Excellent marketers don’t just do the work — they believe in their work, support others, and create opportunities for people to thrive. If you want to show your audience you really care, you have to have some serious skin in the game. But what exactly does that mean, and how does it help you succeed?
Join me on Marketing Unf*cked as I speak with Andra Zaharia, a Content Marketing specialist with cybersecurity expertise, who outlines why it’s so crucial to develop a personal stake in our work as marketers.
Andra shares thoughts on educating your audience, Customer Development Interviews, investing in yourself, the value of human connection, and why in this industry you absolutely have to eat your own dog food in order to thrive.
In this Episode:
As marketers, we have to put skin in the game. That means having a personal stake in our work.
Excellent leaders support others, and create opportunities for people to thrive.
Our work is always about serving someone. Those who do it best care about the issues they’re trying to solve.
Blanket models are not enough, because every audience is different.
People are looking for specific information, not generic concepts.
To better understand your audience, eat your own dog food.
Do our customers always want to be educated? It depends.
Ask yourself what kind of customers you want — and build a relationship with them.
Investing in yourself helps you understand how other people think, create more empathy, and connect more directly.
How the Jobs-to-be-Done framework helps you serve your customers.
The benefits and insights of Customer Development Interviews.
Immediate goals versus deeper emotional goals.
Pain and happiness are the essential drivers for our decisions.
You can’t make much headway without talking to people.
Personal experience is more powerful than information alone, and keeps us connected to our customers.
Welcome to the only actionable podcast to help you unfuck your marketing and run a business that gives a shit. I'm your host Siobhan and this is marketing and today's conversation is about why you need to keep your skin in the game with Andrea Zaharia. Let's do this. Andrea, thanks for being here. How do we unpack marketing
by putting more skin in the game, but actually having a personal stake in our work as marketers and I honestly truly strongly believe that?
Okay, so explain this a little bit more skin in the game being more personal tell me what you mean. Exactly.
What I found in what I've seen, you know, around marketers who do a really great job not just in their industries, but also as community leaders is that they truly believe in what they do. They believe in their work they believe in supporting and helping people through their work or educating them or creating, you know, opportunities for other people to thrive, whether it is again in their own industries or ours marketers, you know, in the marketing community, and where I see this a lot and of course, I'm biased. But where you see this a lot is in the cybersecurity industry, for example, this is a piece that is sorely missing marketers who really care deeply about security, who you know, find alignment between their own principles, their own needs and their own kind of self growth objectives and what the industry can teach them and how they can use the combination of skills that they bring in marketing skills, communication skills, and so on. And you know, industry know how because I honestly believe and I haven't, you know, I started to see this lack or this this disconnect with the industry where marketers, you know, do their due to thing in the past few years, and you can clearly see when someone is just trying to replicate best practices, and someone who is just trying to emulate models that work at a certain time and, you know, uncertain channels. And there's a huge difference between those people and the people who really care about the industry and they want to use their skill to truly help someone because at the end of the day, I really believe that as marketers, it's our job to help people whether we make things simpler for them clearer, more accessible, you know, even more entertaining, whatever it is, at the end of the day, it's about serving someone, and those who do it best are people who really care about those issues that they're trying to solve.
So they're doing it best, and I can agree with that. If you care. You do it better, but what's wrong about not caring? What's wrong about just applying best practices or blanket models?
You're going to get a lot of backlash not to say that you're going to be ineffective and throw a lot of money and things that don't work, because every kind of audience has their pet peeves. Every kind of audience have their triggers think has their motivators and their pain points and they are not the same. So again, I know the perhaps you know the security industry is a bit more specific than others because it's it's more technical and it requires you to educate yourself as a marketer in ways in which you know, perhaps other industries don't. But for example, if you comes, let's say fast moving consumer goods, you're not going to be able to use that much of what you learned in the Space Simply because people in the security industry, you know, technical leaders who vet and analyze their options in terms of cybersecurity products and services. They're very, very perceptive. They're very attentive to nuance. They're very kind of reactive if they see even you know, keywords that trigger them and then cliches that, simply show them that you don't understand what their actual needs are. And if you try to dumb things down to the point where it removes the complexity that they're actually looking for, that's, for example, one of the signals that's going to get you is simply dismiss, so your work is not going to go through and what I found even worse than this, you know, besides not having an impact at all, is actually you know, just carrying God and kind of pushing forward some stereotypes that don't serve anyone and actually do more damage than good.
Do you have an example? Of that? Where that does happen? Even in the security industry?
I have lots of that. Unfortunately, military grade encryption, like told us to people in the industry who know what kind of encryption you know, military equipment uses, will tell you that it's not what you think it is, first of all, not that it's not strong enough, but not, you know, the military, as you know, as like ballpark doesn't have the best security tools throughout every kind of operation. So you're going to have, you know, differences and nuances. And if you total like regular people who do you need, you know, antivirus or a VPN or customer manager about military grade encryption, that's going to absolutely not resonate with them because they have no idea what that means. And it's just an empty word. And there are lots of other things one of the things that I personally dislike very much is when what a marketing people that say salespeople or whatever content people use the phrase, humans are the weakest link insecurity. This creates a couple of things. First of all, it creates a rift between technical people who know you know, all of the technical aspects of what they're talking about risk models and whatnot. And then people on the other side foreign security specialists and they're not supposed to be and when you tell people basically you're stupid, and it's your fault, you're not going to have people listen to you or be receptive to what you're trying to do. They're not going to care about the education or you know, wisdom that you're trying to impart because you just call them stupid, basically, and this doesn't help anyone. It just creates this, just this rift between these two categories of people instead of trying to get them to work together.
So then how do we do that though? What do we use instead of military grade encryption, or, you know, the humans the problem? What are we using instead to make it more accessible
symbol words that people actually resonate with? So instead of telling people you know, depending on who your target audiences if it's a technical person like to sell them, the encryption protocol that you're using, because they probably know what it's about, and they're looking for specific information, not generic concepts that don't say anything to anyone and if you tell people you know, right, the peace talks and regular people just sell them the highest security available on the market. And then you and you know, in this specification sheet, you can actually mention what it's about and you can link to a resource you created on the topic or to a Wikipedia page or whatever it is, where they can read more about it if they want to be instead of pushing, you know, more jargon their way. Instead of saying that people are the weakest link, teach people about risk models, tell them you know, that your habits as you know, an employee as let's say, the person in your household who handles tech stuff, you have your your decisions in your actions have consequences not only on your security, but they have consequences and effects on your job security, on your financial stability on you know, even the entire company because if it is, you know, if a click on a malicious link originated from your PC and then turns into a ransomware attack that affects the entire company, then you're gonna have issues you know, getting paid, doing your work, talking to customers and so on and so forth. So there are ways in which you can talk to people by taking their contexts into consideration but that involves, like you mentioned earlier skin in the game that means doing the the work yourself like trying to use those tools and products and get or eating the dog food as they say eating your own dog food. So you know what that feels like if it makes you feel frustrated at any point if it makes you feel you know, like, you can have a strong grasp, these are all moments these this kind of friction moments are the moments through which you should be helping your customer with education with better UX, whatever it is visualizations, you name it, you should be helping your customer get through these pain points and stand by them and not again, not perpetuate the same, like meaningless things that do do yourself and save the service.
But do our customers always want to be educated? Because in a sense of security, right? I mean, I know some people who really thrive on Oh, this is military grade equipment and equipment and I like encryption rather. It just you know it sounds exciting. It sounds cool. It's this this element. There's this element that when you use jargon that people are impressed. It could it be that it's actually better that the marketer doesn't really know and just using these terms, because that's what sounds cool and might be accessible. Do we do our users actually want to be educated or are we kind of forcing it down their throat? Because we think they should be educated?
That this is an excellent perspective. And I think that it's not a dilemma, but it is a very good question to sit with as a marketer, wherever you may, you know, whatever industry you're working in, I think it all boils down to the types of customers that you have, and also the kind of company that you are at the end of the day. So if you're a product focused company, then you will want to you know, contextualize your product in a way that focuses on just that. If you're a sales driven company, you may be a bit more from what I've seen a bit more pushy, a bit more aggressive in how you communicate and how you push these things. But I do believe that most people do want to know simply because there's a huge uptick. And again, speaking specifically about the security industry, there's a huge uptick in searches that are very focused on understanding certain concepts. What is this? What is that? How do you do that? So people want to know because they feel they have no control over these abstract, you know, this abstract volume of information and those who seek simplicity, we'll probably go for either something that they see in an ad without going through the whole evaluation, comparison process between options and so on and so forth. So I think that there are there are different paths that people take to secure one they want to protect. And if you want to buy from an ad, that is fine if that's your decision making model because honestly even in our lives as marketers, we we invest more time in selected certain products and services than we do in others like if you're into cars and you want to buy a new car, you're gonna spend a lot of time on it because you care about it and you enjoy it. But otherwise, if it's something that you need and don't care that much about, you're just gonna want to optimize, you know, how much time you're spending. So it really depends on your best customers. Because if you want to attract people who are passionate about security, those people will want more details, more clarity, less less cliches, and so on. But if you want to attract someone who is let's say, less involved with your company, that's fine too. But are they your customers? Are they gonna stick with you for someone who doesn't care about selecting a product and putting time into it and gaining at least a modicum of education are probably not going to be you know, a recurring customer or a loyal customer because they'll just jump from one solution to another. So you have to ask yourself as a marketer and as a company, what kind of customers you want and try to obviously builds a relationship with them.
Got it? Okay. So ultimately, it comes down to also having the skin and get your skin in the game because you need to know what kind of customer you're trying to get. Yeah, right. But then give me another example of just being more personal having your skin in the game. What else can a marketer do? Or is the market doing wrong? Let's talk mainstream when they aren't investing in educating themselves about what they are marketing or who they are marketing to. How else can they get there?
Well, it to me, you know, going through these experiences yourself. I know this may sound not straightforward thing. But I think that investing in yourself and in your own self awareness and then understanding how you work around certain problems and how you deal with, you know, decision making and things like that can teach you a lot about how other people think, and this is my experience. So going to therapy, reading tons of books on neuroscience and psychology and working with a change management strategist, you know, alongside in terms of coaching were very powerful experiences for me because they help me understand how other people think how other people act and they help me see these patterns. So if it's not, these are evergreen things. So if you study psychology, and if you look at neuro psychology and you know the latest studies that are constantly revealing very interesting guests about how our brains work and how you react to stimuli and our brain handles information. These are evergreen things that you can apply to any field that you choose to work in as a marketer and those will be our kind of underlying factors that will help you everywhere so if you work on your own self growth that will inherently make your work better. And they really believe that it will make your work more empathetic and will help you connect to other people more and that's for example, why why one of my favorite frameworks is the jobs to be done framework, which seems very abstract that person very kind of again, but how do I actually apply this, but when you start working with it, because it's about helping people do the thing that they want to do and also accompany them as they go through their own development process, whether it's work or it's personal, or you know, whatever objective they may have, then you're going to have a much easier time relating to them understanding their language, seeing what they care about and what kind of human needs sit behind. The keywords they use and the you know, the comments that they leave the reviews that they leave, and that gives you a direct line to your customers and that helps you see them in a much more different light than just you know looking at raw data and you know open rates and click rates. And all of the things that analytics tools feed us which are helpful in some cases, but not as helpful as we think they are. Am I
how do you apply the jobs to the done framework to your own marketing practices? You're mostly content marketing.
One of the things that I do with my customers and honestly for myself as well as that I constantly have customer development interviews, where a customer development interview although people you know, the name seems self explanatory, but I don't think that it is because many people think, Oh, this is a product that session. No, it's not, oh, this is a sales session. No, it's not. It's a different kind of conversation. It is like having a conversation where we sit with someone where we just sit there listen and just ask a few curious questions. It's like doing kind of like interviewing people or podcasts but slightly different though. So how this helps customer development interviews are produced for listening our customer conversations that focus on people's pain points. So you ask them, you know, why they had that pain point what was going on in their lives when we started to think about that you try to understand their context, their needs, their preferences, and the experiences that drove them to make one choice over the other and try to connect the dots in a way that gives you an understanding of what that person is doing with no relation to your product or your company. So you're not trying to push anything, you're not trying to lead the conversation. You're just sitting there and being a good listener and just try to explore but without, you know, pushing them to one direction or the other. And how I use that is that from these conversations come a lot of insights around, product around communication channels about use cases, pain points, many, many things. And one of the key things is when you apply the jobs to be done framework to this, you identified what people really want to do with the work that they do. For example, you might be selling a product or a service that helps people make more money because they want to use that money to buy a house to send their kid to university. So the goal is not what you think it's not the immediate goal that they get. I'm saving whatever it is. It is a completely different goal that has very deep emotional roots in their lives. And what these interviews and this framework helps you is fine with emotional triggers and nuances, which many people ignore, because we like to think about ourselves as being very rational decision makers, which we are not.
It's essentially like doing user interviews, isn't it? I mean, in some way, we do them, you know, I do them in my field. And we this we talk to our customers and in the interview specifically, like you said, we don't need them in one way or another. And then you're taking those learnings and you're applying them. But what makes that better than not doing it meaning? How does that improve your marketing?
First of all, I think that gives you a such a more direct and more expansive understanding of what people are going through when they you know, use a product when they're looking for a product when they're trying to solve a problem. Because essentially, that's what we're all trying to do. We're either trying to move away from pain, or towards happiness. And those are the essential drivers for our decisions. I think that it gives you a lot more nuanced understanding of these things as well as opposed to what you think people do. And it also helps you validate hypotheses that you have as a marketer. You believe some things you know, you believe some stuff about your customers like, who they are, what they look like, what they do what they care about in their lives, and we try to do these customer personas, but if you don't have these conversations that give you qualitative information, you may very easily make wrong decisions and wrong assumptions about your customers that can go for years of being you know, unchecked, validated, and you might be stuck wondering, why isn't this working? Why aren't people you know, resonating? Why do we have to keep throwing money at this? Because I'm a big proponent, and they only work around organic growth. I'm particularly interested in this because otherwise it's you know, as a marketer, focus on organic growth. You cannot make too much headway without actually talking to people because you have no money to spend on ads. And I think also that, you know, having these conversations is a huge competitive advantage over people who don't do it. It creates a lot of alignment in teams internally. It helps people see that, you know, it helps people connect on the same list of priorities. Because when you have like 510 20 of these interviews, you'll enter into easy patterns. So it's much easier for everyone to agree like, Yeah, we should prioritize this fix or this, you know, campaign because people seem interested in this, rather than everyone kind of competing for budgets and resources and the CEOs attention. So it works in multiple levels. But I think the one key thing that is the most important instead of creates a human connection, and it helps you get that you know, personal stake because there's a human are proud of you and not just a bunch of numbers, and they do believe that changes things even for the most, you know, cynical, unfazed marketer out there.
So then, just in closing, because you'd mentioned this before, you've mentioned this concept of best practices and how they don't really apply. For example, if I'm a marketer, in a security industry, cybersecurity is something you're very familiar with. And my predecessor are my colleagues somebody I know who works in the same field has done these user interviews. Why can't I use their information? Why is that not just as beneficial? I think they
could you can use you know things and things should be documented. I huge believer in documenting these things and making them available for everyone. But it's not going to be the same experiences as as doing them yourself, as you know, sitting at that moment with that customer or behind a screen or not, and, you know, trying to be attentive to what you're sitting there seeing and also look for patterns and have that exchange that very personal exchange. So you can use the data but without having the experience yourself. I think it doesn't have the same personal impact doesn't create that sense of involvement as when you have someone in front of you talking about their issues and talking about their struggles. It's like watching a movie versus being in one or like listening to podcasts versus being on the show and being a guest or having you know, a direct line of access to these people. So yes, it's super helpful to use what's happened beforehand. I'm not a believer in coming in and erasing everything and just starting from scratch because the other person was doing it all wrong, but I do believe in having to do the work yourself because if you don't do it, that's when people become disconnected from their customers. The higher up people go in a company, the more disconnected they become talking to people they're, you know, they get bogged down with management tasks and you know, all sorts of things that are removed from the actual people. Who use a product. And that's why we see all of this bad marketing around us. And we wonder like, what are these people thinking? What has happened with you? Why is this so generic and unappealing and lacks you know, personality and heart? It's because these people haven't talked to their customers in a really, really long time.
So you've had skin in the game literally, like you need to do the dirty work. You can't just pass it off to someone got it. Thank you so much, I
think is massive and I love that you're doing this podcast saying that it is so important, and I I really believe that it is a huge resource for people who want to stop kidding themselves because we're so good at, you know, lying to ourselves as humans. We're really good at that. And when we saw things get really good.
Thank you for listening to marketing and make sure to leave us a review or reach out to me with some feedback. See you in two weeks.