Today’s special feature episode is an enlightening conversation with Luc Berlin, who leads the enterprise marketing sales enablement division across EMEA and North America at Shutterstock. With 14 years of experience in the industry, he’s a true expert on modern marketing and communications.

Luc recently spoke with Carlota Pico to provide his perspective on the most pressing issues facing companies and individuals today. From advice on participating in social justice movements to driving positive change amid the coronavirus crisis, you won’t want to miss a single sentence of this insightful interview. We’ve included an edited version of the full transcript below!

You can also watch the full conversation in the video above or on YouTube, and listen to the podcast on Apple and Spotify.

Carlota Pico: To get this interview started off, I’d like to learn a little bit about your background, your company, and how you got into your current role.

Luc Berlin: I think my background is quite an interesting one. Initially, I was actually going to go to medical school, and then I got into marketing a bit serendipitously. Back in the early 2000s I got my first job in tech, which I absolutely loved, and I got into marketing because I’ve always been a very analytical and creative person—it was a perfect fit for me. I started in demand generation (upper-funnel marketing), and worked my way down to marketing automation (middle of the funnel), and now I’m at the bottom of the funnel, where I work very closely with sales teams to help them close deals faster.

CP: I saw that your LinkedIn profile photo is a black circle, which I’m assuming is to show your solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. I want to talk about how this movement can affect a brand. Companies posting a black image on their social networks have either been praised by consumers or received a lot of backlash for commercializing the tragedy. From a marketing and sales perspective, and considering your experience in the field, should brands react to social issues? And if so, how and why?

LB: That’s a great question, and I’m very happy that you’re bringing that up. I need to correct one assumption you made; I actually uploaded that picture the week before the Black Lives Matter movement asked people to post black squares. So I had done that totally independent of what was going on in the States.

What prompted me to do it was that I saw the George Floyd video, and I was outraged. I think any human would be outraged by it, but being a black man, I found it incredibly painful. We need to be aware of what’s going on, and it’s really about inclusion across all races. I understand the BLM movement, but I did not necessarily upload that picture based on it.

So to answer your real question, I think that yes, absolutely, companies should respond to cultural factors that may impact them and a lot of their employees. I think sometimes we forget that although companies are fictional institutions, they’re made of people. A company is not just this imaginary entity; it’s made up of people of different backgrounds, with different interests. It operates within communities of people.

Sometimes we forget that companies are not just imaginary entities; they’re made up of people with different backgrounds and interests, and they operate within communities of people.

Speaking for myself, I would like to know where a company stands in regards to different social and cultural events that may impact me or a friend of mine. So yes, I think companies need to be involved, but it needs to be genuine. Some companies who’ve been accused of riding the wave might say “we commit to doing this,” but they say nothing about the action they’re going to take. And commitment without action means absolutely nothing.

Then there are companies who say, “we commit to diversity,” and their leadership team is mostly just white males. I think it’s easy to point fingers at a company because of their leadership team, but that’s just the visible part. I am much more interested in the people who are working at those companies who you can’t see. I’m more interested in how a company is bringing in people from minority backgrounds, and what steps they’ve put in place to help those people grow within the company. So for me it’s a bottom-up approach, not a top-down approach. 

CP: I completely agree, and I would add that from a marketing perspective, it’s extremely important to include diverse backgrounds because one size does not fit all. The more that we know about consumers and our audience, and the more we’re able to relate to them and communicate with them, the better we’ll be at our job. So it’s also extremely important from a business perspective to have a very diverse community and employees.

LB: One of my favorite quotes is “Diversity is a solution to all problems.” Sometimes we think of diversity simply in terms of race, but diversity is also in terms of perspective. And yes, that’s tied to cultural background and racial background. But diversity means a whole lot more than just race.

CP: Let’s move into your current role in enterprise marketing—which is a company-wide effort by a large business to retain its existing customer base, while generating new leads through integrated multi-channel campaigns targeted toward large enterprises. What are the challenges of your day-to-day job?

LB: Staying ahead of what’s going on. I believe in being proactive, and understanding what you need to do before you do it. From an enterprise marketing standpoint, the sales team has to identify a client or prospect who has a specific need that we think we can satisfy. But first we need to show them that we understand their industry and the pain points they might be facing, and we need to have a clear custom solution for them. 

There’s a bit of psychology involved; I need to put myself in the shoes of the person that the salesperson is going to be talking to. What would make me want to talk to this salesperson? What would show me that they’re not just selling, but educating? I have to figure this out, and then build all of those assets to provide to the salespeople.

I wouldn’t even call it a challenge, because I love doing it. Every day that I get to solve specific problems and have an impact on the company—whether on the bottom line or just corporate direction—I think it’s a good day.

CP: What are some other tips for developing a successful enterprise marketing strategy? 

LB: I think the most important tip is to understand the sales funnel. Enterprise marketing is all about the funnel, from how you bring in leads, to what sort of campaigns you’re running, to the structure you use to manage it. Demand generation to get leads, the SDRs who are working those leads, the marketing automation system you use for nurturing, the relationship between marketing and sales… marketing is a strategic resource, not a tactical one. The earlier you bring it in, the more likely you are to make the most of your leads.

Once you get to the part of the funnel where a sales rep has to go and sell, that’s when sales enablement comes into play. How do you create materials that will allow them to close that deal faster, and show the potential customer that you understand their problems? They might come for one thing, but by the end you’ve shown them the impact you’ll have across other lines of their business. They’re buying into your contribution as a partner, not a vendor.

CP: Definitely. As VeraContent’s head of business development, I have a very commercial mindset. The sales funnel is extremely important, because without money, you don’t have a company. And at the end of the day, marketing is what’s going to help me close that deal. 

LB: Yeah, and I think there’s a very strong symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing. At highly successful companies, the line between them is blurry. That’s how I’ve always worked with sales organization, and it’s brought me quite a bit of success.

CP: Do you use any tools or disruptive technology to help you with your marketing strategy?

LB: To be honest, the most “disruptive technology” I use is person-to-person communication. There’s a plethora of tools out there, and people can buy as many as they want. But you’re going to be a lot more successful by building a relationship with the people you’re working with.

The most “disruptive technology” I use is person-to-person communication.

Of course, there are sales enablement tools that can help you manage that relationship between sales and marketing, and make you more productive and efficient. Specifically when it comes to content creation; how do you create the right type of content for the right salesperson, for the right vertical, for the right sort of sales process, and at the right stage of the customer journey?

Any tool that helps you understand and leverage that information, and then create tailored and specific assets that your sales team can use, I think is extremely valuable. Time is money, so if you can increase the speed of your output, that’s going to impact your bottom line. But I’m pretty archaic when it comes to relationships, and I think everything is built on the types of relationships you have with people.

CP: Larry Ellison, Oracle Corporation‘s founder and current executive chairman, actually coined the term “business-to-human marketing.” The future of marketing is all about human connections and emotions—because at the end of the day, it’s a human who’s going to make that purchase.

Do you have any advice for aspiring enterprise marketers? What’s something that you would have loved to have known 14 years ago when you moved from the medical field to marketing?

LB: I believe that we’re all on our own path, and sometimes it’s hard to give advice to someone else because the factors that have shaped your journey aren’t the same as theirs. But there are a couple of things—which I probably knew back then but didn’t really act upon. 

First of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it. I love tapping into both my creative side and my analytical side, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the world who’s like that. So if you’re that type of person, if you love solving multiple problems at once and don’t like to get bored, enterprise marketing is great.

Besides that, make sure you’re doing something where you feel you’re having an impact. We spend so many hours of the day and years of our lives working. So if you have the ability or opportunity to do something that you’re truly passionate about, that’s what you should be going for.

CP: Absolutely. There’s that quote that if you love what you do, you’re never really working.

LB: That’s why I work a lot!

CP: Let’s talk about COVID-19. Obviously it’s been affecting industries across the world, including marketing and advertising. What major lessons have you learned during this time about marketing, and what do you think the future of marketing will look like?

LB: I think that if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the world is a lot more fragile than we thought it was, and we don’t have as much control as we think we do. It’s a harsh reality, but I think maybe it was time for us to learn that lesson.

Another thing that’s important to say is that in the face of challenges there are always opportunities, and marketing is no different. It’s like the stock market; when everybody panics, that’s when you keep your cool and buy. Recently we’ve seen a lot of companies slashing their budgets and going dark. I think you still want to have a presence and engagement.

That’s one area where Shutterstock has done really well. We’ve made the content we have accessible very quickly to companies that needed to shift their marketing strategy due to the coronavirus—and those are the companies that are winning. So my main advice from a marketing perspective is that even in the face of adversity, you still want to be engaging with your customers.

Obviously, it needs to be genuine; it can’t just be all about making money. You need to show people that you care and you understand what’s going on, but at the same time, you’re still open for business.

CP: Absolutely. We will grow and learn from this experience, and I think it’s so important to be able to empathize and connect with people. It’s about letting your audience know that you have their back and that you can relate to them.

LB: As humans we’re extremely resourceful—perhaps to a fault. And if there’s one thing we should take from this pandemic, it’s the opportunity to look at how we’ve shaped our society over the last few years. In the UK, everyone is recognizing the NHS for the work they’re doing. But they’re just doing what they’ve done for a very long time without any recognition, while struggling to stay afloat because of how underpaid and overworked they are.

There are all of these essential workers who have been out there doing most of the work, while the rest of us are at home trying to stay safe. They’re living tough lives, especially now. And it’s a chance for us to look at the systems we’ve had in place for so long, and uplift those people and make sure they’re taken care of. And our governments have to do their part in fixing the problem.

CP: Let’s move into our rapid-fire questions. Who’s your source of inspiration or role model?

LB: I’ve never really had role models, but there are certainly people whose ideas have shaped me. One is Henry David Thoreau and his book “Walden,” which talks about the importance of simplicity. There’s so much going on today, and the people who are able to really simplify things are the ones who are doing well. Otherwise you get so caught up in anxiety and stress. 

I also really admire Thorstein Veblen, who wrote “The Theory of the Leisure Class”—again, something that we’re seeing now. He’s one of those fringe economists, and the theory is really interesting. So he’s also shaped a lot of my views.

CP: What about an event or publication that you’d recommend?

LB: The last event I attended—and this was more on a personal level—was the Social Good Summit in New York. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m big on social impact, and how companies and people in general can create an ecosystem where we’re all having a positive impact on the planet and each other. I would definitely encourage people to look into it.

CP: Last but not least, what’s your favorite app at the moment?

LB: Well, there’s actually one that I’m building. I’ve been thinking about this concept of spontaneous relationships, like the ones we had when we were kids. If you look at the contacts app on your phone, it’s just a list of people, most of whom you rarely ever talk to. And with the people you do talk to, everything has to be planned, because you need to ask them if they’re available. The way we communicate lacks spontaneity.

I think there’s an opportunity to get us back to having spontaneous conversations, at least with our friends and close connections. So I’m working on that, and it might be coming out in the very near future. But besides that, my favorite app right now is Instagram.

CP: Those were great insights, Luc. Thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix. It was an absolute pleasure to talk with you.

LB: Absolutely, my pleasure. Thank you very much!

Connect with Luc and Carlota on LinkedIn.

This post was edited by Melissa Haun, a freelance content creator based in Lisbon.

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Build a socially conscious brand – Yaron Hubin Plimmer, global social media manager at EF