Focus, Leadership, and Squirrels: Think Big, Act Bigger Author Jeffrey Hayzlett on the 200th Episode of Marketing Smarts [Podcast]


This week’s episode of Marketing Smarts marks our 200th podcast! We love bringing you insights and stories from the smartest marketers around, and we appreciate your listening in every week.

Our guest for this landmark episode is Jeffrey Hayzlett, a global business celebrity and speaker, author, contributing editor, and host of “C-Suite With Jeffrey Hayzlett” on Bloomberg Television. He’s also CEO of The Hayzlett Group, an international consulting company focused on leading change and developing high-growth companies.

I invited Jeffrey to Marketing Smarts to talk about his latest book, Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless.

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Jeffrey:

Smart marketing executives kill the squirrels (04:26): “It’s important for us to be able to keep focus, and that’s just something we don’t always do. We start going down rat holes of various time wasters—time-consuming kinds of activities. Now, some of them are valid because they get us to a different place, but a lot of times it’s just a diversion from our real focus on the things that we’ve got to be driving, or what I would refer to as our ‘conditions of satisfaction.’ Those things that we need to be able to deliver on. I’m not talking about goals or objectives. I’m talking about promises, and I think that’s a big difference.

“When I was at Kodak as a chief marketing officer, or at any business that I’ve owned or participated in—I’ve bought and sold over 250 businesses in my career—the key thing is to focus in on ‘what are we delivering?’ Usually, I see no more than five or six things that we’re going to deliver or that I can handle at any given time, so what are the five to six things I’ve got to deliver for the CEO? What are the five or six things that my team—each of the VPs or senior VPs that are reporting into me—need to be able to do, and what are the five or six things that all the folks (managers and directors) that are reporting into those people need to do. And that’s kind of how you build that up.

“Even in a big corporation, there was one item that the CEO reported to the board of directors about marketing that we were doing, yet I had five or six things that I was always focused in on, whether it’s increasing the value of the brand, increasing margin, reducing cost. Whatever it might be…. Those were my promises that I had to be able to deliver. It’s very, very important for us to focus in on those items and say ‘of the things on our plate for today, or the week, or the month, what do those things that I’m looking at have to do with delivering on those five or six promises? If you start doing that more often, it cleans up your day pretty quick. Because you’ll find ‘I don’t need to set that meeting. I’m not doing that. I don’t need to be there.”

Want to be a star employee? Follow the Caitlin Rule. (10:16): “The rule came about from a real person named Caitlin. (I got her permission to use it in the book, and I wanted to use her real name because it’s more authentic.) Caitlin’s fairly new. She’d been out of college for a couple of years. I met her at an event and was so impressed with her that I hired her—just a real superstar. So, here we were in my office in New York, about to go over and meet with the CEO of a company that we were going to help take public.

“As we’re about to leave…Caitlin stops over at my desk and says ‘Jeff, should we take color copies of the presentation that we’re going to be presenting with us?’ I turned to her and said, ‘Caitlin, you’re new here, so I’m going to tell you the rules. The rules are that you only get to ask me 21 questions during the month. That’s it. That’s all you get…. You can ask me the meaning of life. You can ask me where the best Italian restaurant is. You can ask me the directions to get uptown, downtown, or where you should go on your vacation. Whatever you’d like to ask me. Now, I want you to know, right now, is that one of your 21 questions?’ And she said ‘I don’t think so,’ and I said ‘well, good career move, because if I have to answer that question, what do I need you for?’ It wasn’t about being rude or mean or arrogant: It was about stating the conditions of satisfaction.”

Become a more effective leader by cleaning your own bathroom (13:30): “Every business should have a servant mentality with it, and leaders should have a servant mentality whenever possible. That is, ‘how can I serve others?’ And then, with that comes the leading by example. That’s what I’m talking about [in the book] with ‘cleaning your own bathroom.’ In every business that I’m involved in, I always do some task like that. I particularly like to clean the bathrooms (because then I know they’re clean), but…it also sends an example to everybody that, ‘hey, if I can do this job, then you can do any other job I ask you to do,’ because I like to have everybody in our operation take turns cleaning up the kitchen, take turns emptying the garbage, things like that. Because it gets us involved in making sure that those tiny details are taken care of. Someone cleans the whiteboard. Someone cleans the conference rooms, and does a little dusting and waxing so to speak. And when we do those kinds of things, I think we take a greater pride….

“The other piece of it is, by leading like that I get my hands dirty and I get to see the insides of the business. For instance, if you’ve got Salesforce, I make sure that I understand how to operate inside of Salesforce pretty well, even though I might be the CEO of the company, because when I’m talking to salespeople who say ‘well you can’t do that,’ I can say ‘yes, you can, and here’s how you do it.’ I don’t mean for you to run every aspect of the business, but if you’re out of touch with the business and you’re not getting your hands dirty, you got some real issues.”

Learn more about Jeffrey Hayzlett at, or follow him on Twitter at @JeffreyHayzlett, and check out his latest book, Think Big, Act Bigger, at

Jeffrey and I talked about much more, including how self-imposed limitations might be holding your marketing team back, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do 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!

This episode brought to you by Localytics.

Localytics is a lifecycle engagement platform for Web and mobile apps. The company’s integrated approach to app marketing and analytics helps customers automate and optimize every stage of the app lifecycle to keep their users engaged and to deliver more personalized experiences. Learn how to better monetize your app by downloading this free e-book! 

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

This marketing podcast was created and published by MarketingProfs.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is instructional design manager of enterprise training at MarketingProfs. She’s also a speaker, writer, attorney, and educator. She hosts and produces the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. To contact Kerry about being a guest on Marketing Smarts, send her an email, or you can find her on Twitter (@KerryGorgone), Google+, and her personal blog.

MarketingProfs All In One


Digital Marketing Pioneer Jeffrey Dachis Aims to Set the Record Straight on RTM


Conventional marketing wisdom often dictates that we rush to judgment on new innovations when they don’t reach our lofty expectations on day one. Such may be the case with the recently maligned term RTM (real-time marketing), which has come under fire from some industry insiders who believe it corrupts social dialogue between brands and consumers.

To get an inside perspective from a leading industry source, we recently caught up with Jeffrey Dachis. He’s been at the forefront of digital marketing for decades, having founded Razorfish, one of the world’s largest digital advertising firms, back in 1995. Today, he is CEO of real-time marketing and social analytics firm Dachis Group.

Real-time marketing has been in the news recently with a couple people in the industry arguing that RTM might actually be detrimental to communications between brands and consumers because many brands’ RTM attempts lack authenticity and relevance. How do you respond?

I can’t imagine any serious person arguing that marketing is going to become less timely or less targeted. I think we should try to move past the silly question of whether real-time marketing can work and instead focus on how to make it work.

It’s true that some efforts at real-time marketing haven’t been very good. But is it really the fault of this new tactic or just a consequence of the fact that this is new and difficult? Targeted and relevant real-time marketing requires businesses to move faster than they are used to, acquire technology that we’ve just barely invented, and use creative capabilities that brands don’t yet have. Just because a few pioneers have struggled doesn’t mean we should indict this entire approach to marketing.

How do brands embody these best practices? How do they get there?

Brands and agencies can get started very simply. It starts with an attitude shift from publishing content on the brand’s terms, to participating in trending conversations where the brand doesn’t set the agenda. This tends to first manifest with a focus on listening to real-time consumer conversation and brainstorming simple ways to participate. The next thing teams tend to do is adapt content calendars around predictable long-lead events – things like George Washington’s birthday or Arbor day. As they become more sophisticated, they need to begin to understand the importance of key groups in their audience – most importantly brand advocates. Brand advocates are responsible for a hugely disproportionate amount of brand engagement online. As such they are the perfect seed environment to spot trends that are important for a company, and are also the perfect group to target with real-time content.

Once you know what trends you want to target, and have the organizational will to do so, the rest is a matter of technology and business process. You need the ability to spot trends as they emerge in real time. You need the business capability to create, approve, and launch content rapidly so that you aren’t late to the conversation. You need sophisticated analytics to tell you whether your tactics are working and driving the brand benefits you desire. The good news is that all of this is maturing rapidly and organizations like Dachis Group and others are rapidly gearing up to help.

What is driving the real-time marketing trend in the first place?

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically even in just the last few years and that is really what has opened up the window for real-time marketing. Every single moment, no matter how trivial, is now accompanied by a river of real-time social activity from tens of millions of people. This means trends blossom more quickly than ever, have larger audiences than ever, and disappear more quickly than ever. It also means that brands can analyze and join those trends in real time – word of mouth for major cultural events has never had this level of data associated with it before. The advent of big data technology like what our company has built, enable brands to see the trends that matter most to their prospects, customers, advocates, and influencers in real-time. This was literally impossible even just one year ago. Now it’s up to marketers to harness these trends and drive business results.

How does Dachis Group’s social analytics platform uncover real-time marketing data? Can you provide short examples of how this data can be used by marketers today?

Just because someone bought your product last month, or likes your brand on Facebook, doesn’t mean they discuss your brand frequently. There is a 100% chance they are discussing something online, but a near 0% chance they are discussing your company. Our platform automatically finds the adjacent conversations that a brand’s target audience is talking about, but that have nothing to do with the brand. It points you to the trends and content your audience cares about and surfaces an endless set of conversations and content ideas you can use to build engagement and brand affinity. For example, a brand team could discover that their target segment is suddenly all focused on a specific viral video on YouTube, and then develop their own video or other related content to enter that conversation in an interesting and engaging way.

Which brands are doing real-time marketing right today and how?

There are two early areas of success for real-time marketing. The first has actually been around for a few years now – social customer service. We’ve helped a number of companies bring call centers and customer service departments into a social environment. It’s a lot of work, but it’s no longer a magic feat. In the process, parts of these large global organizations have acquired the ability to meaningfully engage in near real time with their audiences online. Those conversations tend to be built around service issues and existing customer upsales, but they are an excellent proof of concept for real-time marketing.

Countless brands are getting started with content and marketing that aligns to specific predictable events – Starbucks and the Royal Wedding is a great example from recent months. However, in terms of brands moving aggressively toward the future of real-time marketing, it’s cliche to say it but Mondelez (the company that makes Oreo) is the most sophisticated. The company has assembled an entire team that focuses on real-time marketing and they are working really hard to solve for the scalability and quality issues that much of the industry hasn’t even recognized exist.

Conversely, and this gets back to some of the recent bad press about RTM, what’s the common mistake you see today in how brands are approaching real-time marketing & social engagement? 

The first mistake is that they are over-planning their activities. A laundry list of templates and pre-made quips will often miss the mark for unpredictable events like the Oscars or Olympics. Another issue is that brands are attempting to “culture-jack” these massive events, when there are actually opportunities for real-time marketing happening all around them every day. In less than a week, 15 million people watched the GoPro video of a fireman saving a kitten. Not one brand (that I know of) participated in that trend, meanwhile 100 brands will try to hijack Halloween, I’m sure. Why go where all the competition is?

The last issue is simply that brands are failing to maximize their natural resource advantage. These are massive organizations with tremendous creative assets, but they have not yet figured out how to bring those assets to bear on the problem of real-time marketing. As a result, a great deal of the content stinks. To be fair, a lot of content always stinks so this isn’t a new problem, but when the eyes of the world are on an event and you step forward to try and join that conversation, it is important to be creative, interesting and unique.

Are we as an industry going to move beyond some of this reticence toward RTM? What will it take?

Yes, we are going to move beyond some of the cynicism and RTM will indeed be a standard form of marketing. Getting there requires first a willingness to experiment and speed up the way marketing happens inside big brands. Second, marketers will need a big data solution that can analyze trends, track advocates, and deliver real-time reporting on what is happening at any given moment. Lastly, getting wise about RTM is also going to just take practice, plain and simple. The early brands will reap first mover advantage, but over time all of these things will become routine. The world is becoming more real-time, that macro trend isn’t going anywhere.

Where is RTM going to be a year from now? Five years from now?

A year from now we’ll see almost every agency with an offering that helps brands become more real-time. This is how brands, at least initially, will acquire the capability – with a lot of help from their agency partners.

In five years, I doubt we’ll talk about real-time marketing. It will just be how business gets done and it will seem strange to plan an entire marketing calendar and media plan months in advance.

Lastly, if you could take an aspiring social community manager aside what advice would you give him or her?

Find your advocates. Figure out why they love your brand and how they want to interact with you, and then feed those inclinations by joining the trends they care about. We actually do a daily e-mail where we give away 10 free trends brands can tweet about. The idea is to make it easier for community managers to be relevant and near real-time. You can sign up on our blog.

Leo Tignini is a freelance writer and communications consultant specializing in media and tech sectors.  You can follow him on Twitter at   Jeff Dachis can be found at

Social Media Week