Nov 10, 2023
49 min
Episode 47

TOP CMO: Elina Vilk, Hootsuite- 'Elements of Marketing'

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  00:00

Asking a lot of questions in the beginning and creating my observations is more important than having the right answer, because it'll lead you to the right answer.

Ben Kaplan  00:08

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups. Three ideas packaged a certain way want to spread, you want to be told to someone else's simple, surprising and significant. Unlocking viral creativity is to make it rapidly scalable. This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. Today I'm speaking with Elina Vilk CMO of Hootsuite, a platform that helps businesses manage their social media accounts, schedule content and analyze metrics, schedule social posts, then kick back with his sleep. Elina brings a wealth of experience to the table, starting her career in advertising advance, then moving on to roles at Yahoo, and visa. She has also held leadership positions at PayPal, and Facebook, focusing on global marketing, and small business marketing, respectively. Most recently, she was the CMO of WooCommerce, a popular open source ecommerce platform for WordPress. So what are the four C's of marketing? According to Elina? And how can that give you a better perspective on your overall marketing plan? What does she mean by the analogy of the balcony and the dance floor? Let's find out with Hootsuite CMO. Elina Vilk. Elina, you've been on the job for just a couple months? Under 90 days? How is it first of all, overwhelmed trying to soak as much information as you can? Do you have a playbook for what you do when you start at a new CMO role?

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  01:47

Well, thanks for having me here. Yes, it's been a couple of months, it feels like a lot longer, we've jumped in with both feet was really excited for this role. You know, I think in terms of looking at opportunities and looking at roles, it's not often that you have a chance to work for a marketing company as a CMO. And that gives you a really big seat at that table. And I think for marketers, that's a rare opportunity. And so for me, that was like a big factor in taking the role and my excitement within the role. And that has not wavered. In fact, I'm probably more excited about it now than I was even before I took the role. A lot of that is fueled by the leadership team that we have, and our CEO and kind of the fact that we just think there's so much opportunity ahead of us that we can we're all building it together. And that's that's been a wonderful feeling. So so far, it's been great. In terms of the first 90 days, that's a whirlwind. So thinking about it, I have a framework that I like to use in the first 90, which is really around this idea of what are the four elements that matter? What are the four elements, I really need to learn to be able to evaluate the business and how quickly can I learn them to be impactful? Because you don't have a lot of time, I think, in any C suite role to really passively learn for 90 days. So what are the four things that we can do quickly? So the first thing was around customers? It's like four C's that I use of customers is really understanding who our customers are. Why are they with us? Why did they leave us? Who are our top customers? What are their behavioral traits? What are the things that they're doing that maybe are not obvious? So in terms of our customers, it's not just like the research and the data, but it's the things that they're not saying, I have a design thinking background, we can talk more about that later. But the things that are implicit in customer behaviors that weren't that are not obvious, those are the things I like to try to figure out right away and talk to customers. I've already I've already spoken to over 30 customers in the first few days. That is the first month that I started, really, and ask them a lot of questions about how they think about their business. So for

Ben Kaplan  03:51

CS, your first 90 days and by the way, before we do the other C's Is there a reason there's four they just happen to have it is it as four elements like Earth

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  03:58

was four elements.

Ben Kaplan  04:07

First, customers

Ben Kaplan  04:14

earth of your business realm. Imagine your customers as the fertile soil that makes everything grow. They're the foundation, the ground you walk on, and the reason your business Kingdom thrives. Without them, you're ruling over a barren land. So how do you keep the soil rich and productive? By listening, engaging and delivering value. When you understand your customers needs and wants. You're not just planting seeds, you're growing a lush, sustainable garden that will feed your kingdom for years to come.

Ben Kaplan  04:57

Elina what is to have the foresees culture

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  04:58

This adage, culture eats strategy for breakfast, et cetera, et cetera, I would say the culture, what is the culture of the company, because you can bring in your best ideas, but what worked there may not work here. And so, you know, I think of it as like organ rejection, right? Like, am I going to bring in ideas that are just going to be like, Yeah, this is the exact way we should structure a marketing team, because that worked for me the last five years, that's may not work here, you don't know the DNA of the company. So So you need to take a little bit of a humility, Chip and really understand the culture. What are you What are you walking into? These people had lives before you came in here? It's really important to appreciate that. What were the draw strings of success in this company? What were the things that are just native? Like what are the Hootsuite things right? And there's a lot of them actually, one thing I realized is palpable, is the culture in the air at this company, is the excitement and passion of the team and the way that they interact. I mean, there's this whole like, we have our roles and our culture

Ben Kaplan  05:59

bow, which is the logo and of course, Hootsuite, which is derived from the owl, of course, but do you have any method for figuring out the culture? Or is it just getting a sense for it? You know, you mentioned 30 customers, you go interview 15, marketing team members and 15, non marketing team members, and you get your 30 interviews? And how do you figure out the culture,

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  06:17

I've done over 51 on ones.

Ben Kaplan  06:22

Next, let's talk about culture. That's the air that Phil's stroking. It's invisible, but so important. Think of culture as the atmosphere that everyone in your organization collectively breathes, is what sets the tone for how your team collaborates. innovates and celebrates. Just like you can't survive long without air, your business can't thrive without a healthy culture. To make sure it's fresh, clean, invigorating. A positive culture is like a gentle breeze that lifts everyone up helping them soar to even new heights

Ben Kaplan  07:07

Elina do your one on ones, you get a sense for the culture. That's two, we got earth and we got air. What is the the third seat that you're trying to understand and uncovering the first 90 days of CMO? My

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  07:19

third C's company, meaning the company financials, products, foundations? What are the levers that are going to drive the company forward? So understanding the language that we use the acronyms but really understanding beyond that, like what drives the company forward? And what are the things we're missing? What are the things that we are not looking at, in you know, in the company in like, you know, you're kind of mired in the details on your day to day, right, like, coming in new you have supervision where you can actually see things that are maybe not as obvious in the financials and in other areas. So that's the third See,

Ben Kaplan  07:58

so if I was gonna put it simply, it's that how do we make money? How do we make more money? And what can I see and all of you use the term lever which is if you have a lever, if you have like a really big stick, what are the things that I can push and use to move things to great effect. So that's like, to me that's like water, that's like the lifeblood like we can't even survive. If we don't have water, we don't get to do all the other things we do if we don't like understand the water yeah.

Ben Kaplan  08:36

Now, onto a company, the water that nourishes your water is versatile, it takes the shape of whatever container it's in. And it can be both calm and powerful.

Ben Kaplan  08:51

Likewise, your company, its mission, vision and values should be adaptable yet strong. It's the lifeblood that keeps everything in your kingdom lush and vibrant, whether it's your products, services or unique selling proposition. This is the why behind your watch, keep it flowing, keep it clean, and make sure it reaches every corner of your company

Ben Kaplan  09:23

Okay, so we've done customers that's the earth culture that's the air company that's water what is the fourth see any bets on the fourth seat? I think some producers are backchannels here we have some words about community going on maybe that we had some other things Tom suggested community is Tom right?

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  09:42

Well, community I placed under customers so that was really important, okay. But it's okay, it's under customers. Fourth, C is competitors. We don't

Ben Kaplan  09:51

operate in a vacuum right? We only operate in the context of our competitive set. If we're a social media platform like Hootsuite, we have a lot of competitors. have various sizes from those who cater to large enterprises to those who are, you know, catering to the small individual person that just wants to, you know, get more social media likes. So you got a lot of competitors.

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  10:12

We have a lot of competitors. And I think it's not even just about understanding the competitors. And I don't so much looking competitors to determine what our strategy would be. Because I think that's a huge mistake, I look at the first CS, three C's to determine where our strategy would be, I look at competitors to determine what our customers see. So what ecosystem are we playing in? And where what are our customers seeing when they start to on ramp and onboard and evaluating us versus, like, when I have two options? What are the two options? And how am I being looked at comparatively to other options, and

Ben Kaplan  10:41

of course, competitors perfect, because our last element is fire. And competitors are the fire that just makes sense. It's it's out there, it's kind of lurking, it's dangerous, but we got to like run across those coals and get through the fire. And you know, one other thing that I think is interesting now, particularly in times of change and disruption, and I don't know if you think about this in your first 90 days, or if this is further down the line, but it's like you have your direct competitors. But with the changing world, competitors emerge in different ways we have generative AI, that's right there that people are surprisingly, that that's going to play a role in social media. Well, I don't know, you know, could open AI be a competitor, you wouldn't really think it's a competitor of Hootsuite. But who knows? Maybe there's some application of it that it could be right. So do you think about that, too, you know, not only in current competitors, but indirect or emerging competitors, just based on trends and changes? That's

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  11:30

right. The competitor is a big word. It's more than competitors that are competing with us right now. I don't see them as a huge threat. If they're listening, I don't think you are. But But I would say that, I would say that. It's really, it's more because I think it builds the ecosystem for us, like the more people that use social media. The more companies that use us, the better it is, because I actually think competition is really good for business. But I would say it's more of like, unless about being a threat. I'd say it's more about like, understanding the ecosystem and understanding where we need to go and where are we not playing? And what are we need to be thinking about in the broader ecosystem for our customers.

Ben Kaplan  12:10

And for those last two, for the company, and for competitors, any specific tactics that you do in the first 90 days, try to get a hold of those, like your one on one interviews for culture, like your 30 customer interviews.

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  12:24

So for company, I look at our metrics, and I study our metrics, and I look at our company journey, and I look at our funnels. So. So what I study is not just like the company wide metrics that everyone uses, but also very metrics specific to my field or genre. I guess it's just say I look at behaviors in our funnels. And I ask a lot of questions around behaviors in all of our funnels? And are we thinking about it from a customer perspective? Meaning, the funnels that we typically look at are very much inward facing, we look at, okay, how they start here at the top, we funnel them down, there's less and less people in the funnel, we go down, and then there's a conversion, and so and so and so and that's the typical funnel, great. What is the customer journey look like? What is the customer's view of the funnel? Meaning? Are they aware of us? Like our customers becoming aware of us at a at the pace we want them to be? Are we driving new customers to look for us? Are we relevant to them? Was our message sticking with them at different points in their journey? What are all the points in their journey? Do we know what our points external to us? A lot of times companies only look at their funnels, like their specific websites, are there a specific blog, etc? What are the customers doing? What are prospects doing outside of us? What's happening there? What's our conversion rate across all of that? Are they are they connecting with us or not? So relevance? And then when we look at existing customers, are they? Are we significant to them? Or are we actually going to be somebody that they stick with? Are they loyal to us? Are they someone that they would advocate or speak on our behalf? Like what is what is their journey look like? So for me, it's really taking external metrics and translating them into customers language, to be really customer obsessive. And then when you can do that you can actually think about the world a little bit differently because I find that you actually start asking different questions.

Ben Kaplan  14:18

Finally, we arrive at competitors, the fire of your domain.

Ben Kaplan  14:27

Fire can be both good and bad, it can destroy but it can also provide light and warmth. In the business world, your competitors are that fire. They light up the path you should or shouldn't take and keep you warm with the drive to be the best. This isn't about burning bridges. It's about using that competitive fire as a transformative force. It's the spark that ignites innovation keeps you focused and pushes you to be better every single day. Elina is a theme in your career, we can touch upon that, which is how relationships can drive revenue. Because I think I'm guessing here reading between the lines that if you understand that well and you understand it from the customer's point of view, then you might understand the relationship better, and then drive revenue from it. So how does that work in like, let's, let's take, you've worked in financial services, you've worked in really large companies like like, meta or Paypal or others. But let's start with Hootsuite leader in its own right, but maybe not quite as big as meta and how does it manifest as you're using relationships that you understand to drive revenue?

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  15:38

Let me give you before I answer that question, let me actually give you an analogy, that maybe we'll bring this home a little bit before I answer that question. The analogy is this. When you think about your regular relationships in your life, there's there's a factor there of trust, right? Like, how many people in your life are you going to ask to help you move? Or if your house is being tented right, like with termites or something? How many people in your life? Can you think of that you're going to be able to call?

Ben Kaplan  16:04

We don't live in the same city? But producer Tom, if we did, he would definitely be my first call. But yes, I Yes, Tom's there. You've met Tom. Tom is very nice, very dependable, very trustworthy. But to your point, there's not that many people here in San Francisco that I would maybe draw upon maybe a handful or two handfuls maybe that I would go up for something like that. Yes.

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  16:25

Right. Because you, when you ask for something like that, you know, you put yourself in a very vulnerable position, you need something from them. And for you to do that, for you to ask that saver. You've had to have built a lot of trust with that person. And you're going to need to know you're going to need to know unequivocally that that person will say yes to you, when you ask that question, and you'll trust them. Right, that that you've built that trust over time? When does that trust happen? Can you put a number to it, probably not probably like hundreds of interactions that you've had over time. But it starts with that first coffee, you know, and instead it starts with like, maybe a dinner, maybe maybe you've been through the trenches together, maybe you've gone through some tough times, and they've been there for you. Maybe there's like there's a quotient to it. So when I go back to like awareness, relevance and significance, right? So awareness, it's like, you know, you're having that first cup of coffee, relevance, it's like you're establishing trust, you know, you've invested you both starting to invest the time, you know, maybe you've invested more than time. And then when it's significant, that's when you can ask someone you have permission, actually ask someone to help you move or go to stay at their house. So when I think about that, you know, that's like a formula that I use, everywhere I go, starting with Hootsuite, all the way in FinTech and everywhere else, we have to earn the trust of our customers before we can ask them for anything. When you think about like your best customers who your best customers are the people that are going to speak on your behalf, they're going to refer you to other businesses, like you're asking for that, you know, for me to ask a customer to reference me, that's a big deal. Like I've earned their trust that how I would have to earn their trust. It's like the equivalent of me asking them, you know, to stay at their house. So I think any company could use this because every company at the end of the day, whether you're a b2b company or a b2c company, you're in the business of relationships, and human relationships all work the same way, we have to earn trust. And we're based on high involvement versus long Obama.

Ben Kaplan  18:23

One thing that I would say, you know, just on the issue of trust, which is actually something I've actually studied quite a bit, all the way back from measuring the cost of trust, because you can look at something like kind of famous moments in business history, like, for instance, when, you know, in the 1980s, Tylenol had some cases of pills laced with cyanide, you know, in Chicago, and they actually made the step of we're going to do recalls across the country, even though this was isolated to a particular region, because our trust is so valuable. And that, you know, we can measure in our stock price, right, and you can see what happened to the stock price base, this is the value of Tylenols Trust, the trust in their brand. So in that sense, but then the other side is is to me, without getting too far on a tangent here. But I think it relates to companies as well as that, whether personally or in business, to me, the fastest way to build trust, is to say you're going to do something and then do it is the number one fastest way. And actually people sometimes forget that you can't just do it, you have to say you're gonna do it, and then deliver on that, that actually builds more trust than just doing it and like kind of not saying it, you know, surprise I did it. It actually because trust is being able to count on someone. And so to me, for businesses for you know, friends who are moving things, it's like, you know, I'm there for you. I'm gonna do this, I've got you and then I do it that builds trust and that can affect marketing for businesses too, because Hootsuite we're a social media platform. Here's what we're gonna do for you. Bam, we did it. That builds trust that lets maybe us do a bigger ask for later on.

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  19:52

That's right. But before we can ask you for anything we have to do that we have to do that work, right. You've got to we've got to earn their trust. So go back to Like it's a customer centered, funnel, not a business Centered Outcome. And so, so when we think about that, and we reframe our thoughts in that way, well, what are we doing for our customers along their journey? And we think about their journey a lot. So we were released the social media report, and in that we studied, like our customers, essentially, like, what are they doing? What are they doing day to day, and we found that, actually, a social media manager has not one job, but 100 Jobs Plus, like, they have to write content, you know, they have to produce the content, they have to build creative, they have to understand everything going on in a company at any given time, they also have to understand customer service, they have to understand the other side, you know, of how to respond to customers, and how to do it all in real time. And by the way, their job doesn't stop when they go to sleep, because people come on to social at all hours of the day. So when you think about the dynamics of something like that, you know, it all starts and ends with with our customers and understanding them deeply. And then we can actually start to understand how to respond to them. And you've

Ben Kaplan  21:07

mentioned something you alluded to earlier, which is that it's interesting working in marketing, having a top marketing role at a company that assists with marketing. And because you know, you're going to have an important role at that type of company. But also, we've discussed before this notion of what you can learn about relationships with your customers through social media specifically, and I know you've spoken about basically two dimensions to it, like, what you can learn about your biggest fans, and what you can learn about your biggest detractors. And you get all that in a firehose on social media. So how can companies and CMOS use that better whether they are in a marketing discipline as their business or not? If someone

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  21:49

told you as a marketer, you can know everything about your top customers for free. With organic, would you invest it? Would you invest more time into that? Here's what I know. Your top buyers in any given company, roughly, the numbers are something like between 70 and 80% of your total volume comes from 10 to 20% of your customers, right, something like that. Those are the numbers. So these are the top buyers are your ICP or ideal customer profile. So when you think about your top buyers, what do they look like and what are their interest groups, a lot of companies mind their own data and build look alike audiences against their top buyers to find more of them. And this is usually a pretty expensive task, in terms of really understanding their top buyers. But if you want to understand your top buyers in a three dimensional way, you don't have to look a lot farther than the people that are following you who are positive to neutral sentiment on your social media pages. People take the time to follow your business, pretty much they're more likely to be your top buyer. And if they're likely to be your top buyer, they're representing these people representing 70 80%. In social media, you can actually understand their profiles, you can understand what they're saying what their behaviors are, and you can actually get to know them in a very different way. So with the equivalent of buying them a cup of coffee and understanding them beginning of that relationship, it can start and it can end with them referencing you and referring you in social media and a reference in social media were so much more I think about like a reference from a friend of a company versus a reference from, you know, a page or a review site. So when we think about that, like if you start to dissect your customers into two groups, one is like people that follow me, my top buyers, dissect who they are in your social media pages, and being able to understand who they are, what pages they follow what their interest groups are, that's your blueprint for your top buyers, you can build a whole media plan around that. Conversely, you also have the people that could you could see them as your detractors. I think of them more as your real time real time feedback loop. You know exactly what's going on at any given point in your company, just by looking at the people who are commenting, they're using your social media pages, to effectively help them with customer service that gives you a real time or real time option of of understanding exactly what they're going through and what the issues are on your company at any given day. So between those two and your organic social feed, you've got both you've got your feedback loop that understands like what your biggest customer service issues are. You also got your top buyers that you can dissect with first party data meaning you know exactly who they are. Right there in your social feed. We're really under utilizing that as marketers.


If you enjoy this show, you'll love top

Ben Kaplan  24:37

of SEO. Top SEO is a business school case study telling the story behind the story and what you can learn from it from those who have faced the fire and come out the other side.


That was the challenge the team was faced 25% of it was gone if I found myself $280,000 in debt,

The Detective  24:56

how would you navigate through these trials and transform them into opportunities? growth and success, how

Ben Kaplan  25:01

do you build back up the business and get out of debt


and get anything in, nobody can come to work right in any of our factory in any of the factories.


This is TOP CEO available wherever you get your podcasts.

Ben Kaplan  25:21

What's interesting about social media and the fact that really it was designed to be consumed in bite sized pieces or larger pieces, what I mean is like in a paid media plan, right, you can do a little bit of a, you know, small buy, you can test it out, see what's working, and you can scale up a lot easier than maybe you can do it and other media. What's interesting about that is it means clever folks use it for all sorts of testing and insights, because you can do it without huge spins, right? Like, okay, if you're going to do this market research study of our ideal customer, we've got to do these elaborate interviews, like that's going to be kind of a big project effort. But if we're going to look at a slice of who we can see and just kind of analyze them using tools, it's not going to be quite so expensive, we can do a little bit more agile a bit faster. Likewise, if we have a product that's new, or maybe we just have a concept for a product, we don't really have the product yet. We can run social media ads against that, drive it to a landing page, see in that ideal customer profile? Who's interested who's not, what's their interest. And then before we even develop that product, we can get testing results and kind of test it in the wild. So social media, as a laboratory, is exciting and valuable. And it brings us to another question for you. Because you you work in social media, now you've been a top marketing person at other companies like WooCommerce, that's related. But how do other marketers think about what is the purpose of social media for them? Is it Do you know how to build awareness? Are they trying to drive sales? Are they trying to test things in the wild? Are they trying to get insights? It seems like, it's so ubiquitous now that we obviously know that social media is valuable, but we just don't know how to use it to maximum benefit.

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  27:03

That's exactly you just you just hit the nail on the head. If you ask marketers about notice the organic social, can dissect organic, social and paid social and kind of two different worlds. paid social, you know, is like an extension of your media strategy. I'm gonna I'm gonna reach the folks through paid social. That's part of my media planning. Okay. What about my organic social? I know I need to be in it. But what is it? What is the value of it to me? How do I measure it? How do I extract the value out of it? How do I understand how much to invest in it? Content Management, there's all these like, internal resources I need to dedicate to it. So I find that actually, the majority from the organic social, if you ask most marketers, they will tell you that they understand. Like, if you spend $1, in search engine marketing, they'll know you know exactly what that yields, you are close to it. Let's take out the attribution arguments, which we all have. But if you spend if you spend money on content and organic, social, it's a harder it's a harder sell in terms of like, I don't know exactly what that does. So how do you start extracting that value? And how do you start to really pull that the best marketers actually do this really well, they're able to really create viral campaigns that drive and it's an augmentation, the you don't have a strategy. Without social, it's the biggest time square we have right now, the authenticity of that it's still really relevant millions of users every day. So I would say that, in terms of social media, it's really got to be part of an integrated approach in terms of everything we do, because it is organic. And because this is like our sound voice, we use it a lot and Hootsuite so for example, we have this product called amplify, we can get like all of our employees to megaphone a message out there, think about the power of that, like doing that at scale, it actually creates a better SEO value for you, because you're able to then connect that with your, with your with your whatever website URL that you're using, you're able to create a better SEO story, you're able to magnify that. So what is the role of social, it varies on the company that you're in. If your company is about driving, let's say lead gen or revenue or or anything else, social is an integrated part of that equation, using things like UTM, which has tags where are going to help you extract more value or understand where the value comes from, it's still not going to be one to one attribution that you see like a last click thing like ro S, which I can talk more about, but it's about that an integrated story and where you are in that story. And then if you think about like, brand value, or if you want to drive brand metrics, that's a different kind of story. So really depends on the objective that you're driving towards as a business. The role of social is going to change. But no matter what, there's a role for social to play, because it's your customers are there, that's where you should be at the end of the day as marketers, we have to fish where we have to fish where that would be where our customers are at the end of the day. And that's where they are. And that's also where they trust and where we can actually have a one to one conversation. You shouldn't build that relationship and build that story with them. And if we're not there, somebody else will be. And

Ben Kaplan  30:06

that's actually a highlights thing, or one of the two reasons of why most companies will struggle on something like social media just because of two, almost like cultural elements of just how companies are usually built to succeed. So one of the first things is you're built to succeed, you know, if you're a company at scale of defining processes, and being able to execute those processes kind of in your way on your turf, he has suddenly social media, it might even be specific to the platform, right? This one post totally fine on Instagram, you put that same post on Reddit, and, and you're just going to be hammered by trying to do that on Reddit. And you've got to understand the context. So one, companies have to be pretty good at shifting context, which usually you're used to, like, No, this is our playing field. This is our context, that we optimize that context to grow. And then the second thing is that you've got to be time based, or we call it calendar based marketing about what's happening right now. I mean, you have to kind of move quickly be willing to try things learn from it, optimize, which is actually really good. If you're an individual influencer, you can try a lot of stuff, there's not a lot of consequences, you learn what works, and you do it. But if you're a company, you have more approvals reasons for concern, more reasons that, you know, this could create legal risk, or compliance risk, or all these other things. So by nature, you've got to be more careful and slow. And yet social media kind of rewards being quick and fast and learning and iterating. So how culturally as a company, you can sort of work in a different context and just work without all the same constraints and test and learn. And if you can't, it's gonna be hard to really, really get the most out of social it

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  31:44

is. And people also consume social differently. You know, when you're in that feed, you're you, you want the, like the headline in the header, right? The kind of the finger stopping moment, like a thumb stopper, right? And what does that thumb stopper look like inside of that moment. But if a company is following you, at the end of the day, they want to hear from you. You know, think about the number of companies you follow in your social feed, not that many. So the ones you choose to follow, there's a reason you're following them. So it's a huge honor to be selected is the way I see it, if someone follows Hootsuite, I owe them the ability to give them the best content and have them wonder why are they following me? Why did they want to know what I want to say? What are the things they're interested in? And also, what are the things that I want to convey as a company, right? Like, what are the things how do those things marry up and really create between the two. And so that is our job is to really reflect that. So it's not just about the campaign's that I'm doing, and making socials part of my integrated campaign, that's important. But it's also about how have I create a two way dialogue and build that relationship over time. Like, I'm having 100 coffees, I'm not just having one coffee, right? This is my chance. Whereas like, when I'm doing paid media, I don't have that much money. You know, like, I'm gonna buy one premium coffee, that's like my one shot. To do it, right, I'm gonna test that I'm gonna AV test a lot of that, it's gonna be like I'm paying for I'm paying money for something, right? Like, that's an ROI equation, when you're in the hot seat as a marketer to make that ROI work. I'm not saying you can, you can't mess up social, you absolutely can. And we should do it right. And we should take the time to write. And I understand there's a lot of compliance challenges, but it does give you a reason to communicate more often with your customers, especially in non campaign ways, in ways that you can actually create that connection. Over time, I'd

Ben Kaplan  33:33

love to wrap up and get your thoughts. We've been talking about the purpose of social media and how to unlock its potential. But a lot of this also stems from it's just, you know, it's a different channel to create the relationships we talked about. And early on your career, I'd like to kind of go through your career a little bit and sort of ask you what you take with you from these experiences and, and early on in your career, there's sort of a trifecta of financial services or FinTech companies, as I understand it from visa and eBay and PayPal, what do you learn from sort of marketing in those spaces that that you take with you now and the other marketers can use so

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  34:08

after being in payments for many years, my whole world, especially as a younger marketer, was centered around this idea of payments. When you're in an industry in any industry, you're in, you know, you kind of center your world around that specific industry. And you really speak the language. I talked about this a little bit. I had this life changing moment when I got taken out of my job and went to the D school at Stanford, certified there for design thinking, because at the D school, they taught you that it's really about, you know, customer driven design, which is customer driven empathy, this idea of really understanding your customers, and asking the right question can lead to a completely different outcome. So when you're in a world or in an industry, like I mentioned, it's hard to kind of pull yourself out of that. It's easy when you're new to a company, you know, like come in new Oh, I could have this spray scrape framework. are the elements and so that Ben just made up? But, but it's, it's a lot harder when you might when you're mired in like an organization and you're you've been there for five years, you know, so. So how do you pull yourself out of that? I had an aha moment in payments. When I spoke to a customer, I interviewed a customer. And she said, Well, I don't, I don't actually like want to pay for anything. What do you mean, payments? Is the world payments is the center of the universe, you know? It's like, Free is better? is better? Free is better? Yeah. She was like, Well, no, I don't like like, Well, how do you think about payments? I was so excited with payments is all I think about right? So first and foremost, it is obvious you're not your customer. So really, under asking them the right questions. Second was the fact when she said I don't, I don't care about payments. I mean, that rocked my world, like she doesn't care about payments, we're optimizing for payments, like she doesn't care about payments. What she's really saying is, what she really said, to me was payments needs to be as frictionless as possible. I was like, I want I want to, I want to think about the thing that I'm buying, I want to buy it, I want to go to an event, I want to go to a concert, I want to go on vacation, I want to buy a cute outfit for my date night, you know, like payments is the last thing in the equation. So I'm not thinking about how I'm going to pay until the moment of truth when I'm paying. So when I think about like payment experiences or commerce experiences, like what is the customer thinking about in that moment? And what's gonna, what's gonna diminish that sale at the end of the day? Well, any kind of friction in the payment process is going to dim. And maybe that sounds obvious, but as a marketer, it wasn't as obvious because I was thinking like, where do I put in payments? Like, where can I market payments? At what point do you talk about payments? Or another

Ben Kaplan  36:41

way to put it is like, Yes, as a marketer, you want people to be thinking about you, I should be thinking about, you know, if you had it your way, like all the time I think about me, like 24/7, from the person's point of view, they're like, well, if I'm thinking about payments, and the mechanics of that, then something has gone terribly wrong. If I'm trying to like buy, you know, my travel vacation plans with my family, and I'm excited about this trip, or I'm gonna go to this amazing concert with my friends or have date night with my spouse, or whatever it is, if I'm thinking about you, PayPal or eBay or visa, something's gone wrong. That's right.

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  37:13

It's not about just pushing your brand every single time or pushing the instrumentation. But it's about creating the best experience for the customer at that time. And that was a big aha moment for me, which is like how, what does that mean, at different companies you're in? And what is the right time, at what point is the time that I need that they need to be thinking about WooCommerce, or Hootsuite? And at what point in their journey does that need to happen? When is the right time, which goes back to the framework I gave you earlier? So that's where we're in their journey. When do I When do I introduce myself and ask for a cup of coffee? And when do I ask them to refer me to someone like, when is the time to move in.

Ben Kaplan  37:49

And of course, getting a really good sense of that is one of the best ways that you can actually be most efficient with your marketing spend, right? Because if you can do it at the peak time, you can actually get a lot done with less, which is actually why we tell a lot of our clients at a top or a global marketing agency, that if you have bigger competitors who spend more and do more, he actually just got to be more opportunistic at the right moment. And then you don't have to do all the spins they do throughout the year. But if you do at the right time with the right message at the right moment, and you focus, you can actually have a bigger impact than someone that has, you know, just a lot more more more weight in your industry, at least at least for now. Okay, so you're from payments, then you go to meta, which obviously, if you're going to play in anything digital, you know, suddenly you get to see behind the curtain, right? You get to see, you know, where's all this money going? And how is it being facilitated to make business happen? What do you learn at meta next point in your career journey?

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  38:49

So the majority of my time at PayPal, I worked on large enterprises, I worked with b2b companies that were really large in size. And then I came into med and I was now faced with a totally different world, which was small business.

Ben Kaplan  39:02

Okay, so you're working on small businesses and medicine. And by the way, Mehta is Facebook, right parent company of Facebook, they renamed so Facebook big but focused on the small business niche. So as you might think Facebook Mehta might not focus on that much as they got such big clients. But interesting.

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  39:16

It's a big part of their revenue equation. I'm not going to quote what it is now. But you can look at their earnings report, you think about a democratizing commerce. And you think about the idea that having the same tools like a small business, what's the barrier to entry if they're trying to do a TV ad, right, or they're trying to do like a billboard? Right? What companies like like meta and Google and others do, is they they democratize that opportunity for small businesses, they give them the ability to market themselves at the same playing field as big companies. And so I thought that was a really strong, you know, mission for me to jump on, which is why I went over there and was great is that I was able to really think about them and Think about, you know, small businesses and the mom and pop shops, especially those predominantly still who are physical. So meaning like coffee shops? And how do I start to market myself in different ways? How do I attract new customers? So now you have a totally different audience. I was working with audiences like that had huge marketing teams that could do all the all the things now I'm working with audiences, like, I'm the owner of this business. And I'm deciding on whether I'm going to do ads on Facebook, or whether I'm going to buy a laptop for my son that month. So there's an interesting because like, it's not the same competitors, right? Like when I say competitors, that's what I mean by competitors aren't necessarily a threat, which is like, what is like, what is the mindshare? I'm looking at in that moment, like, so when you speak to these small businesses that really is like, you're looking at do I spend money on ads? Do I spend money on something totally different? Right, like that's in my life? That was a huge responsibility. And, and I took it very seriously. And I think that I think people that are due to everyone, everyone there is really awesome. But you know, thinking about that the lessons of matter is that business is really personal. So, you know, it was it was like, the pandemic hit while I was there. And a lot of these businesses were only able to still stay in touch with their customers, because they had, you know, Facebook tools and messenger and some of the others out there. So business, right, where I took from Meadow was that business is absolutely personal, that every dollar these businesses invest is a huge responsibility on that business, because they are making their entire communities decision based on those dollars that they spend with you. And

Ben Kaplan  41:38

then the question is not that you can like have a ladder that allows them to climb, you know, slightly, like faster than your competitors ladder or something like that. But it's like, is the ladder up against the right wall for their business overall? Okay, so just to summarize, we'll get to kind of third and final phase of your career. So one, payments, financial services, your learning, like, how do we relevant? How are we relevant? How do we matter even in things where people don't necessarily want to think of us? What do we do? And you start thinking about, okay, how do you you work through other experiences, or partners or others to be relevant, you get to meta Facebook, you work in small business, and then you realize, like, Okay, someone might be choosing, it's not like, what part of the marketing budget I'm in, it's like, Am I doing marketing at all, versus, you know, infrastructure for my business or something else. So you learn about the responsibility of that. And then also, the importance of understanding kind of the personal sort of situation. And it's not how to build your trust or the relationship, you have to understand their situation and really deliver. And then it makes perfect sense for your next career move when you go to WooCommerce. And then you end up of course, now past two months at Hootsuite, because WooCommerce sort of is a great bridge, because it combines payments, you're an E commerce platform with the digital world. But you got to at Facebook, you said you put those two together, what do you take from WooCommerce, which is, you know, popular kind of e commerce Store that you now use in your new role. Sweet,

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  43:04

whoo, what I learned was that your customers aren't who still obvious who your customers are all the time. So we learned at will that a lot of the folks that are paying for the service are actually not the folks who just choose the service. And it was the same kind of thing. I went for a walk with a customer. And it was like, Well, why did you choose us? How did you select us? And it was like, Well, my design company did. So we found that we actually had like different kinds of customers that weren't. So we had, like the entrepreneur paying for the service. But then we had somebody totally different. That was maybe selecting the service. And so it was really about there, it was like, are we asking the right questions to understand the customer journey, and that would really hit home for me there. Because it was like not as obvious as you think it is. It wasn't a linear thing where it was like, okay, this person is versus paying for the service, and they're our customer, our customer could be a decision maker, in terms of somebody who's paying for the service, but it could all there was influencing customers, people that influenced the decision, how are we reaching those people? Are we talking to those people? Are we are we connecting with them in the right way? And what's the job of marketing, right, is the job of marketing just to reach the decision maker, which is the primary spenders, the job market to reach the influencers that create, like, the ecosystem that you live in. So for me, that was a really interesting learning in that we have to deeply understand the customer journey and understand it not in just the linear way like ask the questions that aren't obvious. In this case, I actually literally walked my dog with a customer we went out to the park and I spent like an hour with her and we just walked our dogs together. That's

Ben Kaplan  44:42

that's very good as as well as a good pet throw is a good relationship building technical or other marketing, marketing lessons. What What kind of dog do you have?

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  44:50

So I have Kona, who's a golden doodle. She's very needy, and adorable. Okay,

Ben Kaplan  44:56

I have a terrier Chihuahua. an Aussie mix named Ginger. And I think, you know, one of the lessons for me of understanding people. And this is a funny side note, but we did one of the first things we did as an agency many years ago was this campaign. That was what does your dog say about you? And that was the whole thing. And we actually we interviewed men and women and this and that, and what what does it say? What does it say about you? And, and so that that was one of the campaign's that put us on the map. So to wrap up, we could talk about it, don't get me started on pets, Atlanta, because we could talk about that for a while. Lastly, I just wanted to ask you as given everything that you've done, you're in your first 90 days, you're implementing your your four C's, and let's see if we can remember them. They're the customers, that's the earth. That's the culture, that's the air, there's the company, that's the water, Ooh, there's the competitors. That's the fire. Right, given all of that. And given everything that you're you're learning, what would you recommend? That is going to be some that a CMO can use to stand out from others from the competition? What are the thing? What's the extra thing? If you're gonna go the extra mile? Maybe it's the thing that you don't always have time for. But the thing that, you know, just positions you for success? What would you recommend? What's like a tactic or a tip? Or something else you could do? If you really want to understand your new company?

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  46:23

Well, have you heard of the analogy, the balcony and the dance floor?

Ben Kaplan  46:27

No, no, what is the balcony in the dance floor,

Elina Vilk - Hootsuite  46:29

when you first started with your your CMO, or you're a person starting out in any new company, you have this superpower, where you are Kind of going into the balcony, you're kind of standing Oh, you're overlooking the dance floor. And everybody else is dancing, right? Everyone's in their dance routine, you might be dancing with a partner, you might be dancing on your own. And you know, you kind of have your lane and you're dancing in your lane. When you're on the balcony, you're able to see kind of you're not able to see up close, you can't see the dance floor, you don't really know the moves. But you know where everyone's going, you're able to see people are about to collide, you're able to see kind of a bird's eye view. And so you have this one shot to ask the right questions before you yourself are going to be on that dance floor. So what I like to do is provide a perspective, a lot of times you coming in, you might feel like, maybe this is a stupid question. But actually, I asked the question anyway, be brave. And do it because people are in their dance moves. Right? They're not seeing it, because they've been there for a while. And they know a lot more than you do. But you see things that they don't that are obvious. And sometimes those obvious things can be the unlock. So I find that asking a lot of questions in the beginning and creating my observations are going to be the things and like a year later, into any job, there still seem to be the truth. So they're the observations tend to be true even if you don't have the full picture of information. So asking the right question is more important than having the right answer because it'll lead you to the right answer.

Ben Kaplan  48:12

According to Hootsuite CMO, Elina Vilk, the business world is a dance of four elemental forces, earth, air, water and fire representing customers culture, company, and competitors. Your customers are your earth, your foundation, the fertile ground that sustains your business. Culture is the air that fills your sales driving your team spirit and innovation is not just about filling a room. It's about creating an atmosphere where everyone can thrive. Your company that's the water adaptable and essential nourishing every part of your business. And don't forget the fire your competitors, sparking innovation and focus, keeping you on your toes. To take a page from Elina's book and spend some time on the balcony. To get that bird's eye view of your business dance floor. It can be your superpower for asking the right questions and finding transformative answers. For TOP CMO. I'm Ben Kaplan.

The Detective  49:17

This amazing episode was brought to you by TOP Thought Leader don't forget to rate review and subscribe.

New episodes will always updated regularly

Waste of resources our competitors are jumping the shark.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.