Strategic Messaging for Market Success With Ginger Zumaeta

John Corcoran 11:55

Yeah, and what was your, your mindset, like, at this moment in time, were you like, hug, I can’t believe this and doing an internship at this age, or what were you just kind of like, head down, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make this work. 

Ginger Zumaeta 12:09

No, I mean, I was not head down, I’m going to do whatever it takes. I mean, it was terrifying. I think my first year in consulting, and again, I had done well, in NBC before, and I had a fairly soft landing, and, you know, my, my, my DNA, as you know, store your nuts for when you need them. So I was going to be okay. But you know, dirty little secret is my first year in consulting, I think I made like $24,000. And this is, you know, after having a pretty comfortable paycheck as a VP at NBC. So, it was a rude awakening. But a really trusted colleague of mine said, I don’t even know if this was true, but it worked. She said, if you can make it yours, you’ll make it when most people peter out before two years. And so somewhere, I planted the seed, like, let me try to get to the park and see if I can make it work. 

John Corcoran 13:09

What was your goal? Like the first two years your goal was like, Okay, I just need to get it to get myself to two years.

Ginger Zumaeta 13:15

Yeah, I mean, I was trying to scrape, scrape it together, I wouldn’t want I wouldn’t have wanted to go more than two years, because I didn’t want to, you know, really start to deplete my stores. But but I had an idea that like, what I did understand, and I would preach patience as a consultant all the time, is that, you know, if I had enough time to build pipeline, and I could start to show proof of work, which is why I begged for that internship from from Coca Cola, you know, that I could start to put the pieces together that would then, you know, build build a consulting practice?

John Corcoran 13:54

Yeah, yeah. Because that’s gonna be one of the hardest parts about shifting careers to a different focus is that everyone kind of puts you in one bucket, or where you were before. And they you know, no matter how qualified you are, no matter how much education you have, sometimes people are like, Well, you’re a TV person, like, why would I hire you to do this other project?

Ginger Zumaeta 14:13

That’s exactly right. I mean, you know, the, the big, the big breakthrough, you know, came from me a few years later, when, you know, as I said, I had experience also in in Hispanic, and I’m Latina, you know, and when the Affordable Care Act came out, or leading up to the Affordable Care Act, it really changed health care. Suddenly, health care was a consumer product or as before you had really always gotten it through your job. Now, people could shop for health care instead of just taking you know, who gave them and so I ended up you know, meeting someone at at a conference, you know, at Kaiser Permanente and they said, you know, hey, can you take a look at the Hispanic market for us and I was, like, very comfortable in that space. 

And so that really was a little, it was the most money I’d ever asked for, which now is not a whole lot of money. But, but, you know, I did a big project to kind of help them understand how Hispanic could be a real opportunity, especially being headquartered in California, you know, in kind of leading into the Affordable Care Act, and and they crushed it, getting, you know, getting that market and into health care. And that kind of, you know, it was a little bit of a tipping point, I think that’s when it started to get comfortable. 

John Corcoran 15:41

Yeah, and now Kaiser has become kind of a real whale for you for many years. 

Ginger Zumaeta 15:49

Yeah, I think I, you know, I consulted for them for almost 10 years and every aspect I you know, I helped them with Hispanic, I mean, I launched their, you know, their Spanish language, you know, stuff on their website, their Spanish social it was, it was a big deal. And then I moved on, I helped them, you know, launch a big maternity practice, like, how do you kind of look at maternity, you know, they they birth, I think at the time, it was like 120,000 babies a year but weren’t really known for maternity, even though they’re experts in maternity. And so help them kind of do some service line marketing for that, and many other things, you know, help them when they when they acquired Group Health up and up in Washington State, you know, I went up to I was going up to Seattle, like every week or every other week for a while helping kind of Kaiser eyes them and which was fantastic way all, it was kind of like a job, a well paid job. 

John Corcoran 16:44

Yeah, what are you gonna ask about is actually, you know, since you had brought in that relationship, you have that relationship, as you grew your team? How did you, you know, empower them? And, and how did you get yourself? Maybe this never happens, but how did you get yourself out of the work and out of the fulfilling work and get other team members involved? Or was that a challenge?

Ginger Zumaeta 17:07

You know, it was a challenge, it took a while to kind of shift from solopreneur to kind of having a team especially, you know, when when you’re the principal consultant in a, in a big company like that, and you’re working with people at the very highest level, they don’t really want to see other people. So it took some, it took some time bringing someone in to help support me, you know, then starting to have their own voice in terms of kind of doing the work, but it was a slow process. I mean, we’ve never had ambitions of being a huge agency style business. So, you know, it was very much me who was supported by others. And it continued to be that way throughout, you know, the entire Kaiser engagement.

John Corcoran 17:54

Now, how did you structure the business? Because you actually had a 5050 partnership with someone for a portion of that time, right?

Ginger Zumaeta 18:06

So So previous to really kind of being entrenched, you know, in that client, by him coming out of NBC, you know, I solo consulted for a little while. Well, at 1.1 of my former colleagues at NBC, she was actually at Telemundo. You know, we were, you know, complaining to each other about how lean business was, and we were like, Well, maybe if we get together, like, we could do something, and, and so we neither of us had had a business before we were corporate people. You know, so we just decided, hey, let’s start a business. Let’s do it. 5050. 

And, and we did that for a few years, we also started to see some of the challenges, she was more focused on entertainment, I had started to get into healthcare into some other industries. And so it showed it’s, you know, our naivete, you know, didn’t take long for our naivete to kind of become manifest and us to see that, you know, just having no rules around that 5050 In terms of comp and expenses, and book of business, and all of these other things that when you’re really, you know, consulting our considerations, you know, it’s the structure started to fall apart, and we ended up dissolving that business, I left it first and then she moved, and then that business kind of faded into a memory.

John Corcoran 19:31

And so for someone listening to this now considering going into partnership with someone, what is your advice to them? What are the considerations? You know, what should they be thinking about?

Ginger Zumaeta 19:41

Oh, man, that’s a great question. I am probably biased. I mean, I would never do a partnership again. I think someone’s got to be the leader of the business. But you know, if you’ve got a you know, a good friend that you’re doing a partnership with, I mean, the one thing I absolutely wouldn’t do is 5050 I mean, there’s no movement with a 5050 partnership, you know, so you’ve at least got to have some sort of, like 4951 The other thing that I wish we had figured out in advance was, you know, just looking a little bit forward in terms of like, well, what happens if one person is bringing in and servicing 80% of the business? 

Like, you know, we were just taking the checks and dividing them 5050 You know, sometimes that was not equitable in terms of like the work being done and who brought in the business. So there’s some things that, that, you know, I’ve learned since that, that, had we gone back, maybe that business would have survived, I have no idea, but we just we didn’t really think through, how are we compensating ourselves? How, how, what should we keep inside the business? If anything, you know, how are we going to grow, you know, we built that business out of, or Reformed that business out of desperation. And, you know, it served its purpose for for a little while,

John Corcoran 21:02

right. Now, one of the other things that you’ve talked about that you had to think about as you develop the business was eliminating things that you did, because, you know, like many consultants, you start out saying, Oh, I can help you with that I can help you with that, I can help you with that. And then eventually, you, you appreciate that you can get really good at a couple of things. Maybe some things are more profitable than others, to talk a little bit about that evolution of eliminating things, taking things off the plate that you didn’t do for clients anymore.

Ginger Zumaeta 21:36

Yeah, you know, so. So having come up through NBC, you know, I was really a generalist, I knew all the jobs, I’ve done PR, I’ve done brand strategy, I’ve done media buying, you know, I, you know, I’ve done creative. I mean, you name it. And so I used to do all that stuff. After a while, the hard part is when you know how to do something and someone asks, Can you do it? And you know how to do it and saying, No, I didn’t learn how to do that for a long time. So when people said, Hey, can you do this, I was like, Yeah, I actually can, like, I know how to do that, you know, and, and I know how to direct that work. And so, you know, for a while we had become, you know, we were served, we were sort of looking almost like an outside marketing department or a, you know, little marketing department for hire. 

But we weren’t structured in a way that could actually support that I didn’t have, you know, creatives just sitting around ready to take that work, or build a website or do the social, but we were putting it, we were doing it not badly, but it’s not the best thing that we could do. And so, you know, a couple of years ago, we started to gradually just not pursue that work anymore, we still had some clients that were doing that work, that we were doing that work for, you know, and then we ultimately decided, you know, we’re gonna help our, our good clients that we love, you know, like, you know, what, this is not really what we want to do anymore, we can refer you to partners that, that will, will do a great job for you. 

But we decided to stay squarely with messaging strategy, which is always the messaging, that the story is the strategy. I mean, if you can help a company understand their story, and build a messaging framework around that, you’re basically giving them the tools that then they can take into their, into their digital into their social into their advertising into their PR, you know, even into kind of back office, things like hiring because you want people to understand the story there. And so it took a while to start, you know, to shed that, but it really changed. 

It changed how we show up, which is giving us the time to, you know, to do the work that we’re really, really good at. And also, you know, I think a very important lesson is it helped us really understand how we get to these good answers, like what is our process, like, I mean, we have a very sort of codified methodology in terms of everything that we do. And when we do that we can get better and better and better at it each time. You know, and so the evolution was sort of like, you know, let us create the wheel every time and you know, we thought it was awesome to be bespoke. Now, I think that’s garbage. Like, we turn out bespoke strategies, but our method is, as you know, watertight in terms of the entire way through.

John Corcoran 24:38

It’s funny how that word seems so elegant when you start out and then eventually your bespoke is not at all what I want to do, right.

Ginger Zumaeta 24:47

It doesn’t work. Yeah, I mean, it’s really hard to treat every engagement as a completely new engagement. 

John Corcoran 24:54

Are you reinventing the wheel every single time and that doesn’t help you serve the clients ultimately. A. So you had, you know, like many businesses in March of 2020, COVID hits. And that had a big impact on your business in a lot of different ways. But first, do you recall in March 2020, as COVID started to unfold what you were thinking, you know, did you think like, oh, my gosh, I’ve been building this business for 10 years now. It might all come crumbling down, what was it like for you?

Ginger Zumaeta 25:25

Yeah, I was, I was really worried, honestly, we still had, you know, our big whale of a client, Kaiser, and some other small ones. But I mean, you know, Kaiser to a very large degree was paying most of the bills. And, you know, I had a contract coming up for renewal, like, right after COVID hit, I’m like, Oh, crap, this is going to be like, you know, a disaster. You know, I mean, even I even reached out, you know, to the person who was my primary, she’s no longer there anymore. And I was like, Hey, listen, I know, it’s gonna be a really tough time, you probably have to make a lot of hard decisions.

We were here. Imagine this also, a health care client during COVID. So they were collapsing under the weight and expense of COVID. And this is my whale. So I was like, this is, you know, like, this is terrible. And so I was like, I know, things are gonna be bad. I mean, I even offered to, like, you know, you know, if you need this, we can sort of, you know, reduce our fee for a particular period in time, and then, you know, haven’t ramped back up. And it wasn’t a discount, it was like, How about like, we charge you for half, so you can kind of help your payments be smaller, but then you can kind of make it up later, once you guys are kind of back on your feet. 

And, and, you know, that was just, that was just a no go, you know, and, and, and a series of, of really unfortunate, I mean, Kaiser’s CEO, Bernard, Tyson was an amazing man, he had a sudden heart heart attack and died very unexpectedly. Not long after the CMO retired, the person who was my primary, ended up retiring as well. And, and that was, and then I had, you know, a contract that hadn’t gotten renewed. And that was the end of that was the end of Kaiser as a client.

John Corcoran 27:21

And so, how much time did you have to unwind that, considering that was a big whale client for you?

Ginger Zumaeta 27:28

I mean, almost, I mean, almost none, less than two months, it was a big hard landing in terms of having a very different business and in a very short amount of time. 

John Corcoran 27:41

And, so what did you do?

Ginger Zumaeta 27:46

You know, I started looking for a new business, I think we had to, I’m trying to remember who was even with us at the time, we had to kind of shift responsibilities out of that I tried to keep people on it as much as I could. You know, what’s interesting is, I didn’t make any drastic moves at the time I had, I had faith that we’d be able to get the business, but it didn’t change the business. And it was a real opportunity. I knew all along that one day would come when I wouldn’t have that client anymore. 

So I had sort of started to try to figure out how there was, I mean, because there were times at which it was the only client, but it started to kind of put light in some other smaller clients. And so it gave us an opportunity to kind of try to do better there no sudden movements, but but the business changed and, and, you know, someone who had been a key part of that account with me, you know, had a natural shift, where it’s like, you know, what, I have another opportunity, and it was probably great for both of us, because I didn’t have to carry that anymore. 

John Corcoran 29:00

Yeah, and so that’s a massive change for you. And among other changes, you also decide maybe this isn’t good, but more, more recent history, but to rebrand the business, remove your name from the business that had been there for 10 plus years. That’s a pretty monumental decision. But talk a little bit about that.

Ginger Zumaeta 29:20

Yeah, that was very, you know, what’s interesting is I was doing that right as I joined EO, so I want to say it was like, you know, somewhere between two and three years ago, I had been working on it. And, you know, I knew that. I mean, my business had always been, you know, Ginger’s the principal consultants surrounded by people to help me because I had more business than I could handle as a single individual. But I was the primary and all of it. And, you know, I just kind of, you know, knew that’s great for a while, but at some point, I didn’t want everyone to expect to be working directly with me 100% of the time, it just wasn’t sustainable. 

I mean, it was just so much work. And so, you know, as we started to kind of think through, like, what are the things that we want to focus on? How do we really start to productize? What are we doing? So it’s not so like, hey, what do you need help with? Let’s figure it out along the way, which is really more like a retainer based, like, let me just kind of be your trusted advisor, and, you know, kind of a management consulting model. You know, I knew that I wanted the name out of it, because at some point, I want this business to be able to, or in pieces of business to be successful, without me touching them directly. And so it was a little bit of a pivot, not a little bit, it was a major pivot for us in terms of kind of setting up that what’s, what is this entity going to be in the future? And how does it have a brand of its own? That is separate from my personal brand?

John Corcoran 30:57

Yeah, my, when I was practicing law, my law firm was called Corcoran law firm. I use the name firm deliberately in their thinking that that would help with the same issues you’re talking about, like less dependence on me, although it’s really just me. And I still have my last name in it. But in retrospect, I should have taken my name out of it.

Ginger Zumaeta 31:17

Yeah. Group was not that big a group, you know, I was like, 85% of the group. Same thing, right.

John Corcoran 31:26

And you mentioned EO Entrepreneurs Organization, which we’re both members of and talk a little bit about the impact that that’s had for you and why you joined it? Yeah, you know,

Ginger Zumaeta 31:36

I joined that again, right, as I was thinking of, like, taking this turn it in. And the reason I joined it was because there were two primary drivers. One was, I just haven’t, having been sort of raised professionally in a corporate environment, and then having largely corporate clients, like I just did not really have, I would have been winging it as an entrepreneur for a decade, you know, and, you know, I started to realize, like, I need other entrepreneurs around, I need to learn, like, I, I cannot DIY this, to where I want to go, you know, I need different, you know, education, I need people who have walked the path, you know, in front of me, who, who, who have that kind of entrepreneurial muscle, you know, and then so part of it was trying to find a group that I could leverage expertise, from, you know, that knew real things what I didn’t expect, but was, you know, I think equally important is, I didn’t really have anyone to talk to either about how agonizing building and running a business can be, you know, I mean, it’s very stressful. 

You know, I, for most of my career, I, you know, I got a paycheck every two weeks, that was more than I could spend, which was really nice, you know, having a business it’s like, you know, there were times where I’m like, Yeah, I guess everybody else gets to eat, you know, I’ll eat last, you know, in terms of my team. And so just kind of, I didn’t really have anyone I could even talk to about that, that those kinds of stresses. And so it was really important, you know, in that regard, as well. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I’ve always been close to powerful people, right? And you need the proximity, you know, of people that can, can can, you know, elevate you?

John Corcoran 33:35

Yeah, definitely. You know, I’m a big fan of gratitude, and especially expressing gratitude to those who helped you along the way especially peers, contemporaries, you know, others in your industry, who would you want to thank, would you want to shout out and acknowledge for helping you in your journey?

Ginger Zumaeta 33:53

Well, I’m gonna shout out to my general manager that it was camo. Well, at the time, I thought it was wo ai. Now, in San Antonio, when, when I, when I was there, I had worked my way from sort of assistant into a research a lot of people don’t know, I started out in research, I was I was a research director at that television station, and the research director and had the director title but didn’t really have any of the director privileges. It was like a department of one. And I, you know, I was like, I have ideas based on research of what we should be doing, you know, from a marketing perspective. 

You know, but it’s a very non-traditional jump, you know, from being in charge of research to being in charge of an entire research department to being in charge of an entire marketing function. And he took a chance he actually had to get permission from a corporation to make that move. They told him they thought he was crazy, because it was just not a traditional move. And he’s like, I think she’s I think she’s got it and so he took a chance you know on me and that’s kind of what sent me on to the marketing path which is, you know, not where I was before. That’s great. Ginger, this has been great. I forgot to say his name Don Perry. Is the shout out perfect?

John Corcoran 35:15

Ginger, where can people go to learn more about you and Motive3?

Ginger Zumaeta 35:20

You can spend most of my time the only social I do at all is LinkedIn. So find me on LinkedIn I’m the only one because you made a last name maybe but um, so I’m pretty easy to find on LinkedIn and motive Has Has Everything we do we do our messaging strategy is our is our bread and butter. We think we do a pretty damn good and so you can find everything about what we do there.

John Corcoran 35:45

Excellent. Ginger. Thank you so much. 

Ginger Zumaeta 35:46

Pleasure. Thanks, John.

Chad Franzen 35:51

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