Episode 64

The power of researching early and often (and doing sh*t that scares you)

Bianca Johnston, Integrated Campaigns Lead at Shopify, discusses why marketers and insights professionals should learn each others’ craft, shares the power of researching early and often, and reveals how she stepped out of her comfort zone to become an authentic voice on LinkedIn.

The interview

Ryan Barry: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to season eight of Inside Insights. I'm your host, Ryan Barry, and I am joined today for just a brief moment by nobody. We have made a change to the show that will have us bidding farewell to our amazing co host of the last four seasons, Patricia Montesdoeca.

Ryan: Patricia has a super amazing opportunity and big job at Aldor as their chief growth officer. And I'm actually going to be doing some additional content outside of the podcast. So more to come there soon. And so we just decided it was a good time to sort of single source the hosting and give us an opportunity to produce more content that can help all of you be more impactful in your jobs, be more customer centric, elevate your game. I just wanted to take a brief moment to show some love to Patricia. Patricia is a personal friend, she's a mentor to me, I think I'm a mentor to her. We've been through a lot together, personally, professionally, and I think we've had a lot of fun and hopefully created a lot of value for all of you in the last several seasons of Inside Insights.

Ryan: So Patricia, I love you dearly and I thank you for everything. The podcast is going to keep going and it's going to keep getting better. In season eight, we have some amazing guests lined up. I'm so excited to talk to all of them and to bring you the value that we promised when we first started this eight seasons ago to give you tangible tips and tools that you can bring to your job the next day to help you improve, to give you some inspiration to help you elevate your game.

Ryan: Our first guest this season is somebody who I had the chance to get to know relatively recently and it's quickly becoming one of my favorite people. She always challenges my thinking. She's a really good sparring partner. She's a great advocate for the customer. She's a great advocate for the insights industry. 

Ryan: And she's working at one of the most fascinating companies, in my opinion, in the world that is also doing, uh. incredible performance in terms of growth. Bianca Johnston is today's first guest. What a great way to start season eight. Bianca is the integrated campaigns lead for Shopify.

Ryan: If you aren't following her on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for? She's spitting gold every single day. And our conversation is nothing short of exactly what I was hoping to share with you. We talk about everything from being bold. From creating pull in your organization for customer centricity to how insights should be used throughout the process of making ads and campaigns that drive sales and growth for your company.

Ryan: I hope you enjoy the episode. Thanks everybody.

[Music transition to interview]

Ryan Barry: All right. Hi, everybody. I'm very excited to have our first episode of the season. Bianca, you don't know this about me, but I'm going to tell you this publicly now. I asked our customer success team who's a badass that I should know. And everybody who works on the Shopify account was like, you got to know Bianca.

Ryan: So then I stopped what I was doing. I added you on LinkedIn and in about three seconds, I was like, Oh, I know what they mean. So basically the origin story is the account team that you have at Zappi helped me find you and I'm so glad they did because we've had a bunch of fun chat since then 

Bianca Johnston: We really have and I love that. I did not know that and they're awesome, too. So that's really cool. 

Ryan: Yeah, big ups Zappi accounting. We appreciate you. So everybody, we are gonna start with something real. How many calls have we had to bail respectively on each other this year? 

Bianca: Oh, probably about three, I think. About three. 

Ryan: Yeah. This is, uh, a shout out to all of you moms and dads out there.

Ryan: So, as we have this podcast recording, two of my three kids are home ill and both of Bianca's kids are home ill. So we get 100 percent of your kids, 66 percent of mine, and you know, this episode could get weird. Maybe we both get sick during it. We're going to try our best. 

Bianca: We will try not to, but no promises.

Ryan: So at least for those of you in North America, it's been a gnarly virus season, um, and we see you. We are here despite it. So, um, I'm very excited for this episode, uh, for, for a variety of reasons. I think like the fact that you're a research practitioner and are working at a marketing organization and are evangelizing and making research accessible, like we need more people like you.

Ryan: So on behalf of everybody, I just want to say thank you for that. Keep preaching, my friend. I really, really appreciate what you do. 

Bianca: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, I am. There's no, no end in sight to this preaching, so don't worry about that. 

Ryan: Okay, good. All right. So I want to start, I want to jump right in. 

Ryan: You work in a marketing department now, correct? How do you do market research, which is not a sexy word. Consumer insights, which is a sexy word. Uh, but sometimes a bit of bullshit, because not everything can be an insight. How do you make this accessible, relevant, and in demand inside a marketing department?

Ryan: And I ask you because I think you're doing something that a lot of folks aren't. Which is actually driving from a marketing org. And from a lot of the market orientation I've done, there is a healthy percentage of marketing orgs that want to use research to cover their ass or validate a decision they've already made, which is not consumer learning.

Ryan: So how do you, how do you do that? 

Bianca: Yeah. I mean, yeah. So for a little bit of background on me, like I started my career agency side marketing found, like, you know, learned a lot. It was very scrappy, kind of learned. All about the biz, but found it was very fluffy and there was a lot of bullshit. And so that's what drew me to research is like, I wanted the concrete, the why, I wanted to understand the consumer more and have that concrete data.

Bianca: So then I spent probably 10 years in research and then, um. Most made my way over to Shopify, started in their research org, and then from there jumped over to marketing. So I was basically supporting an offline marketing team from a research standpoint and then jumped over that way to the marketing side.

Bianca: So I kind of had this unique vantage point of being sort of semi embedded on the team I work on now as a researcher. And then coming over and being a marketer. So I kind of had this unique position of seeing both sides of it. And so now coming over to the marketing side and I'm sort of like a creative strategist, I work with mostly performance marketers.

Bianca: We're in a growth org, so it's all very much performance metrics, but. My job is sort of, um, deciding on the creative that we put into the market and creating some integration across the channels. And so, there's a huge opportunity for research there. And having come from the team that basically supported this exact function, I just had that unique, it was a little bit lucky that I had that unique position to just be like, um, I know exactly what I need and I know where to find it, but as I would start to write briefs and I, you know, still was really close with the research team and knew, kind of, could still go dig into tables as I needed to, I realized nobody else on the marketing, A, knows how this stuff exists, B, if they did, Would know how to, like, read these tables or read these, you know, or like dig deep into these reports and where to find them.

Bianca: So the point is like, I kind of had this unique vantage point of seeing both sides and then knowing the, the basically inputs into my work. Like if I have to create a campaign, my input is the brief.

Bianca: And that sort of uses the research team's outputs. So then it became about how do we change the research team's outputs to take them further than just a 60 page report. Maybe it's, you know, audience one pagers or like, here's a marketing kit. Here's a messaging framework. And it really becomes about researchers sort of thinking more like marketers and the only way in sort of bridging that gap, especially on those sorts of outputs and documents that you put out as a researcher. So the only way to do that is really understand what the marketer needs. And that's why I love that semi embedded model and then vice versa. 

Ryan: Okay. This is fascinating. So what I didn't know about you is you started in marketing. So, so you're just, you're, you're actually a customer centric marketer.

Bianca: Um, thank you. I, if you add up the years, I've been a researcher more than a marketer. Yeah. Yeah. Kind of a couple years and then quickly was like, uh, research is my thing. And then kind of, as I did many years of research, wanted to sort of pull back the curtain again and be like, okay, what's the next step?

Bianca: How do we action this? So I've had this jump  back and forth, but I really, that's kind of my whole shtick on LinkedIn now is like being the bridge of those two functions and telling each one, understand what the other craft does, and it'll make your craft so much stronger. 

Ryan: Yeah, and that's, that's like, I think it's a really important thing because there's a misunderstanding that seems to exist.

Ryan: So let's start, let's start with something tangible you just said. So making insights more accessible. Let's break that down simply. Let me, and I'll give you, if you don't mind, I will give a little ramble. I was telling Bianca this before we hit record.

Ryan: I posted something about the difference between data and insights and how we need to connect learnings. We need to connect better with the business. And I had a lot of people very vulnerably reach out to me and be like, arguably a little defensive, right? Like, Marketing doesn't want it. The company's not customer centric and I would say 80 percent of my instinct is like you got to show them not tell them, but I also get the tension, right?

Ryan: So can you break down a few examples of show me not tell me and how you actually go about making, let's just use a few examples, a user test. a post launch test, a copy test. How do you make this more accessible to drive action within the business? 

Bianca: Yeah, I'll use an example of, um, like a big old meaty brand health study, like a market landscape. I had said, yeah, you know, it's got all these markets. It's got, it's this huge deck because it's got like multiple segments. The whole thing, you take them through that. In a presentation, maybe it's a couple of presentations. Maybe it's a couple of decks. It's so much information you need to distill it to what they are trying to do with this.

Bianca: So like to break it down into tasks. Like what do you, you know, go back to those first research and business objectives. Why did we set this up? We're overhauling our, um, messaging framework. That's what we need this for. So when you break up that key drivers analysis into like, you know, here are the messages and the value props that resonate most.

Bianca: Partner with that marketing stakeholder and say, let's do this together. You know, you're going to lead the effort on what this framework is going to look like. I'm your data person because I know this research inside out. And I also know all the other research in our insights hub to connect the dots and all the other data sources.

Bianca: And so you think about those outputs and yeah, that, that 80 page deck or whatever has to be, um, like an artifact for the business perhaps, but then like you break it down and then you get more runway from your research. You break it down into like a one pager that's like this. These are the salient points you need to know for your messaging framework.

Bianca: And this is the audience’s source of truth. Like, these are specific examples of stuff we've been working on because we've been involving a lot of that stuff. And so I like to release mini reports. 

Ryan: It was, yeah, this is what you're talking about here is really codifying a lot of data in like bite sized chunks to give them an orientation of, and let's be honest, Shopify is a wonderful business, but it's a complex business. You've got The B2C side, the B2B side, all these different merchants, your market's complex, right?

Bianca: Totally. It's huge. And I don't know, perhaps researchers think like, well, that, that output's done. You know, it's like, we think very linearly in a project, like its proposal, questionnaire, you know, analysis, presentation, presentations locked and done, you know, send your follow ups, that project's done.

Bianca: It's like, well, why don't you use that data for, you could get 10 different outputs from that. And, um, You know, we do, like, I don't know if this is relevant everywhere, but in, in tech, like, everything's done on videos. You share a five minute TLDR, we call it. You share a little video on our internal, workplace news feed, and it's about, you almost have to be a little bit of a content creator and push those narratives and push them more often.

Bianca: So it's about frequency of getting that message out. It's about the different outputs you get from one piece of research. And then that sort of answers the speed thing because then a marketer isn't waiting for, you know, Well, once a year we do our brand health or the quarterly report. It's like this throughout the quarter.

Bianca: You're still getting more mini reports or outputs for lack of a better word out there to them to meet the different needs of what they're trying to achieve 

Ryan: It's really interesting and I think there is a tech bias like video and I don't understand it. Like, so at Zappi we have a head of BI and I always joke with him, um, I'm secretly introverted.

Ryan: He's not secretly introverted, and we engage with each other a lot. He'll send me a Loom video and be like, I thought you should see this Last one was like, we suck at monetizing innovation.

Ryan: And I was like, Ooh, why? And then he, we iterated like that. I think there's something really accessible about async communication. Um, but I think there's something that you say about that. I think a lot of people I'm hoping really grip onto this, this master servant thing.

Ryan: No one, I bet nobody asked you to do that. You were like, Oh, the best way to engage with these folks is bite sized TLDRs constantly. And I think there's like this weird chasm of like, I wait for the brief. I complain about the brief. I do the research. I deliver the research. 

Bianca: Yeah, yeah, totally. 

Ryan: We can keep doing that if we want. Um, and then all of our talent is going to leave research. 

Bianca: Yeah, and there's, there's a desire to not want to overstep and sort of stay in your lane. And I admit this is very like, you know, I work in a company where we don't have Those defined lanes and you can, you know, so I, I, this might not be relevant to everyone, but I still think you could like other companies and people can learn from this experience.

Bianca: And I think it becomes at the, if the organization isn't going to allow for it structurally, it happens from the ground up at, in a relationship, people to people level, because everyone just wants to, at the end of the day, we're all trying to create the best work. So if you partner up as a researcher, partner up with your marketing stakeholder and the way to do that is.

Bianca: You know, yeah, go over and above, like make them look good, share extra value. And it just becomes this compounding loop of impact. Then they'll come ping you more often for questions. And then you eventually become more in a partnership rather than this kind of master servant dynamic. 

Ryan: Yeah, that's right. I mean, because like me, the job, particularly the job of an insights person is to be the shepherd of what we know and what culture is.

Ryan: And to your point, if institutionally, that's not acceptable human to human, it's like, Hey, did you think about this? Did you see this? Did you read? I mean, let's think about that.

Ryan: We all do that with our colleagues. Like, I mean, how many times today have I sent an article to a person I work with? It's no different, right?. 

Bianca: And not to put all the blame on the marketers either with this marketer servant dynamic, like often researchers I've been on a lot of teams.

Bianca: And honestly, I was like this too. We kind of wanted to stay safe behind the curtain, behind the numbers and not make the big call. Um, and so I worked really hard on sort of developing a point of view and understanding you know, what my marketing stakeholders were thinking about, dealing with, doing to, you know, researchers always have this thing of like, you sent the report and did you hear it in the abyss?

Bianca: Like, did it, did anything come back? You know, like, does anyone care? And so the way to do that is to engage with those counterparts and be like, how did you use this? Like we used to joke about doing a survey about the survey. Maybe just a conversation is better, but understanding that feedback on like, how did you use this and will, um, you know, how can we improve upon this and just building that relationship to make the work better and, and getting out from behind the curtain and having a POV.

Bianca: And the more you understand what your marketing team is doing, the more as a researcher, you can have that impact. 

Ryan: I think you're right though. Like, and we can, I want to come on to some of the boldness of your journey on personal branding, because you've had to leave your comfort zone. And I think one of the things I want to talk about next is understanding what marketing needs. Um, but the more value you bring, the more you're going to get invited into that room. So I guess let's flip this conversation since you're the translator of the two worlds.

Ryan: So marketers are running hard. They're running fast. You're in a growth company. I know what that's like. I'm in a growth company, which means folks, if it doesn't make money, we're not talking about it and we need to do everything fast. So give us a glimpse into your team that you sit on. What are the things that people are actually needing, wanting more of wanting less of like, and you can redact Shopify if you want, but I'd love, like, let's dispel this.

Ryan: Cause a lot of what you hear is. Insights is too slow, too librarian, or marketers don't know how to write briefs and they don't know what they want and they only want me to test ads as an example. 

Bianca: Okay, so I sit on a team of all performance marketers, so they're mainly doing the media buys and then I had a mini team of me's for different channels. So right now there's two of us and there used to be four. Currently, um, there's two of us doing this type of role one for digital one for offline.

Bianca: That's me. And the role is, um, basically telling all our performance marketers, our channel leads, what to put into the market. We design, we figure out what the creative should be. 

Ryan: And that creative comes from the agency in your world, right? Who actually creates? 

Bianca: I work with an agency on the offline side, but internet stuff is all an internal marketing team. 

Ryan: Got it. So like in my world you're like the content team working with the demand gen team essentially who's then responsible for campaign management. And okay, that makes sense. 

Bianca: Exactly and our channel leads like they will approve and have input in that creative but really they're kind of, they're very strategic in that sense, but they have all this other stuff they're doing.

Bianca: All the numbers, all the performance, all the media buying, that's the main bulk of their thing. So, that's why they kind of separated that role into having somebody to figure out the creative too. So they're sort of like a, like a nice counterpart, and they will be a stakeholder in this creative. But really, it's me.

Bianca: So when you're like, that's why I kind of have like the two brains of it. Like, I'm the person. It's fascinating! I'm both the stakeholder and the sort of like, researcher. Which is my dream job, so. Yeah. So anyway, so your question was like, what are they trying to solve? What are they trying to think? All our channels are very, we're stood up on their own, they're very decentralized silos. 

Ryan: Which is very, very, uh, standard in tech, right? Like, For those of you listening who work in CPG or QSR orgs, you're probably tied to a line of business, but you're really under a regional P& L. Every tech company is oriented by product line.  

Bianca: Yeah, and our marketing channels are all sort of like quite decentralized as well, because that's solving for speed. But the thing it doesn't solve for is integration of messaging across those channels. So that's sort of what I'm trying to do. 

Bianca: And so we have different levels of like, depending on the channel, um, access to those insights or knowledge and awareness of insights and customer centricity and stuff like that. So I'm trying to bring that across all the channels and I'm trying to answer really some foundational questions of like, here's one audience like source of truth based on all this research from all these different sources. Here are the big rocks of pillars that we should be talking about. Because how it happens now is, it's very product led. It's very, because we're a product org. And um, you know, here are the new releases. Here's what we're doing.

Bianca: And we have a generally good sense of our customers but I'm like, I'm asking the question now to the business. What if, what if it could be, you know, 25 percent better in terms of optimizing this creative? And so what if we could hit more of an emotional connection?

Bianca: What would that do? And so that's what I'm trying to do, and that's why we have a great partnership with Zappi and are excited to expand that work this year. And so that comes from like big foundational research and ad testing and then the cumulative effect of both.

Ryan: Yeah, so I want to ask you about something because I think like the channel, the channel, um, I guess spread is fascinating to me because a lot of research is predicated on linear TV campaigns and now everything's omnichannel.

Ryan: So you have all the performance data, which is sort of synonymous with we're product led, right? Like we're going to look at telemetry. We're going to look at behavioral data. You're bringing in market orientation and primary data. So I guess, how do you think of connecting those two things in your world?

Ryan: Cause like I, it strikes me that the performance team, their love languages, engagement clicks, leads revenue. But you're, what I'm hearing you say is I also want to build our brand and be more. system with our distinctive brand assets, which we all know will be helped to more sustained growth. Um, how are you using those two muscles?

Bianca: Yeah, we are. Even in our offline channels, we're very performance or performance driven. We look at performance metrics and we just see numbers and conversion rates, but nobody ever knows why. Oh, but why did that ad do well? Because when you're A/B testing, a couple of ads, video ads on YouTube. There are so many variables as to what, why something worked and why something didn't, and then people go and make a conclusion.

Bianca: Well, this one worked cause it had, you know, humor, but maybe it was just the actor or the music or something else. So that's why, that's how we bring together the performance data and the research. The performance data is the what, what result did this have? The research tells us the why. 

Ryan: I like what you're saying. So you basically use your market orientation and your research to bring why to the results that happen. And then is it safe to jump to the conclusion that you then codify that back into your briefs? 

Bianca: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. 

Ryan: And I think that's something, and I wanted to switch gears and talk about the process of creative development for a sec, but as time goes by or as the cost of production goes down, our world's going to change a bit.

Ryan: We're not going to have as much time. And so it's, I think it's okay to see what happens and then research why, even if it's after the fact, because To your point, you're launching a bunch of campaigns across a litany of channels, right? 

Bianca: Yep, yep. And that's why, you know, yeah, sometimes we don't have time to test before.

Bianca: Like, we've done an early stage test, like at a storyboard or something like that, and then there's no time to retest, or we felt confident enough, or whatever the reason is, we'll still run it even when it's live, because it does give us that valuable why. 

Ryan: Yeah, and then you can sort of say to the agencies, hammer more on humor if that actually is the thing, right?

Bianca: Yeah, exactly. 

Ryan: Okay, so let's bring everybody into a little bit of our rant. We were having before, we were talking about, uh, well, I'll be honest. We were talking about the Super Bowl and how most of the ads are going to be not that good. And just because you could reach a lot of people doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to improve advertising.

Ryan: And, uh, Kim on my team, one of my colleagues, she did a longitudinal analysis of Super Bowl ad effectiveness. And the punchline is it's not improving. Okay. Okay. And it's still average and I'll, now this is the rant Bianca and I were having that how much of the ads were shot, produced with a fancy celebrity and shipped, um, the answer is a lot of them and, and not everybody, right?

Ryan: So let's talk about how creative development should work a little bit from your perspective. You have a blank canvas, like how do you, how should the process actually go knowing the dynamics we were just discussing around you. 

Bianca: Yeah, the main thing is to test early and often. And so, the earlier you get in there, the more value you're going to get. Um, so we were talking about that, you know, napkin idea, and at the concept stage.

Bianca: Especially if you're choosing between concepts, and that will help you do something, or potentially do something bolder. Rather than scrapping that idea off the chart, because like, somebody's not going to like it at the, at the senior level. So, start at the very early concept stage. Um, test again to optimize a storyboard stage.

Bianca: And then, like, so much changes, obviously, from a storyboard stage to a rough cut, so do it again at a rough cut stage, and there you're doing final tweaks, making sure nothing's offensive, making sure there's anything weird about the casting, or, you know, or, like, the music selection, or whatever it is, that you can, you can tweak that then.

Bianca: So test early and often is the way to do it. 

Ryan: Yeah, and I think like, I want to, I want to double click on the napkin thing. I'll share a little bit of my story on this. Like, I spent a lot of time trying to identify what creatives would like with advertising research, because I think.

Ryan: For years it was, we don't trust those creatives, let's green light them, let's red light them, let's tie bonuses to it, and so there's like this, I would say quite a bit of like, negative energy, like you go to, I went to Cannes last June, and you know, research is in the corner talking about IPA effectiveness, not like on the main stage, you know?

Ryan: And I remember, um, we were interviewing a bunch of, uh, creative directors and a lot of them were like, dude, I want to test my ideas that I put on a napkin. That's what Bianca was talking about. And you think about that, how many creative territories. Get left without ever seeing them because of perceived politics.

Ryan: It won't work. We've always done it this way. Uh, and so I, I think particularly in a world where production costs are going to go down, media placement's going to be more accelerated, just spending time on the concept alone would be better than waiting until it's finished. Right? So, it's something that I'm really passionate about, but I do think it's hard for businesses to build in that time and that muscle.

Ryan: Do you, why do you think that is? 

Bianca: I think there's a perception, um, well, research in general that it takes long and is super expensive. And it's not true, especially if we compare the cost of. Producing an ad that ends up being quite subpar and the media spend on top of that. Yeah, this is the cost of an extra round of research.

Bianca: It's nothing. So I think it's a perception and an education thing, really. 

Ryan: And that's where I think your, your first point about bringing value proactively. Yeah. We've got to do that for all of you in research roles, because you've got to change the conversation. And you gotta show people that it's better, and, cause, it's not gonna change just automatically, I think, I don't think anybody with any malice intent is, is trying to fuck this up, I, I think that there's genuinely like, yeah, agencies are always rushed, and then we get the film, and then we scramble, and now we can test ads overnight, and so, we're going to air still, great, and it's, 

Bianca: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Ryan: That, that education is huge. Um, all right. So, this is how, uh, I got to know you cause I read all your content before we got to talk. 

Ryan: So you are out there, you're sharing your view, you're educating people. Um, and I know this just from talking to you, that wasn't like a, that was an intention you set, but wasn't like naturally you.

Ryan: And so I guess, talk to me a little bit about how you decided, like, look, I'm going to start to advocate for being this bridge between insights and marketing. And just take us a little bit on that journey. Um, cause I know personal brand has a whack connotation, but like yours is real and you've got a following.

Ryan: I'm one of your followers. I'm one of your friends. Um, but like, yeah, take us on that journey. Just like, and I think for those of you who are listening, like I'm never going to post on LinkedIn. This, I think my point of asking Bianca is we all got to leave our comfort zone to make our businesses more customer centric.

Ryan: And so that's what I'm hoping you can infer from Bianca's journey. 

Bianca: Yeah, totally. So, I'm going to just give a little background. I don't want to give sort of a stereotype of researchers, but the teams I've worked on, we all fit a similar profile of, you know, a little bit more introverted, really analytical, really curious and love to go deep into these discussions.

Bianca: And, um, but, you know, didn't love front and center stage. And so, and that's just, I'm like a, I like personal and professional growth. So that was just something I wanted to work on over time and like, got really comfortable presenting. And it started by presenting research because I love this stuff. So that was sort of a passion point. 

Ryan: So you weren't originally comfortable doing that? 

Bianca: No, no. First research presentation. I was just like, ah, who am I to be doing this? And just like anything you keep doing it. And so that builds confidence. Like I'm a big believer in getting. Um, out of your comfort zone and doing shit that scares you.

Bianca: It's like where growth happens. So, um, that was kind of part of it. Um, do shit that scares you. The other part was, uh, when I moved, when I left the research team and jumped over to the marketing team, I was like, Ooh, but I still want to stay connected to research. I want to stay, we used to have like in the past before the pandemic, uh, with our research team, we'd all eat lunch together and it would be like this bitching invent session, but also solving the world's problems. And then we'd be like, and then we should do this and do this. And I missed the lunch table. So I'm fully remote now. And so I just wanted a way to kind of connect with researchers, meet new ones and talk about stuff that I like. So that was another reason.

Bianca: And then another is just sort of networking, but in a way that I like, and at scale. So, um, you know, I had a little calendar reminder in my calendar for months to be like, Set up one coffee chat this week. And like, I wouldn't do it. It wasn't happening. No, and like, well, who, and then what, what am I going to say, and then like, sure, and then I'm like on a screen all day talking to people at work, so then just doing that for my sort of networking didn't feel different enough.

Bianca: And sure, I could have met people in person, but everyone's just like, oh, you want to meet in person? That's like, so far, I'm going to have to walk everyone in their cushy remote jobs. So this is kind of a nice way to like. Network at scale on mass like one too many and I like written communication.

Bianca: Like I couldn't slack and text people all day. And so I just thought, you know, that would be fun too. So those are sort of the reasons why I started. 

Ryan: And you clearly are seeing your snowball mass, right? Like your engagement and the conversation So what's your like, what's your cadence?

Ryan: Like, how do you go about doing it? Like I think everybody's got their own approach, but I'll share mine if you share yours. Like, how do you go about doing it? 

Bianca: Yeah, and I think we've talked about this before. Our approaches are different. I am a planner and I, um, I thought about posting on LinkedIn a lot for a long time before I actually took the plunge and did it. And then I knew that when I started, I was like, I'm going to, I want to do this for a year. So I want to consistently post for a year and then see where I'm at, see, you know, what the result has been. And so I knew if I was going to start, I had to like, I have a backlog for my own, like, psychological safety to keep going.

Bianca: So I, um, I got Notion, because I love Notion, and created, like, a table, a database of post ideas. And I didn't, like, write them all out, but I would just, you know, be out walking and be like, Oh, that would be great. Oh, that's an idea. Yeah, and then that and then like going through my workday. Oh, that would be a good one. 

Bianca: So I let them accumulate a little bit and then and then you start writing them and you realize oh This is actually three ideas and then that kind of snowballs out. So then I had something that I was like, okay I can fall back on I can do something with this and then I felt and then I was like Stop like perfecting this little behind the scenes work and just get out there. 

Bianca: So I picked a date and I got out there and then um, and yeah it's been about three times a week sometimes sometimes two sometimes four, but usually it averages out three times a week. I take holidays like anyone else because I don't want to burn out and the number one thing is that this needs to be fun so if you're posting on LinkedIn and you want to take a week off, do it. Like the earth will not break. 

Ryan: Yeah, no one's going to yell at you. 

Bianca: Yeah, no, you're the boss. And, um, and it's been amazing. I have met so many people. We've connected. I've done another podcast. I have met people in person. I said to my husband, I'm going to go meet a stranger from the internet for coffee now. And I came back alive.

Ryan: One time I saw somebody at an airport and But like, obviously, like, our community is pretty small, right? Yeah. It's not like Anyways, and I'm, I speak, I post more about insights transformation than SaaS, even though I run a SaaS business. But anyway, somebody is like, dude, I know you from LinkedIn. And I was like, this is like, gotta be a geek award.

Ryan: Like this is so weird, 

Bianca: But kind of cool, right? 

Ryan: So you know, I, I think what's interesting is like, I feel like a lot of people, particularly in big corporations, think that by posting on LinkedIn, their job security is at risk. And I know this cause I see y'all lurking. I see y'all lurking on Bianca's posts.

Ryan: I see y'all lurking on my posts. I view it differently. Like I view it as a way to connect as you're talking about. To see if your ideas are, other people are feeling them. But also to build the brand of your department, right? So if you're out there bringing the heat, well then more people are going to want to come work with you.

Ryan: You're going to be able to recruit more talent. So, um, I hope that, uh, So my approach, by the way, I did share it with Bianca a couple months ago. It is super random. Um, I started randomly posting on the internet 15 years ago when I had something to say and I did much to the chagrin of my marketing team with no consistency, rhyme or reason.

Ryan: So I'm on a bit of a bender at the moment because I'm pissed off about a lot of things. So I've posted way more than I should be. But I'll probably then not have anything to say at some point and then be busy working and uh, so be more like Bianca. I'm winging it a little too much. 

Bianca: No, I think, I think the key is authenticity.

Bianca: Like, I sometimes wish I could be more like that, more spontaneous and more just like, go with it. But my brain is like, no, be cautious, plan a little bit. But that's authentic to me. And whereas like, You know, a Sunday rant, that's authentic to you. You do you. 

Ryan: I appreciate you. Well, it's funny, like, it's the same thing with public speaking advice.

Ryan: Like, you can read or watch YouTube videos about, you know, tips to speak. Like, we're all trying to get better at storytelling. We're all trying to get better at navigating a room. What everybody's executive coach says, executive presence. The reality is everybody's different. So like, and I think for me, authenticity is like a real thing.

Ryan: Like I don't want to be ghostwritten for I want, I want to say what I think, but my approach is like Julio Franco, who's our chief customer officer here, English is his second language. So like there's an extra cognitive load for him there, but he does power poses before he speaks. Nice. Some people write down notes.

Ryan: I just won't talk about stuff I don't know about. Because then I can go up there and just wing it. Yeah, yeah. I always find it interesting because like, you can't really give people advice on the topic simply because it's what's best for you, right? So like, I always try to ask these questions on the podcast because like at least people can, someone might see their truth in you and what you're saying, right?

Bianca: Yeah, yeah. My, my hack there is, um, I memorize like the first couple lines, cause, and then I just know for every slide, know what you want to say, but not how you want to say it, because then you'll stick to your script, but the only time I stick to a script is like the first, first two. 

Ryan: You're like an opener.

Bianca: Yeah, yeah, just my warm ups, just so I don't like to freeze on that, and then everything else I'm like, that'll flow, cause I, I know what I want to say. 

Ryan: Cause you know what you're going to say. Yeah, I guess, do I have any, I get nervous before I public speak. Yeah, I'm super nervous. Like I, and I've done it a bunch of times.

Ryan: I had to, this is actually a crazy story. I had to take a flight to London a couple of weeks ago and I was presenting to like half our company and I purposely planned to land the day before. Of course. This is what happens in, uh, January and February in North America. Your kids get sick and your flights get canceled.

Ryan: So that didn't, of course, so I went from a red eye to presenting in front of all of my colleagues. And I don't know about you, but presenting in front of your colleagues is way more stressful than strangers. Um, cause they can call bullshit, right? They're like, they, exactly. You know, it's like, 

Bianca: You can't run away from them after.

Ryan: Anyways, and so my, my hack is when I'm nervous, I'll crack a joke. Um, I'll, I'll engage, and it helps me forget that I'm literally freaking out behind the scenes. So I want to talk to you about one more thing, insights people. One more time, but with a different slant.

Ryan: A lot of insights organizations are shrinking. A lot of people are looking for different roles. Um, there's a lot of talk of democratization, which I personally think if insights people own orientation, democratization is good. I know why it's hard. What's advice that you have for people beyond some of the stuff we've been talking about, like where they can elevate their game to make their careers more relevant?

Ryan: Just to couch my question, I believe customer centric businesses win, and I think insights people are the key people who understand psychology, consumer behavior, statistics, and data. And I'm terrified that as much as I'm, we've talked a lot about AI and data, I'm terrified of homogenous marketing. I'm terrified of, like, short termism. So, like, give people some advice so that we can avoid that shit, because no one wants to live in that world. 

Bianca: The first two things that come to mind are very relevant to what we talked about. 

Ryan: For real.

Bianca: Standing, um, you know, the marketing and the stakeholders and exactly what they're trying to solve so that you can make yourself way more relevant and valuable to them. Um, number one and, uh, number two, that's another reason to build your personal brand on LinkedIn. You like opportunities. It's gonna, and then you're sort of, I mean, I follow this one.

Bianca: LinkedIn is one of the platforms where There's a lot more talking about LinkedIn on LinkedIn, like there's people about how to do LinkedIn on LinkedIn. Here's how to post on LinkedIn. And so, but, um, a lot of those, you know, creators are really valuable. And I follow, um, a coach who always talks about being the CEO of your own career.

Bianca: And yeah, unfortunately layoffs are happening, and this is one way to sort of carve out your own space, be your own, don't, you don't have to call it a personal brand, I don't care for the term either, but Yeah, I don't love the term either. Like the CEO of your own career, or whatever you want to call it, and then you have, you own something, and you stand for something, and actually if you don't know what you stand for, the best way to figure it out is writing on LinkedIn.

Bianca: It helps clarify your thinking, it helps elevate your writing, all this stuff. 

Ryan: Yeah, it's funny you say that, like, I would say half of the things I post on LinkedIn, or I have an idea. And ironically, the data from my tribe helps me determine if I'm alone, if I'm full of shit, or if it's really striking.

Bianca: Totally, yeah. 

Ryan: Yeah, it's a feedback loop. 

Bianca: All you'll know is putting it out there, even if it's scary. 

Ryan: Yeah. And it can be like, am I going to sound like an idiot or, you know, uh, Patricia always says lay the egg, just lay the, lay the egg. And it's like this thing she says to give herself, uh, you know, confidence.

Ryan: So I guess on this topic, since we've covered a lot of it, there's a software takeover. There's a data takeover and AI takeover, but still a premium for storytelling and thinking that you happen to be somebody who's comfortable, you know, strategic storytelling, running a survey on Zappi running a survey somewhere else.

Ryan: How do you, I guess, help people sense make that because I still feel like there's a lot of fear of like, if I use technology to do my job, therefore I won't be strategic, yet every time I meet somebody who's killing it, it's like the exact opposite, but I can, I can see where people's trepidation comes from, but maybe make some sense of that for people, how they can use software to their advantage.

Bianca: I just think that the tech and the software is all about doing the things that are, uh, tedious and like, like freeing up your time to work on the bigger strategic things. There's no shortage of things to do. And the biggest meatiest, funniest, funnest problems to solve are the, are the strategic ones. So that's what computers and the machines like can't do very well.

Bianca: Use them to your advantage to free up your time to do the bigger, better stuff and the more impactful stuff. 

Ryan: I view it the same way. I mean, that's why when I joined Zappi, I was like, Oh, if we can make activation research accessible, people will have time to do the strategic shit. Um, and I think my only advice on top of what Bianca says is you gotta be intentional about how you use it because you can't expect the same results that you got out of a consultancy.

Ryan: Not like any is right or wrong. It's just different vehicles to get at something. So oh, my God. We didn't get sick during our conversation. 

Bianca: Yay, we did it. 

Ryan: So folks, thank you for listening. We're going to switch back into parent mode. Uh, I'm going to see if my daughter Blake's all right.

Ryan: Although my wife's been a hero today. She's been cleaning all sorts of gross things around the house. 

Bianca: Oh, yeah. My husband's been managing it too. 

Ryan: Shout out to our significant others. It's always fun to talk to you. I'm glad we get to share this with the audience. Thank you for listening, everybody. Thank you, Bianca.

Bianca: Thanks so much, Ryan.