The value of being a community member with Guilda Hilaire from Salesforce

Video Recording: The value of being a community member with Guilda Hilaire from Salesforce

Watch the previous episode of Heroes of Marketing Cloud here.

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Transcript: The value of being a community member with Guilda Hilaire from Salesforce

Anthony: Hi Guilda, welcome to this series.

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

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

Guilda: So, my name is Guilda Hilaire and I am the Senior Product Marketing Manager at Salesforce. The community considers me as an agent or their handler. I focus primarily on Trailblazer Community programs for Marketing Cloud and Pardot.

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

Guilda: Well, I was a customer prior to joining Salesforce. I was actually a customer for over 14 years focused on ExactTarget which is now a Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform as a customer, you know, 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 where 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 you’re a legacy customer whether you’re a new customer, but you get that opportunity to feel like you’re not alone, you know on 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 got a lot of legacy users, they know it all, but you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, putting together these programs 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 functionality. So, it’s really building programs to bring the community together and educate the community.

Anthony: Yeah, then I would say that it’s working because I think that the communities really something unique to Salesforce’s open ecosystem where you do have that community feeling like people showing off with their badges and the certificate and what not, you mentioned you worked with ExactTarget prior to it being acquired by Salesforce. So, can you tell a little bit more about that era and how has it changed since the acquisition?

Guilda: Oh, well, definitely the platform has changed from the days and this is for the legacy users from the days of the WYSIWYG tool or ET1 and ET2 where we have now data extensions and journeys. 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 & Johnson and I was sending emails out for the IOC which is the International Olympic Committee 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 could go and submit questions and then kind of network with others right? I was on an island by myself. So, I feel like there are two big things that have evolved since you know, since the acquisition with 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 you think about StackExchange and Slack and the Trailblazer community and most important now you can get certified which didn’t exist before, right? You have all these different ways where you can upskill that didn’t exist 14 years ago when I started using the platform.

Anthony: That’s very interesting. But it was something you mentioned earlier that I sort of stumbled over you mentioned in ET1 there was a time before data extensions?

Guilda: Yes, it was! 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 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 when the email blaster was popular. Just upload and send, deliverability? 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, popping in popping out things that were flashing. I was using fireworks to create my animations, throw it in an email, spray, pray, upload a list, done.

Anthony: And one of those emails do you still have somewhere? Because that would be great if you could share that.

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

Anthony: Oh yeah, those were the wild ages of email design.

Guilda: Right?

Anthony: Well, if there are still some, we will be happy to post it on the website and share it with our viewers. I’m sure that people will recognize that time.

Guilda: I don’t mind sending it to you and putting “do not ever do this”. But this is just an example of how we all evolved. Especially if you know you’re 15-years in email marketing you are there at one point where you were sending wild animated gifs using fireworks and you were using ExactTarget you were using what they called the WYSIWYG tool, right?

Anthony: What you see is what you get.

Guilda: What you see is what you get, right! We weren’t worried about deliverability, about the CAN SPAM act, not 14 years ago.

Anthony: Right, who knew what a DNS was, right?

Guilda: It’s been wild! Now, if you think how platforms have evolved. The community has evolved where it’s more family style versus island style, you know where you’re not by yourself.

Anthony: Indeed, now if we fast forward to the time 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?

Guilda: 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 love using a 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 roadmap 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, Scott McCorkle, Scott Dorcey, you know, Chip House, DP. Say “Hi, I’m Guilda from this company. 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 this Customer Advisory Board or the user group studies or voice of the 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 love is that they kept their promise to me and they made me aware of the road map where things were going and it wasn’t salesy at all. It was always more informational and it allowed me to feel closer and connected with the brand.

Anthony: Right, it’s not about pushing new features. It’s a conversation that you have.

Guilda: It is a conversation. The other thing is that it allowed me to network with others. Because you remember back then we didn’t have user groups, we didn’t have communities, we just started scratching the surface on what they are calling an Interactive Marketing Hub and user groups, right? They just started scratching the surface when I started joining these Customer Advisory boards. 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.

Anthony: Oh, and I can testify that those user groups work very well in different regions, but I’m a member of both Belgian and Dutch user groups. In one of them, they even have WhatsApp groups and people just chat there and have laughs so it really works.

Guilda: Mhm, it does, it really does.

Anthony: You mentioned that essentially people listened to you when you gave input. One thing that was picked up on and delivered that you felt “I am happy that I was able to contribute to that and give input on that”?

Guilda: The one thing that I can remember was when they were launching the Interactive Marketing Cloud hub platform and we had an off-site where they presented to us a division of Interactive Marketing Hub. And I remember I was a part of the user group, you know, we went through our use cases we were totally unbiased, you know, we were never biased because we have never seen the platform before.

They didn’t tell us beforehand what they were showing us. We kind of just logged in and they just said, you know just walk through some of the steps and then it was after we walked through all these steps and logged on a machine. That’s when they said, you know, so what did you guys feel about that experience? And we sure didn’t ask and 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 like all that’s about, it didn’t have their brand or anything which is a great way for them to get unbiased feedback because we thought it was a competitor site. We thought it was a customer website, but it was actually a community site that they were building and when it finally released and launched it a lot of the feedback from the user group from part of the Customer Advisory Board was part of the platform.

Anthony: So just to make this right. It was literally a session when you went into an office, they put you in front of the computer and then they showed you something?

Guilda: Yes, 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. It had a couple of things that they wanted us to do just kind of navigate by ourselves. They gave us, you know, 45 minutes to walk the navigation again on completely unbranded and it was after the 45 minutes they asked us to write questions, concerns. That’s when they shared with us this is what they’re thinking of launching for the Interactive Marketing Hub.

Anthony: That’s awesome. That was organized probably by the product development side of Salesforce organization.

Guilda: Correct.

Anthony: Alright. If we look at more recent features because there have been a few great releases. Are there other features that you are really excited about that you think the customers should be using?

Guilda: 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 create what I’ll call a tree branch, 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 collected from them. It’s not like Automation Studio where you’re sending an on one linear path. When with Journey Builder you can send an email you can send an SMS message you could push them, you can even send them to a call center, right? I think for me it’s when that launched 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 features that exist is the ability to map out the different branches that you want to take your customer. And this is all based on information that you’ve collected on them, information that you collected in real-time. I remember I worked for an organization where the developers built a robodial and the robodial was part of one of the branches for the customers journey where they would automatically send a customer through their phone or text message reminding them of an upcoming appointment.

And in addition to that another path on the journey if it wasn’t the robodial was here’s an email, right, here is a call center, right, here’s a newsletter. And it 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 or an architect, if your channel marketer if your 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.

Anthony: I remember, actually attending a partner community event that was I learned to refer to the Journey Builder as the heart of Marketing Cloud, it’s even visualized like that often.

Guilda: Correct. And the other thing with Journey Builder is you can pull in other Marketing Cloud features and functionalities like Einstein optimization, right? Service Cloud, Sales Cloud, so when you think about Journey Builder it’s not a single stand-alone tool, but all these other new features and new functionalities that are being launched out of Marketing Cloud. You can tag all of those into one single journey of that customer. Again, it’s not a new feature but it’s still one of these features that excites me. 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 have all that plethora of data that you can take and now you can strategize what worked, what didn’t work, what’s the next step? How do we keep our customer engaged and involved, right?

Anthony: Oh, that great, obviously we at DESelect think that Marketing Cloud is a great platform to build on because that’s what we’re doing. But what do you think of new independent software vendors or ISVs as they are commonly referred to? How can they provide the most value to the platform today?

Guilda: And 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 platforms are always continuing to evolve especially, I should know these 4 to 6 releases per year. So, things are always changing, things are always evolving and I’ve always said it myself, there’s no offense everybody, there is no certification. There’s no amount of legacy users that can ever 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 constantly have to push yourself, right? To be ready to be uncomfortable with raising our hands and saying “you know what while I never I never thought about this. I never knew that I could do that.” Shout out to them, they know who they are. And when I have these events, I brainstorm with them because these are legacy users. There’s some that are four-time Marketing Cloud MVPs, they are Marketing Champions some you’ve worked with.

Anthony: We are having some of them on our series.

Guilda: And sometimes we come together, and we’re like okay what about this topic? You think this is something we should talk about and for them to say, you know, what? I never even use this feature. Like I actually want to have somebody from the 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 what my favorite phrases never stop learning.

And so that’s the only feedback that I would give to any ISVs 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 onion was made, right? 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 to the schedule and make sure that you know, you understand how the onion is made so that you can now turn around and help support your clients and your customers.

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

Guilda: You know when the pandemic started like I honestly just froze and you know, I struggled with what to do, do I stop what I’m doing? So just to go back a bit prior to you know, when you know before the pandemic started. I was actually supposed to go on a 10-city tour just to meet with Trailblazers and customers and to have a conversation with them to help understand how I can help you? I am a people person, everybody knows, I love my community, you know, most of the community they have my phone number, they have my email address. I make myself really available to everybody.

So, going on the tour was just to really get a deeper inside a better understanding of the community needs to when the pandemic started everything stopped. I kind of stopped and didn’t know what to 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. I remember the one thing that I did is I actually reached out to the community, right, to get their support and take to get their understanding. Do you guys still think I should stop? Or should we still be going? And they said “no, people need distraction”, especially now, right, to think about it. If you are home alone, right? You can’t go outside. You can’t network in person, you’re not near your family. Somebody said to me still being able to connect virtually whether it’s you know, whether it’s the webinars whether it’s a happy hour, whether it’s a virtual movie night, whatever you can do to get that person’s mind off of the current situation is the best thing that you can do the 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 probably got like 4 hours of sleep per night. I’m usually up around 4 or 5 a.m. and I contact Trailblazers that outside the US I’ll text them, I’ll send them WhatsApp messages, I’m on Slack. Messaging “hey, how are you, how are you doing, do you need anything how can I help you with that?” 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 you wouldn’t even realize it unless you did it.

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

Guilda: Continuing to do the virtual sessions that I’m doing because 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 other 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 when you go to Connections you go to learn about new product features you’re going to learn here from others about best practices tips and tricks how they’re using the platform the most importantly you go to network and by having these events. I wanted everyone to still feel like it’s just a virtual connection every two weeks. Guilda’s having a virtual connection let’s join.

Anthony: Oh, we definitely should put the link in the description of this video for our viewers. You also mentioned learning. A lot of our listeners are quite experienced in SFMC 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 I stay connected with Trailblazers?

Guilda: That is a great question because 14 years ago I didn’t have that. You know one of the advice that I would give to you all newcomers, right, people that are just as crawling their way inside the Marketing Cloud be willing to connect with others, right? There are times where you start learning something and you get frustrated, but it never occurred to you that there other resources out there, for example, Marketing Cloud Trailblazer Community, it’s on 24/7 there 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 and solve it. Here’s what I’ve seen like here’s my email address email me directly and you know, we can connect offline and then problem solved right?

So that’s number one, the Trailblazer community is there at your fingertips to help you and it’s not just Marketing Cloud products folks helping you. It’s the community helping you, 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 and functionalities of the Marketing Cloud. So make it a point to go to (editor’s note) to take some of the trails that are available to help you 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 they’re also soft skills as well. And then other than that, you’ll find there are so many different amazing community members building sites that have continued to help you upscale. You have Slack channel.

There’s an email Slack channel that is awesome. Hundreds of people are on there sharing their best practices and I have seen it where you’ll share a piece of code that “I’m struggling with…I don’t know why it’s not working” 20 different people helping you on this and like I said what I love is but this is my phone number this is my email address happy to help you there’s StackExchange, there’s HowToSFMC and there’s a lot of community members with some amazing blogs that again. It’s upskilling you.

Anthony: I love that you mentioned HowToSFMC, because we just had Gregory Gifford on one of the previous episodes.

Guilda: Right, and Greg is part of my committee, my crew.

Anthony: I guessed so.

Guilda: What I love about HowToSFMC it is a great example of you know, a community seeing a need and saying you know what we’re going to 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. Couple of years later, I’m now on an advanced trajectory level. And there’s the HowToSFMC team coming and saying we want to fill the gap and I got this we want to do deeper dive at technical stuff. 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 right? So, whenever I have these events, I don’t just do it without approval from the community, right? I wanted to make sure that everything that I do is aligning with the communities’ needs and then I’m not just you know running out in the wild doing things by myself. So, I value everyone’s feedback.

Anthony: So, asides from Marketing Cloud resources and staying there connected, particularly, just giving your extensive marketing experience what would you recommend marketers to stay up to date with the latest marketing trends in general?

Guilda: Oh 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, LinkedIn’s another place but Litmus is another place where I signed up for because I wanted to know what is the latest and the greatest but there’s also additional blogs that I make sure that I login. I sign up for the newsletters just so I stay up to date. I know exactly when some of the features and functionalities that are coming out.

Anthony: Right, I read Litmus’ report on the best Email Service Providers, so we know who that is.

Guilda: Right. And then another favorite for me is eMarketer, I signed up to get the newsletters. Return Path is another favorite of mine when I want to make sure I know all there is to know about deliverability and CAN SPAM and all that changes. So, I make it a point to just sign up to these newsletters and then you know, whenever they have an upcoming webinar. I attend just to stay in the loop, and I encourage everybody to do the same thing, too. Years ago, before my role in Salesforce I wouldn’t say I was big on Twitter.

Anthony: I’m the same, I still don’t get it fully.

Guilda: I’m like, what can I get out of Twitter? Since I started working at Salesforce, it’s been one of my favorite go-to, you know 5 in the morning I wake up and I’m on Twitter.

Anthony: Oh really? Wow.

Guilda: Because I love seeing I’ll call them snippets of what people have to say. Right and a lot of time that’s all you know, Eureka. “I just figured out how to do…” you know, and then it’s like three bullets, but it’s short it’s sweet and it’s straight to the point right is not a long paragraph. And the beauty of that is you could immediately reply “way to go!”, you know there are a lot of people getting certified and they post certifications. That’s a great way to uplift and support and motivate that person and say “oh my God, great job, keep going”. You know, 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 going to let that stop me” you know, 52 weeks later everybody’s like motivating them to keep moving forward. You know, Twitter has become my number one go-to just to see here what the community’s doing and it’s my way of supporting them, promoting them and being their advocate. So, I love Twitter. It’s just my thing now. I’m a Tweet Girl.

Anthony: I definitely have to look more often on that, but it’s certainly very popular amongst Salesforce employees. Maybe it’s connected with the fact that at some point Marc Benioff has considered buying it. And he has a Twitter and, you know, I follow his Tweets with great pleasure. So, I think we can round up here, but do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share with our audience today?

Guilda: You know, one closing thought is, you know, never stop learning, right? And some people might suppose 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 and I was sending my animated gifs using fireworks, it’s completely different.

Never stop learning and, you know, make it a point to get comfortable with the community that’s all about loving, caring and knowledge transfer, right? It’s something that I never thought I would experience. You know, when I started my career in email marketing and to see the way it has completely transitioned, right? When even on Twitter, I just go back to Twitter for one second. Even on Twitter I’ve seen people say, you know, “I’m having trouble with..” and then the community just jumps in and they volunteer to help, right? It’s just to me just an example of how powerful we are as a unit than as a single person. Just trying to figure things out by themselves, so I encourage, it’s to never stop learning and I encourage everybody to, you know, become a member of the community. Like you said Trailblazer community, Slack, StackExchange, HowToSFMC, and make sure to also follow other Marketing Cloud Advocates, you mentioned Greg Gifford before there’s Adam Spriggs, there’s Elliot Harper, you know, there’s Corrina Cohen, there’s Jeanna Matson, there’s Zuzanna, there’s Mark.

There are so many great community leaders out there that are sharing blogs. They’re sharing 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.

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

Guilda: Thank you for having me. That’s my pleasure.

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