every single one of us would have our own space. Some people have doors, some people have cubicles, but we'd all be working in the same space together. You know what, I think offices are going to get smaller, because I think that people are not going to go in all the time. And when they do, they're going to be hot desking, they're going to like “hoteling”, moving around from space to space, I just think that we've all learned that you don't have to be in the office to be productive. So that's a huge change. I think that it would be a major mistake for any organization to assume that the product or service that they used to sell, that they used to bring to market that would pay all the bills is still a perfect match for the market. Because people are going to work differently, there's been a massive disruption to patterns of consumption, patterns of behavior. And that disruption is going to lead to new patterns of consumption. And who needs to figure out what that means? Marketers. And then what are we going to do about it, we got to make sure that the company is sort of evolving towards, you know, the Wayne Gretzky quote, where he's not going to where the puck is, he's going to where the puck is going. Marketers have to lead that journey. Because we're the ones who understand. And look, I'm not saying that other groups don't also have the ability to understand, I'm just saying that it's our responsibility as the advocates for the customer to understand that, and to make sure that it's getting an appropriate voice industry at the strategic table.

Kerry Guard: I love that. Last question for you before I get to my people-first questions, because I think we've been talking somewhat strategically, but mostly at a high level here. And I think one key element in terms of how marketers can influence product design is, yes, the voice of the customer, and letting the product know what the customer is looking for. But also from, I had this great conversation yesterday around messaging, and there seems to be an opportunity to do a bit better between how you know, marketing is basically talking to the customer, and the customers interacting with the product on a regular basis. So there seems to be an opportunity here for marketers to also not necessarily market within the product, but also like target within the product from, like, you know, here's some new features you should be thinking about, here's how you can use them, by the way, this is like, so in terms of being the voice of the customer, I think that user experience seems to also, I think marketing can influence that as well. I feel like that's missing a little bit.

Joshua Kanter: Yeah. 100%. And this is the reason that I think that marketers have been given, you know, I think the reason that marketers are so close to the customer is because if we understand those things, then it allows us to talk about, oh, we have, a widget has 160 different features, which ones I mean, no customer is going to listen to us talk about 160 features. So how do you figure out the three features that they really care about and then talk about that. And I think that's the reason why consumer insights and analytics and panels and social listening, and all of those disciplines have grown up inside marketing, so that we take that insight, and then we just message the hell out of like the thing that people are going to respond to, right, or maybe it's different for segment A, and it's different for segment B. So we talked about three different things for each of those groups. And everybody's happy, right? And that's the way that traditional marketing happens. And you're right, we need to do that.

The caveat that I would put on all of that is that, and this is a little bit philosophical and I think I'd be remiss if I didn't say it. And this is a little bit about my wife. My wife sometimes gives me a hard time about being a marketer because sometimes she feels like being sold to is like a dirty thing, right? Like, she sometimes feels like marketers convince people to buy things that they don't actually want or need, right. And what I would say is that that happens in the world, there are people out there who, you know, the thing that they do, because it's lucrative is they try to convince you to buy something that isn't going to make a lick of difference in your life. And that is exactly the kind of marketing that I want nothing to do with. I've heard it said that any marketer can sell an iPod, right? or an iPhone, but it takes an incredible marketer to sell Zune, right, I mean, and so you take a crappy product, and then you throw in incredible marketing prowess and skill and you can and you can make it work. And while it might feel good to overcome incredible odds, selling something that is just a piece of junk. And by the way, I don't mean to bad mouth Microsoft with the Zune product, but it's just one of those examples that people use. I want to be connecting people with products and services that make a real difference in their life, add value in their lives.

And so I would encourage everyone listening, if they're a marketer, to just make sure that you really believe in what you're selling, you'll be more effective at what you're doing, and you'll be a whole lot happier doing what you're doing, if you believe that you're helping people to discover things that make their lives better. And so that's what I do. I really believe in the work that Encora does, right? We help companies to adapt and innovate faster, to shorten their innovation cycles, so that they can be the leaders in their industry, and deliver new value to their customers in a way that their competitors can't. We do that, and this is like the magic of the economy. And my company makes magic. I'm super thrilled to be part of it. But if you're doing something that you know is not that valuable, and you just have to sort of trick people into buying it, you could get really good at tricking people into buying just about anything, but would you feel good about it? And would you feel like you would be the kind of marketer that my wife gives me a hard time about. And so please stop doing that. So that my wife doesn't have anything to complain to me about.

But no, anyway, that's my kind of my take on it. I really think that there's something noble about marketing, which is about helping people to discover and then get connected with products and services that make their lives better, whether it's a work life or personal life, or what have you. And so, yeah, that's it. That's why listening to customers is so important. We need to understand how we make a difference in people's lives, or how we could and then how do we live up to that trust that customers are placing in us? And that is sort of, again, what underpins my strong beliefs about the strategic imperative of marketing.

Kerry Guard: Thank you so much, Joshua. I think we all feel, especially in B2B, I think it's headed in that direction of wanting to be helpful, and to work with the right people to make sure that they're getting what they need. And if it's not the right fit and we don't, then we're not right for you. And that's okay. And moving along. I think that's the “new”. I feel like a lot of conversations I've been having, a lot of marketers are saying that and that's wonderful to hear. You know, we give the car salesman analogy all the time of salespeople, and I think the world is moving away from that we're trying to prove the world differently. And finally, like, yes, we're not about just trying to sell you snake oil, and promise you all the things in the world that are going to happen because you buy this product, this is what the product really does. This is how it really helps you. And if this is something that you need right now we're here for you. And if not, that's cool, too. Like, I feel like that's the new way, and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

Joshua Kanter: I think that's absolutely 100% and I think that the role of content is a way to help people see the full picture and appreciate and make a decision on their own time in their own way. You can earn credibility and trust through publishing great content, but people don't want to be sold to and they certainly don't want to be hard sold to. And so anyway, I think that's a different topic, but totally consistent with what you're saying.

Kerry Guard: Alright, my three questions for you to wrap this up here and to let people know how you're more than just a marketer. Ready?

Joshua Kanter: I hope so.

Kerry Guard: Let's do it. Let's do it. Alright, so my first question for you is, aave you picked up any new hobbies this last year given the pandemic?

Joshua Kanter: Funny you should ask? Well, my wife and I welcomed a corona baby on January 2, so I have been mastering the art of staying up all night and making, you know, making bottles with one hand while holding a baby, and also just being in incredible awe of my daughter's beauty. And she joins me on lots of my calls. She couldn't be here for this podcast, partially because she's sleeping and also partially because it wouldn't work out at all. But so that's one.

Let's see, I've been learning Korean. My wife is Korean. So I've been learning Korean, which is very different, and actually challenging and fun. As I mentioned earlier, I really love learning.

And I recently started taking a ceramics class. In person, although it's socially distant, it's like five people in a super large room and everybody wears masks, but I've made a vase that kind of sags off on one side.

Kerry Guard: Gotta start somewhere.

Joshua Kanter: I'm super proud of it. And yeah, I have a few other things that I just glazed over last weekend. And this weekend, I'm going to go and finish them off. And so in any case, yeah, so I've been doing a few things. This is all to fill up the time that I no longer spend going to the gym or going to movies. So it's been fun.

Kerry Guard: I love it. You've been getting creative and working your hands and learning how to snuggle babies. It's the best. So I sort of miss that. Like they're starting to do that pull away and like, yeah, whatever mom sort of thing.

Joshua Kanter: I'm also a stepdad. I have a 16 year old. He'll be 17 next month. So I came in at age 11, which is before the onset of adolescence. But I kind of started out with a preteen and now we're full on teenager land. So I had that experience before being a parent to a newborn and it is, I mean, like it's a whole new world and I love every bit of it.

Kerry Guard: Alright, second question for you. If you could be in the office with your team, someday, when the world opens up again. And you're rocking the floor and you're hanging out, what song would you want playing in the overhead speakers to sort of set the vibe?

Joshua Kanter: Oh, man, that is a great question. First of all, it's gonna be difficult for me to get my team in one room because I have graphic artists and marketing specialists in Bangalore. I have some UI/UX front end developers in NYC, Mexico. I've got copywriters, and marketing coordinators in San Jose, Costa Rica. And I've got, Oh, I've got the head of communications in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So it is definitely going to be tough to get everyone in one place. We're looking forward to it. We do talk about it. Now, as for like, a song for us to play. That's a great question. I'm going to have to hit pause for a second and think about it.

Kerry Guard: Okay, I will come back to it. Okay, one more question for you. That's probably a lot easier. So we'll do that one first. And we'll come back to it. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?

Joshua Kanter: Ah Gosh, well, my wife and I really really want to go and visit Seoul, Korea. She was adopted from there and she is fluent. We want our son and our daughter to experience that. I think we're gonna do that in a year. So that's sort of the family trip that we're really looking forward to. We have friends there, and that'll be great. From work, my first trip for work, I think, will be to visit the core of the marketing team, which is in Costa Rica, working together for a year and none of us have ever met in person, or that's not true. They've met each other. I've never met any of them. And so I think it's just such a beautiful country. You know, there's the mountains, and there's the ocean. And there's in fact two oceans that you can go to and it's just so I look forward to connecting with my team who I think will probably be listening to this - hi team! Or I should probably say a lot of them in Spanish. But in any case, yeah, I got a couple of things on my mind that I'm really looking forward to.

Kerry Guard: And so when you get there and you see your core marketing team in person, what song is going to be playing?

Joshua Kanter: Alright, okay, well, I have found that I end up doing the sort of daddy humming along version of the Macarena all the time with my little daughter who's trying to stand up. She's like four and a half months old. And she's like she wants to be up on our feet. And she's kind of like wobbling over from one side of the other. And so I grabbed her like her arms and I started doing the but yeah, so anyway, I haven't heard the Macarena in years. But, there's something about that rhythm that makes her laugh. And so I sing that song, without even knowing any of the words. I sing that song multiple times a day, and I don't know if the team would appreciate it, but I would get a real kick out of it.

Kerry Guard: I love it. I love it. It's going on our Spotify list that everybody can rock out and be blasted to the 90s and remember the dance because the minute it comes on, I know you're all gonna know it.

Joshua Kanter: Oh my gosh, yeah, my daughter does end up doing the 90 degree jump at the end of my little things like, someday. One day, she's gonna hear the actual Macarena. She's like, I did someone copy your song or like, I know this song. And I don't know why.

Kerry Guard: So good. So good. Joshua, thank you for joining me on Tea Time. It was so good to connect with you and your passion just breathed life into everything we got going on. And it's been lovely. So thank you.

Joshua Kanter: Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed it.


That was my conversation with Joshua Kanter, so good. Such a great reminder on the importance of the customer voice, how we find the customer voice and then how we bring it to the organization. So everyone is working towards what the customer needs. Yes. Yes. Thank you, Joshua. Thank you. Lovely to meet you. So happy to have had you and really appreciate your time.

And thank you for listening to Tea Time and 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 is brought to you by MKG Marketing the digital marketing agency that helps complex tech companies like cybersecurity, grow their businesses and fuel their mission through SEO, digital ads, and analytics.

Hosted by Kerry Guard, CEO co-founder MKG Marketing. Music Mix and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

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