Episode 03 | Transcript

Guilda Hilaire: Historical Trajectory of the SFMC Platform and Becoming a Trailblazer

Anthony Lamot: Guilda, welcome to the series.

Guilda Hilaire: Thank you for having me so excited to be here.

AL: Great. Then really, it’s our pleasure. Could you please introduce yourself to our viewers?

GH: So my name is Guilda Hilaire. And I am the senior product marketing manager at Salesforce. The community considers me as like their agent or their handler. I focus primarily on Trailblazer community programs for Marketing Cloud. And for Pardot.

AL: Great. Thank you for providing a short bio there. And I would say, yes, you’re definitely an agent for the community if not the champion of champions that’s also how this series started in the end. We all know you do a lot for the Salesforce community. Can you briefly describe what is your main focus right now?

GH: Well, I was a customer prior to joining Salesforce. I was actually a customer for well over 14 years focused on ExactTarget which is now the Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform. So, as a customer, you know, I always wanted to, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. So I always was looking for ways to be active in the community from writing blogs, to wanting, you know, Salesforce to champion my ideas or support my ideas, to attending every single event that they were having, whether they were virtual, whether they were conferences, whether they were invitations from account executives to network with other like-minded people. So right now, that’s exactly what I do, right? I build programs where customers, whether legacy customers, whether you’re a new customer, but you get that opportunity to feel like you’re not alone, you know, in this island by yourself trying to navigate the Marketing Cloud platform. So I build programs, virtual programs, to really help educate the community on features that they might not even know about or it could be features that they already know about, right? Because we have a lot of legacy users. They know it all, but, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. So putting together this program, it gives not only internal product folks but also the community a chance to really help, you know, transfer that knowledge that they have on a particular feature or functionality. So it’s really building programs to bring the community together and educate the community.

AL: Yes. And I would say that it’s working because I think that community is really something unique.  Salesforce is an open ecosystem where you do have that community feeling like people showing off with their badges and their certificates and whatnot. Now, you mentioned you worked with ExactTarget prior to it being acquired by Salesforce. So can you tell a bit more about that era and how has that changed since the acquisition?

GH: Well, definitely the platform has changed from the old days, where we now have data extensions and journeys. So definitely the platform has changed. But most importantly, the community overall has changed, you know, 14 years ago, when I started using it, I worked at Johnson, and I was sending emails out for the IOC, which is the International Olympic Committee for track and field and… for track and field and for gymnastics. And I remember sending out emails. I didn’t know who to contact. I didn’t know who else was a user of the platform? I didn’t know where to go for help. I don’t think even at that time, you know, they had a portal where people can go and submit questions and kind of network with others, right? I was on an island by myself. So I feel like there are two big things I have evolved since, you know, since the acquisition or Salesforce, which is one, the platform, right? And two, the community has evolved where it’s more disposable at your fingertips almost that you can reach out and feel that you’re supported by others, right? If we think about the Stack Exchange and Slack and, you know, the Trailblazer community, right? And, and most important now you can get certified which didn’t exist before, right? So you have all these different ways where you can upskill that didn’t exist 14 years ago, when I started using the platform.

AL: That’s very interesting. But I was something you mentioned there that I sort of stumbled over. You mentioned there was a time before data extensions.

GH: My God. Yes, there was a, from my, I came back to my legacy users. There was a time when we didn’t have data extensions, we had to upload a list. And every time, yes, we had to upload a list. And every time you wanted to send a new campaign, you would import a list. And, you know, it was one of those moments where you would spray and pray or where the e-mail blast term was popular. Just upload the list and send. I didn’t even know… who knew about deliverability, right? We were sending animated gifs. I remember building campaigns where I would have, you know, animals, you know, popping in, popping out, things were flashing. I was using fireworks to create my animations. Throw it in an e-mail, spray, pray, send, done. That was the process.

AL: Is there still like an e-mail left of like one of those emails? Do you still have it somewhere? Because that would be great if you could share that.

GH: Absolutely. I have several of those emails still saving, you know, and I laugh. I laugh, but it’s also a great example of growth, right? And how the e-mail you know, has evolved over time where I look at this e-mail I’m like my God, I can’t believe I still had a job after sending these emails because I’m like “who did this?” I’m like my God, I did because I didn’t know any better because I was, you know, on an island by myself, but I know now where if anybody, you know, comes into the ecosystem of Marketing Cloud and they’re looking for help. I have so many different places where I could say, my God, there’s a great group, you know, that’s sitting here in Slack that you can go to there’s  the Trailblazer community, right? There are so many different options now versus, you know, 14 years ago, you know, I had like eight different colors, five different fonts, you know, black background, hard to read all in one e-mail and I thought, I was like, you know?

AL: Yeah, those were the wild days of e-mail design, and…

GH: Exactly. I was like, I deserve an e-mail award for that.

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AL: Well, you know, if we can get our hands someone still, we’d be happy to put it on the website, and refer our viewers to it (find Guilda’s extravagant emails here). I’m sure that, you know, people will recognize at that time.

GH: I don’t mind sending it to you and putting do ever do this, but this is just an example of how we’ve all evolved especially if, you know, your 15 years into… e-mail marketing. You were there at one point where you were sending wild animated gifts using fireworks. And if you were using ExactTarget, you were using what they had called the Wizzywig tool, right? Where you handling tables, you, the, which you get and you are importing, your list and you would just send. And we weren’t worried about spam deliverability, not 14 years ago.

AL: Yeah. I mean, who knew what the DNS was, right? So, right.

GL: Right. We didn’t know, we didn’t know that thing. It was, it’s just wild how, you know, when you think back how things have platforms have evolved, the community has evolved where it’s more family style, right? Versus island style, you know, where you’re not by yourself.

AL: Indeed, now, if we fast forward to your time now at Salesforce, you originally came from the customer side, and I know that at some point you were a member of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Customer Advisory Board. I was curious about that too. Could you share a bit more about that please?

GH: So as a customer, I was very vocal, right? I’m one of those people where I’m really loyal to brands and the loyalty also includes me sharing with them, you know, not just sharing but wanting to be part of the evolution of the platform. And, you know, when I worked at some of these large organizations, I worked at Liberty Mutual, Johnson & Johnson, Boston Consulting Group. I was very passionate about the platform. I loved using the platform, but I would always raise my hand and use my voice and share with them positive feedback to help with, you know, the overall direction of the road map. And I was also never afraid to raise my hand or introduce myself whenever I would go to Connections, for example, right? You know, I would make it a point to introduce myself to, you know, so Scott Dorsey, you know, CDP I would introduce myself and say, hi, I’m Guilda from this company. You know, I’m really excited about, you know, the platform where it’s going. You know, I have some feedback or please include me. So being part of these Customer Advisory Boards or the user group studies or voice of customer, it really allowed me to feel like I was part of a change. So I always made myself available to take part in this. And what I loved is that they kept their promise to me and they may kept me aware of the road map where things were going and it wasn’t sales at all. It was always more of informational and it allowed me to feel closer and connected with the brand.

AL: Right? It’s not about pushing new features. It’s a conversation.

GH: It’s right? It was, it was a conversation. And the other thing it allowed me to was to network with others because you remember, back then, we didn’t have, we didn’t have user groups. We didn’t have come, we’re us, they just started scratching the surface on what they are called, you know, Interactive Marketing Hub and user groups, right? They just started scratching the surface when I started joining the Customer Advisory Board. So joining those boards allowed me to meet with other customers using the product and sharing best practices. And some of these folks that I met years ago, I still keep in touch with them from time to time.

AL: And I can testify those user groups work very well. I mean, we’re in different regions, but I’m a member of both the Belgian and the Dutch user group and they’re great communities. And one of them, we even have a WhatsApp group, and people like chat on have laughs. So it really works.

GH: It does, it really does.

AL: And you mentioned that essentially people listen to you when you gave input. Is there like one thing that was picked up on and delivered that you felt I’m happy that I was able to contribute to that and gave a give input on that?

GH: The one thing I can remember was, I remember when they were first launching the Interactive Marketing Hub platform and we had an offsite where they presented to us the vision of Interactive Marketing Hub. And I remember as part of the user group, you know, we went through it, we went through our use cases. We were totally unit, you know, we went in there unbiased because we’ve never seen the platform. They didn’t tell us beforehand what they were showing us. We kind of just logged in and they just said you just walk through some of these steps. And then it was after we walked through the, after we walked through all these steps from logging on the machine that’s when they said, you know, so what did you guys say about that experience? And we shared it? And that’s when they said, you know, this is what we’re considering for, you know, this Interactive Marketing Hub community platform. And then we gave our feedback and like that’s what that we were wondering why you had is walking through this. It didn’t have their brand or anything, right? Which is a great way for them to get unbiased feedback because we thought it was a competitive side. We thought it was a customer website, but it was actually a community site that they were building. And when they finally released and launched it, a lot of the feedback from the user group from being part of the Customer Advisory Board was part of, the platform.

AL: So, so just to make sure I get this right, this was a session where you literally went to an office. They put you in front of a computer and then they showed you something.

GH: Yeah, they showed us something. It didn’t have the logo on it, right? They wanted us to walk through, you know, walk through the series. They had a couple of things that they wanted us to do and to just kind of navigate by ourselves. They gave us 45 minutes to do to walk through navigation again, UN completely unbranded. And it was after the 45 minutes was up, you know, they asked us to write questions, concerns and that’s when they shared with us that this is what they’re thinking of launching for the Interactive Marketing Hub.

AL: That’s awesome. So that was organized probably by the product development side, of the Salesforce organization.

GH: Correct.

AL: Right. Cool. So if we then look at more recent features because there’ve been a few great releases and other features that you are very excited about that you think, our, you know, customers should be using?

GH: You know, the feature I remember and this is just for me. The feature that I remember that years ago I was part of the beta testing and I’m happy to see the evolution of this has to be Journey Builder. While it may not be something that is recent, you know, I just want to speak to the ability for us now to… a I’ll call it a tree branch, right? Because when you think of Journey Builder, it’s like a tree where you can create different branches, right? You can send people off different branches based on data that you’ve collected from them, right? And, it’s not like Automation Studio where you’re sending them on one linear path. But with Journey Builder, right? You can send an e-mail you can send an SMS message, you could put and add, you can even send them, to a call center, right? I think for me is when that launch and although it was years ago and I still, you know, evolutions being made to Journey Builder. I think for me like that to me is still one of the coolest feature that exists is the ability to map out the different branches that you want to take your customer. And this is all based off of information that you’ve collected on them. And it’s information that you’ve collected in real time. I remember, I worked for an organization where the developers built a robe dial, right? And the robe dial was part of one of the branches for the customer’s journey, where they would automatically send the customer through their phone, a text message reminding them of an upcoming appointment. And in addition to that, another path on the journey. If it wasn’t the Rob, I was here’s, an e-mail right here’s, a call center, right here’s, a newsletter, right? And this was all different paths that they were sending the customer. Again. While this may not be a recent feature to me, it’s still one of those features where if you’re a developer, if you’re an architect, if you’re a channel marketer, if you’re a data science, you all should be sitting in a room strategizing on how can we maximize utilization of Journey Builder with our entire, you know, marketing strategy?

AL: I remember actually attending a partner community event and that’s also where I learned to refer to the Journey Builder as the heart of Marketing Cloud. It’s even like visualized like that often.

GH: Correct. And the other thing with Journey Builder is you can pull in other marketing, you know, other Marketing Cloud features and functionalities like Einstein optimization, right? Like Service Cloud, Sales Cloud. So when you think about Journey Builder, it’s not a single standalone tool but all these other new features, new functionalities that are being launched out of Marketing Cloud. You can tag all of those in into one single journey of that customer. Again, it’s not a new feature but it’s still one of those features that excites me that you can do all of this, right? Branching within one interface. And then the wealth of data that you’re collecting is amazing, right? You then have all this plus of data that you could then take and you can now strategize on, what didn’t work, what’s the next step, right? How do we keep our customer engaged and involved, right?

AL: Right. All right. Great. Now, obviously we had DESelect, we think that Marketing Cloud is a great platform to build on because that’s what we’re doing. But how do you think that new independent software vendors, or ISV’s as they’re commonly referred to? How can they provide the most value to the platform today?

GH: This may not be a right or wrong answer, but honestly, I always encourage everyone to, you don’t know what you don’t know. So learn as much as you can about the platform itself, right? Because if you think about it, the platform is always continuing to evolve especially, you know, there’s or I should know there’s four or six releases per year. So things are always changing. Things are always evolving. And I’ve always said it myself. There’s no offense to everybody. There’s no certification. There’s no amount of legacy users that can never say, I know everything there is to know about Marketing Cloud because there’s always a new feature, a new functionality, a new way of doing things that you never ever can think about. There’s always a new use case, right? So, I feel like we can’t have to push ourselves right to be ready to be uncomfortable with raising our hands and saying, you know what? Wow. I, I never thought about this. I never knew that I could do that. Like right now, I work with an amazing community and there’s a Marketing Cloud community shut out to them. They know who they are, and, you know, when I have these events a brainstorm with them because these are legacy users. There are some that are four-time Marketing Cloud MVPS, right? They’re marketing champions, some you’ve worked with.

AL: So we’re having some on the series.

GH: Yeah. So, and with some of them, every time, you know, we come together as a group and say, okay, what about this topic? Do you think this is something we should talk about? And for them to say, you know what? I’ve never even used this feature, like I actually want to have somebody from product present on this because even as a three-time or four-time MVP, you still have so much to learn about. And that’s why my favorite phrases never stop learning, right? And to the only feedback that I would give to any ISV’s is that, you know, keep pushing yourself to learn. And if there’s something that is not being presented on, ask, right? And I always say that to come to the community, you know, let me know if there’s something that you’re interested in learning more about. And I will go above and beyond to make sure that it’s part of a I say technical session because I want the community to know how the process was made, right? And so I challenge everyone, like if there’s something you want to learn about, let me know and I’ll go above and beyond and add it to the schedule and make sure that, you know, you understand how the process is made so that you can now turn around and help support your clients, your customers.

AL: Right? And I also liked how you pointed out that aside just keeping learning it and keeping up with this ever changing platform to talk directly with the customers and have your own product development involved. It’s something that we also aspire to our CTO right now is having interviews directly with customers and partners to see what makes sense to them, what can we help to do better? So, I think that’s great advice going further into these days, being a marketer can be a stressful job. And especially during these times of the pandemic and all the uncertainty that it brings, what would you recommend to fellow marketers out there to keep up with the difficulties that they currently may be facing?

GH: You know, when we… when the pandemic started like I honestly just froze and, you know, I struggled. I, what do I do? Do I stop what I’m doing? So just to go back a bit prior to, you know, before, the pandemic started, I was actually supposed to go on a 10-city tour just to meet with the Blazers and customers and to have a conversation with them to help understand like, how can I help you? I’m a people person, everybody knows, I’m a people person. I love my community. You know, most of the community, they have my phone number. They have my e-mail address and I make myself really available to everybody. So going on this tool was just to really get a deeper insight, a better understanding of the community needs. So when the pandemic started everything stop, I kind of stop and didn’t know, what do I do? Right? You know, do I continue with doing these virtual? So I struggled a bit because I wanted to make sure that I was still supporting my community. And I remember the one thing that I did is I actually reached out to the community, right to get their support and, to get there and stand like, do you guys think I should stop? Should we keep going? And they’re like no… people need distraction. Especially now, right? If you think about if you are home alone, right? You can’t go outside, you can’t network, you know, in person, you’re not near your family. The best distraction somebody said to me is still being able to connect virtually whether it’s you know, whether it’s the webinars, whether it’s through happy hours, whether it’s virtual movie night, whatever you can do to get that person’s mind off of their current situation is the best thing that you can do. The other thing that is to be willing to open up and talk to others about what you’re going through and how they can help you. And that’s one of the reasons why I make myself really available. I, you probably get like four hours of sleep her night. I’m usually up around four five am and I, you know, especially some of the troubles that are outside the us. I’ll text them. I’ll send them, you know, what’s that message. I’m on Slack, you know, message you, hey, how are you? How’s everything I do, you need anything, what can I do to help? What can I do to support us? Everything? Okay, you know, but it’s because we have to do that, right? We have to make it a point to check on others to uplift and support and find various ways where we can provide any little service helps in such a big way like you wouldn’t even realize it unless you did it.

AL: It’s a great way to keep people connected, and prevent them from getting isolated essentially.

GH: Correct. And that’s why, you know, continuing to do the virtual sessions that I’m doing is because, you know, we may not be able to meet in person because we didn’t have connections, you know, Dreamforce is on hold and other virtual conferences around the world, user group meetings. Everything’s just virtual. Now, you know, I wanted to make sure that we were still giving them an avenue to feel connected with the community and to also continue learning, right? So I wanted to make them feel like they still have those things at their fingertips because when you go to Dreamforce, you go to connections, you go to learn about new product features, you hear from others about best practices, tips, tricks, how they’re using the platform. But most importantly you go to network. And by having these events, I wanted everyone to still feel like it’s just a virtual connections every two weeks. Guilda is having a virtual connections, let’s join.

AL: Well, we should definitely also put that link in the description of the idea. Do that. For our viewers. You, you also mentioned learning so many of our listeners are quite experienced SC experts actually. But for those that are new to the platform, what would you recommend to people starting their career on SFMC? What would you recommend them to learn? How can they stay connected with their fellow Trailblazers?

GH: That is a great question because 14 years ago, I didn’t have that.

AL: Yeah. We’ve been there, yeah.

AL: That didn’t exist for us. You know, one of the advice that I would give to all the newcomers, right? People that are just, you know, crawling their way inside the Marketing Cloud is to, you know, be willing to connect with others, right? There are times where you start learning something and you get frustrated, but it never occurs to you that there are other resources out there. For example, the Marketing Cloud troubles a community. It’s on 20. See there are a lot of people that are asking questions. And what I love about the Marketing Cloud Trailblazer community is you ask a question. You’ll get six different people that are jumping in trying to help you solve it. And I’ve seen first hand where folks are like here’s my e-mail address, e-mail me directly and, you know, we can connect offline and the problem solved, right? So that’s number one. Whereas like the tribes of community, is they’re at your fingertips to help you? And it’s not just Marketing Cloud, product folks helping you. It’s the community helping you.

AL: Yeah, absolutely.

GH: Right. So that’s number one, number two is definitely go on and look through the Marketing Cloud Trails. There’s so many different trails available to help you better understand the various features, functionalities of the Marketing Cloud. So make it a point to go to trailblazer.com, and to take some of the trails that are available to help you walk through and understand what is available. How do I use it? What’s the benefit to using it? And it’s not just hard skills but there are also soft skills as well. And then other than that, you’ll find there are so many different amazing community members building. So that is continuing to help you up skill. You have Slack channel. There’s an, there’s an e-mail slack channel that is awesome. Hundreds of people are on there sharing best practices and I’ve even seen it where you’ll share a piece of code and say, I’m struggling. I don’t know why it’s working. 20 different people are helping you on this. And like I said, what I love is the here’s my phone number here’s my e-mail address, happy to help you. There’s Stack Exchange. There’s HowToSFMC. And there’s a lot of community members with some amazing blogs that again, it’s upskilling you.

AL: I love that you mentioned HowToSFMC because actually we had Gregory Gifford on one of the previous episodes.

GH: Yes. And Greg is part of, my committee, my crew. And what I love about the, HowToSFMC and this is a great example of, you know, a community seeing a need and saying, you know, what we’re gonna fill the gap. And the need was, you know, at some point, you know, your career trajectory from Marketing Cloud is I’m a newcomer? I’m just learning, right? Couple of years later, you’re like, okay, I’m now on that advanced trajectory level, right? And there, the HowToSFMC team is coming in. They’re saying we see a need to fill a gap in that gap is we want to do more deep dive at technical, how to stuff to help the community within the Marketing Cloud. So that’s one of the things I love about partnering with them. And they’re also helping me so that, you know, I’m aware of what are some of the things that the community, they like, my eyes and ears, right? What are some of the things that the community is interested about? All right? So whenever I have these events, I don’t just do it without approval from the community, right? I want to make sure that everything that I do it’s aligning what the community’s need. And then I’m not just, you know, running out in the wild doing things by myself, right? Right. No, the community means a lot to me. So I value everyone’s feedback.

AL: Great. And, and the sites Marketing Cloud resources and how to stay connected there specifically, just giving your extensive marketing experience. What would you recommend to marketers to stay up to date with a lot latest marketing trends in general?

GH: My God, that’s a great question. The way I stay is really through social media. And what I mean by that is like, I sign up to a lot of blogs, right? So there’s Twitter is number one, LinkedIn is another place, but litmus is another place where I sign up for the boss because I want to know, you know, what is the latest and the greatest, but there’s also additional blogs that I make sure that I log in. I sign up for their newsletters just so I stay up to date and know exactly what some of the features and functionalities that are coming out. 

All right. And then another favorite for me is like E-marketer, Love Marketer, I sign up to get the newsletters, Return Path is another favourite of mines where I want to make sure I know all the deliverability and can and all the changes. So, I make it a point to just sign up the newsletters and then, you know, whenever they have an upcoming webinar, I attend just to kinda stay in the loop and I encourage everybody to do the same thing too.

AL: All right now, as for Twitter, I’m personally curious because I really need to step up my Twitter game like, do you have any tips there and, is there anyone I should follow?

GH: You know, I, you know, years ago before my role at Salesforce, I don’t think I was big on Twitter. It’s like 160 carriers.

But, it has since, you know, since started working at Salesforce. It’s like been one of my favorite go to, you know, five o’clock in the morning. I wake up and on Twitter, right? Right? You know, because I love saying, I’ll call them the snippets of what people have to say, right? And a lot of times as, you know, eureka, I just figured out how to do, you know, and then it’s like three bullets, boom, but it’s short. It’s sweet and it’s straight to the point, right? It’s not a long paragraph. And what the beauty of that is, you can immediately reply way to go, you know, people getting certified and they post their certification that’s a great way to uplift and support and motivate that person and say, my God, great job keep going, you know, or if somebody didn’t pass their test, what I love is when they say, no, I didn’t pass, but, you know, I’m not gonna let that stop me, you know, 50 tweaks later. Everybody’s like, you know, motivating them to keep moving forward. You know, Twitter has become my number one go to just to hear what the community is doing and it’s my way of supporting them promoting them and being their advocate. So, I love Twitter. It’s just my think now I’m a tweet.

AL: I definitely have to look more into it but it’s certainly popular amongst Salesforce employees. I can tell maybe it has something to do with the fact that Mark Benioff at one point considered buying it and he’s an avid tweeter. I follow his tweet with, you know, great pleasure. So I think we can almost run up here. But do you have any closing thought that you would like to share with our audience today?

GH: You know, the one closing thought is, you know, never stop learning, right? And some people might say, well, that’s harder, you know, it’s easier to say than to do, but, you know, with the way that the community is today versus what it was, you know, 14 years ago, when I was sending my animated gift using fireworks, it’s completely different. Never stop learning. And, you know, make it a point to get comfortable with a community that’s all about love, caring and knowledge transfer, right? It’s something that I never thought I would experience. You know, when I started my career marketing and to see the way it has completely transition, right? Where even on Twitter, let me just go back to Twitter for one second. Even on Twitter, I’ve seen people say, you know, I’m having trouble, I, and then the community just jumps in and they volunteer to help, right? And it’s just to me just an example of how powerful we are as a unit then as a single person just trying to figure things out by themselves. So I encourage everybody to never stop learning and I encourage everybody to, you know, become a member of the community. Like you said, trouble is a marketing community, Slack, Stack Exchange, HowToSFMC, and be sure they also follow other Marketing Cloud advocates. You mentioned Greg Gifford before there’s Adam Sprigg, there’s, Elliot Harper, there’s Genna Matson… There’s so many great community leaders out there that are sharing blogs. They’re sharing, you know, their best practices advice. I see them as thought leaders in the community, follow them, right? And these are the folks that are willing to help out. So never feel embarrassed to reach out and ask for help.

AL: Great stuff, Guilda, and a really a great community. Of course, it was a pleasure having you for this interview and thank you so much for your time.

GH: Thank you for having me, it was my pleasure.

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