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How Inclusive Marketing is Driving HiBob’s $2.5B Valuation in HR tech

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Welcome to another episode of Scratch, where Eric is joined by the brilliant Sarah Reynolds, who serves as the CMO at HiBob. Sarah is an award-winning B2B SaaS marketing executive and a well-known diversity and inclusion advocate. They take us on a journey into the realm of inclusive marketing and the significance of LGBTQIA+ leadership within the marketing industry.

Together, Sarah & Eric explore the intersection of diversity and marketing strategies.  Sarah places a strong emphasis on the vital role that inclusive marketing plays in establishing a more extensive market presence.  They delve into the various challenges and opportunities faced by a trans, non-binary CMO, underlining the pressing need for increased diversity within the C-suite. They also articulate how inclusive marketing is not only ethically sound but also a smart business strategy.

Sarah generously shares their insights on strategies to steer clear of "purpose-washing" and maintain authenticity in brand messaging. They provide invaluable best practices and principles to ensure a brand's purpose aligns seamlessly with its actions. Additionally, they underscore the significance of practicing what you preach by "eating your own dog food." They discuss a systematic approach to fostering an inclusive organizational culture, encompassing both top-down and bottom-up initiatives. We really enjoyed recording this one, and are sure that you'll find Sarah’s insights and perspectives truly enlightening. 

Chapters:

(3:40) Favorite challenger brand

(7:20) Opportunity for more LGBTQIA+ individuals?

(10:40) How to be more inclusive?

(18:25) How do you actually drive change in your organization?

(32:30) Prioritizing what needs to be done

(37:00) Lightning Round

"Scratch" is a production of Rival, a marketing consultancy and technology company that builds challenger brands, strategies, and capabilities to change categories. In every episode Eric interviews the CMO of some of the world's biggest or fastest-growing brands, exploring their innovative marketing strategies that challenge established incumbents. Immerse yourself in the world of challenger brands and learn valuable marketing lessons from industry experts, as you discover their secrets to success. 

Find Rival online at www.wearerival.com, LinkedIn, Twitter

Watch the video version of this Podcast on YouTube.

Find Sarah on LinkedIn.

Find Eric on LinkedIn and tweet him @efulwiler

Say hi at media@wearerival.com, we’d love to hear from you.

Transcript

Sarah: If we are in a male dominated industry like tech, like let's make sure that we're bringing like beautiful diverse voices to those conversations when folks are celebrating their professional experience or, or you know, hearing from executives around a round table. There's lots of different ways that you can think about inclusive marketing as part of your practice and we try to you know, incorporate into all the things that we do here at HiBob whether it's brand identity, web building, you know, events, anything else in your in your organisation.


Eric: I'm Eric Fulwiler. And this is scratch, bringing you marketing lessons from the leading brands and brains rewriting the rulebook from scratch for the world of today.


Hey, everyone, a very special episode for you. Today we have Sarah Reynolds, the Chief Marketing Officer of HiBob. HiBob is a challenger HR tech platform used by more than 2500 multinationals including the likes of Munzo Kazoo and my alma mater VaynerMedia, they raised over $120 million to date, and have a valuation of over $2.5 billion. The focus of the conversation today and you saw the headline you clicked on this episode, you know what it's all about. It is about Sara's experience as a trans and non binary, individual and now executive within the world of marketing, business and tech, their perspective on how the industry needs to change how we can all drive change for broader diversity and LGBTQ i A plus individuals in the marketing industry, of course, we also talk about Sarah's perspective on how and why inclusive marketing is actually smart marketing. It's not just about being cause driven. It's actually about being commercially savvy to widen the audience of people that you appeal to. And then also their perspective on you know, we just past pride months, the brand waggling of brands changing their logo for pride, purpose washing in general and their perspective on how to navigate that as an organisation which I found particularly interesting and insightful. So without further ado, please enjoy this conversation with Sarah Reynolds. Hey, Sarah, how are you? And how are things in Lexington, Massachusetts, right next to my hometown of Newton.


Sarah: Welcome to the birthplace of the American Revolution, my friends, it is cloudy today. But we are thriving.

Eric: So I'm actually I'm getting on a plane, we're recording this in late July, I'm getting on a plane tomorrow to go home for the rest of the summer with the kids. So really excited to be home. And I think I mentioned this in our prep call. But one of my two co founders who's from Washington seems to have a bit of a beef with Boston. But I keep telling her and anybody who's listening that Boston and the suburbs of Boston are great.

Sarah: We are great, although loves Lots of people love to have a beef with us. And I can't say sometimes that I blame them, especially when you look at our sports fans. So if you are one of those folks on the call, I promise to not drop into a Boston accent. Or to talk too much about our local sports teams.

Eric: I may or may not be one of those sports fans. But anyway, that will be a different episode. So Sarah, I you know, in the prep calls that we have for guests on the show, I always like to ask, you know, we go over the kind of overview and structure and things like that. Is there anything you want to talk about? And the question I always ask is, is there something that you are particularly passionate about, that you think doesn't get enough airtime in the industry and most people? Let me think about it. Maybe this may be that you came out with a very sharp direct like it is this which I am very excited to talk about today. But before we get there icebreaker question for you. Can you tell us about one challenge or brand that you're particularly passionate about right now and why?


Sarah: Well, I'm going to challenge the prompt, and I'm going to tell you about two one is b2b and one is b2c in b2b land, I gotta give a shout out to my friends at Drift. I think drift has always had really interesting sort of challenger brand status in the industry, they have gone through like a really interesting marketing evolution and brand evolution where they used to be like hypermasculine and like very like yellow and black and like in your face and making a lot of noise in the industry. And they have migrated their like sort of brand, look and feel. And they migrated sort of their brand story to not just be like a great challenger brand in the industry, but also be a great partner in the industry and be a great partner who's focused on value in the industry. If you go on drifts website, you see a lot of case studies about like the amount of pipeline they're generating for organisations and the value that they're delivering for sales and marketing teams and they've updated their colour scheme. So they're one that I always love to give props to. And then when I think about challenger brands in betas See, depending on how you consider a challenger, I want to put Siracha on the map. I Pull this as an example because I think it's a great and very interesting example of like, they started out as sort of like a classic brand, but everything that they do in licencing, and merch and brand expansion and partnership is a very challenger status. For example, like I don't know, another hot sauce who has a partnership with Lexus, and has like custom like Lexus cars that they put out a few years ago that were like Sriracha branded, like, I don't know, a lot of other hot sauce brands that have socks or have keychains or have like all of these other things that it was sort of interesting to watch the folks at at Classic Serato sort of, like licence their image to. And I think that that makes them like a really interesting case study for if your brand has existed for a while, but you're looking to make it more challenge or status, or you're looking looking to push the status quo with an existing brand. How do you make that happen? And how do you make that happen through like, kind of interesting brand partnership.

Eric: So it's interesting, because I had to look this up, I will admit, but I have the benefit of being able to look at it while you were talking. Siracha is a category of hot sauce. Yeah. And it's actually Flying Goose that I think is the brand that you're referring to that everybody knows that associates with Siracha. So they own the category in a way, at least from my perspective, but I didn't know what that brand was. And like, Oh, I know the bottle. I've actually got it in my fridge. But I don't actually know the brand, which I think is interesting.


Sarah: Yeah. And they're so well known that like when there was a sauce Siracha shortage of this one particular brand. They're based in California, when there was a Siracha shortage in California, they actually like chefs were putting out a call. I'm in a restaurant industry person. But like chefs are, we're putting out a call saying if you bring an unopened bottle of sriracha that like you have in your pantry for your home to our restaurant, like we will give you like restaurant gift cards or like free credit at the bar like all of this stuff. Because it was like such an integral part of the food culture for so many different places, not just you know, Vietnamese, or Thai food or Southeast Asian food that you like classically associate with the hot sauce type of style. So Raja, but I think like more broadly in lots of different like styles of food, and especially fusion food and stuff where you see Serato show up.


Eric: All right, so let's get on to the main topic of our conversation today. So you are a trans and non binary cmo and your passion point, what you think, and I totally agree, does not get enough air time in the industry, is the role of an opportunity for more LGBTQ ia plus individuals, particularly in leadership roles, but why don't we start with your story, your career, and how you think about this topic? And what needs to change within the industry?


Sarah: Yeah. So when I talk about, like, why this is important, especially for, you know, not just the LGBTQ A plus community as a whole, but especially folks like me, who identify as trans or non binary or both. It's because, you know, if you look at data from someplace like McKinsey, you'll see that 68% of trans and non binary employees at every level of your organisation, they don't bring their full, authentic self to work there. They cite concerns about like physical safety and harassment. And they also cite concerns about like, if I'm out in the workplace, will I face hiring, discrimination or promotion discrimination? I just saw a new study from like go by on on Twitter. In some of the professional communities I follow that say that people who list they are they them pronouns, I use they them pronouns. People who list their they them pronouns on their resume experience, like dramatically reduced response rates compared to folks who either have like she, her or he him pronouns listed, or folks who don't list their pronouns on their resume at all. I think that that indicates that bias that they fear or that we fear exists in hiring and promotional decisions is very real, right? We know that that's a top concern, but it's contributing to those folks not feeling safe to bring their authentic self to the workplace. And then when you think about it from like, the leadership perspective that you and I are talking about today, like 86% of them say that they have never seen a leader who looks or like seems like them. And I can tell you from my experience growing up, you know, you asked about my sort of like coming coming up in the workplace. I came up in the tech industry, many times, it was hard enough to find somebody in the executive suite or in leadership, who was like founding presenting, let alone somebody who identified as trans or non binary or LGBTQI. Plus, you know, more broadly, right? The tech industry has a reputation for being very homogenous, especially at the top. And I think that that like lack of representation in leadership contributes to this idea that people don't necessarily feel safe to be themselves at work and they're spending a lot of that like great brain power that they could be spending thinking about the next great A marketing campaign or the next great like opportunity for your brand, they're using it to think about like, Okay, what am I showing to the world? What am I trying to hide? How do I like keep track of like, when I need to self censor, you know, like, it's, it's very tiring as someone who did it for a long time, it's really tiring. And it's really taxing. And it's a cognitive load that when you free yourself from it, you can actually like feel sort of like the ability to maybe like recoup that part of your brain and use it for other things that are way more impactful.


Eric: And I think people can relate to that, you know, whether they are non non binary or just feel like they're not able to bring their whole selves to work? Absolutely. How do you have like, how do you think about kind of the blockers and how we overcome them as an industry because it is, you know, I think about diversity more broadly. And exactly what you said is such an important Keystone within the change that we need to see, which is, as people see more people that are like them in senior roles, then it broadens the pool, it creates more opportunity, etc. But sometimes it can feel like it's a little bit of a chicken and an egg. So where do we start? How do we overcome these early blockers?


Sarah: I think there's a couple of things that you can do. And one of the things that so great about my role, so I'm I'm CMO at a company called HiBob. HiBob is an HR technology platform for the types of businesses that like really care about their people, right? That means that I get to work not just with great marketing leaders, but I get to work with great HR leaders at our customers and talk to them about some of these topics, right? You're you're concerned as a great marketing leader that your team has a great experience, your HR team is concerned that you know, every employee in your company has a great experience, regardless of how they identify. So it's, it's an interesting opportunity to sort of like unpack, the first thing I tell people is especially right now, when you look at what's happening in legislation in places like Florida, and Texas, with legislation targeted at trans and non binary people, very specifically, the first thing you need to know is that you can't wait for the courts to decide to protect your trans and non binary employees, you need to be out in front setting policy. And you need to be out in front setting your your company up for success and being vocal about the fact that not only are you like a warm and welcoming place for people to be themselves, but actually that you will stand by them and protect them. If you live where they live, where they work, where they need to be for work in a place that suddenly changes. Its like legal posture around, you know, their safety. I think that's like, it sounds like a basic tenet. But I think a lot of folks haven't necessarily taken that step. My experience sometimes in working with HR folks is that they take that step when they first bump into an employee who wants to transition at work, or they hire their first trans or non binary employee, which is great progress. But it does put a lot of weight on the shoulders of that one employee to sort of feed their one touch point in the organisation for what is good look like what do you need from us? What types of support should we be offering the community? I think to that point, you know, you probably have access to those folks in your organisation, you might have access to something like an erg. We call it a bob a resource group, a BRG. But we we have a great hype ride BRG at HiBob. And we we absolutely are great partners to the HR team in making sure that, you know, like, like our team knows what we need as members of the LGBTQIA plus community more broadly from the organisation in terms of support, we also counsel our HR folks that like you know, don't put that weight entirely on us. Google is free, the internet is free. And it is full of really smart people who can help you set those policies and procedures up in your company as you move forward. And then the last thing I would say is it's all about leadership training. It's all about creating a talent pipeline, it's all about making sure that you are actively working to reduce bias so that, you know, it's not just something where like, magically you're going to have a bunch of LGBTQIA plus folks joining your organisation at the leadership level, you're probably going to create that pipeline from earlier stages in your organisation, you want to grow that talent, you want them to find a safe and welcoming home with you. You want those who want them to find a place where their career can thrive. So nurturing that talent, making sure that their managers understand, you know, their unique concerns, making sure that their managers are doing things like you know, respecting their pronouns. They're not like falling into the trap of any kind of implicit bias and that they're, you know, really equitably awarding things like promotions to all of the different folks in your organisation regardless of how they identify. That's all great work that you can do to help sort of crack that nut of how do we get more folks like me into leadership over time.


Eric: And so you said when we you know, initially landed on on the focus of this conversation in this topic that it hasn't just informed obviously who you you are and your career, but it's also informed how you work. What did you mean by that?


Sarah: Yeah, so I very firmly believe that inclusive marketing is smart marketing. And I think about inclusive marketing, not just in terms of like, what matters to me, or what matters to the LGBTQIA plus community in seeing representation in maybe like the imagery that we use in our marketing. But I also think about it in terms of how we, like think about this more from an intersectional lens. So intersectionality is like all of the different ways that different facets of your identity might influence the way that you experience life or the discrimination that you experience. So for me, for example, I identify as trans and non binary, I also identify as queer, I identify as disabled, all of those things layer on top of my experience, I'm also femme presenting, like all of those things layer on top of my experience to me in that my, my lived experience, and sometimes my professional experience to look different from other people's right. So I think about this sort of intersectional lens when we approach marketing, so it's not just about like, hey, let's make sure that we have a really great diverse cast of characters on our website. It's also about how do we make that website accessible? If you're consuming that website through a screen reader? What does that experience look like for you? Are we you know, providing alt text for images so that someone who doesn't actually see the beautiful image that we picked with a diverse cast of characters that they get the same brand, like the same vibe from our brand, as someone who's seeing all that beautiful imagery brought to life? We think about things like, you know, how do you make, like one of the things we're working on is, as part of our brand styling, we have all caps, text, for headlines and key points, all caps is harder to read, not just for folks with like learning disabilities or visual impairments, but also for all of us every day, because the way that language acquisition works is that you actually recognise like the shapes of words. And sentence case is actually easier because the sheets are more distinct versus like, all caps case, right? So you think about this from a inclusivity perspective, you think about it from a marketing perspective, you think about it from an SEO perspective, because these things like oftentimes, the person who's thought the most about accessibility in your organisation is an SEO manager, because oftentimes, great accessible websites are like SEO optimised websites as well. And then we think about it, like, you know, in events, for example, like, let's make sure that we're not participating in what the industry calls a manual, right? Like, if we are in a male dominated industry, like tech, like, let's make sure that we're bringing like beautiful, diverse voices to those conversations, when folks are celebrating their professional experience, or, or, you know, hearing from executives around a round table, there's lots of different ways that you can think about inclusive marketing as part of your practice. And we tried to, you know, incorporate into all the things that we do here in HiBob, whether it's brand identity, web building, you know, events, anything else in your, in your organisation.


Eric: So another we're gonna get on to talking a little bit more about kind of HiBob, and what you've done there in your first six months, but with where you're at now, in your career as a CMO, six months in, I'm sure this was part of the conversation in your interview, and also the level that you're at, you're able to make those decisions. I'd be curious whether you can speak about past experiences where maybe you weren't in that number one seat, or you were within an organisation that didn't have those priorities to begin with? How did you change them, like if someone's in a company right now, but they're not the CMO? And they're within something that they think needs to change along these lines? How would you recommend they go about that from how do we change our marketing perspective?


Sarah: Yeah, I think it's a really good question, right? Because it's easy for me to say that accessibility is important to me, and I'm going to, you know, devote resources to it. And I'm going to push my brand team and my web team to make that a priority. Right, but not everybody has that same sort of like luxury of the influence of their title or their position in the organisation to be able to just make that decision as quickly as I can. I think if you are at a different position within your career, or you're trying to articulate the value of inclusive marketing and why it's smart marketing to someone who maybe doesn't think about things the same way as you or maybe thinks about like, a non marketing topic all day. There's like, there's two things you can do. One is you can articulate the value. I sometimes will talk to folks in the C suite, or in board meetings, not about like inclusive marketing, but about like audience widening activities. I believe that inclusive marketing helps you you know, make your product or service your brand appeal to a wider Audience a wider audience has buying power, right? There are people in that wider subset of of people who are your decision makers, there are more people like me every single day, thank goodness in positions of leadership who are making decisions about which vendors and which partners they want to work with, right? I want to include those people in my conversation, I do not want to exclude them, right? I don't want to piss off that group of people who could be a really strong buyer for me. And I don't want to make it for example, impossible to read my website, if the person that I'm going to sell to next, you know, happens to have something like a visual impairment, right. I think it's beautiful that our like, beautiful, diverse, textured, just society has all these people in it. I think it's beautiful, that they're showing up in more and more buying conversations. And I think that we should cater to that broad group of people to try and widen our audience. So sometimes I will talk about it from the value, not necessarily the the like social push of the work. But what do you get out of it? Like, how much wider can you make your audience? How much buying power does that audience have? Why is this important for you to do? Why is it important for you know, something like maybe SEO best practices that your team might understand more intimately? Even though it also has this amazing benefit in improving your accessibility? Right? How does it help you win an RFP? You know, one of the things I think we talked about was, like, when you are a technology vendor, sometimes if you don't allow your customers to, to have like test environment access before they sell a deal, and they want to do some accessibility testing of your product, because this is something that many, many companies now put a priority around, they will actually use your website as a proxy. And we've actually seen RFPs, where people give us a score, like a Website Content Accessibility Guidelines score, you can get one for yourself, by the way on lots of different sites around the internet just by typing in your URL, but they'll show you what your website accessibility score is. And they'll say that they are using this as a proxy for your product. And you need to commit to making these improvements to be able to win their business right and for for your product to meet the needs of their beautiful, diverse workforce. So you can talk about like the value and the impact and the audience widening and why this helps you win more RFPs. The other thing you can do is you can find a partner who looks nothing like you who maybe has access to conversations that you don't, and teed them up with all the great talking points, right? I'm super grateful that when I worked in a really conservative organisation, I had a great head of events, marketing, who he himself identified as LGBTQ plus, but he was a tall, cisgender, white guy, and he would barrel into conversations that I sometimes wasn't invited to. And he would talk about, for example, the importance of like, stepping away from panel opportunities that we're all, you know, white cisgender male technology executives, and he was the one to actually put forward the idea that we say no to those things, and that we prioritise, you know the diversity of all the voices in our speaker bench, I'm super grateful to that partner, because he was able to access a conversation or he was able to propose a pitch from a different perspective, then ni, and we were able to work together on making sure that that became a reality in the organisation. It didn't require, you know, me to be the person who's always talking about, you know, D IB topics, it didn't require me to be the person who's always pushing for the inclusive marketing agenda, it meant that I had a broader selection of voices to be able to help me deliver that message. And it sort of like helped with the consensus building, to have folks who maybe didn't always show up in the conversation with that perspective, suddenly advocating for that topic.


Eric: I think there's a lot of great practical advice in there. So I do think of this. And if you're listening at this point, I think this conversation is resonating with you, I'd really go back and re listen to those last two minutes, I think I'm going to do the same. So Sarah, I want to talk about, you know, we just past Pride Month, and every year and it seems like it's increasing, which I think is a good thing. There's a lot of conversation around brands jumping on the bandwagon or the brand waggon as I've heard it called. So when it comes to pride and the purpose of LGBTQ ia plus kind of change, we're seeing more and more brands take part. But let's be honest, not all of them have the authenticity of something to back the marketing activity that they're doing. So how do you think about that broadly? And what advice do you have for marketers? I guess that may be how they should think about it.


Sarah: I think it's a really good question. Right? I think that authenticity is key. And I actually so we changed our logo for Pride Month. HiBob this this year, which is my first year as cmo with the organisation and prior to making the decision to change the logo. We actually They had a really dynamic conversation with our high pride erg. And the beauty of the LGBTQIA plus community is just like every other community on Earth, we do not all agree with each other, which meant that there were voices who were saying, you know, absolutely not, we shouldn't do this. It's pride washing, it's rainbow washing. And there were voices who were saying, absolutely, we should do this, because I feel really myself in the organisation. I feel like the organisation supports me. I feel like it is representative and not have an authentic brand experience.


Eric: Sorry, I just I want to jump in on that. Because it's interesting to me, because I could see the argument of, hey, we shouldn't change our logo. Because it's not authentic. We're not backing up what we're saying. But from everything you've told me about, HiBob, it seems like you're one of the brands of businesses that is that is leading this that is the most most authentic. So what was the argument around, not changing it?


Sarah: So like every company on Earth, we're not perfect. I actually, where we landed with this was I wrote a blog about why we were changing the logo. And we talked about how inclusion is a journey, it's not a destination. So like every company on Earth, we are on a journey to inclusivity more broadly, right. So I'll give you a really like concrete example. We have two buildings at our headquarters, a new building and an older building. And when we were looking at the new building, like building out actually the facilities of the the new building, one of the things we heard really loudly from employees was that they wanted gender neutral restroom facilities, our old building, with our old sort of like layout, didn't have the space for it, it didn't have those facilities, it wasn't part of the original build package. When we opened the new building, when we worked with the architect, when we work to do the build out, we made that a priority, because our employees had said, Hey, this is really important to me, right? Everybody has like a if you don't own your building, or you don't contribute to the build out, right, you inherit a space, maybe your landlord has, you know, shared restroom facilities, you don't always have perfect control over whether or not you have gender neutral facilities in your offices. That was our case to around the globe, right? We have many offices around the world. Since this was brought to our attention, we've gone out of our way to try and find offices that have gender neutral restroom facilities are ones that we can retrofit with them, but we don't have them in every single office. So for employees who work in one of those offices where it's not available, you know, they might come back to you and say, Hey, this isn't a perfect expression of inclusivity. But we know that it's a focus area. For us. We know that we have ongoing conversations with landlords about, you know, how do we make the overall facility that we are just one tenant and more inclusive? And we know that while we're not perfect, we are on that journey towards the right place. Does that help?


Eric: Yes, it does. And I cut you off. So you were saying there was a conversation debate internally, there was some argument about not changing the logo, some argument about changing the logo, ultimately, you ended up doing it, and you wrote an article about it. And I think you were probably going to get on to kind of how other marketers should be thinking about having these conversations within their businesses.

Sarah: Yeah, I mean, I think that looking at how do you do on that scorecard? Where are you on that journey is really important, because if you're moving forward on that journey, then it's a journey to inclusivity. And you hopefully, between this pride month and next Pride Month, are going to make all kinds of great progress on pushing that journey forward. So that this, this is, you know, maybe like a less controversial decision next year for your employee base, right. If you're not on that journey, though, you need to take a hard look at what you're doing. First of all, and then also, you need to be empathetic and understanding that you have different brand challenges than just jumping on to you know, changing your logo for Pride Month, you can do that you should understand that there will be questions and backlash, we get asked all the time about, you know, our posture on inclusivity to one of the reasons that I wanted to share how we are drinking our own mirlo as we like to say, and in some places we still have work to do. You know, it's it's something that is really genuinely very important for us to communicate as a brand and me to communicate in our sort of approach to, you know, changing the logo for Pride Month, for example, that that transparency, not every brand feels comfortable doing that. So again, it's like how do you represent this change as part of your path? New Brand posture? How do you upskill your speakers, you know, you're, you know, as a marketing leader, that you're not the only person who gets media questions, right? Or PR questions. If you got a question during pride month about how you support your LGBTQI plus employees now that you've changed your logo, like how is it not pride washing for your organisation? You might feel really comfortable answering that question, but does your CEO does your CFO? Do you feel comfortable answering it? You know, from an HR perspective? Do you feel comfortable answering it from any perspective, whether it's coming from an employee or the media, those questions are going to show up in your practice? So I'd like get prepared to answer some of those tough questions. If you make the change, and then I'd also say like, listen, there's this pride month was a turning point, because you said more and more brands are jumping on changing their logo than ever before. I actually think for the first year in a in a few years, that wasn't true. We saw lots of brands who had in previous years changed their logo and you know, felt some critique around pride washing and stuff like that, because in reality, it wasn't representative of their brand experience, simply opt out of that, this year, they weren't even willing to go as far as changing their logo and showing that minimal, you know, cringy, corporate pride, like level of support for the LGBTQIA plus community because they looked at everything that was happening in the world. And they said, Yeah, too risky. Like, oops, like not gonna do it. Like, no, I don't have to do it this year. Right. There's no push, there's no reason. So I think that for us, you know, part of part of the discussion was, it is really important that we show visible support that's backed up by tangible support for the LGBTQI plus employees who work in HiBob, and the employees who work and for our customers, because it is part of standing tall, and being able to represent to the market, who we are and what we stand for.

Eric: Yeah, I think the big takeaways for me from all that are, you know, authenticity, having the brand represent who the company actually is, which we talk about a lot when it comes to just fundamental brand strategy and good marketing, transparency. So your example of and I believe this with everything really, usually, if you have the right intentions, telling the truth, and being honest with people is the default position to take. And so even if it is the, hey, we're not perfect, here's what we're doing. Here's why we decided to do this. I think that's a good kind of piece of the puzzle of how you navigate these types of opportunities and challenges. And then the other is, well, you know, this is a moment in a journey. What's the trajectory? How does this fit into the broader change that you're trying to see? Because I think that people will, instead of viewing it as one moment in time, it's how does this relate to the trajectory that you're on. So I think that's super helpful. So Sarah, in the time that we have left, I want to, I want to drill in a little bit more to actually how you're setting things up and how you are approaching your role at HiBob overall, within the marketing function, because of course, we've talked to some new CMOS, we've talked to some more kind of established CMOS, who've been in the role for a bit. But I know I mentioned in our prep call, I'm always fascinated by this, what I call, like moving the chairs around that I think happens when a new cmo comes in, which is kind of like, well, that person totally had it wrong. And like, obviously, this needs to be over there, that doesn't always end up it makes them maybe feel a little bit better. But I'm not sure that that always ends up with effecting real change. But with what you talked about to me, in our prep call, you know, you have a very clear strategy and very specific changes that you've already made. And I know a lot more on the roadmap of what you're doing. So you've come into this new business, this HR tech business, big valuation, I'm sure big expectations on how to drive growth. How are you prioritising what needs to get done? And what's your early strategy for scaling the marketing function and the business?


Sarah:  Yeah, really great question. I think I steal maybe a line from like, my, my grandmother, when you walk into a new organisation, you go, Hmm, not what I would have chosen. I think that's true of marketing strategy. And maybe it's true of orange design, maybe it's true. Measurement, maybe it's true of lots of things, right. Like, especially when you, you have a strong point of view, you come in, and when it's not exactly your perfect point of view represented back to you, you go, okay, that's not what I would have picked. But like, sometimes you can understand like how we got here, like you learn about the business. And you can be really empathetic to like, I totally understand how we got here, I just want to try something new, or I want to try something different in thinking about, like, what, what I want to prioritise at high HiBob, or what our business needs to be successful. I'm thinking about like three critical areas. And I think that these are really broadly applicable. The first is pipeline, right? We're in macro economic period, that is kind of dicey, depending on you know, who you're selling to where your target audiences, right, like it can be really volatile. And, you know, pipeline development is not that easy. So how do you get your marketing organisation thinking about pipeline development, not just MQL development, not just lead development, but pipeline creation, pipeline development with their sales team, right. I think that's really important because you don't want to be in a position ever, ever, ever as a marketer. And I think too many marketers end up in one where you're kind of like defending your existence. I've certainly been in that position in the past. It sucks. So getting out ahead of it and focusing on how do I contribute to the actual dollars that are coming into the business, you know, through pipeline through bookings. That's really important to me. Um, the next one is efficiency, right? Again, like, we want our marketing to be efficient, not just from an ROI perspective, but like how we work, we need roles and responsibilities. If we are making org change, we need to figure out, you know, okay, how do these new teams work together? Right? How do we enable people to really support this vision? You know, how do we link a goal like pipeline to someone whose job is, you know, like website optimization, or whose job is content production or whose job is, you know, analyst relations or PR, something that's not, as you know, directly connected to a pipeline generation function as maybe the folks who work in like demand creation or events, marketing or something like that, right, you want to tell that story, you want some sort of like efficiency measure for how we're going to get there, and you want to help people see the role that they're going to play in helping you get to that goal. The last one for me, and, you know, this is, this is, again, like something that every organisation has, and it just sort of like nuances between them is culture. So HiBob has a really strong focus on our culture and our values, we like to say that values shouldn't just be words on a poster, they should be like things that inform the way you work, the way you partner together, the way you get stuff done, you know, how you how you experienced the organisation. And we want to have a really great collaborative, accountable culture in marketing, so that, you know, if someone in the business comes and asks us for something, if we're making a commitment that we honour, that career commitment, or at least we're transparent, if something's gone wrong, and we're not going to be able to make the deadline or make that commitment, or along sort of the original parameters, I think it's really important that we have a really great marketing culture at HiBob, and that we integrate into the culture of the broader organisation. And we show up as like really good partners in crime to the rest of the organisation, and especially the rest of the go to market functions. Because we're never going to be successful at being efficient. We're never going to be successful at driving pipeline, if we don't have that culture that that creates that strong foundation.


Eric: I love it. All right, Sarah, we are running out of time, but I want to get to our Lightning Rounds. Before I let you go. So quickfire answers on five questions. What is the biggest win that you've had recently?


Sarah:  This picture, it's very tiny. Behind me, Is my face on an eight storey tall billboard in Times Square. I was recently invited by NASDAQ to speak at their pride event hosted by their ERG called the Open. And as part of that event, they actually put all of their speakers up on a billboard in Times Square. So it is super vain. But my big win was it was a totally surreal experience to walk around the corner and see my face on a billboard. But it will some be something probably that I never forget.


Eric: That is awesome. Congrats. It's the biggest struggle that you're dealing with currently.


Sarah:  I think like many organisations, I would say pipeline development, it's one of the reasons it's the focus for us, right? Like the the buying unit looks different. The buying process looks different. The people you need to integrate into the sales cycle look different, you know, we we have, you know, folks who who are integrating CFOs into the conversations about HR technology that maybe previously haven't been part of the the buying committee. I think that that is true for, again, for many organisations around the globe. But I think for us, it's definitely a top challenge, and one that we're really excited to tackle.


Eric: What is the best marketing resource that you found recently?


Sarah:  I want to give a shout out to investor communities. If you have investors in your business, oftentimes, these firms they maintain like committees of advisors, so not the person who comes to your board meeting and assesses your performance from that perspective, but a group of people in their network who they can introduce you to who have had your same job who have sat in your same seat and who can give you advice, right? So I've had the opportunity to talk to probably about a dozen CMOS or ex CMOS or CE O 's with a marketing lens, and talk to them about like, these are the challenges I'm facing, how have you, you know, progressed, what's worked for you what hasn't worked for you, it's a huge asset to me. And as someone who like personally hates, like professional networking events, because I find talking to strangers, like kind of intimidating. This has been a really great way to make those connections through a resource that our investor community already makes available to us.


Eric: So is it actually so you're talking broadly investor communities, or is there a specific one that you'd recommend?


Sarah:  I think it depends who who's an investor in your business? Because I think, you know, at least at least at HiBob, right, like each of our investment firms like they each of our teams has, like their own community or their own network. Some of them are more formal. Some of them are more informal, but ask your ask your board ask the folks that you know at your investors for intros to CMOS in their network if they don't have a formal community.


Eric: Got it. Cool. The biggest Lesson that you've learned in your career?


Sarah:  If I have to be uncomfortable, you have to be uncomfortable. I spend a lot of my time talking about my identity at work, because it comes up in the language that people use about me. I do spend a lot of time correcting people and reminding people, especially around my pronouns, and I've been given feedback in the past that, you know, correcting someone, especially when they're like in the middle of a sentence, if I saved day, instead of she or he right? That this makes the other person uncomfortable. And guess what dog like, you referred to me incorrectly, you made me uncomfortable. So if I have to be uncomfortable, you have to be uncomfortable. That's how both of us are going to like make this better going forward.


Eric: What's one thing that people should do differently after listening to this episode?


Sarah: Think about how you're going to widen your audience. We talked about it a lot. But think about how you can change the language of the things that you want to accomplish to meet sort of the expectations or meet the goals of the people you're trying to sell the idea through. So lots of you on the phone are probably like really jazzed about inclusive marketing already, I would encourage you to not get so attached to the language of it, and rather pitch it to people through the lens that they understand or through the lens that really ties to like what they want to get out of your marketing strategy, because I think it will help you land some new like advocates for these ideas in places maybe that you aren't yet expecting.


Eric: Sarah, thank you so much for joining us. And I really hope that this conversation has added some small contribution to the change that you are already driving in our industry, to make marketing more inclusive and to create more leadership opportunities for LGBTQ i A plus individuals.


Sarah:  Thank you for having me.


Eric: Scratch is a production of rival. We are a marketing innovation consultancy that helps businesses develop strategies and capabilities to grow faster. If you want to learn more about us check out wearerival.com If you want to connect with me, email me at eric@wearerival.com or find me on LinkedIn. If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe, share with anyone you think might enjoy it. And please do leave us a review. Thanks for listening and see you next week.

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