Outcomes are often a product of our outlook. In this final episode of our series on empathy and relevance in B2B marketing, we hear musician and filmmaker Kishi Bashi reflect on his decade-long development as an artist. We’re interested to know how listening to the stories of others has affected his approach to the creative process. We’ll also speak with Microsoft’s Keith Pranghofer about developing these same qualities in account-based marketing.
[00:00:00] Hiromi: Most of us would admit that our actions are heavily influenced by our attitude, whether we drag our feet or have a spring in our step. Is our attitude informed by real-life experience or a lack thereof? In this final episode in the pseries, we hear musician and filmmaker Kishi Bashi reflect on his decade-long development as an artist. We're interested to know how listening to the stories of others has affected his outlook. We'll also speak with Microsoft's Keith Pranghofer about developing these same qualities in ABM. This is a podcast about communication, marketing, and the account-based mindset. This
[00:00:39] is REACH.
[00:00:41] Well, thanks so much for joining us today on our final episode, Exploring the Mindsets of Empathy and Relevance. My name is Romy, and I'm joined today by CEO and Agency Founder Jaycen Thorgeirson.
[00:00:54] Jaycen: Welcome. Glad to have you,
[00:00:54] Hiromi: And Chief Creative Officer Garrett Krinsky.
[00:00:57] Garret: I'm excited about today.
[00:00:59] Hiromi: You know, we've had some incredible guests in this series starting, of course, with Kishi Bashi. It was so nice of him to share his story with us. I know this isn't his [laughs] typical podcast, but I'm so glad that he did because Tom Sarig, his manager, had some super interesting insights about the parallels in the music industry. A lot of listeners responded really well to what Justin Bariso had to say about emotional intelligence, and Q Superville from Transmission had some really great anecdotes about showing empathy for relevant marketing too.
[00:01:26] Garret: You know, as Q mentioned in his interview, if you're talking to everyone, you're talking to no one. Just talk to one person. That's where the success is. I hadn't thought about it before I heard Q's interview, but that's really what it's about is getting down into that one-to-one level, which i- isn't that ABM? [laughs] You know, that's exactly what we're talking about a- and having that intimate moment, is that what customers want from a brand, from a product? There's humanity in that conversation.
[00:01:54] Jaycen: And maybe it was Tom that said it in episode 13 about what people are expecting from a musician today is not just the music either, right? Intimacy in terms of performance is one thing, but we're, we're living in a, in a digital era, right? And so, they want access to that artist, what they think. They want access to what they're doing. They want, they want special access, right? So, I, I thought-
[00:02:21] Garret: Yeah.
[00:02:21] Jaycen: ... that's kinda interesting too as we're thinking about this idea of relevancy, especially in our day and age is, is how do we show up in the right way for individuals? Even the content that's put out, does it look authentic, or does it look too polished? You know, like-
[00:02:41] Garret: Mm-hmm.
[00:02:41] Jaycen: Uh, y- we see, uh, what performs [laughs] better actually, his content that's not cut up all beautifully. These should be candid conversations. How do people see more of us? They should see that through our mistakes, and that's what people are drawn to. So, I think that is a way of showing up in a relevant way because that's what people expect.
[00:02:58] Hiromi: I suppose that can be an adjustment for ourselves too as we maybe reconsider our personal or corporate brand, to consider less of our own image and more of the value that we bring to others. K told me when we were talking that he felt those growing pains personally. He said he's still the same person, but he's emerged from the last 10 years with a fresh perspective and motivation.
[00:03:20] Kishi Bashi: I think for any artist's growth or personal growth of any kind if you're a business owner or whatever, you have to keep trying new things 'cause I'm of the philosophy that if you do something for several years, you're gonna be good at it enough to the point that it could be a part of your career. And so if you're passionate about something, if you stick to it, you're gonna achieve a level of mastery and experience that people will want. And so with documentary filmmaking, you know, this is my first foray.
[00:03:49] [inaudible 00:03:49]
[00:03:49] [singing] And in the beginning, I was really bad at interviewing people, [singing] and I was not a very articulate person. I'm not a documentarian, you know? I've been pretty involved in my music videos, and I love animation. I've directed some animation before, [singing] but just a history doc by itself is difficult to get into, you know? You have to be in a
[00:04:07] Garret: certain mindset.
[00:04:07] Announcer: The following program is a collaboration between the council of-
[00:04:10] Kishi Bashi: When it includes music, I feel like it makes it easier. So, I, I guess like the idea of song film, [singing] it's like a new medium that I'm trying to create here, so it's about music and history together. [singing] It's tricky because is it a music documentary? Or is it a history documentary? Or is it something, you know, it's a social documentary? [singing] And I think it's all three.
[00:04:31] I'm making an album [singing], and with it comes a story, a story without an ending. [singing]
[00:04:41] It's not about being angry about the past or being disillusioned. [singing] It's about cherishing your humanity and really getting to the root of what caused these problems, [singing] to understand them and then to move on and to unify. Whatever you do has to come from a place of love. At the end of the day, you should be able to forgive one another and just move on, and then do your best to protect everybody.
[00:05:04] In the past five years, after making this movie, Omoiyari, I'm just like, w- way more woke [laughs] than I was before because I've been studying racism and marginalization for like past four years, like pretty heavily, and so I'm a more mature artist, more accountable myself. [laughs] I'm still the same person. I'm curious to see how it will affect me. I'm definitely less selfish, I think. I think I used to be making music about anything I wanted. Now, I understand I have a b- bigger responsibility, so yeah, I'm a little more emotionally mature these days.
[00:05:46] Garret: There's a personal note here about being a musician, I wanna create art for me, and hopefully, someone sees something in that, but then he grew into listening first and then creating art to further that conversation and I feel like personally, as marketers, it's like, we have to grow beyond just being a visual artist versus a designer versus a marketer who listens and then responds with compassion.
[00:06:17] Hiromi: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:19] Garret: And maybe, to me, that's the growth trajectory. Personally, I think, coming from art direction and creative direction towards crafting things that resonate and that show empathy.
[00:06:30] Hiromi: Yeah, that is a universally crucial transition that I think every designer needs to submit to. You know, you start with that motivation to express yourself, but eventually, you really need to let go of your personal motivations and absorb the motivation of your client.
[00:06:45] Garret: I feel like too, then, the challenge as a creative is having ideas and coming to a client with an idea versus developing [laughs] something after you listened. Like, I'm guilty of this all the time. I hear the client, I hear the brief, I come to the brief meeting with a fully baked idea in my mind.
[00:07:05] Hiromi: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:05] Garret: And then, how do I fit what they're saying into my fully baked idea, you know? [laughs]
[00:07:10] Hiromi: Yeah. Uh, do you, do you think that that comes from seeing a repeating pattern of needs over time and then developing a kind of knee-jerk reaction or assumption based on that past experience? Because a part of that is, is actually taught, right? And we're always looking for ways to apply frameworks to problems, you know, marketing mix, four P's whatever, right?
[00:07:31] Jaycen: Maybe we have like this overarching framework that we know, it's going to connect with, with most of our target audience, but this framework of the four Ps of product, price, promotion partnership, that was back in the '40s that this framework was developed? Now, personalization is there. So, in account-based marketing, how do we now get really granular with those drivers, personal and professional with the individuals that we wanna connect with? Having some empathy of understanding their situation, their motives, what's driving them, and showing up in that way, it becomes highly relevant now. We've taken a story that connects with a broader audience and now made it just for them.
[00:08:14] Hiromi: Yeah, so let's try to resolve a few of these lingering questions about applying these principles in an account-based environment specifically. We're excited to have a veteran ABM-er with us today, Keith Pranghofer.
[00:08:26] Keith Pranghofer: Awesome. Thanks, Jaycen. Thanks, Romy. Nice to meet you both.
[00:08:28] Jaycen: Yeah. Welcome, Keith. Can you give us, uh, maybe a little bit about your role and who you're working with?
[00:08:33] Keith Pranghofer: Yeah. I work at Microsoft, and I spent my career, last 15 years, in account-based marketing but currently, work with large ISV partners, really focused on driving long-term transformation, leveraging the cloud, so it's not just how we're gonna go to market as a single organization, but how do you go to market with another billion-dollar company? It's, it's a lot of fun.
[00:08:56] Jaycen: Very cool. How'd you get into account-based marketing specifically, like, where did, where did that journey start?
[00:09:02] Keith Pranghofer: Yeah, at Microsoft, I led field marketing for a consulting services business, and think about where ABM really originated from was back in the consulting world, and they need to know their customers deeper and be able to build a broader portfolio of business. So, that's how I got connected into it through the IT services Marketing Association or ITSMA about 12 years ago, and then it's moved into product and now into partnerships.
[00:09:29] Jaycen: So, now, your, y- ISV. Help our listeners. What does that stand for?
[00:09:33] Keith Pranghofer: Independent software vendors.
[00:09:35] Jaycen: Okay.
[00:09:35] Keith Pranghofer: So, I guess Microsoft's an ISV. If you have a SaaS solution running up in the cloud-
[00:09:40] Jaycen: Yep.
[00:09:41] Keith Pranghofer: ... you can be an ISV.
[00:09:42] Jaycen: Got it.
[00:09:43] So, we're talking right now about this idea of relevance is this mindset of relevance, and a- as we're talking to a musician currently, this idea of being relevant plays a key role in music, connecting with an audience and likely find that maybe similar as a marketer, how do we connect with our audience, you know?
[00:10:06] Keith Pranghofer: Yeah. I use the analogy from the movie Inception. I love that movie, and i- in the film, Leonardo DiCaprio is a thief, right, he's a professional thief that goes out and steals corporate secrets, but he gets into the subconscious of his targets, right, these people that he's going after.
[00:10:23] And, to me, e- there's two things that bleed into that, is I'm not out there to take corporate secrets, but I'm out there to win mindshare. And so, relevance isn't just, ah, did I get the message right or the content or the specific event, but it's this experience where I'm able to not just understand what my customer or who I'm trying to serve wants right now, but like, what do they dream to accomplish?
[00:10:49] Or what do they dream to accomplish for their end customers? And how do I become part of that dream or help shape it? To me, that is true relevance because then I have mindshare, and I have preference. With those two things, you can do a lot of good for yourself and your customers.
[00:11:08] Jaycen: Like, w- m- what enables you to do that? How do you gain that share of mind in our target audience?
[00:11:15] Keith Pranghofer: Yeah, it- there's a myriad, yeah, of tools but for me, it's access. So, getting in and actually spending time with your clients or your customers, getting to know their end customers. So, how do I get to know and be embedded with that customer? How do I get to have conversations with them? How do I get to build with them? And even then talk with their end customers, go to their events, go to their stores, experience it. To me, those are the things that really allow you to bring relevance and gain that mindshare that I think differentiates marketers that do it great versus marketers that do it really good.
[00:11:59] Hiromi: Yeah. W- Could you describe what that time spent is accomplishing? Like, what are you looking for when you make these visits?
[00:12:07] Keith Pranghofer: Well, listening is a lot of it, but I- I'll tell a story of actually one of my employees that did such a great job of ... He actually went to a bank that we were working with, and he spent time going actually into the bank as an end customer, not online, not go into the ATM, but actually went to the teller stand just to take out money, cash a cheque. So, he went to the step of actually seeing, like, what does the physical experience look like? What are the human interactions that the employees at that customer are giving to their end customers? And so, it was more lived experience versus having to go and come with a set of questions and hear the things I'm gonna go probe but to actually go in and breathe that experience of going into a bank and hearing him explaining his process and how he did that really brought that to life.
[00:12:59] I mean, no, you can't go do that everywhere but to me, it's not necessarily coming in with a set agenda but actually living that experience that an end customer is gonna give you insight that you could just bring back to that client that you're going after. That's gonna help you build a rapport that you wouldn't be able to do by asking questions that are like, what's your customer churn rate? Or what's your ideal customer profile? What's your business challenges? What keeps you up at night? Like, actually coming in and saying, "Hey, like, this is how I felt coming into your bank," right, whether that was good or bad, is gonna unlock new conversations where you get to just listen and explore, so gu- experience how that brand shows up in the market.
[00:13:37] Jaycen: Yeah, I love that because it's like, how do you stay relevant in the minds of your audience? That takes understanding them, having empathy for our audience. What do you think are some of the barriers that we have to demonstrating genuine empathy for our, our ideal audience or ideal customer?
[00:14:00] Keith Pranghofer: Yeah, I think one of the things that is a barrier is access, and probably our own comfort level in asking to have that access and permission. So, very specifically in account-based, oftentimes, we rely on the sales team to be our messenger or our v- the voice of the customer back to us. So, I think in some ways, we hold ourselves back as marketers and doing it well, being able to go out a little bit on the limb and push and s- h- say, "Hey, look. I wanna go be part of the conversation. I wanna go lead that conversation." Coming out on the office and engaging in the same way a salesperson would with their customers is one of the barriers as- and, uh, where we operate today in terms of being so virtual and remote, I think that creates a new barrier where we are all rushed for time. We wanna get to the insights. We don't wanna bother people, and then the other barrier is I think just the amount of information and what is meaningful and what is not. How do you sift through all that and find the time to actually pull out the nuggets so that you can respond with, as you said, empathy, right?
[00:15:12] Garret: It is challenging.
[00:15:13] Jaycen: Yeah, challenging. This was like- s- super challenging. I think even just this remote environment, that makes it even more challenging. [laughs]
[00:15:21] Hiromi: Mm-hmm.
[00:15:22] Jaycen: And, uh, what I'm finding too, is just being able to resume getting back in person with customers, it's been so valuable, right, because they're just l- little things we just can't pick up on even on a video chat, or call or text or whatever.
[00:15:35] Keith Pranghofer: Yeah, to get to Buddhist story that goes along the lines of, if you're walking down a path and actually see somebody that has a rock on him, and you're there like, "Oh, that must be really painful. I have empathy for you," but then taking that next step to say, "Let me help move that rock off you," that's actually showing compassion, so it's that empathy and action. I think many of us don't take that step towards what's the action to be able to bring together a great experience or put on a great show. N- It goes back to, I think, time and access.
[00:16:07] Jaycen: Yeah. It seems like sometimes, it's just ourselves, you know, getting out of our, I think [laughs] getting out of our way in, in one way or another, right?
[00:16:13] Garret: Getting a level of immersion where you get-
[00:16:16] Jaycen: Yeah, that's true.
[00:16:16] Garret: ... that insight allows you to not only be relevant because personas get us relevant, right? Roles get us relevant, but now, displaying empathy, being compassionate and action to go along with the feeling is so key, i- immersing yourself in the concerns of the clients.
[00:16:35] Jaycen: Yeah. There's this other idea of even timing, right? Sometimes, it's, it's the right time. Sometimes, it's the wrong time. What role does timing play in all of this?
[00:16:44] Keith Pranghofer: Yeah. Y- no journey is the same, and it's never straight even as much as we wanna put it into a linear sales cycle. So, timing, yes, is so important, but I would say, like, don't let yourself feel like you're too late to the game to come and participate. Dive in and go make it happen versus hold back because people are always continually evaluating these days, but I'd go back. One other thing, I think, where everybody's missing the opportunity is that we spend so much time on the internal connection.
[00:17:15] Jaycen: Mm-hmm.
[00:17:15] Keith Pranghofer: And you will never be able to demonstrate empathy for spending all your time on the internal alignment without saying, "All right, now, how do we bring the customer into the fold?" I think the most important part is the customer.
[00:17:27] Jaycen: Yeah.
[00:17:27] Hiromi: That circles back, I think, to your whole emphasis on access then, right, because that is often the layer that we maybe don't get access to. We've talked about it in the past, how there is a level of vulnerability to getting access to the customer because you are asking questions that paint your immediate client as not having all the answers '
[00:17:51] Garret: cause, again, we are talking about, in most cases, prospects that we're talking to. So, what's the best way to gain that perspective, you know, without that ability to necessarily sit in the room with someone?
[00:18:02] Keith Pranghofer: I think trying to understand your sales teams or your business development folks, where are they struggling, and come back to think about h- how you might be able to help them solve some of those challenges. So, it may not be immediately getting access to the customer, but it might be, all right, how do I help solve some of the challenges that they may be experiencing and bringing ideas to the table? Whether that's they're trying to get a meeting with a certain buyer that they know is gonna be influential, or they're struggling to land a message, or how they're gonna show up through a proposal or through some executive meeting. I think bringing solutions and ideas of how you, you can enable them to be better because he would build you a champion with that person to then start to introduce the access to the customer. So, I think that's one way of trying to think about it as a stepping stone if your blocker is internally.
[00:18:56] I think to your point of externally, I, I go back to like actually bringing back the experience that you may have had with that customer, that lived experience of their brand, or that they give their end customer, bringing that back to them. You wanna c- overcome that external barrier if you can't get in. You have to bring them something that's meaningful. They just don't wanna hear the same old pitch. Bring them something that's meaningful that you've experienced or seen, I, I pretty much guarantee you that's gonna get somebody listening, and it might be somebody that you didn't think cares in that buy-in center or i- in that organization someplace. It's gonna open up other opportunities and other conversations.
[00:19:34] Hiromi: I like that.
[00:19:34] Jaycen: Any other, like, tools, strategies, books, resources you feel that would be helpful for other marketers and maybe even around this idea of relevance that has helped you do it, you know- yeah. ... better?
[00:19:45] Keith Pranghofer: You know, I think, for me, it's building the network and having conversations with peers in your industry or your function-
[00:19:54] Jaycen: Yep.
[00:19:54] Keith Pranghofer: ... and spending the time to do that, learning from others, even reading with my kids. To me, as I try to teach my kids, I realized there's something I can take out of that, right? And you think about relevance and the, how you have to bubble down what can be really complex topics into something that a child can understand. It's been neat with my kids. Like, I'm learning a lot just through them, and, uh, i- it's really today where I learn the most. And I would encourage others to try to prioritize the time around that.
[00:20:23] Jaycen: I love that. No, that's great. Like, i- if you were to look back on your younger self, give him advice that will c- help you in your role, what would you say to your younger self 15 years back, knowing what you know?
[00:20:36] Keith Pranghofer: Two things. One, don't overthink it. If you think there's something that needs to be said, say it, right? Say it with kindness. Say it with empathy and compassion, but say it. Don't overthink it. And then the second thing is oftentimes, we go through life, and we have experiences, and we think something went wrong, or we didn't show up our best. And we tell this story to ourselves of, you know, I could have done it better this way, or I really upset that person when in reality, none of that happened. You just told that story yourself, and you've spent so much time and energy and in many ways, breaking yourself down. That wasn't necessary. So, I started to ask people if I felt I struggled on something, "Hey, like, this is what I'm telling myself, like, how do you feel about it?" And 99% of the time, that's, that's not what happened.
[00:21:30] And it happened on a partner call that I was on three weeks ago, where I had said something I thought, oh, that wasn't the right thing to say. I think I've derailed this meeting, and I followed back up with our development manager. His response was, "That was awesome. It was a great call. We're moving things forward." And even though it's just 30 minutes, I, I created all this stress and anxiety for myself that, that wasn't needed, and all that energy gone, so those are the two things. Don't overthink it. Don't let your own mind get in the way and create stories that aren't there.
[00:22:08] Garret: So, I think Keith mentioned it best when he talked about access, and to me, access is the challenge.
[00:22:17] Hiromi: Yeah.
[00:22:19] Garret: And so, as a big takeaway, this is the honest discussion with our clients, how much access can we get? And then, we can set an expectation for what this thing is actually gonna do. So, that's the key to me is understanding how much access we can have, gaining that access, getting what we need from it, and then building around that in our messaging, in our content, in our craft, in the pieces we put out into the world.
[00:22:47] Jaycen: Yeah. There's a challenge in terms of gaining access to maybe key decision makers, influencers that affect a company decision, but there's also this challenge of access to the actual customer as well. So, s- a lot of times, we may be relying on the insights provided by maybe tools. We may be relying on insights provided by the frontline, maybe their field marketers, maybe their, uh, sales executives, et cetera, which are all beneficial, but can we go that extra step and put ourselves there?
[00:23:22] Hiromi: Hmm.
[00:23:22] Jaycen: I think a, a common tenant through this entire discussion is this idea of being consultative, right, in their approach, and that's really, i- one, being an expert, but it's also kinda taking that listening position, identifying truly what that problem is before presenting as we've discussed the solution. So, can we go that extra step? If at all possible, we should because we're going to have the most relevant empathetic communication possible.
[00:23:50] Hiromi: There's an underlying mindset here too, I think, in valuing the perspectives of others, right, seeing others in a different way, working on our attitude, and I appreciate how honest Kishi Bashi was about that journey.
[00:24:03] Kishi Bashi: [singing] I feel like despite what we've gone through as human beings, [ singing] we're still getting better and better. [singing] It's still better to be alive now than it ever has been. It's like that two steps forward, one step back kinda thing. We're always going forward. So, let's just keep staying positive and, uh, do everything from a place of love. I think we'll be headed in the right direction.
[00:24:46] Hiromi: Thanks again to K Ishibashi for providing the story for this series. If you wanna learn more about his new documentary, Omoiyari, visit omoiyarisongfilm.com. We'd also like to thank our friends over at Ikigai Stories for collaborating with us on this piece. If you like inspiring stories that highlight the journey toward purpose, visit ikigailab.co. I've thrown some hard URLs at you there. We'll have links in the show notes.
[00:25:19] You know, we've talked at length in this series about the need to really listen to our audience, but how do we get them talking? In our next series, we're gonna take a journey to the future with education platform founder, Chris Do, who's gonna talk to us about the value of involvement. We'll hear from neuroscience researchers, authors, experts in Socratic reasoning, and, yes, marketers on how to guide meaningful conversations to favorable outcomes. You're gonna wanna hit that Subscribe button because we want you with us next time on REACH.