Vyara Ndejuru shares her story navigating from a well-established B2C company to a B2B startup, Element AI. (Since recording, Vyara has taken a new position with Late Checkout as CMO). What does Vyara recommend for the first 100 days going from B2C to B2B?
What’s the real difference between B2B and B2C marketing?
For many, that question is now more commonly answered with, “It doesn’t matter.” Marketing is about bridging a connection between a brand and a person. Yet, when transitioning from a consumer-facing brand to a business, the shift can feel monumental.
What does Vyara recommend for the first 100 days going from B2C to B2B?
The first 30 days: Listen First
The next 30 days: Discuss Your Ideas
The last 30 days: Implement Your Plan
The greatest takeaway Vyara discusses is to be empathetic in your transition. As a guiding principle, be open to learning and practice humility.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
What to listen for:
Vyara is a customer-centric professional with a career profile and experience in leading end-to-end brand development and online and offline marketing operations. Prior to Late Checkout, she was General Manager and Senior Director of Global Brand Strategy and Development for ALDO, and Head of Brand and Digital Experience for Element AI (now part of ServiceNow)
Vyara: I really went in with a learner’s mindset. So shut my mouth and open my ears.
Trinity: This is The First 100 Days, a show for revenue practitioners by revenue practitioners, giving you unscripted access and exclusive resources to help you navigate any new initiative or new transition. I am your host, Trinity Nguyen from Usergems. The first 100 days for this guest was taking on an entirely new company and focus going from an established brand in B2C to a fast-growing AI startup in B2B.
For most of us, we switched companies and sometimes roles, but we tend to stay within the same industry, but not for our guests. Why does she make that shift? What does she learn? What can B2B marketers learn from B2C and vice versa? That's what you find out from Vyara, or V as she let me call her, brand and digital lead at element AI, a global software provider recently acquired by service now.
And I met through revenue, collective a community for revenue, executives, and practitioners V as the head of Montreal chapter. So if you're in sales, marketing, customer success, or revenue operations, and you based near Montreal, and you're interested in learning more about revenue collective, feel free to contact V on LinkedIn.
Now, before we get into the transition, I’d like to like get to know the person behind. That impressive resume. I don't know if you're familiar with this book called the selfish gene by Richard Dawkins, but essentially in the book that you can make some inferences about a man or a woman's character.
If you know something about the conditions in which he or she has survived and prosper. So my question to you is what are the conditions you have survived or challenges you have overcome that made you the person you are today?
Vyara: Great question. I think you're gonna hear a big gap, a homage to my parents.
So I'm from East Africa from a small country called Rwanda and my parents left Africa because he knew a little bit about the circumstances of Rwanda. It has been, or it had been a country with a significant amount of social unrest, even before the genocide and my parents left, uh, to go to Europe in the seventies.
And when they recount the story of migrating in the seventies, they went to Germany. They tell me the stories and my sisters and I were born there. But the sense of just being at a complete loss, um, not having any kind of. References not having your family, all of a sudden being foreign when you've always been of the land, having to learn a new language, find a job, make new friends, create new roots.
So I think, uh, that kind of spirit is the spirit that runs in, in my veins. This idea that. You can absolutely overcome pretty much anything. If you have your health and you have someone who loves you. I have to say that you feel a sense of duty to, to be able to uphold all of the opportunity that was created for you.
Trinity: So, the first 100 days look like in this new role and just for the audience. So you came from a B to C marketing at Alto and established consumer retail of brand, and then moving to a B2B high growth startup element AI. So when did your first 100 days look like, did you approach it any differently than you would have if you were in B2C?
Vyara: Absolutely. Yeah, so I was very methodical. I got, um, and I highly recommend this book. Uh, the first 90 days, uh, it is the guide book to, to every transition. It was a very, very effective way for me to be a good student. I think. When you come from an established business where you have large budgets and a significant amount of resources, you can be a little bit pretentious about the knowledge that you have.
So you think that you know because you've worked with some of the best people in the field. So it's very important that you come in humble. And I think one of the great parts of the book is to, is to remind you to first listen. So don't go in with your sense that you're going to change the organization you're going to, it is for you to change, not the organization.
So I really went in with a learner's mindset, so shut my mouth and open my ears. And the first thing that I did was really go on a listening tour. So really trying to as much as possible listen to what people were telling me so that I could come up with a perspective that was informed, although it's qualitative, but an informed perspective as to what's working, what's not working.
What's great. What's not great. Um, I think nobody likes the new girl that comes in and who's known at all. And, uh, that first, uh, that first 30 days was really about understanding. Where I was going, who was working there, how I could contribute. Uh, I really wanted to be 50% uncomfortable, meaning that I knew I had my marketing background. I could contribute, but I needed the organization to help me with the 50% that I didn't know.
Trinity: Was there anything that you listened to during those 30 days that really surprised you good or bad?
Vyara: So when you come from a very structured environment, it is surprising to be exposed to agility. So the teams, uh, or some of the teams worked in sprints and I was really, really impressed with the mindset of agility, the deep perspectives, the humanity, quote, unquote, putting the human at the, at the center, the amount of empathy that was expressed for the people that were running the sprints. I thought that it was such an interesting thing to bring into. The business side of things as well, not just the tech, the technical side, but why not bring that into the marketing teams?
Why not become agile from a marketing perspective and also work in that way, putting the team at the center and putting the user at the center. I really loved that and I hadn't been exposed. To truly having a scrum master at the Aldo group, we were exposed to some of the rituals, but more on the stand-ups and the, and the reporting, not necessarily the philosophy, which I thought was, uh, was really, really interesting and super modern.
I think that, uh, agility has a lot to teach. To the business operations, as well as the technical teams, because we've all been affected by just the volatility of the work that we do and the number of unknown unknowns that we encounter. So the idea of sprints, the P the, the ability to react quickly, the ability to show value, all of these things are very much useful within the teams that are not just, uh, uh, technical teams.
Trinity: So that was the first 30 days. And then what did you do next in the next, I guess a 60 and then the 90?
Vyara: the idea is that the first 30 days, uh, if you're able to, you try not to do anything, meaning that your only output is a plan. So the first idea is to really ensure that you are developing empathy and that you're understanding where you landed, that you understand who your stakeholders are.
That you make almost like a mental map of, of the relationships that you're going to need to build, to be successful. You put these things together and the idea is also to be very accountable for the relationships that you make, meaning don't assume that people will come to you because they know that you're the new person don't assume that people will have made a plan for you.
Don't assume that people will welcome. You take responsibility for the relationship and go to that. So figure out who you need in order to be successful, figure out who you can make successful, and then make sure that you manage your manager. So go towards your manager and take a huge responsibility in building that relationship.
So we all know it's a critical, critical relationship. The one that you develop with your manager and. I think you should take responsibility for it. So you need to adapt to their style. Um, so the first 30 days is really about understanding what are their goals, this manager, what are their goals and how can you make them successful?
And, uh, the first 30 days is about laying out the plan, putting the plan in front of them, and saying, this is what I've heard from the teams. What do you think? And. Based on what you hear, you start to put together, what you think is going to be your action plan and your manager then responds and it gives you some guidance as to what this should be a priority.
This should not be a priority. And Mike give you new ones. And so the next 30 days is really about putting together the plan you start to put together, what you think is going to be your plan coming out of it. And the last 30 days is really about wrapping that up. So what are the input feedback loops that maybe you're missing.
So that at the term of your 90 days, not to say that you're ready to attack, but you definitely have a very good view and sense of what you're walking into, what you need to deliver to succeed, and who you need to do it with.
Trinity: So you mentioned the plan that you put together. And so you don't need to share the confidential information, but just in general, what would you say are the top priorities?
Vyara: So if you are, let's say in a scale-up, um, the number one thing you need to make sure that is happening is that you get support for the resources that you need. So. You will have maybe underlined some key lacking resources and your number one priority is going to be to make sure that you secure them because you've identified them as being critical to being successful.
If you've done a good job of aligning with your manager and your team, you won't be alone in thinking that this is a critical thing. So it's about communicating that effectively and saying, okay, well, we've talked about this. This is a critical thing we need in order to achieve success. I need your help to secure these resources.
So those resources could be technical. They could be budget, they could be people, they could be external help. They could be, uh, all kinds of things. So it really depends on where the company is, but your number one goal needs to be understanding where you're at, what you need to be successful, and then securing the right resources, let's say to make sure that you get there.
Trinity: And earlier on, you mentioned making sure your, you manage up to your management manager and then leadership, et cetera. Do you think, were there any different expectations specifically because elements.ai is a startup versus if you had joined a different consumer retailer, let's say, Nike, for example, do you think the expectations differ?
Vyara: Every place has its rituals. Uh, I don't know that companies are always aware that they have these rituals. Um, but when you're the newcomer, you observe them quite quickly. There's all of the, kind of undercurrent that you observed when you're a newcomer that I don't think you realize when, when you, when you've been in the culture.
So I believe most places are different. It's extremely important to be. Cautious and cognizant that you're walking into unknown territory and to, and into treat your hosts with respect.
Trinity: When you joined element AI there any mistakes or roadblocks that you ran into and where you're like, well, if it could go back in time, I would have done that differently.
Vyara: I got to tell you that, uh, you have much more leeway in a startup than you do in a very established business and. That's one of the beauties of it. I would tell you that you can really play a lot more than you can in a business that's very mature, very established or where the rules or roles are very, very clear.
So this spirit of experimentation, I think maybe I'm being, I'm being too optimistic, but I think it allows you to make fewer mistakes because you don't. You don't push to a rollout, you experiment. And sometimes you catch yourself before you make a mistake. So, for example, the fact of having a daily is the fact of doing sprints.
The fact of being so close to your stakeholder probably stops you from making some massive mistakes because you're there to create value in the stakeholders there to tell you, well, I'm not so sure that you're still on track for that. And because the sprints are two weeks. It's not like the big reveal, there's less risk in that, that way of working.
I find because you're so close to the output. I think that's part of, I think it's a self-correcting kind of mechanism.
Trinity: No, I'm a believer in figuring out how to adopt sprint into the marketing and the SAS processes here. It makes sense. You can catch it so much faster. You don't wait six months preparing for the launch and then realize that's not what some people had in mind, and some people could be your CEO.
Vyara: Yes. And I think the other thing that is very exciting about agility is the fact that you put your customer, your internal stakeholder at the heart of it. So all of a sudden it forces you to be very empathetic and very focused on delivering value for the state.
Trinity: my role right now is in brands and digital. So can you maybe elaborate too for the audience, understand what that entails and who your stakeholders are?
Vyara: So in terms of processes in the sprints, So I will own the sprint across the full marketing organization because I own the program. So because I own the channels.
So whether it's a social email, web media PR, usually my stakeholders will come to my group to execute a campaign. So what ends up happening is that the teams will come together. Uh, to put forward what the priorities are and we will rank them. So we start to rank and the ideas to figure out what the capacity of the group is to deliver for that two-week sprint.
So basically my roles spans branding, external communications, uh, social paid and owned PR so earned, uh, paid media, whether it's display, search, SEO, blog, and the web, and design. So think about the execution of any marketing program. My group will be executing against that. We also run ABM, so everything that's ABM-related will go through my group.
Trinity: Oh, that's interesting. I mean, everything else I'm like. Yep. Makes sense. ABM is interesting because I thought usually ABMS would sit under demand generation type of role, right?
Vyara: That we're structured. We don't have a demand generation per se. It becomes a collaboration between my group and customer marketing.
So example somebody on the industry side of things we'll want to create a campaign. Uh, we will work in tandem with them to identify the target list and ICP work, to prioritize, uh, or to, to, to focus it on the value prop. Um, they will work on messaging. My group will work on the actual delivery of the content if you will.
Like, if there's anything to design, if there's any awareness to be done prior to the launch of the campaign, we'll do it together. It's a very tiered approach where you see that the Baton pass needs to be fairly seamless in order not to create friction. So again, I find that's what the opportunity is.
All of a sudden, whether. I own demand generation or not, doesn't matter because in effect everyone that touches, it feels assessable in our shift to deliver against it because they own part of the process
Trinity: more and more B2B brands try to take a page from the B2C playbook to be more approachable, more human to the emotions instead of the button-up proper corporate image. So what are the top three tips you would give to the B2B marketers in trying to learn from B2C?
Vyara: I think it's such an exciting space for B2B right now. So my idea of why BDB could seem so cookie-cutter at times is maybe the traditional approach was focused on the mechanics, whereas on the B to C side, especially in the consumer space, the mechanics are really about differentiation. So branding is a big part of standing out. It's almost like it was the opposite path for B2B, uh, of, of making sure that the product delivered and everything else was secondary.
And it feels like now there's a time to start to build in that layer and I'm seeing some brands do that really, really well. I think element AI has done a good job of positioning and branding itself. Um, but I'm looking at, uh, looking at some brands like, uh, I think Lessonly does a great job. But, uh, gong does a fantastic job.
I think drift does a fantastic job. There are more and more brands that are out there that are just making themselves real personalities for specific ICPCs and targets that resonate in that all of a sudden, you notice for their creativity, but also for the human feel of the brand itself. It expresses a difference. Uh, within its tone and its voice and its, and its look and feel.
Trinity: Yeah, I think that's something that everyone's trying to achieve. So if you were kind of like wrap this up, like if you were to create a cheat sheet for going from B2C marketing to B to B marketing, what would be on it?
Vyara: Okay. Okay. So let me break it down between soft and hard skills. So one of the things that you are going to bring, if you come from B to C marketing, Is you're going to bring some really interesting growth perspectives because, you know, channel marketing very well. So, um, your perspective on paid social, your perspective on SEO, and everything around consumer data.
So that sense of being extremely customer-centric. Uh, is something that is not as present within B2B. It's coming. We're starting to see it with some of the, uh, some of the targeting and intent opportunities that exist. But that's, that's been done for a long time and B to C. So really being able to understand who your target customer is, behavioral profiling is something that has been there for a long time and B to C.
So that's definitely something you bring with you, and that's very applicable to ABM. Uh, what you will learn though, is the go-to-market motions. So it's a way in which you go to market in a more traditional route. Let's say where there is a sales motion attached to it, where there's a partnership component.
That's something that is new and that you learn. When you go to B2B that you, that you don't know when you're in B to C you're like, Oh, that's an interesting perspective. And then the thing that is the same across is whenever you change jobs or you change positions is, you know, what do you need to leave behind?
So some of the things that you will come to bear, you need to understand that you need to leave them behind. They will not serve you in the school and what transfers across, what are the skills that you actually can use. And. Transfer across your, your transition. I love it.
Trinity: Thank you so much. The First 100 Days is sponsored by Usergems, a software that helps companies identify buyers that are more likely to buy a product. Userjems, tracks your current and past customers for job movements so that when they switch companies, you can sell to them again. And based on your sales and product usage data, it also finds prospects that are similar to your existing customers.
According to reviews and G2 crowd. And I quote, use gems is a prospecting miracle. If you, in a revenue role, check out Usergems.com
Christian, what stuck out to you from this conversation?
Christian: It's always interesting to see the theme of how she approaches any situation that she's facing. And in this case, I think she started out within every new transition, you need to be really humble and she showed us. Or she explained to us in every situation where it's like, pretty much it can be summed up, but shut up and listen.
We're just as this humbleness of in my first 90 days like she structured it really well. And it's like the first 30 days you just listen. It's so easy for us to come in and think we know. But what the problems are, what we should be changing. But in reality, we don't know that the nuances that we are going to face.
So it's really good that in the first 30 days, you just listen and take down notes, think about it, but just listen. And then the next 30 days you discuss, you have your ideas. You could discuss them with the people, point out what could be different, what could be improved. And then the last 30 days you make the plan to attack and really start the work based on the listening that you’ve done.
Trinity: Yeah, I think if there's one word to sum up this episode and how V approaches any new transition, I would say the word is empathetic. I think she mentioned it a few times, but I think it's, it goes to kind of like similar to what you just mentioned as well as being empathetic to the users of the product.
Also, be empathetic to the new company to just join. Don't have preconceived notions of what's. Right. And what's good for the business before, you know, The business itself and same thing with being empathetic with a new culture. Um, maybe it, it has some nuances that you don't understand as an outsider, but those nuances mean something to the company that you just joined us people that work there and your new coworkers. So be empathetic. I feel like that's the word that I would use to summarize this.
Christian: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's just so easy. You see a different situation, you see a different company and you think, Oh my God, I will, I will do this completely differently. And here's how much better I would do it. Uh, but you don't know the trade-off statement facing, they've probably had the same thought and realized it's hard actually to do it that way because of ABC and it's for you to figure out like, what is ABC?
And maybe I can still change it. Based on my knowledge of the situation now that I know ABC. And I think what you also mentioned, what I found interesting is like, what is the knowledge that can be transferred from her B2C experience to her B2B experience. She also pointed out that you actually need to be empathetic, mindful of what shouldn't be transferred. Once again, it's so easy to take over the old habits that we're having. And maybe these old habits don't apply.
Trinity: What works before might not work now or not working might not work here at this new company. And it speaks a lot to her humility being humble. And even though she came from a very well established brand, and also very well established career, really incoming com and joining a startup, she didn't come in and say, I know what's best.
Listen to me. So I really liked that about her. And also like, I think this sharing initially when I started this interview, I was partially expecting that the transition from B2C B2B would be more on the hard skills of B2C marketers transitioning over to being a B2B marketer. Like what are the hard marketing skills that you can bring over a versus and versus learning.
But I think at heart sharing I think can apply to. Doesn't matter if it's B2B, B2C, this a matter of his last company, a small company, I think it's just the lesson in life. Be humble and be empathetic to all the people around you.
Christian: And I, then she highlighted it. It's like it's listening about what's going on in the company.
And then listening. I was like, what is my manager expecting from me? I think she pointed that out specifically. And I think that's very interesting. And it's very important.
Trinity: going through a major transition within your organization or your career. Do you have a first 100-day journey to share recently on the past? If, yes, I want to hear from you email me at email@example.com. And if you're looking for the ultimate revenue leader's cheat sheets, sign up to receive them at usergems.com/podcast.