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October 03, 2023

Leveraging Mindfulness as a Remote Leader, Generating Demand in 2023 Using AI, and Not Gating Content With Angela Cope of Softchoice

In this episode, Jeanna welcomes Angela Cope, Director of Demand Gen at Softchoice, to discuss mindfulness in remote work and the future of marketing.

Angela Cope is the Director of Demand Generation at Softchoice, an IT solutions company providing services such as cloud migration, IT asset management, and generative AI insights. With over 10 years in the B2B tech industry, Angela has utilized her talents and marketing skills at The Mezzanine Group, TechWyse, and SHI International. She is the Founder and Chair of the Pink Ballers Ladies Golf Tournament, an annual event designed to encourage women and promote a healthy mindset. Angela is also a former Board Member at WiSH by SHI International, a project connecting and celebrating the diversity of women in technology, and at Softchoice Cares, a community outreach initiative fostering social awareness and change. 

 

 

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • How to stay productive in a remote-first setting
  • The importance of trust within a team
  • How to use the Rule of 7 to communicate effectively
  • How to excel as a remote leader
  • How (and which) mindfulness techniques can help you stay focused 
  • The importance of using AI to generate demand
  • The reasons why you shouldn’t be gating all your content

In this episode…

Mindful leadership is especially crucial in navigating challenging and uncertain scenarios. But how can leaders ensure effective communication, foster creative collaboration, and manage stress?

Angela Cope, a respected business leader, sheds light on this subject in this episode of Remotely Cultured. As the Director of Demand Generation at Softchoice, Angela shares valuable insights on leading mindfully in a remote work setting, and introduces five cornerstone practices for leaders: communication, accountability, respect, staying curious, and acknowledging that not every day is "game day."

Angela stresses the importance of communication and fostering a learning environment where seeking help is encouraged, thereby nurturing a confident and creative culture. She also highlights the reality that productivity levels can vary—and offers some tips to help remote workers stay productive throughout the day.

In this enlightening episode, Angela delves into the unique challenges faced by remote workers, explores the "Rule of 7," and offers strategies for excelling as a remote leader. Tune in to gain a deeper understanding of mindful leadership and discover practical tips for navigating the remote working landscape.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Transcript: 

Jeanna: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Remotely Cultured. I'm your host Jeanna calling in from Roatán, Honduras where I run FPS and host this podcast. This episode is brought to you by First Page Strategy. At FPS, we use data and big ideas to produce exponential growth for product-led brands who need to nail their acquisition goals and want to work with a flexible, non-traditional agency. For example, in one year, we've grown a client's total revenue 197% their organic revenue by 300% and their paid revenue by over 1,000%. If you're a SaaS, FinTech, or startup and need to hit your 2023 high-growth acquisition goals, check us out at firstpagestrategy.com Today on the podcast we have with us Angela Cope. Angela is the Director of Demand Generation at Softchoice. In June 2022, she moved from downtown Toronto to the woods of Nova Scotia with her husband, Derek, and her dog, Enoch. Did I get that right?

Angela: Yeah, you got it!

Jeanna: All right! Welcome, Angela. Nova Scotia, that's so fun and unique. I love when we, you know, we're a little bit new in the podcast here so we have so far someone calling in every day from a new remote location, but tell me a little bit about Nova Scotia. Like what and why and how you ended up there, what was kind of your vision and all of that? 

Angela: Yeah, absolutely. And thanks for having me on the show as well. Nova Scotia started in many of the lockdowns that we were experiencing in Toronto in 2020, and it didn't begin with "Oh, let's move to Nova Scotia." But actually what it started with was an opportunity to really slow down for my husband and I, we had nowhere else to go but to be in our home and to ask ourselves some really big questions. So what we used to do on Friday nights is we would open a bottle of wine and then we would ask the questions that we had not asked each other yet. Like what do we want in life? What do we envision retirement to be? What does the next 20 to 30 years look like? And what we would do is ask these questions and then spend the rest of the week going about our days and sort of thinking about it, reflecting on it and coming back to those questions. So it really gave us the opportunity to connect on a deeper level and that, you know, took months and months and months of asking big questions like what what do we want in life? And somehow that led us down this path to making a move into the woods. We live on a lake here in Nova Scotia. We're about an hour and a half outside of Halifax so you know, downtown Toronto, Ubers, delivery, everything you need, 24-hour garage for your car in case we get a flat, to like, middle of the woods, dirt road, no cell service, can't even order a pizza. So it's been quite the change!

Jeanna: I love that. Yeah. 

Angela: Yeah, just incredibly rewarding. We decided you know, let's just do it. Let's hold each other's hands and see what happens and it's been better than what we could imagine. 

Jeanna: Amazing. So for those, you know, some people don't know at all what Nova Scotia is like, don't really know what area of Canada we're talking about. You mentioned that, obviously, this is more of a smaller community, is there like a town nearby? Is there any sort of — do you have neighbors, like what kind of situation in the woods are we talking about here?

Angela: So we do have neighbors, they are not as close as what our Toronto home was like. So there are tree lines in between. So, you know, we are in what many people would consider a cottage community here, so we just happen to live full-time here. So it's really busy in the summer and on the weekends, much quieter in the wintertime, of course. We're probably some of the youngest folks who live in this area. Town is 25 minutes away. And we have a gas station called Stu's that is about 10 minutes away for all of your essentials. So that's the closest we're gonna get there. But yeah, you know, it's a very different vibe and it's very community-oriented. So, yeah, it's quite interesting. We're probably about 45 minutes drive to the ocean and yeah, it's great. 

Jeanna: So cool. And I saw you wrote a little bit before an article about how it was completely out of your comfort zone and I'd love to hear just how that has changed you,  choosing to move away from your comfort zone because not a lot of people do that. They dream about it, but they don't actually do it. So how has that altered your trajectory? 

Angela: Hmm. I think for me, the biggest change that I've noticed is the shedding of versions of myself and letting really go the past version of myself to welcome on new growth. I actually, within the first week of being here, I had a really, really bad day I just started crying. I was like what is wrong with us? What were we thinking? There's no cell service. There's nothing here. Like have we gone absolutely crazy. And I remember walking, going for a walk just to kind of get out of that mindset for a moment. And as I walked down the dirt roads, I actually saw snakeskin on the road. And it was just this great visual representation that I needed for myself in that moment. 

Jeanna: Wow, yeah.

Angela: And I went down this path of like what it means for a snake to shed its skin and just reading about like, you know, the snake has to go through all these rocks and all these painful moments in order to let go of that skin and to grow and move on. 

Jeanna: Amazing.

Angela: And that's what it's really been for me I think, it's just shedding those skins and opening up new opportunities for growth. 

Jeanna: I love that. So I imagine that some of the shedding of that comes with being like, similar to what I shed when I left the US, is being that busy city lifestyle, go-go-go, which I have also experienced how incredible it can be to let go of that side of yourself. But I'm interested in how your working environment has changed in that, how was it different for you to show up as a leader or an employee that you were in Toronto versus how you show up now that you have changed your lifestyle in Nova Scotia? 

Angela: Yeah, great question. It obviously has changed. Even today, it was a difficult day being a remote leader. I was trying to dial into a call and it was difficult to hear and I'm, you know, expected to lead parts of it and it's it's quite challenging. So there's absolutely moments that I find myself still adapting to. But I have been a remote leader for actually several years now. So I did come into this with that experience. I started leading a remote team in 2018. So I have had that opportunity to understand it a little bit more, versus you know, just going from Toronto to here. But it is interesting because I see Softchoice now encouraging folks to come back into the office and asking leaders to sort of drive that change. And, of course, it's top of mind for me of like, how do I manage that remotely? Still create team engagement, encourage folks to be in the office, and support those efforts, when I can't physically do it myself. So I miss out on opportunity, of course. But I also have, I think a greater perspective of how to balance my life and not just put all of me into work. That's been a real benefit for me. Somebody who has historically done that to say you know what, it's okay to have that space, and sometimes space is a good thing. So I just looked at it a little bit differently now. 

Jeanna: Yeah. And something else that I've seen you kind of talk about is what you just mentioned is that you have been a remote leader for a while you've worked remote for over 10 years. You've managed remote teams you said since 2018. And you recently shared, or in your recent LinkedIn newsletters, I saw you share a kind of about the struggles of managers who like to manage remotely and how there's kind of two things that happen and one is there's a misconception that working from home was a privilege and two is that managers struggle to trust their staff to actually work from home. So can you talk a little bit about that and what those two things mean and how, like, remote managers should actually shift their mindset?

Angela: I remember that article. It's pretty ironic because I think I wrote that at the end of 2019. And then the world shifted and sort of left all leaders to be remote leaders. 

Jeanna: Yeah. 

Angela: But yeah, at that point in time, I remember being in a call and somebody made a comment that they felt that remote employees don't do as much work or they can't be trusted or it's just not a great way to work. And, you know, I saw the complete opposite of that with my team, like we were remote and we were doing a great job of being remote and my team loved it. Like they loved the fact that they had the flexibility to make a choice as to when they're coming into the office, when they're going to be working with us virtually or not. And a lot of what we discovered together as a team is that it actually put people into better productivity spaces. Some people love being in the office, that's where they are productive. Perhaps being at home isn't the best setup for them. And others are on the opposite side there, right? Being in the office could come with many distractions. It could come with a lot of sidebar conversations. So you know if you're somebody who may struggle with conversations being started at your desk, and you can't get back into that, like, productivity zone, then those are the types of folks that I find preferring to work from home. I'm one of those individuals. I love to chat, of course. But I also have a lot to get done in a day and I don't want to be working and burning the midnight oil either. So I need to let myself work from home for myself to keep boundaries and a greater work-life balance versus my husband who's very outgoing, rather be in the office rather, you know, and that's just, it's all fine. It's recognizing who we are as individuals and supporting the individual employee to greater impact a larger team. So that's, you know, what my view has really been on that for many years. And also we're not children. That was my biggest piece that I really struggled with. 

Jeanna: Yeah.

Angela: Like, you know, leaders would be like, "Oh, remote workers can't be trusted." And it's like, these are people who have accountability and respect for their jobs. And you know, we're not just working for fun. 

Jeanna: Right, yeah. 

Angela: We're doing it to live to afford our places of living and what we want to do on the weekends and supporting family, right? So I think it's a pretty outdated view and mindset on remote staff. 

Jeanna: Yeah. I talked about this piece a lot because I'm pretty bullish about it, but also, you know, your point about accountability. Like if you have a company built around accountability and deliverables, more than someone greenlight sitting in front of an office, then that's all that matters, right? Like if people are accountable and they're doing the work they need to do, then that's what matters. It doesn't matter how many hours it took them to do it or like where they're doing it from, right? It's just a mindset shift that seems to be like, really hard for some companies and leaders to be doing. 

Angela: Yeah, yeah. And then I'd also challenge to look at that leadership team. What is the age, what is the background, what is you know, is there a lot of privilege there? That's another thing too. I think a lot of the folks who I hear drive work, work from office conversations are high-up, have homes in Toronto and can afford to go there and to get babysitters or, you know, nannies for their kids. And sometimes I hear leaders be like, "Oh, just get a nanny," and it's like, you're a VP. Maybe you can afford it but my team can't like, you know, so I think there's also that privilege that exists there too with that mindset of returning, or forcing the return to the office sometimes. 

Jeanna: Yeah. And there's a lot of great conversation about that, like being in how companies are, you know, younger people in their career, like you're saying that individual contributors are able to work for companies and you know, get great jobs and make a great salary without having to move to the core city centers that are so expensive now, like back in, when I started my career, and I was at that point and I had to move up like I was in downtown Seattle and downtown San Francisco and like neither of those places are very affordable these days for people in entry-level positions. So yeah, it does really open up the opportunities for junior people to make better money and live you know, better lifestyles. 

Angela: Yeah, absolutely. 

Jeanna: What about communication? I've seen you talk a little bit about how important that is and some of the things that you specifically do to communicate with your team as a leader remotely. Can you share some of those particulars and how you communicate as a remote leader?

Angela: Yeah, absolutely. I actually really learn a lot from the marketing mindsets in my leadership style. So in marketing and in our space, we've talked about at least seven touches to get a message across. Now it's, you know, even greater than that with all the messages that come at people constantly every day. So I lean into that mindset with my communication model, and sometimes it just means coming back to the same topic and perhaps communicating a message in a presentation and then a follow-up email and then maybe a voice note in Microsoft Teams. So really leaning in on on that communication need, even with the teams internally like we would with our customers. The other way in which I've looked at communication differently within my leadership approach over the last couple of years and really sort of developed at Softchoice was being very clear with my expectations of the leaders on my team and the larger demand gen org. So when I first joined Softchoice in this role about two years ago now, I walked into it knowing that I was taking on a department that wasn't in the best space, one of the lowest engaged departments that we had at Softchoice at the time. And it was a bumpy start for me. There was eight people who resigned within eight weeks. 

Jeanna: Oh, wow. 

Angela: I completely lost one of our teams and functions and you know, there was just a lot of negativity across the team, which I understood was not a result of my leadership, I was just walking into this, but it was my reality now to work through and manage. So probably four or five months in, I really needed to put my feet down and set a tone for my leadership team and for the larger department as well. And I did something new that I hadn't done before within my career. And there's three key things that I did. The first was I clearly articulated my expectations of the working relationships that I would have with my leaders and the ways that we are going to collaborate as a leadership team. So I wrote it down I walked through it with a document that was provided and it's something that we come back to and I introduce for any new leader on the team as well that this is how this working relationship is going to be. So just clearly communicating those expectations. And then the other two pieces that I did was introduce a guiding practice within the teams this extended into our ICs which is the daily practice of learn, grow, teach, and it's just this mindset to encourage everyone that you know, each day there is an opportunity to learn, grow and teach. I'm happy to get into that and at a later time as well. And then lastly, we introduced guiding principles within the team. So these are five guiding principles that we have within demand gen. The first one is we communicate. Second is we're accountable. Not every day is game day, we respect ourselves and each other and we stay curious. So those guiding principles are result of the Softchoice values that we have at our organization, and I wanted to take those values and put very practical steps in place through guiding principles. And what we do as a team is every once in a while we'll come back to these guiding principles in our team calls and revisit what this means and how you show up as an accountable individual within your org, or recognizing how to stay curious and the types of questions you can be asking and the way that you can dig deeper. So it really took me thinking about communication differently and being very clear and articulate in what I needed to say. And you know, I think one of the other key learnings that I've had as a leader over the last couple of years and coming to Softchoice, I have a lot of diversity within my team, which is incredible and I've learned a lot about myself and my own biases and privileges that I have as well as a leader. And one of the key learnings that I've taken away from that is sometimes we can use a word that has completely different meanings to different people across the teammates. 

Jeanna: Right.

Angela: You can't just rely on a word to describe what your expectations are. You need to dig deeper into what that word means. And be very articulate and clear on your expectations. So when I say we are accountable, I don't just leave it there. Nobody like everybody's gonna think of accountability differently and they're gonna have a different background and lens of what that means. So you're getting deeper, they're like, okay, what does it actually mean to be accountable? And what is my role that I have to play and what are the roles that you know, Angela has to play versus my leaders versus others across the organization, so you can't just rely on oh, well, we're a matrix organization. Okay, what does that mean? 

Jeanna: Right.

Angela: You can't just say those things in a call and expect people to know exactly what it is that you are trying to communicate at that point in time. 

Jeanna: That's great advice. And so all of these ways of working and kind of, you know, setting up your team on how you're going to work together. This was all documented for them?

Angela: This was, yeah. 

Jeanna: And then presented, and then how often do you go back and, like, revisit that documentation or is it something that they're expected to kind of like know and revisit themselves and review? And or how do you make it a living and breathing thing within your team? 

Angela: Yes, there's actually a few ways that we do this. One, it shows up again, in any of my one on one career development conversations that I will have across the team. So as soon as somebody starts to talk about what their goals and aspirations are, I will reframe some of my responses back using that language. I'll either frame it in the learn, grow, teach mindset, or I'll even say you know, let's go back to our guiding principles. So I make a point to bring it up in practical, like, an actual conversation that we're having and find the appropriate ways to revisit that with the team and it helps. I can actually see when people are on screen, I can see the wheels turning and the connecting of the dots and it's like okay, I'm taking this down this one slide and I understood it differently from this lens and from this context. So you know, I make sure that I do bring it up regularly and often and calls whether it's one on ones or team meetings, or anything that we're like collaborating on and looking to reframe the lens on. We do come back to it probably every couple of months. We'll, in my team calls, I'll come back to it and we'll do a deeper dive on one of those guiding principles. What does it really mean? "Not every day is game day" is a favorite I think across my team and understanding that you know some days we're gonna be at 10%, other days we'll be at 60, and maybe one day I'm at 90%, like real good day really productive, really in that mode. And we talk about that principle being the same lens that perhaps we would look at like a sports team, right like a team doesn't just show up and win championship games every single day. It takes practice, it takes time off, it takes, you know, putting priorities into other places that you need to show up at on the field. And we talk a lot about measuring success over the long term like I know we live in a 12-month calendar cycle, but that doesn't mean that you have to measure your success in that same lens. So it's really reshaping the way people think about what success is and how it shows up each day. Yeah, so those are some of the ways that we do it. And then of course, anybody who's new to the team, I usually spend some one-on-one time with them as well just walking through those principles and discussing it as well with new team members. 

Jeanna: I love that. I might have to borrow that, "Not every day is game day." We're actually kind of re-looking at our core values as a company right now, which I think is what you're talking about with Softchoice and then you have the guiding principles that ladder down from the core values right, but I feel like "not every day is game day" kind of gets to like why I love remote so much and we really believe in like letting people show up as they are so we have some co-workers who worked at companies before where they were required to wear like suits or no hats on Zoom or whatever, but we have a culture where it's like, you know, I live on a Caribbean island. It's freaking hot. I show up on Zoom in tank tops and sometimes I show up immediately after a yoga class or like so it's kind of just like show up as you are, right? And a lot of that for humans is like we don't show up at 100% every single day and to expect people to be like that and hold people to those kinds of unrealistic expectations, I mean, that that's part of what leads to burnout, right? So giving someone space to be like, you know, it's okay to show up at 10% when you're going through a loss, you're grieving, you're not feeling well. You just woke up with a headache or whatever like I feel like we're humans and every day is kind of a little bit of a crapshoot. You never really know what you're gonna wake up as especially when you get in your 40s and above like I am. So yeah, that's beautiful. I love that core value, it's great. Um, so let's talk a little bit more. Let's dig deeper. I'd love to learn here about what this "Learn, grow, teach" is for you. You've mentioned it a couple of times now and how is that something that you use in your everyday leadership and in your team?

Angela: I think it's actually a reminder for me more than anything else. And that's what my daily practice and the guiding principles are. I mean, they definitely benefit the team. But also as an individual, as a person who is working through all that the world has brought last several years and is still you know meant to bring. It really comes from this. For me this love of the lunar cycle and recognizing that you know, the moon teaches us that there are different phases that come with the moon but even though you may not see the moon on a new moon day because the sun is not shining on it doesn't mean that the moon is not there. So I think that's something that we need to remind ourselves as people as well, right? Like some days we're gonna shine incredibly bright in the sky and other days it's just gonna be a little sliver of us and you know there's there's changes in seasons our breath is circular. Everything that we do is in a circular motion. And that's where the "learn, grow, teach" concept comes into play for my eyes, right? Like we're all in these different cycles of time and our lives and our careers and our learning, and how do we sort of navigate that collectively as a team, and something that keeps us all recognizing everyone's own place in time but also keeps us all grounded together. So, "learn, grow teach" is really this, this opportunity that you know, we are in these different cycles, days are going to be challenging, but if you can frame a day in your mind as, "How can I learn in this moment?" Or, "How can I open myself up to the pains of growth?" Or, "How can I help teach others?" This helps us just understand that you know, today is a gift, every day is a gift, and instead of getting frustrated and bogged down, which is so easy to do, right? Like it happens to me and it happens to everyone we're all people and it's challenging. So even when I'm finding myself in that, it's this ability just to reframe perhaps some of the negative talk that might be showing up for me my mind going oh, wait, hold on. This is a negative conversation right now. Can I look at this as you know, did I learn here did I grow somehow or can I help teach somebody in this moment? And some days might be a combination of all three practices other days, it might just be like, purely learning or purely growing or teaching. So you know, it's been a really cool experience introducing this because I've heard it from so many across my team now over the last almost, you know, year and a half of introducing this concept. I hear it on calls, I hear others, you know, I'll talk to one of the leaders on my team and she's like, "Yeah, you know, I think of your 'learn, grow, teach' model and it's occurred to me oh, maybe I need to just take this as a 'teach' opportunity." So something that was really put in place as a bit of a risk and not really sure how it was going to land has really been rewarding for myself as a leader as I navigate each day but also for many folks across my team as well as they navigate each day also. 

Jeanna: So how do you remind ourselves of these concepts? I feel like, you know, I'm often taking leadership classes and kind of, you're coached in a way to approach certain conversations or you're coached in a way to, you know, approach certain particular moments that might come up as a leader. But how do you yourself like, make sure that you're constantly thinking about some of these things and constantly revisiting some of these things? Is it just like, a post-it note on your computer, or how do you go about it? 

Angela: Practice. It's all practice, honestly. And some days it's easier than others and being compassionate to myself when perhaps I'm not leaning into my practice fully. It comes from a lot of the mindfulness practice that I've had for you know, five-ish years now. I've gone through a lot of work, I've gone through a lot of therapy, a lot of journaling, a lot of meditation, a lot of yoga, all those things. 

Jeanna: Yeah, me too girl. 

Angela: And the journey is just beginning like, let's be honest. 

Jeanna: Yeah. 

Angela: So it's just, it's there for the rest of my life, and for me, I recently saw probably something on like TikTok and somebody was just saying, you know, if you start to hear a negative train of thought in your mind, a good way to be mindful of it is just to go to yourself, oh, that's the part of my brain that gets anxiety or oh, that's the part of my brain that gets angry or — and just saying that interrupts that train of thought, that can easily start rolling. And you know —

Jeanna: Yeah.

Angela: — when my mind starts going, just saying that, that's been really helpful for me recently, coming across that sort of approach has really helped me to be like, oh, that's the side of me that's getting really triggered right now. And just, that simple trick has been a game changer. And I continue that mindfulness practice in my day. 

Jeanna: I love it. So obviously mindfulness is really important to you. I love that. I'm on the mindfulness train as much as I can be, you know, it's very hard as a human to constantly try to go back to that stuff and I find myself in some of the toughest situations, not doing it as much as I could, but the journaling and the yoga and some mindfulness teachers that I follow have really been life-changing in my career, as well. So how else do you bring those things? What other mindfulness techniques do you bring to marketing and to your role? 

Angela: To my role I would say the big piece is breathing. Just I do a lot of resets on my laptop and resets on my body. Reset on my laptops and easy reset button, but for me, there are times that I you know, I could feel myself getting triggered or getting frustrated and I just, you know, maybe we'll take a step back or I've got my meditation pillow always available, and I'll just go and do some breathing there. So that's how it shows up in my day-to-day. In terms of marketing and how it shows up for our customers, you know, that's a different lens. I think it's the ability to really get out of my ego, which is a lot of times what we have to do when we're being mindful and a lot of those thoughts are driven by our ego. So the fact that I could do that more regularly for myself just in day-to-day practice helps me to think about campaigns a little bit differently. Before I was one of those marketers who just thought like, my campaign was the best campaign. Like, that was, that was sort of an approach that I had at an earlier point in my career. And I see a lot of people who still have that mindset and that approach. I think it comes a little bit with the space that we're in and perhaps that's par for the course in a marketing role, but for me, I have come to just let that side go. And that opens up a lot of space for my team to test new things to do something that I wouldn't do. And I really look at it from the lens of like, you know what, I wouldn't do this, but I'm super curious to see what happens when you do it. Like, what are the results? 

Jeanna: Yeah.

Angela: Just because I had bad results with a Twitter campaign at a past job or past campaign, doesn't mean it's going to be bad for you. So I think that mindfulness practice has shown up for me in my leadership approach in how we approach campaigns because it allows me to take a step back from well, this is about my ego when I wouldn't want to do etcetera and just let others do their work, and then see how customers respond to it at the end of the day.

Jeanna: I love it. So it allows you to take a more of a testing approach and kind of an open approach like hey, like, let's just test this and see what works and I'm not gonna really have to show up with any kind of perceived ideas about how this is going to turn out. Yeah, that's great. And that's honestly like, that's like the marketer sandbox that you want to be in right like personally, that's the kind of marketing I love. Like when you, when you're able to really test wild fun, unique things. I mean, that's, that's when you find something that really works these days, right? Because there's so much stuff that has been done. There's so much noise, like how you know, everybody wants to break outside the box and do something different and you can't really figure out what that is unless you have the space to be creative and test. 

Angela: Yeah, absolutely. And we need to do more of that for all those reasons that you said and more right and there's a lot happening too in our space. There's AI tools that we're now working with, that's coming up, like, you got to really be open to those types of tests and get your hands dirty and the space is going to continue to evolve for us and change and the world is going to continue to evolve and change. What does AI mean for our customers now, right? So yeah, it's such an interesting time that I mean, I've been saying for years what an interesting time to be alive but even in the last six months of this year. 

Jeanna: Yeah!

Angela: Metaverse, what? That was so 2022. Now it's all AI and now I'm' trying to wrap my head around that and I've got to come at this from I gotta be open. I gotta let the anxiety that might come up of like, oh, am I gonna have a job in five years? Like, that's actually just anxiety that's not the reality. The reality is I have a job right now, stay focused on today, and go from there.

Jeanna: Yeah. 

Angela: Yeah, interesting time to be a marketer. You couple AI with the whole like, privacy cookie problem. Like SEO is gonna be dead, people using voice search. It's like, it really is going to be wild to see where we end up 10 years from now. 

Jeanna: Yeah, I've been having a lot of conversations about AI on the podcast. Either podcasts I'm on as a guest or that I have on as guests just because that's what kind of marketers are interested in these days. And most of the conclusions I'm hearing is that you know, AI just doesn't work without like a human component to it. But I'd love to hear kind of you what, you are Director of Demand Gen, right, at Softchoice? Which is a great channel, demand generation, lead generation. And how do you guys look at AI for that channel? Like, have you been testing anything amongst your team or at your company yet? 

Angela: Yeah, so we're, there's been a lot of work underway at Softchoice and we're really looking at it from three key pillars for our customers. So the first is how do we leverage AI to improve existing applications? So an example here is if somebody comes to softchoice.com and they're working on the back end of the website, they need an update on an order or they have a question like, how do you leverage chatbots to help automate that process, get their, create a better brand experience with them and you know, reduce the amount of phone calls that our reps are also getting and having to move away from sales. So you know, what are those existing apps how can we leverage it there and make improvements on that lens? And then, of course, the really exciting pillar is the art of the possible, right? So how can we take different workshops and work through these big-picture ideas of what applications can look like through AI. And Softchoice's Design Studio team is going through a lot of these workshops right now with Microsoft really closely. I've had the opportunity to be on some of these calls and hear some of the conversation underway on the AI side, which has been really fascinating and the reason I'm on these calls is because I want to drive early adoption of AI at Softchoice. I want to be part of that team who is building the art of the possible for us as an organization. You know, I know orgs have been hesitant to adopt it and there's a lot of uncertainty is changing. Like every other day, there's a new announcement. It's just so fast and what's coming through. So for us, we're really looking at how we can create our own AI internally that helps with the content creation challenge that the company faces. I think people look at content creation, which is a marketing challenge. I see it as a company-wide challenge, right, like, sellers are putting content out, our technical teams are putting content out, partner teams, our team, everybody's putting content out, like everything we do is content creation. These days a PowerPoint is content. So for me, it's how can we help our collective organization create that content, get it out to market faster, make sure it's on brand, make sure it's able to reference existing content pieces and you know, support the effort of folks across the org. Like, oh, I need a one-pager created on this new assessment or whatever the case may be with very little to no human touch. We're still going to have to have human touch to your point. It's so early days with AI so everything needs to be reviewed, but I'm excited to see what that brings. And then for us, it's like how do we take something like a guidebook that gets created that we're not going to leverage AI for at this current state, but we're going to write these, you know, 15 pages of great information, great insight on the state of security within the space and then how do we take AI to pull all the supporting pieces of content needed there? So different ad copy types and ads, different outreach email sequences for either our marketing efforts or our sellers or a landing page creation, whatever the case may be, how can we just look to leverage the AI to help us get out into market faster, reduce sort of the redundancy of certain tasks? And also add to the creative thinking. I don't think it's going, we can't just rely on it to do everything for us. But how do we look at AI as a part of our toolbox? Versus oh, you know, I'll just use AI to like write this email for me. That's not how it works. You got to work with the tools that you're being provided. 

Jeanna: Yeah, that's the right approach, I think. You know, just like you can't put your head in the sand as a leader or an entrepreneur about remote work, like you can't put your head in the sand about AI because it's, it's here. It's rapidly changing. We might not understand it, but I think my POV is exactly what you said. It's the best to try to get out there and start testing and figuring out like, how to leverage it and work with it instead of ignoring it. So that's great. You mentioned you know a guide book really quickly. I'd love just to hear your POV on this topic I hear come up a lot lately in lead gen and demand gen in that the gated content is dead. What are your thoughts on that as a leader in demand gen?

Angela: Yeah, I would completely agree. We got rid of the vast majority of our gates, probably within six months of me joining. It was like everything was gated and you look at the numbers and no one's downloading anything, right? So I think people are gonna go find the content elsewhere. Whether it's gated or not, so what do you got to do to keep them there? And unless you are, unless you've built enough trust with a customer or prospect to ask them to provide you with their contact information to download a piece of content, for a prospect, we are not in that trust zone at that point. Our brand is not there, so why would I ask them for that exchange of information? I'm a director, and I know as soon as I enter something into a gate, I'm going to get another phone call from the sales rep and like I'll just move on. So it's just the reality. So I know that that's frustrating for us as marketers because we're so reliant on that information to attribute to our nurture strategies or our lead gen strategies, whatever the case may be. Honestly, I think we need to start learning to move past the legacy approach to demand gen that you know we've got paid campaigns are going to be the way of like we just need to be organic and authentic. And what I mean by that is customers will choose whether or not your brand is in their sphere of influence. And whether or not they choose to engage with your company and your organization. They can easily ignore your ads. They can easily change their settings on all these different apps. Like that approach to marketing is, if you're not thinking differently, now you're going to struggle I think from my lens and rather, how do we really look at content as being something I want to consume and engage with without being asked to or forced to or promoted against, right? Like, we can learn a lot from all the influencers who are younger than me who have gained millions of followers who are on TikTok, like we have a lot to learn from that generation of how to be great storytellers and connect with our audience as if they're human. Because that's the other thing too, right? Like I've been in B2B in the technology space for over a decade now. It's like sometimes I feel like people just talk to this audience as if they have no personality. And they're all just sitting there like, oh, let's only just talk business and buzzwords all the time. And it's like no, these are people at the end of these titles, right, like, they have personalities and yeah, hobbies. 

Jeanna: Yeah, I love that. So one last question before we go into our final three questions we wrap every podcast up with is so you guys, if you're not gating content, like what is really working for you as a company to bring leads in, like a tactic of 2023 that you would give other tech companies advice to use? 

Angela: Yeah. For us, we work with many of our technology partners in our space. So besides our advanced services, we are not creating laptops, right like it's the Lenovo's and the Dell's and the Microsoft's of the world who are doing that. So we have actually really looked at moving past just the marketing traditional marketing approach and understanding how do we get more of a combined sales and marketing individual on the team. So somebody who is acting as a sales rep, but also from a marketing lens and thinking of campaigns differently. So what we've done is we've introduced a new team where we work really closely with our partners on what the leads are within their space because Microsoft has a lot more money to spend on advertising and brand awareness. So I'd rather just connect with the top of the funnel differently and take advantage of our partner leads and then fold out the nurture programs, the outreach sequences, the content around that. So just better partnering with our technology partners —

Jeanna: Okay. 

Angela: — and aligning on what's really working together. 

Jeanna: Okay, so relationship building. Yeah?

Angela: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Jeanna: Okay. All right, final three questions. What is your one #workfromanywhere item or tool that you could never live without? And you're not allowed to say a laptop!

Angela: Hmmm, my AirPods.

Jeanna: Yes, that's a good answer. What is a quick remote work productivity tip you can share with our listeners? 

Angela: Log off of the platforms. Log off, give yourself that time and space to get the work done. 

Jeanna: That's a great tip. Like logout of Slack? 

Angela: Yeah. You don't, you don't need to answer everything instantly. 

Jeanna: Yeah, I find myself struggling with that. So that's a good tip. All right. If someone wanted to learn more about you, where should they go online? 

Angela: Yeah, I'm on LinkedIn. So Angela Cope. And that's probably the best place to learn more about me. 

Jeanna: Cool! All right, Angela, thank you for coming today. We had fun having you on Remotely Cultured. 

Angela: Thank you so much for having me, Jeanna. I really enjoyed the conversation today. 

 

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