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Developing a Culture of Excellence with Michele Don Durbin, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Evernote

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A good company is built with good people and as simple as that sounds, when it comes to finding the right person for the right job, sometimes you have to look beyond what’s written on the resume. With her decades of experience at companies such as eBay and Skype,  Michele Don Durbin, now the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Evernote, knows how to get the most out of herself and her team and that all stems from her emphasis on culture-building

“You’re certainly going to be judged on what you get done, but how you get it done is just as important. When you spend your time, your career, surrounded by driven ambitious people who are always trying to do more and have the next best idea and make more money, whether it’s self-imposed because they’re really smart and ambitious, or it’s part of a larger culture, there are some people who will use, I don’t know, less than ideal tactics to get things done. And I really appreciated the idea that eBay said, ‘It’s not just what you’re getting done. It’s how you’re working with others. It’s how you’re taking the community to account, it’s what your colleagues think of you and how you’re really helping the business overall.” 

In this episode of Marketing Trends, Michele gets into all things marketing and takes us on a deep-dive into her strategy for hiring, she also unpacks the paid media strategy at Evernote and shares a fun story about her work launching Skype with Oprah Winfrey. This episode is packed with great advice from an engaging leader. I know you’re going to enjoy this episode of Marketing Trends. 

Main Takeaways

  • A Good Team and Culture Lead to Good Idea Execution: Good ideas abound, at least until you put them to the test. It takes a team that can implement good ideas well to succeed. You need a team of doers around you, not just high-minded theorists. The people that you hire and work with on your team need to be the kind of people who can show up every day with enthusiasm to get things done. The energy and power of a good team aren’t just setting the company culture, it’s setting yourself and your company up for success. 
  • Flexibility over Plans: You need to read the data and decide from there what your plans are, but always remain flexible with your marketing campaigns. There is real value in being able to shift, pivot, and adapt to new data and reactions to ongoing and new campaigns.
  • Re-Focus Your Attention on Customers Already in the Funnel: Sometimes we get so excited and focused on getting more emails in our systems that we forget to maximize the spending of all those contacts we already have. Focusing on serving your customer base can lead you to innovate new products and solutions for them, also driving outside buy-in to your product. 

Key Quotes

“There are two things that jump to mind immediately that I remember from the eBay days. The first one is that nothing got funded without data. We had an incredibly efficient process for prioritizing resources. Ideas are great and people have ideas all the time, but the team allocating the resources wouldn’t even consider something until a reasonable set of assumptions, for a clear understanding of what success looked like was presented. And that is really important because ideas are one thing, but if you have no way to execute those ideas and you don’t know what success looks like, you don’t actually know when you’ve arrived and you don’t know when you failed and getting the funding for something meant pulling together that use case that business case what you expect it to happen. And it’s a good exercise that I continue to ask all my teams to do today.”

“I was tapped to move over to Skype; it was an internal transfer at that time and I started helping run the marketing team. We had only 13 people to run all of the Americas. The things that we got to do were, as you said, in the beginning, I was very lucky to be at the right place at the right time because it was just outstanding.”

“You’re certainly going to be judged on what you get done, but how you get it done is just as important. When you spend your career, surrounded by driven ambitious people who are always trying to do more and have the next best idea and make more money, whether it’s self-imposed because they’re really smart and ambitious, or it’s part of a larger culture, there are some people who will use less than ideal tactics to get things done. And I really appreciated the idea that eBay said, ‘It’s not just what you’re getting done. It’s how you’re working with others. It’s how you’re taking the community to account, it’s what your colleagues think of you and how you’re really helping the business overall.” 

“It all comes down to this idea of a foundational marketing principle that great ideas don’t really mean much without great execution. So it’s not that I don’t value ideas, but I don’t worship them. I think I’ll get more out of a good idea, executed ruthlessly than a great idea that’s executed adequately.”

“It’s about being flexible in what you think you’re going to be able to do. So make plans, back those plans with data, put really good people in charge of those plans, and then be prepared for those plans to change, and that’s one of the reasons why Evernote was so interesting for me and why I’m still there.” 

“The biggest channel that we have for new users is our existing base and that is how it has always been. This is why the community is so important to us. What we’re doing, now that we have the apps and infrastructure rebuilt, is we’re really focused on providing education in real-life use cases and packaging that up into snackable portions.” 

“We got this call from somebody on the production crew of the Oprah Winfrey show. And she wanted to host the largest ever book review for her book club. And she wanted her audience to be able to talk to her….so we did this partnership with Oprah Winfrey and we [would] get this call. It’d be like, ‘You need to ship a laptop and a camera and a microphone and a headset to this address. And it needs to be there tomorrow.’ And we had tech guys on contract who would actually go to somebody’s house and help them set up their equipment so that it would be high quality for Oprah. And we did this for, I think it was six or eight weeks. She loved it so much.” 

Bio

Working with a mission began for Michele Don Durbin years ago, when she helped small business owners and start-ups build their own global businesses and create communities on eBay. Later, as the head of global customer acquisition for Skype, she turned my passions towards connecting the world via video calling — reuniting friends, keeping families close despite vast distances, and helping companies build global teams to achieve their goals. As the VP of Marketing for Inflection, Don Durbinhelped transform its small, quiet background check company, GoodHire, into an industry-recognized, award-winning challenger brand. But it was Evernote’s deeply held belief in the infinite potential of any idea, big or small, world-changing or personal, that intrigued her most.

Marketing Trends podcast is brought to you by Salesforce. Discover marketing built on the world’s number one CRM: Salesforce. Put your customer at the center of every interaction. Automate engagement with each customer. And build your marketing strategy around the entire customer journey. Salesforce. We bring marketing and engagement together. Learn more at salesforce.com/marketing.

Episode 264