Yes We Can
A recurring series presented by Cloudflare co-founder and COO Michelle Zatlyn, featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs and tech leaders who clearly debunk the myth that there are no women in tech.
This week's guest: marketing leader Margarita Golod, currently Head of Marketing for the COVID-19 nonprofit Helping Hands Community.
All right, good morning everyone here in the West Coast and good afternoon if you're on the East Coast or in Europe and it's very late in Asia if you're tuning in.
I'm so happy, welcome to the second episode of Yes We Can and I'm honored to have Margarita Golod with me this morning.
Welcome Margarita. Hi Michelle, thank you so much for having me.
I'm so excited to join you today. Great, well I'm so happy to have you here and you know Margarita has had this amazing marketing career in technology.
You've worked at really big companies like Google and Symantec that many people have heard of, Houzz which I'm sure many people have used or have a friend or partner that have used, as well as non-profit companies like Helping Hands and you've held a variety of marketing roles in all of those great brands and I thought we could start today by hearing a little bit like what is marketing?
What do marketers do all day?
Can you share that with the audience? Of course, so I think at the very highest level the goal of marketing is really to raise awareness about a product or service that your company is offering but at scale.
So marketers day-to-day they utilize all of these various channels that help them reach thousands even millions of customers around the world.
So for example there's email marketing, there's direct mail when you're sending postcards to people, there's paid marketing opportunities like advertising on your Facebook and your Google, there's social media marketing, partner marketing, product marketing, content marketing and so on.
So a lot of different opportunities to get in front of your customers and to me figuring out a marketing strategy is really like working on a puzzle where the puzzle pieces are these different channels that you can leverage and you have at your disposal and your goal as a marketer is really to try to make them all fit together so that you can end up with like one cohesive story that tells the world about your product or service.
That's amazing, I love that. Do you do puzzles at home with your kids as well?
I actually prefer marketing puzzles more than puzzles with my kids.
The problem with my kids is a lot of the times the little pieces get lost and that makes it frustrating whereas in marketing I'm in control of the whole puzzle so it's better.
That's good, that's a good analogy.
I love that description of a puzzle because it really is a variety of channels and tools and trying to figure out matching it to each one is really smart.
So you again, you've worked at so many great companies in these marketing roles and you've worked on so many different marketing initiatives.
Can you share with us one or two that you're really proud of to maybe just kind of even highlight some of the great work you've done?
Yeah, of course. So I think when I reflect back on what makes me proud is when I can really market a tool or a product that has a true kind of positive impact in people's lives.
And when I think about what I did at Howe's the last six years where I marketed the Howe's platform to home improvement professionals like interior designers and architects, we really were changing this industry for the better.
We were giving home improvement professionals this free way to showcase their work online and they could gain credibility and attract new clients.
And I think the most rewarding thing to me was talking to our customers and hearing how they're able to expand their business, hire new employees, or even send their kids to college because of all of the new clients they themselves were able to get by showcasing their work on Howe's.
And I think, you know, in technology and especially in marketing, it's really important to figure out these different and creative ways to make your customers be your brand advocates.
And this is something I did try to do as much as well as I could at Howe's.
And one initiative that I worked on that I wanted to share with you is where we did just this, is where we created this online store for our home improvement professionals where they could buy Howe's branded items that they could physically display in various places.
So for example, they would be able to buy a lawn sign that said find me on Howe's and contractors would put them in their construction sites locally.
Or they bought Howe's branded business cards that interior designers and other home improvement professionals could use.
We had truck decals, which were very popular selling items.
So you'd see all of these constructions trucks driving around in your local neighborhood with find me on Howe's.
And then the other thing we added to the store, which was really effective in making our professionals, these brand advocates for us, were these, we had this yearly awards program called Best of Howe's where designers and contractors can win awards for customer service or best design.
And we also added these physical items that could be purchased from our store for these awards.
So window decals that designers put right in their window, which said best of Howe's winner, they became very popular and these professionals purchased them and therefore basically helped advocate Howe's for us and helped us increase brand awareness locally, but also globally because these stores were able to be accessed all around the country, all around the world actually where Howe's had locations.
Did you ever think, I mean, that's amazing.
And I feel like during this global pandemic, sometimes when I find myself with not knowing what to do, I like to just look at the lovely architecture and design photos on Howe's for inspiration.
So I feel like it's kind of a creative outlet seeing everyone's vision come to life.
You're here in the Silicon Valley of California.
Did you ever go to work as you're working on that program and be like, wow, I'm sick here in California, but it's pretty cool that I'm touching people around the world.
Did you ever kind of have kind of a aha moment?
Yeah, I mean, for sure. Howe's is global in nature. And when you're, the best thing about marketing is the ability to scale.
With one campaign, you can reach people, not just in the US, but all over the world.
And so I think my aha moment was when we had a contractor in Australia reach out to us.
This is in the early days of Howe's and say, hey, somebody from the US wants to hire me.
But can you guys help me get more clients in Australia?
And so we ended up opening an office there, for example, because our website has such global reach, we realized, you know, we have to become a global company.
Yeah, so definitely the power of technology and marketing through these various channels is the ability to scale and reach all of these different people.
I think it's amazing. It's great. You know, you've mentioned all of these different tools and channels to reach all these people around the world.
And obviously, I'm sure that means that you've tried a lot of different things.
And I'd love for you to share with the audience, maybe, you know, how much experimentation do you do in marketing?
Let's start with that. Like, how much are you doing?
How do you think about trying things and experimentation in a marketing role?
Yeah, well, I think the best thing, one of the best things for me about marketing is that it's so easy to quickly get results.
So unlike, for example, sales role, where you might have a long sales cycle, and you're not sure who you need to talk to and how long it will take to close the deal.
In marketing, you send a campaign.
And very quickly, you see what's working, what's not working. And in some channels of marketing, for example, an email, you can do a B testing where you send an email, for example, with specific subject line or specific creative or CTA call to action, where based on initial results, you can then right away iterate and make changes to the rest of the campaign.
So the power of data and the ability to see what's working very quickly is awesome.
So in marketing, we do a lot of different testing across the different channels.
And when I mentioned this, like cohesive puzzle, the idea is that you really want all the different kind of channels and avenues of marketing to share the results of what works and what doesn't work so that your story and the big picture that you're telling about your product is very on brand and doesn't kind of differ by channel.
So the ability to share what's working across channels is really important.
And getting results and data is really awesome that you can actually do that in a marketing role and get that information right away.
There is something very satisfying about that, about those quick feedback loops.
Exactly what I was going to say next is that you know, the feedback loop is really important in marketing.
And it's great because marketers can have a very powerful function in a company.
They're getting this sense quickly of what's working and they can give that feedback to engineers and to product managers.
And then changes can be made to the product right away. And I can give you another example of something that I'm kind of proud of at Houzz, which was when we worked on our trade program, which is basically this program of enrolling these home improvement professionals into our marketplace where they could buy trade discounted products.
And I'm proud of basically rolling out that program and getting more than 100,000 enrolled professionals through this trade program.
And this was challenging in many different ways because you know, unlike when Houzz first started that we didn't have any competitors.
But with the trade program, there's already a lot of e-commerce sites out there that professionals are part of.
So we really had to figure out a different way and different value of why they should be joining our trade program when they're likely members of other trade programs.
So here's where you can test all of these different strategies and messages through these channels of marketing and see what works and then really adjust.
And here the feedback loop was really critical because a lot of the feedback that we got back from our professionals was we needed to make certain changes to make the program, you know, better.
And so we were able to work cross-functionally with engineering and product managers and designers to really create the best program for professionals that we could.
And this is what helped us build it to over 100,000 pros.
You know, that fast pace and where you're just constantly making iterations and incorporating it, there is like a real thrill to that.
And it's different than kind of in the physical world where sometimes changes take a longer time.
So that's a great, that's a great illustration.
You know, when you, when you think about how much experimentation you've done through your career, I'm sure some things haven't worked and some things have probably turned out much better than you expected.
Can you maybe share some examples of experiments you ran that ended up being, oh, these actually really worked even better than I thought that maybe were clever or grassroots and some things that you tried that ended up not being successful?
Yeah, of course. So in the earlier days of Houzz, when I first kind of started there, I think we took a pretty grassroots approach to marketing.
This is because it was a really new platform and many of our home improvement professionals weren't aware of what Houzz was and didn't understand the value of posting their work on Houzz, what it could bring to their business.
And in fact, a lot of them weren't really super keen on technology in general.
So we did something grassroots where we basically built out this team of Houzz ambassadors that traveled around the country and put on small local events to meet face-to-face with our customers to really like demonstrate and show them the value of Houzz in person.
And while, you know, this cost, this program was a little bit cost intensive, it really did produce ROI because it got a significant number of our home improvement professionals to sign up and create profiles on Houzz.
And I think, you know, the lesson learned there is sometimes the start of a business or a product, you really do have to do things that are like knocking on physical doors to get things going and that's okay.
You know, that's totally, that's totally fine. And then another creative initiative we tried at the local level to raise awareness that really didn't pan out as much was renting a food truck and literally driving it to construction sites across several cities as a small test.
And, you know, in theory, it sounded like a really cool marketing tactic where you have this Houzz branded food truck, but what turned out in reality is that, first of all, it was really expensive and it didn't generate enough ROI.
And one challenge we came across is when people would come to this food truck, you know, we were trying to reach contractors, but we had no idea who was actually going to be coming to the food truck.
It could have just been regular people kind of off the street.
Turns out like everyone likes free food. So we had no way of differentiating between our core customers that were trying to hit and just regular people.
So this initiative didn't really work out.
But again, the lesson learned is it's always better to try and see and test and test small and see what happens than not try something creative.
Yeah. I love that. That's very empowering to say, I'm sure like someone who enters marketing as a career and has a creative idea, you know, like, let's find a way to try it and test it and get data and see whether we can scale it up.
I mean, there's something very can do about that. Sure. Yeah. Okay. So speaking of food transitioning, you're currently running marketing at Helping Hands.
Can you share a little bit more about this nonprofit and the inspiration behind it?
Yeah, absolutely. I'm very, very excited to share more about this. So Helping Hands community is this nonprofit organization that was created to slow the spread of COVID-19 through what we're calling tech enabled community volunteerism.
And so really, what we're doing is connecting people who are most at risk, like seniors and the immunocompromised people with those who can safely deliver groceries and critical items and provide other forms of assistance through technology.
So for me, personally, I have immunocompromised family members in my household.
And when this pandemic, you know, first hit, and all of the grocery slots were taken, I really felt like so scared and helpless.
You know, I didn't want to put my family members lives at risk, it just wasn't an option for me.
And I felt like there was no, no place to turn for help. And then my friend Pedram, who's the co founder of this nonprofit Helping Hands, told me about it.
And I just felt like this physical sense of relief, like finally, there was something that we could take advantage of.
And I felt connected to this mission on a such a personal level that I just wanted to help.
And then I found myself running marketing for Helping Hands.
So and so far, you know, it's been a wonderful experience.
We've closed over 3000 requests. So that means that our community of volunteers has helped more than 3000 people across the US that are at risk, get groceries, or other forms of assistance.
And you know, I'm really, really proud of, of doing this work, because I think it's so critical right now for the well being of our society.
We're really truly saving lives by ensuring that these people that can't leave their house can stay safely at home.
That warms my heart. I feel like during the school pandemic, having some of the sense of community is really delivering these really essential.
So to nonprofit, there's always such a noble cause as what you have at Helping Hands, which is so inspiring.
But then also, there's never enough money to go around.
And so how do you build awareness and users for this really important initiative, but in a cost effective way?
Any lessons you can share? Yeah, so definitely, that's a huge challenge.
You're right on. With that, we don't have a budget at all for marketing and a nonprofit right now.
And it's tricky because we're trying to reach two different audiences.
We've got those that are at risk for COVID-19.
And then those are that are healthy and able to volunteer and help the at risk community.
And so I think for us, partnerships have been really key.
So we've been able to partner with these wonderful organizations that are helping us or donating their services to us for free, because they believe in our mission.
So for example, on the marketing side, we've partnered with Experian.
And they're able to help us reach people that are over 60 through a direct mail postcard to let them know about our nonprofit.
I think another area that's key in nonprofit to raise awareness is social media marketing.
So social media has been key for us to reach potential volunteers.
We have a wonderful social media team that does a great job with all of our organic or free social media accounts.
So we're raising awareness through Instagram posts, Facebook posts, and all this unique content that we're able to create.
And we're also working with social media influencers that can help us build our community of volunteers.
And then similar to what I shared with my house experience, even in a nonprofit, it's really important to make sure that your customers are your advocates.
And so we've done many different campaigns to have volunteers or further friends to have requesters, you know, refer their friends.
So when you're doing something that people are finding helpful, they're definitely willing to try to be advocates on your behalf.
And we're taking, you know, advantage of that as well. Yeah, that's great.
And it sounds like it's working. So you've fulfilled 3000 meals so far across the United States.
Yes. So we are the ones that are providing the kind of free delivery.
Yeah. The United States, we started in March. So we've been able to build something so quickly.
It's incredible. And Helping Hands community is all volunteer based.
So the people that work there are all volunteers. They're doing this kind of out of the goodness of their own heart.
We are over, I think it's around 125 people right now.
Everyone wants to help. And I don't mean the actual volunteers that are doing the delivery of the items.
It's the people working on this day to day.
And it's been such an amazing experience to be a part of and to see these really talented people that have so much other stuff going on in their live day jobs, families, but they're dedicating any time they have to this really important, important mission.
So I've really been proud to be part of it. Thank you for sharing that.
That is very inspirational. So you know, you've spent the last 15 years in technology.
How do you think about the impact of the companies you spent time at?
You've shared some of the stats, but you know, when you kind of reflect back and you think about the impact across your different roles and the companies, how do you think about that?
Yeah, I think for me personally, the key is that I have to make sure that the companies I'm working for are using tech are using technology to really change lives for the better in some way.
As a marketer, this is really important because I have to be passionate about what I'm marketing to other people.
Otherwise, it comes across as insincere. I really have to believe in the value.
Otherwise, I just can't genuinely convey it. So, you know, with house, we actually built our house using the app seven and a half years ago.
And halfway through the build, I said, wow, this app is really helping me have a better project and helping me, you know, maybe not get into as many fights with my husband because we can look at photos we both like and come to a mutual understanding and just making my life so much easier.
And I really want to work there.
And then when I was working there, I saw the impact that we were having on these home improvement professionals.
I heard it day to day talking to them. And that was really compelling.
And that's, you know, I was there for such a long time.
Helping hands, again, very personal to me and something that I think is really important that I benefit from myself, helping other people.
So that's what I found for me is the key.
And, you know, when I look to next opportunities, being able to use technology for good to help, you know, your customers is key for me as a marketer.
Yeah, no, I, that resonates with me. I, you said it really well, it really resonates with me because I think of it the same way.
So you're also a woman in technology.
And, you know, where has the technology industry kind of lived up to your expectations over the last 15 years?
I mean, where do you still think there's work to be done?
Yeah, it's a great question. I think the tech industry is really fast paced, and it's so dynamic.
And there's obviously pluses and minuses to this.
It's really exciting to work in tech. You know, but as a woman, I think there's still a ways to go to feel like you're truly supported in the workplace.
You know, if you decide to have children and you go on maternity leave, for me personally, it's hard to not feel the pressure of falling behind and not being able to keep up with your career compared to some of your male co workers.
You know, I have two children and I've experienced companies with very little support and companies that provided a great level of support.
And I think what this has taught me is really the importance of researching the company culture and choosing a place where, you know, I feel like I would get the support that I need.
I do worry a little bit about the effect of this pandemic and what kind of effect it's going to have on women who are suddenly, you know, having to do it all, like they have to work full time, they have to homeschool their kids, they have to take care of household activities, and so on.
And I really, truly hope that as a society, we don't regress back with our attitude towards the role of women in the workplace.
But I have seen, you know, encouraging posts and various groups where it feels like companies are really making an effort to provide support, not just to women, but to families in general during these crazy times.
And I think this is really important, like companies that create meaningful programs that truly support people right now are going to be in a better position when this is all over, because they're going to be retaining their employees and are going to be successful in the future.
So it's really key for companies to do that. Yeah, definitely.
It's, yeah, no, I think that's very well said. You know, as you if there was a somebody in college, maybe trying to think about what's going to happen going to their senior college, and they're thinking, what am I going to do with my life, and they're listening to you today, and they say, okay, marketing, what are some, what are some words of advice you'd give someone starting their career in marketing?
What are some things that you wish you had known when you started your career?
Yeah, well, first of all, I think marketing technology is just a wonderful profession to be part of.
So if you're interested in tech, but maybe you don't necessarily want to code, or be a product manager, really consider marketing.
It's such an exciting place.
And there's so many things I love about it. I think for me, what makes it truly unique is that it's one of the only fields where you can be both creative and analytical at the same time.
You know, the creativity comes in play when you're trying to craft a story of a product or service, and you're thinking through the imagery and the creative campaigns that you can put together.
And some, you know, out of this world campaigns, like this food truck that's going to travel across the US, or, you know, whatever it is that you want to put together in a creative way to achieve the goals of the company.
And then the analytical part is, as we talked about, it's being able to see the results instantaneously, it's being able to track the metrics, analyze the results, and then understand what works very quickly and iterate on your messaging and strategy accordingly.
I don't know many other, you know, areas of work where you have this creative component and this analytical component that you can merge together to make your puzzle really fit, all the puzzle pieces fit together.
So that's, that's what I would say is, you know, if you feel like you are someone that enjoys kind of both aspects, I know that there's some people that are like, I am very creative, and that's it, or I'm very, you know, data driven, and that's it.
But if you feel like, hey, I can do both, and I want to do both, in order to tell a company's story or set or story about a product, then marketing is the perfect place to be.
Yeah, no, I think that's that that flexible thinking where you can kind of toggle between it is a role within a tech company where you really need to be both.
You know, when you, when, when, when, again, back to this college student, so they're like, wow, I'm totally going to marketing because Margarita just put a very, like, I, that's me, I'm creative and analytical, and I want to be able to reach people and raise awareness and work on all these cool things like food trucks and like grassroots campaigns, like this sounds really fun.
You know, how do you think about big companies versus small companies, nonprofits versus for-profits?
Again, you've had a broad portfolio of experiences.
Maybe what about company type of company?
Yeah, I think that's a great question, Michelle, because, you know, if you're in a larger company, most likely, you're going to have to specialize in a certain channel of marketing.
And when I think about how I how I kind of built my career, I tried to work in different channels of marketing first before going into a role where I would be able to kind of think through the strategy across all the channels.
So at large companies, definitely, it's hard to work across channels, you might be a social media marketer, you might do demand gen or content or email, for example.
And that's okay, because it's good to dive deep into one area to really understand what works and doesn't work.
And as you grow in your career, and maybe go, if you go to a smaller company, you're likely going to be in a position to put together a strategy where you have to think about the different channels that you have at your disposal.
So definitely at a smaller company, you're not just going to be able to focus on your Instagram campaigns, right, you have to think about different channels and what you can do across these channels to really meet the goals of the company or the product that you're working on.
So I think that in the beginning, it is important to try to become an expert in a couple of these channels, so that when you do find yourself in the position, maybe in a smaller company, or even at a large company where you're responsible for marketing strategy as a whole, you're really able to utilize your experience across these channels to put together the best strategy possible.
Always, I like to call that, I know you're a graduate from Harvard Business School, so am I, and I remember the dean when I was there used to describe it as the T approach, both depth and breadth.
So as you were describing this, hey, get deep in some areas, but then also build to the breadth across, I think of it as the T approach, that's how I like you to describe the T approach.
Yep, that's a great analogy for sure, you need the depth and you need the breadth, and I'm sure, you know, as a COO and a co -founder of Cloudflare, you've had to deal with that extensively, you've got to be an expert in what you're doing, but you also need, you know, the breadth as well.
Yes, yeah, no, it's actually like, it's a very simple illustration, but when you say it, you're like, actually, that makes a lot of sense, so it's like a T approach.
Okay, and last question around, you know, again, for the college grads or the people earlier in their career, you know, again, you've hired a lot of people in your career because you've been super successful, so now you've convinced everyone to go into marketing, they're going to get their T experience, but you know, early in their career, like, what do you look for?
How do people stand out? Because that's always hard when you're first trying to get your start.
Yeah, yeah, I think for me and the experience that I've had, it's really been people that do the work ahead of time, so if you're interested in a company or a product, you know, do as much prep as you can before going to talk to someone.
Really understand, like, why you want to go there, what the challenges of this company could be.
I mean, it's just a really different experience as a hiring manager when you're talking to someone that has done the research and comes across as passionate.
You know, just as I mentioned, because I'm a marketer, I really want to be passionate about what I'm marketing, and I expect to hire people that feel the same way.
Like, I don't want to hire someone, you know, that wants to come because of the name or just the salary or the location or the convenience.
Like, I expect to see that passion, and that passion happens.
You really can find out if you have that passion if you do the work ahead of time and you research the company and understand, you know, some of the challenges and some of the goals, and this doesn't mean that you have to be an expert.
Nobody expects that, but to be able to say, look, this is why I want to work here, and this is why I'm passionate about it, I think that will make a huge difference in any interview process.
Yeah, no, that's very good advice.
I think passion goes a long way. If you do the work and you are passionate, you do stand out early in your career because it's amazing not everyone does that.
These basic things. Common sense, but it's not. Yeah, exactly.
Okay, if people want to follow along and they're like, Margarita's terrific, do you have a Twitter handle or LinkedIn or Instagram handle?
How can people follow along with all of your great marketing experience, Margarita?
So, I think the best is to just add me on LinkedIn, Margarita Golad.
I do have an Instagram account.
Right now, it's private, so I'm working on changing that, but yeah, please follow me, send me a request on LinkedIn, and I'm happy to keep in touch that way, and for anyone that really is considering marketing for their career or has any questions about any of my experiences, I'm really more than happy to talk to you about anything, so just reach out on LinkedIn and more than happy to connect that way and help as much as I can.
That's great, and if people were like, Helping Hands sounds super interesting.
How can either to sign up as a volunteer to deliver the meals in their local neighborhood, or maybe if there's at -risk people listening, saying actually I need this service, where can they go to learn more about Helping Hands?
Well, thank you for bringing that up. So, Helping Hands, please go to www .helpinghands.community.
You can email me, Margarita, at helpinghands.community.
If you'd like to volunteer with us working on this nonprofit, if you're able to volunteer by providing delivery in your local area, just go to helpinghands .community and sign up to give help.
If you need the help, please, please do not hesitate.
We do not turn anyone away. Go to helpinghands.community and click get help, create an account.
We will match you up with a volunteer through our technology dashboard, and your life will hopefully be so much better as a result, just like mine has been.
So, please do not hesitate and reach out if you have any questions.
That's great. Margarita, thank you so much for sharing time with us today.
Just your passion for what you do, your skill, your craft, and sharing all your knowledge was just incredibly inspiring.
So, thank you so much for joining everyone today at Yes We Can.
Margarita, Gulad, have a great day, everyone.
We'll be back here a week from today, same time with another great guest.
Thanks so much, Margarita. Thank you so much, Michelle, for having me. It's been an honor.
Yeah, it's been so fun.