Shea Cole

VP Marketing at Fullscript

21 Insights · 7 Questions · 20min Read · 25min Listen · Connect with Shea on LinkedIn

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Tell yourself, “I can do hard things.” What does the data say? What is the insight I can pull from the data? What is the creative idea I have based on that insight? Take the hassle out of the purchase journey. What product-market-fit means for a new segment of users. Focus over speed. Strategy over plans. Regaining SEO. Meaning, difference and salience. Understand what motivates your customer, how they view your product, or the problem that it solves. You find that tension in their lives then you solve for it.

Here’s what Katy McFee said about Shea:

Shea Cole. So I worked with Shea at a company called Fullscript. She is the VP Marketing there, and she is a force. So this woman, she is just like a branding queen, and she took that company from very early days to like explosive, massive rocket-growth and was very instrumental in making that happen. So, I think she would be a fantastic guest for you. —Katy McFee, Founder and Principal of Insights to Action → Listen

What are 3 ways that your team converts your market into revenue?

1) Generating new leads using content marketing. We're super focused on SEO and high-quality content. Our customer base are professionals, they're healthcare practitioners, so we make sure that our content is written by other healthcare practitioners, and filled with keywords, but also extremely evidence-based. We get a lot of cheap, high quality leads that way.

2) Email marketing. Then, once our customers come into our our funnel, and they become existing customers, email marketing. So, we take that same content that we wrote on our blog to generate leads, and we email it to them just to keep our customers engaged, to remind them that the content is there, and it keeps us top of mind, which drives that platform usage.

3) Take the hassle out of the purchase journey. The last way that I'll highlight is that we take a lot of care to make sure that we take the hassle out of the purchase journey for our customers. Healthcare practitioners are recommending supplements through Fullscript and then their patients are coming onto our platform to purchase supplements. We want make this dead simple for the patients. We want to take all the thinking out of it. So what we do is we analyze the order behavior of the patients. We analyze the dosage instructions of the practitioners. And based on that, we know when a patient is running low on their supplements and we reach out to them and we say, “Hey, it's probably time to refill. Click here to refill.” And so, they don't have to think about, “Hey, it's, it's probably time for me to log onto Fullscript and place an order. We do that thinking for them. It comes right to their inbox. They never miss a day in their treatment plan. Super simple, but very effective.

What are 3 hard problems that you recently overcame?

1) I recently came back from a maternity leave. And I'm in Canada, so that's a long leave. It’s anywhere up to a year. Mine was eight months. Two days after I came back from maternity leave, we acquired one of our biggest competitors. So my whole plan for onboarding, and getting lots of attention from the team so that they could get me up to speed on what was going on, all went out the window, because everyone was so wrapped up in, “Oh my God, we just acquired a company. How do we merge two teams?” This is, I think, a really good example of what it's like to work in a high growth company, because you have to embrace that chaos and set aside your expectations for anything to be smooth and just be resilient. Otherwise, you don't survive.

2) Regaining our SEO traffic after a 50% drop in 2020. I told you earlier in the show that we're really focused on driving leads through SEO. Back in 2020, Google had a big algorithm change and it impacted the health and wellness space more than many industries. We saw our SEO plummet by almost 50%, and this was a big lead source for us. So hugely problematic. At the time, we were focused mainly on just producing high quality content, and what we learned through this is that's not really enough. We had to step up our technical talent and bring in SEO expertise to really get ahead of those algorithm changes and manage that more technical side of content marketing. So now in 2022, we're back up to the site traffic that we were at in 2020. It took us that long to get there because that's how SEO works. You just have to claw your way up bit by bit by bit. We had to actually relaunch our entire site, take a little hit that way, but then regain. But, we got there.

3) It's really unrealistic to expect that everyone is going to love having you as a boss. So, I think this one might be a little controversial. It's something really important that I learned recently about managing a team and being a leader. Early on in my career, I really cared about being that manager that everyone loved to have as a boss. I still really care about my people and I really want to be a great manager, but what I have to learn was that it's really unrealistic to expect that everyone is going to love having you as a boss, because the truth is that some people are just not going to like you because you have to have tough conversations when you're leading a team, especially when you're leading a big team. Sometimes, people are not going to understand how much you appreciate them, because, as a manager with multiple levels underneath you, you have to let your managers that are underneath you manage their people. That means, sometimes, you have to step away from the relationship. Not everyone is going to appreciate where the cards fall for them, but as long as you try to be as empathetic and fair and transparent as you possibly can be, then, you're doing your best for people and you just have to make peace with the fact that not everyone is going to love you.

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What are 3 roadblocks that you’re working on now?

1) We are reaching a plateau in our media buying because we were doing everything in-house, and I think that that was the right choice for us at one time, where we were small and bootstrapped and scrappy and we could do a good job in-house. Now, we've grown to a size where my team needs to be focused on other things. As our paid media starts reaching a plateau, we're reaching diminishing returns, we are moving to an external agency to buy that media. So, let's see if this works. I'm super hopeful. I think it will allow my team to focus on other channels, and on creative, and on research. So, I think it's the right decision for us right now, but we're at a transition point.

2) We are switching to a new marketing automation tool, and unfortunately we've made that switch a couple times, because finding the right automation tool is so important and you don't always get it right. The other thing is: as you go through different stages of growth, a super simple tool might be the right tool for you at the beginning because your team can learn it really quickly, but then as you scale, you might need something a little bit more complex. So, switching to a new marketing automation tool means getting the right technical talent, getting the right consultants to help you set it up, getting buy-in from the engineering and data analytics teams to make sure that everything is flowing smoothly from your CRM to your automation to your attribution and your reporting. Everything needs to work in tandem. That's a huge problem that we are solving for right now.

3) What product-market-fit means for our new segment of users. Lastly, as a marketer, I'm coming to a really interesting point in our journey with our industry, and with penetrating our industry, because you always want to go after the leads that convert the easiest, and that's actually, I think, a direct quote from one of your previous guests. For sure, we did that in the beginning. That was naturopathic doctors for us because we enable practitioners to dispense supplements to their patients, and naturopathic doctors use medical grade supplements as basically their core tool for treating patients. So, they are the low hanging fruit. They are the early adopters for us. However, they're a very small market. So, we have reached a point where we have extremely high penetration with naturopathic doctors. They no longer remain the most attractive prospect for us. And so we have to move on to a very attractive prospect, which is medical doctors. And we have actually a lot of them on our platform already, but because there's so many of them in North America, we still have very low penetration with them. The product-market-fit for medical doctors is not the same as it is for naturopathic doctors. Some of them use supplements a lot, but a lot of medical doctors are kind of of the mindset where it's. “Yeah, supplements can be helpful for you, but they're not used to being the ones who supply supplements.” And so the product marketing challenge is a really interesting one because we have to come in and convince them that this is something that they need in their lives and say, “Look like you may not have considered this before, but your patient outcomes will be better if you are the one supplying the supplements because you can control the quality of those supplements and you can actually observe whether your patients are continuing to take their supplements, or whether they fall off the wagon, and then you can have that conversation with them. Why did you stop taking them? Is it because it's not working? Is it because it's too expensive? Is it because this is not the right treatment plan for you and we need to take baby steps or we need to change something?” That's a conversation that is not gonna happen if the patient just says, “Okay. My doctor told me to take fish oil. I'm gonna go to Walgreens and buy fish oil.” Then, the practitioner doesn't know if they did it. They don't know if they got the right one. So, it's all of these really interesting product marketing challenges that we have to work through to try to figure out what product-market-fit means for a new segment of users.

What are 3 mental models that you use to do your best work?

1) “This is not a strategy This is just a plan. Go back.” I find that having a very clear approach for how you think through a strategic problem is super useful. This is something that I use as a coaching tool, but I also use it for myself anytime I am challenged to come up with a strategy and I actually have to sit down, put that strategy into a deck, or put it into action, in a go-to-market plan. What I do is I always follow these steps: 1. Look for the data and analyze what the data says. 2. Find the insight in the data. That's not just what the data says, but what the data means for you and your business. It's trying to find some little piece of tension in your customer's lives that you can solve for. 3. After you find that insight, that's when you can find your creative solution that's solving for that tension. How are you gonna do it? Only after you've gone through those steps can you then say what your plan is. That's the really important piece. You never tell someone what your plan is until you've gone through those steps. What does the data say? What is the insight I can pull from the data? What is the creative idea I have based on that insight? Early on in my career, I had a mentor tell me that a deck I had, a strategic deck I had put together, was not a strategy. He said, “This is not a strategy This is just a plan. Go back.” That was a game changer for me that led me to come up with this model that I always start with now every time.

2) The Meaningfully Different Framework. Another framework that I use a lot, especially when it comes to marketing, is a framework that I learned from Millward Brown. They have something called the Meaningfully Different Framework. It is a way that they measure a brand's power score. It's a brand equity measure and they actually measure three values. Meaning, difference and salience, which is basically top of mind awareness. They find that brands that have high scores on meaning, difference and salience are the most powerful brands. Even if you are a startup that doesn't have the budget to actually measure those things, it's super helpful to think through them. When it comes to, for example, CPG brands, I used to work in beer, we found that some brands are well positioned to win just by being really strong on one of those measures. So a brand like Budweiser, right? That's a macro beer. And if Budweiser has super high salience and stays top of mind, they win. However, a premium product, like Stella Artois, for example, has to be high on either meaning or difference in order to demand that price premium. When it comes to a startup, an up-and-coming brand, and when I'm applying this model to my thinking in tech, I try to check all three boxes, because why wouldn't you? So for Fullscript, for example, if I can say to a practitioner that you are going to have better results for your patients and your practice is going to grow faster if you use this product, that's meaningful. If I can say to them that our catalog of supplements is bigger than any of the competitors, that's different. If I show up at every one of the trade shows that they go to that year, and if I'm in all the trade pubs, and if their colleagues are talking about us, then that's salience. We're top of mind.

3) Tell yourself, “I can do hard things.” So the last mental model that I want to talk about is one that I actually had something different in mind, and then this came up just this morning and I thought, “Oh, this is actually a really good one that I wanna talk about.” And it came from my personal life, but I use it in business now all the time. So when I had my first child, I really decided that I wanted to stay away from the hospital if I could. But, that meant that I had to give birth in a birth center with midwives and it was going to be unmedicated. I was trying to work my head around how hard that was going to be. So, I signed up for this hypnobirthing class, super crunchy, but it was helpful because what it does is it helps you think through, “How am I going to deal with this pain without being medicated?” One of the things that they preach is you cannot run away from the pain, and you can't pretend that it's going to be easy and just stick your head in the sand. You have to respect the pain, and pay homage to, and then walk right through it. And so they teach this mantra that you are supposed to apply every time, your brain wanders to that place where you're focusing on how hard it's going to be, or how hard it is in the moment. What you do is you tell yourself, “I can do hard things.” You respect the fact that it's hard, but you say, “I can do hard things.” The beauty of that that I've learned ever since that experience, while I apply that to other moments in my life, is every time you get through something that's really hard, you have more evidence for yourself that you can do hard things. And so, every time you tell yourself, “I can do hard things.” You believe it more and more every time because you've done it. In a startup environment, where it's high growth, high pressure, high speed, and you have those big, hairy, audacious goals in front of you, you can very easily get overwhelmed because we're human. But, since the beginning of human existence, humans have been doing very hard things, and that is evidence that we can do hard things, so there it is. We've come a long way, and you just tell yourself, “I can do hard things,” and then you walk right through.

What are 3 techniques that GTM teams need to try?

1) Go back to the roots of good marketing. I'm not gonna try to reinvent the wheel here and just remind people to go back to the roots of good marketing. You start with a customer insight. I see a lot of people skip this step, and so that's what I always try to remind my team. What's the insight? You have to understand what motivates your customer, and how they view your product, or the problem that it solves, and find that tension that I talked about earlier. You find that tension in their lives and then you solve for it.

2) Focus and say no strategically. This is something that can be really hard, especially in high growth environment, or in a startup environment, where you hear all the time, “Speed is our biggest asset.” I've heard that so many times in my career and I agree, move fast for sure. But I don't think speed is ever going to be your biggest asset. Focus is going to be your biggest asset. Look through all the ideas because when you're just starting out, there's 1 million different things that you could do to go to market, to improve your brand, to improve your funnel, but you need to figure out which ones to say no to, strategically, or to say not now, and then you need to document those things. Because as there's turnover in leadership, or on the board level, which there will be, people are gonna wonder, “Hey, how come you didn't consider this?” And, you want to be able to put forward the small test you did to decide whether you were gonna say no, or the priorities you had at the time which led you to say no, so that it doesn't look like, “Well, you just didn't think of it before.” No. We said no strategically so that we could focus.

3) Pick a day, or a half day, where you're not going to take meetings. Another really big one for me, and this is less about marketing and more just about managing people, and managing your time, and managing your mindset, is pick a day, or a half day, where you're not going to take meetings, because it is really easy to fall into the trap of being in back-to-back-to-back meetings all day, every day. And then, when you get to the end of the week, you have endless emails or Slack messages, and you haven't had time to think through your problems, to write, to learn, to listen to podcasts, to just talk through something with someone completely off the cuff and randomly. So, this was a game changer for me and for my team. We don't hold meetings after noon on Fridays. Some people take that time to clear their head, other people take that time to work through problems, but whatever you choose to do with it, you will be in a better state of mind on Monday, or going into the next day, because you took that time and you weren't running from every meeting to the next meeting.

What are 3 questions that you love to ask and why?

1) What marketing campaign or marketing tactic did you see recently that you thought was really smart? I love to ask people what marketing campaign or marketing tactic they saw recently that they thought was really smart. I find that it's less about what campaign did they point to, but the why. Why did they think it was smart? Because that kind of points to their line of thinking and how they would approach a marketing problem, as well. Plus you learn some really smart things when you ask people that.

2) What’s your goal? Another question that I ask people is what their goal is, and what they're trying to get out of, whether it's a job, or a point they're at in their lives, just because I want to be helpful. If you don't ask people, why are you here? What are you trying to get out of this? Then, how do you deliver on that? And so I think that that comes back to my appreciation for finding the tension in people's lives, and even as a marketer, trying to relieve that tension through your product. It also applies to interviewing someone and understanding what they're looking for, and making sure that you foster their engagement by delivering on that as best you can.

3) How did you think this went? What could we have changed? I just like to ask people for feedback. I think that's the best question that I can ask anyone around me. How did you think this went? What could we have changed? And have that super transparent conversation. I find that transparency is something that has been lacking in the business environment of late. I'm seeing a trend with organizations actually starting to bring transparency back into their core values because it has been lacking of late, and along with that comes asking for honest feedback, asking for honest opinions, and then making sure that you can respectfully disagree with someone and have a debate while still walking away from it totally appreciating each other.

Who are 3 operators that should be our next guests and why?

1) Candy Lee is someone who I worked with when I was working on Budweiser. She is now the CMO of a company called Homebase. She is just an amazing human and an incredible marketer. I think this comes from the fact that she got her roots in CPG. So, she learned brand marketing, and then she moved to tech where she really had to learn performance marketing. She will bring to the table the best of both worlds.

2) Marc-André Campagna is someone that I came across recently through my network. He is the founder and CEO of a Canadian internet service provider called Oxio. What's really interesting about his approach is they aim to be kind of like the VICE News of ISPs. They do things drastically differently, sometimes controversially, but when you talk to Marc, what you realize is that it's very strategic. I think that you'll have a very interesting conversation with him.

3) Brandon Chatreau is a friend of mine who is a Product Lead at Shopify. I used to work with him at Fullscript and he's a super charismatic guy. The reason why I think he'll be a really good guest for you is because the problem that he's working right on right now for Shopify is a super interesting one when it comes to turning your market into revenue. He is working on making sales tax “delightful” as he puts it. I think what that does is he's proving that sometimes the non-sexy side of your business can be the best place to find loyalty from your customers.

Connect with Shea on Linkedin → Shea Cole

Work with Shea → Fullscript

June 2022 · Interview by Chris Morgan, Host of Market-to-Revenue

Market-to-Revenue Podcast ⚡️ Lightning-fast interviews with GTM operators in sales, success, product, and marketing.

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↓ Access lightning-fast interviews with go-to-market pros.

🔊 You need to meet:

Shea Cole
VP Marketing at Fullscript
Anita Toth
Chief Churn Crusher
Darren Sharpe
Chief Revenue Officer at SuiteSpot
Anthony Murphy
Founder of Product Pathways
Craig Handy
Head of Revenue Automation, Tooling & Enablement at Shopify + Founder of Jameson Strategies
Mo McKibbin
Head of Customer Support and Success at Moxion
Vladimir Blagojević
Co-Founder of fullfunnel.io
Jason Bay
Chief Prospecting Officer at Blissful Prospecting
Katy McFee
Founder and Principal of Insights to Action
George Valdes
Head of Marketing at Monograph
Matt Baxter
Director of Product Management at Bestow
Kristi Faltorusso
Chief Customer Officer at ClientSuccess
Daniel Cmejla
Director of Partnerships, Community & Social Media at Chili Piper
Shri Apte
VP Revenue at Triplebyte
Dani Woolf
Director of Demand Generation at Cybersixgill
Antoine Buteau
Business Operations at Replit
Brandon Fluharty
Founder of Be Focused. Live Great.
Meghann Misiak
Founder of The Path to President’s Club
Ryan Paul Gibson
Founder of Content Lift
Jacob Gebrewold
Commercial Account Executive at Klue
Sidney Waterfall
VP of Demand Generation at Refine Labs
Sam Kuehnle
VP of Demand Generation at Refine Labs
Andrew Miller
Senior Growth Product Manager at Monograph
Darren McKee
Director of Growth at Wellthy
Sean MacPherson
VP of Customer Success & Experience at Alyce
MJ Peters
VP of Marketing at CoLab Software
Patrick Coleman
VP of Growth at Replit
Arthur Castillo
Senior Manager of Field Marketing & Community at Chili Piper
Leslie Venetz
Founder of Sales Team Builder
Stuart Balcombe
Product Marketer at Arrows
Jen Allen
Chief Evangelist at Challenger
Carl Ferreira
Director of Sales at Refine Labs
Mark Znutas
Vice President of GTM Strategy and Operations at Hubspot

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