Marketing Gets Real Episode #9: Living Every Episode of ‘Silicon Valley’ in 37 Minutes with Ari Fefferman

Some people are born problem solvers, and Ari Fefferman is one of them. At age 16, her father asked her to build a website to promote his aquarium shop. So Ari marched down to a bookstore, bought herself a copy of HTML for Dummies, read it cover-to-cover, and spun up an ecommerce site from scratch!

It’s no wonder why she and Cari Baldwin, our Marketing Gets Real Podcast co-host, hit it off immediately when Ari interned for Cari at Host Analytics a dozen years back. From there, Ari worked for a digital marketing agency, joined Google, left for a Silicon Valley startup, then became Director of Demand Generation for Fitbit Health Solutions which, ironically, is now a part of Google. Along the way, Ari says, “I’ve lived every episode of ‘Silicon Valley.’”

We’re not sure how fast Ari’s Fitbit clocked her heartbeat during our high-energy podcast Episode #9, but we do know that she offered some fast-paced insights on staying productive in changing times and building winning marketing teams. She also talked about that infamous power nap that made Cari LOL. Let’s go to the highlights:

“We can’t launch some life-changing experience while we’re transitioning emails and contract tools and things like that.”

Ari gets candid with us right away. “We’ve been going through this acquisition, and it’s honestly been a difficult time because there’s not a lot of massive innovation that’s happening,” she says. So, how does she make Demand Gen top-of-mind—and keep her team of super-creative marketers engaged—while navigating both a transition to a new parent company and the ongoing disruption of the pandemic?

She’s “managing up” by meeting one-on-one with all executive teams, asking them about their pain points, and learning what they expect to accomplish. She’s also using a back-to-basics approach when it comes to measuring leads during this transition, as she explains in this clip:

“It’s very funny that every single company in Silicon Valley opens up with, ‘Oh, we act like a startup. We have this startup mentality.’”

Ari sees right through that line. “It’s totally an excuse to say you’re gonna be lean, you’re gonna have to get scrappy, so buckle up!” she says. But that’s OK with Ari because it inspires her to have tight connections with her team. And during a time when everyone is talking about buzzwords like “Great Resignation,” Ari has kept nearly every member of her small-but-mighty team together for her entire five years at Fitbit.

Her secret: She uses the second half of her one-on-one meetings with her direct reports to truly understand how they’re feeling about their work. “It’s a combination of hearing how they were handling their projects and bandwidth, constantly checking in with them, and making sure that they were doing the things they enjoyed,” she says. Then, she used that feedback to adjust workload among her four-to-six-person team as needed. “If they stayed happy, it made it easier for everyone because they’re more willing to get the work done,” she says.

“I don’t know that I could explain an ‘accidental nap.’”

Shortly after graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, Ari interned with Cari for three months at Host Analytics. She did outstanding work, of course. But there was that one time Cari was waiting for Ari to join a client call and… well, we’ll let Cari take it from here:

“I’m calling you. Sending you emails. We didn’t hear from you. One-and-a-half hours later, you called back and said, ‘Oh man, I’m sorry I missed that meeting, I fell asleep!’ I swear, I loved that! I laughed!”

After the laughter died down, Cari politely explained that maybe next time, Ari could come up with a better excuse, like she had a dentist appointment she forgot about! Ari learned her lesson. “Definitely try to set an alarm and don’t sleep through any meetings!” she jokes.

There’s a lot more laughter, fun, and raw life lessons in Episode #9. Tune in and hear Ari’s tips for navigating B2B marketing at a B2C enterprise, get her take on in-person event marketing in the 2020s, and learn what it’s really like to explain Marketo to a bridge-builder in South America! Like what you hear? Subscribe to the whole series on your favorite podcast app.