Be Transparent to Acquire Customers and Grow a Community

Be Transparent to Acquire Customers and Grow a Community


The following insight came from my podcast interview with John Jeremiah, where he talked about how transparency is a core value for your company.

When you build content, you’re not publishing it for a marketing benefit. But, of course, there’s a marketing benefit of it, but we’re trying to educate the market. 

The lesson I learned as an IT Leader, a Navy Leader, and then a Marketing Leader is that leadership and marketing are a function of education. Teach people about doing something better or doing something different to get different results. As a Naval Officer with a division that I was leading, I had to do that. It was about education and teaching, and now in marketing, it’s the same theme. How do I help people do something different to get different results or better results? Regardless of the organization, the mindset and the approach has to be the same. How do I give to the community?

I did a TEDx talk a few years ago. The theme was: How do you help people develop and ship software faster and faster and more in a more agile and nimble way in a more integrated way across the whole lifecycle? For me, the theme has always been the same. And it comes from having been an IT leader and a Developer trying to deliver solutions to the business and trying to do it efficiently and effectively. 

One of the most important things that we have to do as marketers and people trying to deliver innovation is to carefully listen to our customers and people in practice and learn. You can learn things from LinkedIn and blogs. Asking and bringing people together to learn from them is one of the things that I think we don’t do enough of. Often we think we know the answer. So we ask questions to try to validate. You have to approach the people you’re serving and listen to understand their problems so you can better address them and help them while being transparent. 

Transparency is the basis for trust between you and your clients. Being a Product Marketing Leader at GitLab was a fantastic opportunity to work with an unbelievably talented group of professionals. GitLab was built out of the idea of it being an open-source project. It was about a community building a software solution. First, we solved a real problem. Then, the community started building, adding, and contributing. To encourage that contribution, we had to be transparent about the direction and the vision. 

GitLab is constantly changing, being updated, and amended. The handbook was a form of radical transparency to start with. And then we pushed it even farther. First, we decided to record our meetings in case someone couldn’t attend. Then, we decided rather than record them, let’s just put them on YouTube. 

So we kept pushing the culture and the value of transparency, iteration, and collaboration. It led to a pretty remarkable way of working, and one of the things that I’ve learned a lot from doing it is building a great company culture. 

As a leader, you’re thinking about the culture and the things you do to help encourage certain kinds of behavior. I found in my experience that culture is like a microclimate. Culture is a microcosm. 

As a leader trying to build culture into an organization, you have to think about establishing values. Those values should be open for discussion if members of the community or the company feel that some values should change. I think that helped to build an ownership of what the culture and values are. The community should constantly be evolving. People would propose changes and justify those changes.

Part of what a leader needs to do is to lead and do things. It’s how they bring together the people because the culture is about how everybody works together. So the leader has to point at it and shape it. But they can’t mandate it.

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