021: Hitting a Home Run in Niche Digital Advertising with Yehuda Cagen.
From playing games and performing commercials about items in the pantry, to his family, to being Senior Marketing Director at Ostendio, Yehuda has always loved advertising and marketing. Learn how he’s learned to always look for the light, find the lighthouse brand offering, and listen to customers’ genuine concerns in this episode of The Digital Marketing Mentor.
Key Points + Topics
- [1:12] Yehuda Cagen has always had an interest in advertising. Even as a kid, his family would play a game that entailed picking a random item out of the pantry and doing a commercial on the chosen thing. He began his career at an advertising agency. Since he was in Houston and the types of advertising and marketing providers there, he gravitated to Business to Business (B2B) marketing, though he was always intrigued by consumer advertising.
- [2:49] Yehuda got a Master’s degree in Communication, and agrees that the presence of that degree on his resume opened doors for him. Marketing has evolved so quickly that you must stay on top of the changing trends and platforms. However, while his degree may have gotten him in the doors, he had to prove himself with results from there.
- [4:30] A mentor is anyone you can learn from, says Yehuda. And you can learn something from everyone. Our entire journey here on earth is to keep learning. Sometimes there are formal mentorships, and sometimes people are mentoring without knowing they’re doing so. He’s had a lot of informal mentors who probably wouldn’t know he thinks of them with that title.
- [5:43] Brian Grodner was an influential mentor in Yehuda’s life. He first met the man at a birthday party in the medical center. Yehuda knew most of the guests and assumed the few he didn’t were likely patients in the area for treatment. He spotted a man sitting next to the birthday boy and couldn’t help but notice his bright smile, stretching from ear to ear. He also noticed that this gentleman was clearly undergoing very intense treatment for some ailment. Yet, despite going through such a hard time, Brian was always positive. There was never a bad or complaining word coming from Brian’s mouth. This positive focus and outlook has been a sort of north star for Yehuda over the years.
- [9:30] Many of his bosses have served as mentors to him over his career. His first foray into the marketing world was as an advertising agency intern. The boss and owner, Larry Sachnowitz, always made a point of greeting everyone by name as he came into the office. He was a super engaging individual and bright light in the room. When Yehuda first started at the agency, he was fascinated by the creative side of advertising and excited to pitch his ideas. The creative workers would occasionally toss him a bone and ask him to write something for a campaign. His first pitch was returned to him with more red ink than his original black, and it was heartbreaking. Now, he tries to keep in mind that experience as he gives feedback and guidance.
- [15:00] One of his bosses later in his career was Peter Edlund of DiCentral. Peter was great at making you feel comfortable. Sometimes he would describe a situation to Yehuda, and Yehuda would ask, “Well, why is this the case?” He’s sure it was annoying how frequently and confidently he would walk into Peter’s office and ask him questions. Finally, his current boss, Grant, is another mentor for Yehuda. He runs Ostendio and was very intentional about building the company culture around being people-first, both in how they treat their clients and service offerings, as well as how they treat their employees.
- [18:29] Real leadership is understanding you work for the people that work for you. Yehuda references this quote when musing on how he mentors those who work with him as Senior Marketing Director at Ostendio. He works with some amazing people and has learned much from them. He’s learned that the ability to work well with others is vital, especially in digital marketing. When there is a lot of work to do, the exponential impact of people working together is powerful. He wants to communicate to those within his influence that they’re better than they give themselves credit for. Most people are very self-critical. He wants the people he works with to know he believes in them.
- [23:34] Yehuda admits it mainly was circumstance that brought him to the technology industry for marketing and advertising. He found himself being guided in that direction. He stays because it’s where he’s built expertise, and he wants to parlay that expertise in relevant opportunities. When advertising complex, niche brands, Yehuda knows it’s all about finding your beacon or lighthouse offering. You’re seldom working in a vacuum; there’s always a competitor or an incumbent. You have to hone in on the one or two elements that differentiate you. If you start going in a million different directions about the various benefits and offerings, people aren’t going to care about you.
- [28:15] Finding that one differentiating thing or pain point that continues to bring business into a brand requires in-depth customer insight. First, you must talk to the customer service and sales teams. They’re on the front lines, regularly talking face-to-face with customers. Oftentimes, what people say they want or like in a poll or quick conversation isn’t the true crux of the issue. Coca-Cola® learned this the hard way when they released New Coke in 1985. Coke had been losing market share to Pepsi®, so they developed New Coke. It won many taste tests before release. However, when it was finally put on the shelves, people didn’t like it. It taught us in marketing a lot about what people say vs. what are their true feelings.
- [31:20] Discovering that true differentiator can often be an iterative process, and selling executives on that type of operation can be challenging. Often, the best way is to talk to the executives and ask why their customers chose them. Then you corroborate that with the customer conversations you’ve heard through the customer service and sales teams. Sometimes people can’t distill it down to just one thing, which can complicate things. Additionally, if the “beacon,” as told by customers, is different from what the execs believe it to be, it can be challenging. But you must have those hard conversations, speak honestly, and don’t be afraid to ask, “Why?”
Guest + Episode Links
Danny Gavin 00:04
Hello everyone. I’m Danny Gavin, Founder of Optidge, Marketing Professor and the host of the Digital Marketing Mentor. Today I’m really excited to introduce Yehuda Cagen. He’s the Senior Marketing Director of Ostendio. With over 20 years of marketing experience, Yehuda has proven himself as a result oriented marketing leader with the ability to develop, implement and manage forward driven marketing campaigns that drive lead generation, increase revenue and elevate brand value. You have been part of my life in my community for many years, someone who I have looked up to throughout my path and growth. So it’s real honor to have you to hear today. How are you?
Yehuda Cagen 01:00
I’m great, thank God. How are you?
Danny Gavin 01:01
I’m really good. This interview is a long time coming and I’m glad that we are able to do it today I.
Yehuda Cagen 01:07
Think it’s a big mistake, but yeah, let’s. I’m just go ahead.
Danny Gavin 01:10
So let’s start off with your personal history, your educational and work background. How did you get here today?
Yehuda Cagen 01:16
Marketing and where I’m at here. Well, I mean I as a kid i was always interested in like advertising. I think when I got sick of playing with my toys or just you know video games or whatever it is, I I’d literally, we literally had a game where we went into the pantry, select an item and then do an ad on it. And I was always that was always fun for me, not as fun as like baseball or something like that And in the in that arena, I mean it was a lot of fun and I always kind of gravitated towards it. I loved. Love to do creative things. I actually started my career with an at an advertising agency at Sacnodson company which is unfortunately no longer in existence. I think it’s like in the Norwegian consulate now. So if I would have stayed, I would have taken a totally different path. Just being in Houston, I kind of gravitated more to B to B type marketing just because at the time that was the predominant types of services that we had or types of product. That we had in Houston to market. So I kind of gravitated towards the BDB side though i was first intrigued by the concept of advertising and marketing from mostly consumer brands.
Danny Gavin 02:16
And that game that used to play, like, was that something you and your brothers came up with or was like your dad, your mom? Like, I found that so cool.
Yehuda Cagen 02:23
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s both cool and sad, I think. No, it’s definitely something wasn’t mandated by my parents. I’m sure they would like me like for me to gone in a different direction, but. No, that’s something we just came up with and I guess we got bored of our toys or whatever. Or maybe it was on Shabbat, Shabbat and we didn’t have many options or as many options. And so that’s what we did and you know, we had a good time with that.
Danny Gavin 02:47
So I know that you got a Master’s in communication from the University of st thomas. How do you feel that helped you with your?
Yehuda Cagen 02:55
Past I think it certainly helped me get into certain doors right as far as I mean marketing, it has evolved so quickly that you have to kind of stay on top of things to make sure that the mechanisms, the processes, the tools are all still relevant, right. Otherwise I’d be like you know, opening up a, you know, a Chronicle ad for you know goods and services. But you know, but I mean it’s help me from the from the standpoint of kind of opening up doors I think, I mean I think people like the fact that I had a degree in higher education, not high education, but a graduate level degree. In this discipline and so it kind of opened up some doors for me, but from then you know from that amid from that initial interview, you kind of have to prove yourself after that.
Danny Gavin 03:38
It’s funny that you make a joke about the Chronicle because I was once at a conference that was, I think the main sponsor was the Chronicle, and I remember one of the speakers who got up on to the stage. They started trashing like newspapers and how like they’re dead problem and everyone was like looking at her like do you realize you the sponsor this talk is?
Yehuda Cagen 03:59
Oh, my God yeah now I’m gonna get hate mail from the Chronicle. Now, I didn’t mean that. I mean, it’s just a legacy media. That’s what I meant. I mean, you know, sometimes legacy media is coming. You know, come into play. Like, I mean, I remember when you know, the whole, you know, write an actual. Ad or you write a letter to someone. I mean, that was like, OK, whatever. We got email. Now we got all these different tools now and then. Now writing a hand, a handwritten letters, you know, fully embraced as a very nice personal touch. So, you know, no offense to the chronicle of news or newspapers.
Danny Gavin 04:28
Yeah, of course not. Ok, so as we delve into the world of mentorship, you how do you define a mentor?
Yehuda Cagen 04:36
I think a mentors is anybody that you can learn from. So I’m a big fan of that where it says empirically all this ethics of our fathers and you know famous stages of Judaism that said it you know you could really learn something from everyone. And so i like to think that i you know I take that very pretty seriously. I mean anytime you can learn something from someone whether they’re someone with less experienced more experienced older, younger, I think you know there’s all the all your entire journey is to is to keep learning. And so, you know, sometimes there’s a formal mentorship and sometimes people are mentoring without even know they’re mentoring. So, you know, for me it’s a more along the lines of, you know, someone that can kind of guide you to where you want to be. But for me, I I’ve always had a lot of informal mentors and I’m sure there’s some people that are that I think of as mentors that probably didn’t think of, you know, they didn’t think that of themselves.
Danny Gavin 05:29
Yeah, i think it’s so important to keep your eyes open to everyone and learn a little bit from everyone. You know, if we keep our eyes closed, we miss out on all these wonderful opportunities. I know that there was a an important man in your life, a guy called Brian Grodner and yeah how.
Yehuda Cagen 05:46
About we talk him a little bit? I know he’s not necessarily a professional mentor, but because I know he had a big impact on your life, love to know. Like why was he special guy? Yeah, now you’re getting me emotional. And when I get emotional, I start to think silly things. Yeah, he was really special. I mean, I’ll tell you, the first time I met him, so I was at a birthday party in the Texas Medical Center area. You know everyone, most of the people that they were familiar to me, some were not. And I presume they were parents, patients, you know getting treatment at the Medical Center. And there was one gentleman that sat next to the birthday boy, if you will, and he just had a smile, like beaming from ear to ear. But you could tell that he had gone through some pretty rough treatment, either chemo or, you know, whatever it may be. It might have been a combination of multiple, multiple treatments. But he looked like he was clearly in pain, yet he had a smile from ear to ear. And that turned out to be Brian. He actually moved into the neighborhood. And I knew he was having a bad day when I asked him how he was doing. And he would say, I’m doing good, I’m doing good. So that meant that today was pretty bad, right? So i there was never a bad word, word I should say coming out of his mouth, which is just so impressive to me. And I said, you know, I’m going to, you know, I’m going to do my best to kind of, you know, follow that type of attitude. And I I’ll say i failed miserably on that at that. But every so often I i think of Brian for sure when I, when I, when I’m, when I’m moaning about the weather you know rising above 78 degrees. I think I, you know Brian probably wouldn’t have an issue with the 79 degrees. So I’ll probably, I’ll probably let it go this time yeah and i knew Brian as well and I feel like he’s like a once in a generation type of right he like, it’s kind of like he descended upon our community to kind of inspire and teach people. Like that idea of being positive. Yeah, we were very lucky to have his presence here and, you know, inspire us yeah and he was one of those people that was a mentor and he didn’t even know he was. And I think a lot of people feel that way. I mean, the people that I’ve spoken to, they probably feel the same way. I mean, and you know, it’s hard the lines, especially now that everyone’s remote. You know, it’s hard. You know the little, the lines between professional and personal are very much blurred these days. And so you know even though he wasn’t a mentor, you know, in the traditional sense and he wasn’t a mentor in a career, you know there’s a lot to be said about keeping a positive attitude at particularly if you’re in a leadership role.
Danny Gavin 08:10
There are a lot of situations that come your way where. Can be negative, may be difficult or stressful and if you have that ability to kind of rise above that and maintain positivity, it really helps and just allows you to be like to enjoy life, right? Because often we have stressful situations, but if we can. Remain positive, it helps a lot.
Yehuda Cagen 08:29
It helps more than I think people think. And I’m definitely more than I think sometimes because, you know, you’re always kind of, you know, in a daytoday Drudge, the fact that he was able, he actually ran a business while he was going through this like horrendous treatment and to this, you know, battling this horrendous disease and you know, from him to just kind of silo that part of his life or at least accept it to some degree. I mean, I don’t even know how he did it, honestly. And I’m typically impressed when I don’t understand how people do what they do. I mean, you know, I mean that’s a lot of, you know my fascination with sports goes along my line along those lines. I mean you go to the batting cages and I don’t know how they’re adjusting from fastball, you know to curveball to change up. And then the same thing would be with regard to anything professional or you know the way the manner which people conduct themselves like Brian did was just i just don’t know how he did it. And so I’m always so impressed and I think sent to gravitate to things that. I just don’t think I could possibly do so. In short, I gravitate to a lot of things.
Danny Gavin 09:27
Well, sports and good people are really good things.
Yehuda Cagen 09:30
Danny Gavin 09:31
So let’s now talk about a little bit about your the bosses who are instrumental in your career development. You know, maybe they were types of mentors, but definitely, I’m sure you learned a thing or two from each one of them as you moved along. You know your trajectory.
Yehuda Cagen 09:47
Oh sure, Actually I came into. Marketing as I mentioned a I started as an Internet an advertising agency called Sack and Wits and Company. And the boss, I mean the owner was, if so, weird how that turned out their way. But his name is actually Larry Sack Nowitz. So it’s just crazy coincidence. And one of the things that I actually The funny thing is that I just saw a post today. That today was his yard site or the day of his passing. So it’s very interesting that you you’re asking that question right now. But he would always make a point as he came in to say hello to everyone and I will say at that time that I wasn’t a very high-ranking you know officer in the at the India advertising agency but he’d go along and he’d say something like. You know hi Connie. You know hi Becca how hi. Hi everyone. And then he and then as he’s passing me say hey Manish, small rabbi and they just go on and stuff like that and so just you know to be able to kind of connect with people on their own level I think was a was a huge strength of his. So I always found that very impressive but he’s always he’s a super engaging individual like a bright light coming into the into the into the into the office.
Danny Gavin 10:53
It’s been so fun to have a personality like that around.
Yehuda Cagen 10:57
When I first started I was literally writing, you know, my office is right next to his because I think it was originally a closet or something. Now I don’t know if it was a small office. So you know, they put the interns where that we know whatever they can find space. But i heard some really cool stories, just kind of eavesdropping on the on, you know, kind of conversations he had him and he had like city dignitaries come into his office and things like that. So it was pretty cool to see all these people kind of walk through yeah on the podcast we often talk about how important and powerful internships are. We kind of underestimate what it can provide you in your career. Sounded like that was an amazing experience to kind of start off with.
Yehuda Cagen 11:33
Yeah, it was. And I also had some, you know, some. Not so amazing experiences, but I think it did shape me, you know, when I came in, i mean, I mentioned earlier that, you know, I was fascinating, fascinated with the creativity of advertising and marketing, everything you can kind of build around that. And I was excited to do, you know, to kind of pitch my ideas even though I was an intern. So, you know, every so often they kind of throw me a bone and kind of say, hey, what do you think of this or how do you know, can you write something around this? And I get super excited about doing it. And mind you, I was coming right out of school. I remember the first few times and there was more red ink than my black ink. And I was just, you know, I was devastated, you know, And I was just kind of like, Oh my God, I this is not right for me. I got to go. I got to find another industry. I got to find something else to do because I’m just not cut out for it. One of the things that I learned, you know, just when dealing with people on my team. You know, i try to keep that in mind when I’m, you know, editing or providing recommendations for content or whatever it may be marketing materials, as it were. And I try to keep that in mind even though like what it turns out to be is you’re almost like you try to get to these edits in between meetings or after hours. So it’s often, it’s often like times when you’re either rushed or, you know, really tired at the end of the day. But you know, it taught me to kind of, you know, have a heart when you’re doing this because. For the most part, I mean, thank God I’ve been blessed with a lot of great people that work with me. But and then for the most part, they’re just amazing, you know, individuals, they’re amazing. They have amazing marketing abilities and skills, and I want to let them know that it’s just that based on my experience, I think this might work better. So i try to frame it that way when I can.
Danny Gavin 13:12
You know how it feels. So let’s make sure that when I pass it on to the next person I like, I do it in the right way yeah no. Yeah, exactly. I mean i know this is a. Podcast and on mentorship. But i think a lot of the experiences that I had, the negative experiences I have are they you know unfortunately sometimes they resonate and you can let that just do with you and just say Oh my gosh I had this or you can say well if I’m if I’m ever in that position I’m not going to let that happen to the people that work with me. And so i try to take that crate and you know sometimes I might slip up but I think one of the things that i like to let people know is that if you have something that you’d like to tell me, or if I’m doing, if you feel I’m doing something wrong, or if you feel you’d like to go in a different direction, please feel comfortable enough to let me know. And when people do, I feel comforted knowing that they’re comforted in being able to speak honestly with me.
Danny Gavin 14:04
Yeah, keeping that open line of communication is so important. It’s something that I try to do and push as well. I’m in my company. It’s hard though, because not everyone feels comfortable, even when you make it comfortable, right?
Yehuda Cagen 14:15
And you feel bad because you know, you want them to feel comfortable. But the same time, you know, if you’re there, you know, if they report to you, there’s that certain level of tension which i try to bring down that barrier, but there’s that. And so, you know so much so that when I actually refer to my team members, like I’ll say my colleague, right, they’re equal. They just we just happen to be in different positions. But you know, because of, you know, may have a little bit more experience, but. To be honest, they a lot of them have experiences that I don’t have and I’m fortunate enough to be in this position. But and so I think if you treat it that way, then people will eventually understand that you know, you mean that, you really mean that you can come to me with anything and you know I won’t think any less of you, it’ll probably, I’ll probably think more of you.
Danny Gavin 14:57
So I know later on in your career, you know there’s people like Peter, you know, DS Central, Grant, Carly at US, India. Any other lessons are cool things that you’ve learned from those individuals?
Yehuda Cagen 15:09
Peter hired me as originally as a product marketing person at the Essential. Peter Edlund, I’m talking about one of the things that was great about him was that he really made, I mean talk about, I mean you segwayed very nicely into without even knowing perhaps maybe you did it makes you know it makes you the podcast genius that you are. So but he really made you feel comfortable, right. He made you feel that you know, I could, I mean and I would. You know, there were times where I was, he was saying, well, here’s the case and I would say, well, why is why is that the case? And I think there were times that he were, you know, my pestering of questions were extremely frustrating to him. He would joke that there’s literally like a line in the in the carpet for me coming to his office. Constantly asking him questions and I’m sure and sometimes I thought that he was really annoyed by it and I apologize, you know, I had to apologize constantly for it. But I, you know, afterwards he told me that I it really helped him. He really helped me help him by making me feel really comfortable. And The funny thing is there was a story that the first time that I started, the first day I started at the essential, he said you know you do you know this area well and it was a good commute from where I live, about 45 minutes. At minimum. And so he said hey, come on let’s hop in the car. So i hopped and hit to his car and he just drove me around the neighborhood showing me things and that really again that brought that whole barrier down, that perceived barrier and it really helped me you know feel comfortable there from the get go. And i just, I think like it’s interesting like when you’re always kind of looking behind your back kind of saying okay, what is someone going to think? What is someone going to think? It’s almost as if like you’re running you know on the second floor without a guardrail, you know, whereas you know when you’re comfortable with the you know the person that you have to directly report to. It’s almost like I can I can run across on this second floor not having any fear that I’m going to fall because that guardrail’s there and that guardrail being the, you know, your supervisor, your boss. So he was one of those people that really. From the get go just made me feel comfortable.
Danny Gavin 17:13
It’s so fascinating cuz sometimes people have the hard job of being a boss but then also giving you room to be a friend in a wave, right? Or like an equal. Sounds like he was able to kind of balance that relationship quite well.
Yehuda Cagen 17:27
He did it very well, very well. And I almost see the same for Grant as well. One of the things actually attracted me to a standio was the fact that they took that so seriously. I mean, they’re kind of a people first type of company I mean they take that approach to security shameless plug but they also they take that seriously in terms of how they deal with their with their employees and that’s kind of and grant build that cultures. You know he was very conscious about you know building that into the culture and he as a matter of fact he speaks to every single individual who’s hired on the team to kind of portray that to him under let them understand his vision and how everyone has to kind of work together and then the individual is very much appreciated and you know, their contributions are key to the success of the company. And so you know him building that culture and i haven’t had the time, you know, as much time with Grant that I had with Peter. I mean I had you know whatever six seven years with peter, but you know he’s built that into the company culture, which is just fabulous amazing you really had some awesome mentors in your life. Let’s switch now to mentorship and you being more of the mentors. I know you spoke a little bit about how you deal with your team, but how’s experience been in general like being? That senior director being that VP running a team of people.
Yehuda Cagen 18:40
You know, I love it because I can just have everyone do everything for me. No, I’m just kidding no And I, as a matter of fact, I like, I like the approach. I don’t remember who said it was definitely not me that came up with this. But it’s, you know, leadership is understanding that you work for the people that work for you it, so to speak right you know those are the people that you have to work to help them not vice versa. They they’re not doing work for you just let me know how I can help you be the best that you can be, right. So I to me, it’s been great and I and as I mentioned there are some people who have worked you know, on paperwork for me. But you know I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them. I mean just it’s just and to be honest I’ve been, I mean there are there have been some people that have you know in the beginning of my career. That were you know, not very accountable but you know, I’ve been extremely blessed to work with some really great colleagues, you know, and I and I kind of look out for that. You know, when I look to hire look to hire people that are obviously skilled, but you know for the most part I can probably tell you know their level of skill or their skill level, you know, from the resume and maybe for the first minute or two. Understanding what their understanding of the of their roles and you know whether they can achieve in those roles but you know the bulk of the interview is understanding their accountability and most importantly their ability and their willingness to work with others. And because that is key especially i mean I’ve been worked in huge marketing departments they’re they’ve ranged from three or four people to an up to 10 at you know at the heyday and TS Central when you were when you have a lot to do. Then you know you have that exponential power of everyone working together and it’s so key particularly in marketing when you’re dealing with let’s say those that are in the, you know, digital marketing versus the content marketer, right. So the content marketer is the kind of the fuel for the engine of the demand Gen. Side, right. So they have to work so symbiotically. And so actually that that’s probably one of the things that I’m most proud of is the ability for the, you know, the team, the people on my team, on our team just to the manner in which they work together is just extremely gratifying.
Danny Gavin 20:47
So being a mentor, there’s often formal and informal times. What are you trying to teach and instill into people that are working with you, particularly like in the informal times? Like is there way that you behave an attitude? I know we’ve spoken before about positivity, but anything else that you’re kind of trying to show and teach people I.
Yehuda Cagen 21:07
Don’t know about teach people, but I try to parlay or I try to communicate that you know despite. But people are saying they are better than they give themselves credit for, right. And that’s why I heard you. I believe in you. I recognize your skill set. I recognize your ability. I recognize your, you know a lot of your qualities as a person and I want them to know that I believe in them and that you know the you know while at times you know we may disagree. It’s not because that they’re any less of a of a professional or of an individual. But you know for the most part I want to let them know that they they’re better. Most people are very self critical, especially marketing where some things are subjective obviously. I mean if you do an a b test, you can have some you know you’ll understand which one is the actual winner. You know, there are a lot of things that are subjective until you get to that point. And so I like to communicate to you know the people that work with me that you know that I believe in them and that they’re they probably better than what they give themselves.
Danny Gavin 22:04
Critics for So you who’d I know you are a great dad together with your wife.
Yehuda Cagen 22:09
You are both great, dad, Both great dads.
Danny Gavin 22:13
So you know you’ve raised thank you, raised 4 awesome children together. Do you have any mentoring moments in that you’re particularly fond of when thinking back about mentoring your kids?
Yehuda Cagen 22:24
Holy smoke. So first of all, I’m a terrible disciplinarian. There are times where, you know, I feel like i’m going to fly off the handle. But you just kind of say, you kind of just try to understand. Like, you know, what would this, what would the effect be on your kid? Now obviously we’re all not perfect and sometimes we do, you know, lose our tempers. But there wasn’t a story where, you know, a few of my friends were talking about something particularly around discipline. You know, my kid did this. You know, how do I discipline them? I got to let them know that this is not okay. And you know, that’s not okay. I was kind of half listening to discussion and I was, you know, I was walking away towards something else and they stopped me and said, you know how do you discipline your kids? I don’t know how where it came from, honestly, but it really, it kind of like struck me at that time. I said, you know, I choose to discipline my kids the way that I’d like God for disciplining me for any and, you know, bad actions that you know any misdirection in my life. I mean, even if you’re not religious, you know, just think about, like I choose to discipline my kids in a manner in which, like my boss or my clients. Would like to discipline me and let me know when I’m doing wrong. So you know it’s a classic you know do unto others create.
Danny Gavin 23:34
All right. So now we’re going to segue into your marketing expertise, which is marketing and branding. Most of your work has been for tech companies or software SAS. What drove you to that industry?
Yehuda Cagen 23:46
Circumstance really as I mentioned, you know the beginning of our discussion, you know I love the, I mean I was enamored by the consumer brands and the creativity around those consumer brands. And then you know living in Houston at the time it was a lot of oil and gas, a lot of healthcare tech and then some other tech kind of companies. And then I just because there’s so many different options in the you know, professional services area. I kind of found my way in that in that in that direction is kind of like you know, divine intervention kind of put pointing me in that direction.
Danny Gavin 24:18
But you seem to have been stayed in that direction, right? I feel like as like your second or third stop, like, what’s keeping you there?
Yehuda Cagen 24:26
Mostly the big, the big paychecks, no, i think, you know, I think to a certain extent you know you build that expertise and you just want to kind of parlay that expertise into new and exciting opportunities. And so I mean I I’m sure I’d love to get into the like the consumer sector and have some fun with that. But I, you know, when it comes down to it, though, and honestly, a lot of people treat B2B differently than B2C and in many regards they’re correct. But at the end of the day, you’re just, you’re talking with people, then you might be good. You know, with a B2B sector, you’re probably talking about a committee of people, right, Or a group of people as opposed to just like, you know, positioning a candy bar at the checkout, Connor. Like impulse buys, you know, you don’t impulse by a cloud security platform, right. But I think at the end of the day you’re kind of, you’re still talking about people. And I think those that can kind of have a little bit of fun with it in the B2B sector and maybe be a little bit more creative, you know, going back to the old ways of doing things like newspaper or with the written letter, right. If you can kind of find ways to use a B2C approach to the, you know, to B2B I think people appreciate that to be honest and with everything so cluttered nowadays. In terms of the marketplace and messaging, if you’re being too conservative from a you know marketing standpoint, I think that’s more risky than being you know taking some chances and trying to find if we’ll trying to find a way to stand out. Because otherwise you just and especially with a smaller company that’s dealing with larger competitors and a much you know many more resources you got to find a way to see a little bit more bold.
Danny Gavin 25:59
And along those lines, like dealing with tech companies, you’re usually trying to communicate a fairly complex or niche product or service. Is there a particular way that you approach those types of branding projects, given that it could be kind of hard to simply describe the offerings and personality of a brand like those?
Yehuda Cagen 26:16
Yeah, No, there’s no question about that. You know, obviously you almost never working in a vacuum. There’s always some level of competition, you know, even if you’re doing something new. I mean we, I worked for a clock computing service, you know in the mid two thousands and that wasn’t quite the buzz what it was. But even if you’re doing, even if it’s a new type of service, there’s still the incumbent whatever what the incumbent service that they’re working from, right. It might be you know in house IT versus you know external IT but there’s still something you have to work against and I think you have to home in on that one or two areas at you know tops that differentiate you and you know really differentiate you and then you work off of that right. So it’s just the single message even though your feature, your tech tool may have a thousand different features. So you got to home in on the one that’s really important and it really personifies your values, your brand and then everything has to come from that. And if it doesn’t, then I think you’re you kind of you have to try to write the course because if you start going into a million different directions, then you know you mean nothing to no one. You know most cases it’s important to kind of have that single, you know, flag that you plant in the ground and say This Is Us, this is what we believe in, this is that these are brand values. And then build around that. Now obviously it it’s not as simple as let’s say you know Bud Light or whatever, but I mean no one thought that you know car insurance was something you could have fun with until you know you have those GEICO commercials. So again those are the things that you kind of you’ve been you’ve kind of build in, you build on one specific area and then obviously you may have different personas or different markets and that may vary slightly depending on which market you’re gearing it towards but. Again, there’s that beacon that you always have to establish and then work towards that beacon.
Danny Gavin 28:09
And I assume like when establishing that beacon, you are like talking to your customers. So how do you gain insight from your customers on what they truly feel is valuable in order to make your marketing consistent and more effective?
Yehuda Cagen 28:21
Well, I think the first, I mean as a marketer I think you have to first of all you have to talk a lot with the CS team or customer success or you know those that have the most involvement, most face time with customers. You also have to look at the perspective of the sales team, right, because they’re almost, they’re in your position except that they’re really on the front lines, they’re talking face to face to the prospects and I will say that. You know sometimes you know you start a, you know start a job in marketing and you ask a lot of people questions about a lot of different things. You can go from CS to the IT team to the sales team and you can develop some really great copy and then you go to your first trade show or you attend your first event and it’s like it is that but it’s so much more than that. It just kind of you know it rounds it out and then and that’s when you’re that’s when you really start to pick up in terms of momentum in terms of your messaging. That’s when it really starts ahead, when you can really kind of see it for yourself, listen to some calls if you can. I mean a lot of these sales tools like in a sales law of outreach gone, you’re able to listen to these conversations and at the very least do that because it can really give you a round of view of kind of the concerns that people have. Because you know, often times people will express their concerns, but there’s always something a lot deeper than what. You know that what they’ll tell you in a Facetoface conversation when you ask, with you asking questions, you know, even when you’re developing a case study, you’ll say, well, what what what? What’s so great about this? You know, how are things before versus now? They will tell you something different than what they were actually feeling. But when you have, when you’re listening to those conversations, when you’re in front of them, you’re Facetoface and having discussions around their concerns and their doubts, it there’s no, there’s a lot of things that you don’t see even. You know, when I’m them actually telling it to your face saying this is what I believe there can be something that’s totally different that you that you don’t see. I mean the whole story with Coke and the New Coke back in the day is a great example of that, right. So New Coke. You know, Coke was losing some taste tests to Pepsi. And they’re thinking, oh goodness, you know, what are we going to do? So they came out with this and they actually tested this new Coke concept. I’m sure your listeners know, you know, it won all the taste tests. Even if it beat Pepsi, it beats, you know, the old Coke. And then when it came out, people are like, no, i don’t think so. This isn’t for us. And so it kind of shows the value of the brand and what people are, what people feel is so much more important than what they’re thinking about and how what they’re methodically. Saying as opposed to what the real feelings are.
Danny Gavin 31:00
And what it sounds like, it’s really an iterative process, right. So even if you’re going to get to the best point, but you’re only going to really know what, how it’s going to work when you actually stick it out there and put it into the market. How do you approach like the key decision makers or key stakeholders like the CEO or people up there to convince them, OK, it’s a process, you know I’m this is what we think it’s going to work, but we need to put it out and test it. Like, how do you have that discussion? Do you usually find that those people like agree with you, or is it a process in itself?
Yehuda Cagen 31:27
So i think what you do is whoever you have to champion it to, you got to ask those questions, right. You got to ask those questions about what they feel is the, you know, differentiates you from the competition. Why do come, you know, why do clients go with us there and then just corroborate that with what you’re hearing from clients and client conversations or prospect conversations. And so those are things that you have to do to make sure that that’s correct. And then you take that and you say look, I we know from what you know from the conversations that we had that X is super important and that if a company does not take you know this direction and you know that direction obviously reflects on the product or service itself. So if the company does not take that direction then they’re going, we feel that they’re going in the right direction and then you. Base the messaging off of the conversations that you had with them because if they’re going to tell you one thing now the when you get into something hairy, you’re kind of, you know, in instances where they’ll say something and then they’ll say, Oh yeah, that. But there’s also this, right. So there is when you say iterative process, I think that’s a big part of it. So I think you have to really. To have those honest conversations and not just say, hey, what do you think? And again dig in a little bit more. Ask those wives. I mean that’s what I think. What made Peter and my relationship so successful i kept on asking why not obviously not to not to bug him, but I really wanted to get to the crux of it, into the meat of it and so. To make sure that we that I did that you know I had we have to ask a lot of questions we had maybe sometimes it just takes you know rubbing out the rug on the on the on the way to your boss or convey the executive team because getting their feedback and getting their understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Now what happens is that sometimes you’re in an instance where what the executive team says. Differs from what clients say. So an executive says, you know our primary differentiator is X and then when you have conversations with prospects and or you know clients they’ll say well my you know what made your company different or unique is why that’s where it gets a little challenging, right because you got to start Nick saying well I’m hearing from our clients. Something a little different and they might say, well you know that probably has to do with x y and z, but really when it comes down to it, so you really have to have those discussions and you have to kind of speak honestly and don’t be afraid to ask you know why because what happens is that if you just take it at, you know, at a service level and you’re not really digging in, you do a lot of work and some discomfort on the front end so that you’ll have a lot more success in the back end.
Danny Gavin 34:08
It reminds me of like the parable I always give to teach people about SEO. The company or the boss always thinks that a product or service is called one way, but then you actually do the research. Like what do you mean? That’s not what people are searching for and that’s half the battle, but so just.
Yehuda Cagen 34:23
How do you do that? How do you battle that?
Danny Gavin 34:25
It’s a great question. Well, the nice thing about SEO is. You have the tools to show like density and volume, and you know, and you can always use that. It’s not perfect by any you know, by any means, but it gives you a little bit more value. And I think that’s the same with you, right? When you have that data available and you can break down those preconceived notions that maybe some of the higher people you know in the organization think. Yeah, well, this has been a wonderful conversation. Before we wrap up, I’d love to know about your top three Houston sports moments. So for people who haven’t realized, Yuda is like a huge Houston sports fan. So what are those three moments?
Yehuda Cagen 35:03
That’s tough because we have 4 championships.
Danny Gavin 35:06
You got to choose three.
Yehuda Cagen 35:08
That I have to choose three. So why don’t we go? Well, there’s definitely the last World Series because, I mean, I love that last. But 2020 two, 2022 World Series, because it came on the heels of this whole cheating scandal. I’m not going to get into that. I’d rather get into politics than that. But it came on the heels of cheating scandal. And what happened was it galvanized the relationship between the fan base and the team. Like i mean because it were almost like, you know, when I would wear my Astros cap in New York City. I mean it’s like, I mean it was it was it was insane. You get you had a lot of insults throws your way and like we felt like we were in it together with the team. And I think it really galvanized that relationship more so even than the first championship in 2017 So I’ll go with that as number one and then let’s go with the two Rockets championships as two and three again that first one would probably be the second best moment in Houston sports in history but I mean there been there been some good moments but I think you know ultimately it’s a team game and you want them in championship. So I think the first one was really special just because first Rockets championship because the city hadn’t won any championships until that point. And then the second one was also really cool because we were six seed and you know we decide the odds we beat all the best teams on you know on their home court. And so you know they’re all pretty much up there but in 2017 was also really cool but just to kind of keep it you know a political from a from a sports standpoint i’ll just select those three I love.
Danny Gavin 36:37
How you bring the New York reference? Because I remember in 94 when the Rockets won their first championship, the big deal was we all had our, like, Rockets gear, our championship shirts and hats. And we went to, you know, a bunch of us went to camp in Detroit and we were like all standing when the bus arrived from New York and like, just so excited, like. There you go. Nick stands So Yehuda, Where can listeners learn more about you and your business?
Yehuda Cagen 36:59
Well, so currently I’m the Senior Director of Marketing for Astendio and so we made it easier. So you could go to astendio.com There’s a lot of syllables, but OSTEN Dio.com If you wanna learn about me, you can just go to my profile and LinkedIn.
Yehuda Cagen 37:15
Well, Yehuda, thank you so much for being a guest on the Digital Marketing Mentor and thank you listeners for tuning into the Digital Marketing Mentor. Look forward to speaking to you next time.
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