The path to marketing success has definitely undergone some major landscaping over the past year and a half, but some skills remain essential for anyone interested in building a career in B2B marketing.
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Having spent more than 20 years in marketing communication (including 20 years at MetLife), Meg Kypena has had a hand in mentoring, coaching, or otherwise developing more than 200 marketers nationwide, so she knows what skills marketers need to go the distance.
In this episode of Marketing Smarts, we cover the skills every marketer needs to have. And we talk through Meg's journey from agency marketing director to leading national marketing teams for Fortune 500 companies and, ultimately, becoming an entrepreneur.
We delve into how Meg's ADHD diagnosis helped her to identify the source of her success, the importance of change management for every organization, and what "marcom" looks like in the pandemic era.
Listen to the entire show now from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.
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"Marketing Smarts" theme music composed by Juanito Pascual of Signature Tones.
Kerry O'Shea Gorgone: Welcome to the Marketing Smarts Podcast. I'm here with Meg Kypena. Meg led the national marketing team at MetLife and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing. She's a partner at ResultsThruStrategy.com, where she consults with major restaurant chains. We can learn a ton from Meg. We're going to talk about all sorts of things, career transitions, of which she's had a few, marketing communications, and all types of things.
Thanks for joining us, Meg.
Meg Kypena: Thank you so much. I've really been looking forward to talking to you. Thank you for this opportunity.
Kerry: I have a burning question, because you've just recently started posting a lot more video content to your LinkedIn. Within the last week, you had one about how you signed off of an online conference video call. Can you tell me about that? You were being very transparent and authentic, and I think it's a great example of B-to-B marketing gone right.
Meg: So, about that situation. I was onboarding some new clients. You always want to put your best foot forward, you want to really have a great experience. My whole thing is about branding experiences and articulating your experience and being able to demonstrate that on a regular basis. Then that happened.
Literally, we were getting off the phone and everybody was saying, "Let's follow up here," and let's do this, let's do that, looking forward to working with you, and whatever. There were like 11 people on the phone. Just as we were closing up, I was writing this down, I was about to send it, and I said, "All right, everybody. Love you. Bye," and I hung up. I was like OMG. I'm literally staring out the window thinking there were so many people, nobody caught that, no big deal, whatever.
A handful of hours later, I send the email, they responded, and literally copied everybody from the person that I'm going to be reporting to on this new contract and they said, "We're really looking forward to having you as part of this journey. On behalf of the entire team, love you, bye."
Kerry: Now it's with you forever.
Meg: I've talked to them since then and it's like their thing now. Okay, I guess that's my thing, too.
Kerry: It could be worse. I blow kisses on The Backpack Show all the time.
Meg: I love that. The reason that I made the video about that is that I've been scouring and watching people on video. A lot of people show up really well on video, and some people just do a masterful job of it. Others, not so much, and that's okay. There's a lot of people doing stuff. The people that are showing up, there's just too much polish. I think that if we've learned anything from having gone through this pandemic it's that we have to be real. We literally have to be real.
I've had the opportunity now to just kind of say I have to get myself out there. I'm talking about delivering a brand experience, I want to be able to do that, I want to get a wider reach, I think I can do this. Then I started doing it. Yeah, you get the creeps out there, you get the weirdos, but at the same time, I also get messages from people I haven't talked to in years. I've gotten messages from people saying, "Thank you so much for saying something. Watching you helps me be more brave." These are some of the private messages that I'm getting.
I'm like okay, I got this. If that's the kind of thing that I can impact, giving somebody who really wants to dare and get out there and tell their story and impact somebody just a little bit more courage, that's fricking great.
Kerry: I like to say you're never going to be younger than you are right now.
Meg: There's that, too.
Kerry: Now is the time. For some people, that's the hang up.
You've had a really storied career. When you started out in marketing, what did you think your career was going to look like? Did you have a career trajectory in mind, or were you just like I'm going to see where this goes?
Meg: I got my master's degree in '96, I left Boston, and then I came back and I started working for the Dale Carnegie Organization. I immediately fell in love with it. I was a graduate assistant for all of their classes for a couple of years. But I was really more in sales, I was the one that put the butts in the seats for all of the classes.
Because I have a master's degree in organizational development and industrial psychology, and a lot of that is how people (how consumers) view and think about companies, I liked that aspect of it. I took PR and all of that as part of the discipline, but I loved the behavioral end of marketing, what makes people tick. It goes beyond just the consumer personas. It's really how our words and messaging are going to be compelling, how can you influence people to behave differently. Not just by your product, but be an absolute advocate or an evangelist for your brand. Though I started dipping into that with Dale Carnegie because that was already a brand that everybody knew, and I really loved that.
From there, I was a marketing director at a mortgage firm for a while. Then, as I say, when I was 27, I got my big break, I became an agency marketing director for MetLife in Rochester, New York. Kerry, I thought I died and went to heaven. Snoopy and the blimp. Come on. When you think of a brand, we have all the Peanuts characters and everything. I thought I'm in my glory. I spent about 14 years at MetLife and absolutely loved it. A lot of stuff happened.
Kerry: You must have felt like this is it.
Meg: I did. But what happened, though, which really was a very overnight change in my trajectory of how I looked at marketing and my role in marketing... My managing director said that my office used to look like a college bookstore. I kind of thought well, that's kind of what people expect of a marketing director. You come in, you want a blimp, you want a Snoopy plush doll, you want a t-shirt, you want this whatever, so everything was hanging all over the place. I was starting to get caught up in the stuff and not really strategy. It was very early in my career, I was 27 or something.
But a weird thing was happening. Nobody was asking for my advice. The top producers weren't asking for my advice. If they did, they'd ask me to help them with an Excel file. I'm like, "you have to be kidding me, right? Fine, I'll help out," whatever, I'm a people-pleaser. Then I started realizing as a marketer I was on the leadership team, but then I'm getting asked to do things like remember it's Kerry's birthday and have everybody sign the card and pick up the cake.
Kerry: I feel like that's important.
Meg: Well, if it was actually your birthday, then we'd have a parade.
Kerry: No. I get it.
Meg: All of a sudden, I thought my value is getting watered down.
Kerry: You don't want your career to become like admin.
Meg: And I hear this so often. Anyway, you just never know who is watching. One day this gentleman knocked on my door and was like, "Hey kid, come with me." He was a salesperson. I'm like whatever, fine. I didn't know where we were going to go. All I knew is that he didn't have the referral packet that I had built for all of the sales reps that they were supposed to take with them, and I'm kind of pissed because I spent all this time and you're not using it. He didn't say anything on the way to this appointment. This was in financial services, and he sold a lot of insurance.
We pull up in the driveway and there's this woman in the door, she's an older lady, and she's in this big sweater. We walk into her kitchen, this was in 2002, and to this day, I can smell the soup cooking. I remember sitting at her kitchen table, it was brown and there were scratches all over the place, it was an older table. Nobody said anything. I'm sitting in the middle between these two people and I didn't know what was going on. He reaches his hand across the table and he grabs her hand, and she lowers her head and begins to cry.
What we were there for was we were delivering a death claim. Her husband had just passed, and he had in the process of providing her as a beneficiary for his life insurance policy. They had been married for 47 years.
Kerry: I feel like a little prep wouldn't have been out of place.
Meg: No. But he did that on purpose. What he did was in that moment I knew what my purpose was in marketing. I knew that my job in marketing, as marketing director, was to get salespeople in front of people like her and other people who were going to buy from them on a regular basis and a favorable basis. That was it. My job was to create activity and help people understand what the brand was all about.
It was crazy because I didn't have to go back, I didn't have to get a mentor, I didn't have to put a plan together, I didn't have to take a class, I didn't have to do anything. I immediately got better. It was just like this switch went off. I got back, I took everything off the walls, I changed. I had to just show up differently.
The difference for me, and what I coach with new marketers, is that everything you do in marketing has to somehow be aligned to the business strategy and hit the bottom line. That's it. That's what you do.
Kerry: You could see the person to whom you're meant to be speaking.
Meg: Absolutely, 100%. People see what I've done and the different roles that I had, and they thought that it's just like this giant evolution, but there was that spark. It was that moment. From there, I went to the home office, and then eventually led the national marketing team, and then did that over when we were acquired by Mass Mutual. Then at the end of 2017, like most of us at the home office, we got our papers. Then I went and did my own thing.
Kerry: Did you send new marketers with salespeople that had to do that, to pay death claims?
Meg: Oh, absolutely. My first rule at the home office. I was the field marketing consultant for the southeast, so I oversaw 40 offices, all of the marketing directors had a dotted line to me. I was responsible for the development and training, just a resource and all of that. I would tell them, "You have to go out with sales. You have to see what they do."
I think that is one of the things that drives a wedge in corporations between sales and marketing. I'll say it's a lot of sales, too. Sales sometimes thinks we're arts and crafts, "I need a brochure," or, "Can you pretty this up," or whatever. It's a two-way street.
That's a huge opportunity to be able to say, "I get what you're doing in the field. I understand what your pain points are. Here's how I can help make a little bit more sense, help you get in front of the right people that the company needs to get in front of, help people see you as a trusted advisor and not just a salesperson."
If you can pull it off, it's a beautiful relationship.
Kerry: How do you create that in other businesses where maybe the moment isn't quite that dramatic?
Meg: I get that, too, because people are like, "Oh my god, is something big about to happen to me to make me do that?" A big thing for me is learning from others. I've shared that story with marketers who are just like, "No. I'll just do what they tell me to do," or, "I'll just wait for somebody to give me an opportunity."
I say you have to go out and you have to look for people who are doing things. It doesn't have to be only other marketers, although marketers truly understand marketers, I think. If you go out, you read as much as you can, YouTube, now with LinkedIn you can listen to people. Put yourself out there.
I've told new marketers to put a little media kit together. How about that? They're like, "Why? What would I possibly have to tell somebody?" Do you know how many new podcasts there have been even since the pandemic? Thousands and thousands of them. And they are looking for people to have as a guest. If you put something in place and you send it off to them in an email, you can say, "This is something that I could talk about." Even if you have one topic that you're really good at talking about, start getting your name out there. It's not just about exposure, but it's great practice and helping you in your own brand.
I have had some people reach out, even just watching my videos on LinkedIn, and they're like, "I don't think I can do that." This woman reached out and said, "I'm 46 years old. I think I'm just too old for this." I wrote back, "I'm 49. No, you're not." Ann Handley actually had something, and I can't remember where it was, but she had a series of bullet points or something that was brilliant. Basically, the whole theme of it was you're never too old, get yourself out there.
Kerry: It may have been her fortnightly newsletter, which you can get over at AnnHandley.com.
Meg: Maybe that was it. There you go. She talks about poke your nose out, speak up, get on stage, do things.
Kerry:A lot of people think there's like police out there that are going to stop you and be like, "You're too old to do TikTok. Let's get you to bed." Nobody does that.
Meg: Yeah. Oh my god. Talk about a time suck, that is crazy. I wrote her back and said, "That obviously didn't come from you. Somebody else told you that. That's not your opinion, it has to be somebody else's, or society's, or whatever it is."
My big thing is, yes, I was nervous about starting to show up on video, but at the end of the day I feel like I have so much knowledge in my head there's going to be somebody that can really benefit from this, I can solve somebody's problem, I can make somebody's day a little bit lighter.
Don't do 25,000 takes. Three takes, tops. Post the best one and let it rip.
Kerry: That's the great thing about doing it live, which I do every day on The Backpack Show with Chris Brogan, is it's live, it is what it is and it's done. My husband made GIFs out of some of the faces I made.
Meg: I love that so much.
Kerry: Live is very unpredictable, so it makes for great candid expressions that make good GIFs, apparently.
You have mentored, or shaped, or trained hundreds of marketers. You must know what it is marketers need to know and what they don't. There are tons of people selling courses or going on video on LinkedIn, TikTok, or elsewhere saying that you have to do this. What things do you actually need to know? What skills are critical that maybe aren't necessarily marketing skills?
Meg: It's interesting that you say that, because there are so many people that say, "I have to understand this," or whatever. Yes, going narrow and deep is important in marketing. I don't think just being a generalist. You might want to start off as a generalist and kind of just get a flavor of all the incredible things that marketing offers, but when it comes to starting to refine and hone your skills, there are other disciplines that you need to bring in as sister disciplines.
One is communications, period. It's how to write. It's not just how to write, but it's how to write maybe in somebody else's voice, in the brand's voice, the words to choose, all of that. There's an incredible amount of skill that comes. I'm not talking about being a copywriter. I'm just talking about the verbal and written forms of communication.
Change management. I can't tell you how many times somebody puts a campaign out there and without some basics. Anytime you do anything different in marketing, you have to think about how the change is going to impact the consumer, your team, stressing operations because you're going to be driving more sales and now they have to do process the applications, whatever it's going to be. The fundamentals of change management are absolutely huge, I hope people understand. The ADKAR methodology is probably, for me, is probably the best one to follow.
Project management. Project management is more than just making a damn to-do list starting at the top and going to the bottom. There's methodologies. Understanding what the RACI model is, AGILE marketing. Project management in marketing is absolutely huge.
So, I would say communications, change management, and project management are the three areas that marketers need to know better.
Kerry: I actually haven't heard of that change management framework you mentioned.
Meg: It's ADKAR. You're going to put a whole plan together. What it stands for is awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement.
Kerry:Using the K in knowledge feels unfair because it sounds like it should be an N.
Meg: I know, it always does. I'm still that person that spells out Wednesday in their head. Why is there a D?
Kerry: I think people don't pay enough attention to change management. It's like things happen and then they're like, "All right, everyone, make it so."
Meg: Yes. When I work with marketers, it's like the ripple effect. You're going to have this campaign. Great. What's it going to do? Drive sales. Great. How does that impact all of the other departments in your organization? You're going to change anything about your brand – new service – people get confused between rebranding and refreshing, all of that. There's change management, I think, personally, from what I've seen in 20 years, in everything a marketer does.
Again, you don't have to go and get certified and become an expert, but understanding the basic fundamentals of how what you're doing is going to impact change, who is going to feel it, how they're going to respond, and thinking about that ahead of time is massive. That, to me, is a real linchpin between a generalist marketer who can do a little bit of everything and somebody who truly is very strategic in thinking about how this is going to be impacting others.
Kerry: You definitely seem as though you've taken a lot of time to be introspective and analyze your successes and challenges. One of which, recently you were diagnosed with ADHD.
Meg: Yes. Good times. Brian Fanzo talks about his ADHD all the time.
Kerry: Peter Shankman does as well.
Meg: There are so many people out there. I think that what has been interesting, once I got diagnosed in February, it was the week of my birthday, everything clicked into place. I was like, "That's why I am the way I am." It's kind of like when you take the DiSC assessment and then you find out whatever you are. I'm an I. I thought, "That's why I am."
Kerry: The personality test.
Meg: A personality test, or whatever it might be. With ADHD, it's nothing to shy away from. I started getting into Clubhouse and I stumbled upon this group where people are talking about ADHD. Everything they said they thought was funny, I didn't think it was funny because I thought, "Oh my god, this is really hitting home."
What happened was after I left corporate at the end of 2017, I literally had no structure. I didn't realize that was the thing that was helping me sustain my success, creating repeatable systems, repeatable processes, kind of like bumper rails. A lot of it obviously was just my own talent, but within some kind of structure. Without that, I didn't know how to create my own structure.
We had some really crazy stuff going on in 2020 with the pandemic, in case you didn't hear about that. Everybody was impacted by COVID. I had a pretty traumatic thing happen in March 2020 and my whole world just stopped. I couldn't move. I couldn't think straight. So, for that whole year, although I was doing great with work, just my personal everything was just kind of a mess. I couldn't remember things, I couldn't follow up on things, I was slipping and missing.
I'm thinking where is my head, what's wrong? Then earlier this year, I started listening to Clubhouse and I was like, "I think I need to get tested." It's frustrating when people self-diagnose, "I probably have ADHD, whatever." If you think you might, go get tested. It's as simple as putting in 'attention specialist near me' in Google, and you go.
I went and I tested. I had to sit in this little room with this thing strapped on my head and take this online test. It wasn't multiple choice. I failed miserably. I remember just breaking down in the middle of it and realizing that I'm finally where I need to be to get the help that I need.
Kerry: And how far you came without that help, without the realization that you had to work differently.
Meg: You have to work differently. Now, at 49, with ADHD, just learning. I don't coach people on ADHD. I'm just learning myself. I don't put myself out there as a coach for that. At the same time, I think that if we've learned anything, whether it was the restaurant industry, whether it was technology and how that has changed, the pandemic and COVID is helping us realize that we just really need to be much more authentic about how we show up. That's part of my story now and that's okay.
Kerry: You're in marketing communication. What does that even look like now? People are saying, for example in content marketing, it's all marketing. It's all marketing now, all marketing is content marketing. What does marketing communication look like now that everything has shoved together our personal life and our work life? We were talking about boundaries before. Everything is all just sort of shoved together in a big shiny mess.
Meg: It is. It's just plaid, you can't tell where one thing ends and another one ends. It's just crazy. For me, I don't think necessarily marketing communications has changed that much. I think the basic fundamentals of it, really understanding the messaging. Once all the product and pricing and all of that is taken care of, now it comes to promotion and how we're going to get it in front of the right people at the right time with the right message on the right channels. I think it has just been amplified because of that. People are truly understanding two things. One, messaging matters. It's not just the words that you use, but it's the tone, it's the cadence, and how you say things.
One perfect example of this. When everything was happening with COVID and we were all shutting down, obviously the restaurants were all closing up. I had an opportunity to work with a gentleman at an amazing restaurant here in Charlotte called Ilious Noche. The owner contacted me and said, "I have to close one of my restaurants. I don't really know. What do I have to do?" It broke my heart.
I said we're going to put a mar-com plan in place, and I explained what that was. I said, "You have to start video." He said, "I had to lay everybody off. I really don't have much of a staff. This is all happening so quickly." I said, "Do you have a phone?" He said, "Yes. I'm talking to you from it." I said, "Get outside and go make a video, now." He didn't have a social media person, he didn't have this, he didn't have that. He went outside and he just started doing videos of him, the sun was in his eyes and there's cars passing by.
He posted that and he had thousands of views. For me, that's the turning of the tide where marketing communications can help enable business owners and people to understand the importance of authenticity and really demonstrating what your brand is all about. He had three more nights until he closed his restaurant, and it was packed every single night. It had nothing to do with my plan. It was the fact that he went out and he was authentic.
When people think authentic, they think, "I'm just going to wing it, just pick up my phone and start." But there are four areas that I tell clients and marketing directors. When someone experiences your brand, you have to think about what do you want them to know, what do you want them to think, how do you want them to feel, and then what do you want them to do. You don't have to be a mar-com expert or even a marketing expert, you just have to understand those four when you think about your own messaging. That for me has always really summed things up.
What companies are not doing enough of that I think that they need to do is something that I work with companies a lot on. If they bring me in to do marketing communications, brand is a big part of mar-com, but it's what I call branding from the inside out. You can't have a message out there if the people who are sending it don't believe it.
I truly believe that you have to brand that way. You have to make sure that everybody – your sales department, recruiting, everybody – has the language speaking from the same lexicon of words, I don't want to say has the same level of passion, but truly understands what the brand is all about before you go outside with your message. It's branding from the inside out. That is absolutely critical.
Kerry: Meg, where can people learn more about you?
Meg: Thank you. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I have a Calendly link out there, too, if anybody needs to connect and talk with me. Let's connect on LinkedIn. I'd love to hear their story and follow them as well. I do have actually an open position that I am dying to see if I can fill. I need some help, I'm getting busy.
Kerry: It sounds like it.
Meg: I need some help, I need somebody who is really good with social media, is a virtual assistant. Just I need some help.
Kerry: If somebody with that right skill set is listening, where can they find you?
Meg: I would say LinkedIn. They can absolutely do that. My email is also in my contacts on LinkedIn, so they can email me a link, if they want to chat, their resume, their profile. That sounds good.
Kerry: If you're listening, that's Meg Kypena on LinkedIn.
Meg: That's me.
Kerry: Thanks for joining today, Meg.
Meg: Kerry, you're awesome.
Meg: Thank you so much.
Kerry: Thank you for listening here to the very end. This has been the Marketing Smarts Podcast. Talk with you again soon.
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Published on August 12, 2021
Meg Kypena, owner of OnYourMark Consulting and partner at Results Thru Strategy. Previously, Meg led the national marketing teams at MetLife and MassMutual. She also recruited and developed hundreds of marketers nationwide. Find Meg on LinkedIn: Meg Kypena.
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