Fireside Chat: The Story of Building Bloomberg’s Marketing Team

Deirdre Bigley, Chief Marketing Officer @ Bloomberg; Martine Paris, Freelance Tech Journalist
Ascent Conference 2019

Martine Paris [00:00:05] My name is Martine Paris and I’m based in San Francisco, but this is my hometown, so it’s always so wonderful to be in New York and especially with Bloomberg and I write for Fast Company and VentureBeat, and I’m also a contributor at Forbes. I cover tech. I also cover FinTech. So I write for some other outlets that are based here in New York, Queens, ask in the Block. And I’m really excited to be talking with Deirdre Bigley today, who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Bloomberg. And he just got an amazing story because you already had a storied career at IBM before coming over to Bloomberg. So can you share with us what it was like to have a full career at IBM, who I understand like not many people ever leave IBM, but again, it’s Bloomberg. So tell us how they wound up recruiting you.

Deirdre Bigley [00:01:01] Um, yeah, it’s been 13 years at IBM and I’d had a lot of different jobs. And that’s the wonderful thing about IBM, is that they keep moving you and they keep giving you new experiences. So it was a great ride. But, you know, 13 years in, you kind of go, OK, am I ever going to get another job or am I going to stay here forever? And I was approached by Bloomberg because they had no marketing organization. They were a twenty five year old company, kind of a startup, still feeling very entrepreneurial and never really felt like they had a need for marketing until that point. So it was this like insane challenge to go into, you know, a company that was still growing and start from zero and build it into what we could.

Martine Paris [00:01:47] Yeah, that’s pretty remarkable. I mean, an eight billion dollar company with no marketing and the job of marketing, of course, is to do lead generation and user acquisition. So what was it like coming in? You know, what was your marketing budget? What were the resources you were given? Yeah. What was your task? What was your vision for them?

Deirdre Bigley [00:02:09] You know, it would be like I’m sure like any startup, none. We came in and, you know, there was a I think there was like two events. People there was a creative person. And there was I mean, it really was just like two cats and a dog. And then some people doing like random acts of marketing around the company. So there really wasn’t any kind of cohesive marketing group. The one thing that was made clear to me at the beginning was that the only way that we were going to be allowed to grow as an organization is if the business units chose to actually give us resources. So the way my organization works is that we are all consolidated from a marketing perspective. We’re on one team, but the business units pay for us. So in order for us to do work for business unit, we develop a scope of work with them. We tell them how many people we need in order to get that scope of work done and then they fund us out of their PNL. So there’s no way I could grow unless right off the bat we were showing some kind of benefit to each of the businesses.

Martine Paris [00:03:11] Yeah. So how I mean, I guess, first of all, Bloomberg has several business businesses that you support, right? Yeah. So and many of them, I’m sure, are competing for attention. You know, how do you go about divvying up? The business units. Yeah, what are the business units that you are serving?

Deirdre Bigley [00:03:31] Yeah, so I mean, if you think of it, it’s like three or four pieces. So basically there’s financial products and that’s that’s the side of the house that makes all the money and gets most of our attention. And then there’s the media team. So, you know, Bloomberg Dotcom, Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Radio, BusinessWeek markets, and then there’s Mike’s Foundation. So we also do all the work for Mike’s Foundation, you know, but then we also like work in recruitment. We work in, you know, tech, we work in, you know, diversity, H.R. So those are kind of the other little pieces that we have very all very different.

Martine Paris [00:04:06] And then what are the KPIs, you know, your brand new marketing organization. How are you measuring success for these particular business units? How is it hitting their PNL?

Deirdre Bigley [00:04:14] Yeah, I mean, like in the early days when we first started out and we were really struggling, you know, we were really just trying to figure out one. You know, we did some research to figure out, OK, what is this brand all mean? And which, of course, we found out it means the man and everything flows from there. So it was very clear to us that the brand had to be kind of a direct reflection, which was which was kind of unusual. I mean, at least for me to know that a brand was going to be led by a famous person at the top and then everything else kind of falls from him and how he is. So for for us, you know, when we first got there, it was like, OK, understand the brand, you know, understand build a brand style guide because there wasn’t any there was you put it all up on the wall and it was like, oh, my God, you know, was 20 different companies. So pulling it all together into one thing, they didn’t have any websites. I mean, we had Bloomberg Dotcom, which was a news site, but there was no corporate websites. It was building the websites. And then gradually, you know, you kind of you start building out your capabilities in design and video and content and social. But that all came kind of gradually as we were able to add more people. But you kind of you kind of pick your battles to begin with.And then as far as, you know, how you actually got people to pay for it, you know, you really had to show them you found that like one week person who was willing to give you a shot because they didn’t want to necessarily want us there. They didn’t feel like they needed us. So, I mean, it was one person who hired us. And the rest of the company is kind of like, what? Why do we need these guys? So you found that one person that you could connect with that maybe was having a problem with sales or something. And they said, OK, if you can come in and do something, come in and do it and you go in and you build an integrated campaign for them, which they’d never seen before. They had no idea how something like that would work. And you start showing some results and then the guy sitting next to them, the lady sitting next to them would go, oh, well, wait a minute, what did they do for you? Maybe they could do some of that for me. So it took us a lot longer to be accepted by the company and to prove what we could do than I had ever expected it would. But we really had to chip away at kind of what was the thinking of the company.

Martine Paris [00:06:32] So you find your champion and then build the use case study around them and show metrics, 30 percent growth, user acquisition comes from marketing. And then you just kind of take a path. You’re two hundred and thirty employees later.

Deirdre Bigley [00:06:49] I’m pretty pleased that you.

Martine Paris [00:06:51] And your massive marketing organization the past decade right?

Deirdre Bigley [00:06:54] We were global then either, you know, to is a global number now.

Martine Paris [00:06:57] Tell them the story of how you have been establishing presence in marketplaces that Bloomberg is not a known brand. I’m talking about China. We were talking about Mexico. That sounds like a really important service that you provide to the business units.

Deirdre Bigley [00:07:12] Yeah, I mean, one of the things that, you know, as I said, we always say, you know, our KPIs would go where they’re not right. So going where they’re not means like, you know, Bloomberg has, you know, a hundred salespeople covering, you know, Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch. That’s not where they need our help. Where they need our help is where they’re not. So it could be an emerging market where they don’t really know who we are. And we have a brand issue and we have like a sales issue. So that’s and there’s probably not a lot of salespeople there. So we have huge opportunity in those. If it’s a you know, if Bloomberg is getting into a new asset class or new roles, I mean, that’s actually where we can play. We also, you know, look at the sales pipeline and we don’t play in things that are going to close within 90 days. We go out and we like, you know, dumpster diving, like just go out and just start marketing to people that, you know, sells is probably not working at all. And those are the ones that when I go back to the management committee of Bloomberg, those are the ones that they’re the most interested in. When I can say that, you know, marketing contributed to the sale of X amount because these are people you had no idea existed or these are people that were in our pipeline. But we’re not being currently worked by sales. Those are the ones where they like their heads come up and they’re like, oh, all right, so this is really neat new stuff to us, right?

Martine Paris [00:08:33] So marketing is providing major business development opportunities for the company. And then so we like to think so. Yeah, right. In terms of identifying large enterprise clients that weren’t even on the radar doing this long lead pitching, I guess in addition to building prospects, databases, also creating decks for them and that that level of support. But you’re doing all of this without an agency. Is is that correct?

Deirdre Bigley [00:08:59] Yeah, yeah. You know, I came from IBM and we had had you know, I had Ogilvy and IBM were like synonymous with each other. So when I got to Bloomberg, the first thing was like, we need an agency. So we hired an agency and six months into it and it was six months into my job, too. It was very obvious that this was not how Bloomberg was going to be. Bloomberg was not going to do the big brand campaign. It is not Mike Bloomberg. It’s not our brand to do that. We are always going to work kind of from the bottom up. We don’t we do do a lot of awareness campaigns in emerging markets, but for the most part, it was not going to be about that. And, you know, for those of us here who have worked with agencies that, you know, they want to do the big brand campaign, they want to, you know, that’s how they make big money. So for us, it was like, no, we’re not going to be doing that kind of stuff. We’re going to be doing like the down and dirty stuff, like content that’s got to get out the door, like, really, really fast. We need designers sitting next to engineers sitting next to, you know, content people, and they’ve got to pull together and get it out the door really fast. That kind of speed that Bloomberg works and that we had to be able to work in, it just wasn’t something that was going to work with a large agency. So we we went back to the management committee and we said, you know, we had spent X amount of dollars with this agency. We’ll give you back a million dollars the company, if you let us keep the rest and build our own agency. And they agreed to do that. And that agency is is now because it still has to be paid for, for the most part by the businesses. You know, it’s of the two hundred thirty it’s one hundred people. That’s a that’s you know, globally, it’s one hundred people. Just this year, though, when you talk about, like, having to move things around and where the opportunity is, you know, we’ve taken, you know, 20 people out of New York and we’ve hired twenty people in Asia because that’s where huge growth is coming from for us. So you got to be able to kind of move them around.

Martine Paris [00:11:02] That’s fantastic. Well, in talking about your business units, one that you keep going back to is the foundation. Yeah. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of the stuff that Michael Bloomberg does and correct me if this is wrong, the like. So, for instance, when the United States pulls out of the Paris accord, Bloomberg wrote a check for the amount of the United States. Yes. That he paid are unbelievable. He paid our Jews to the Paris Accords, make sure that we still have a planet in 2050. So tell us about, like, the line between what Michael Bloomberg is doing and the foundation and then how how your organization supports the messaging of that.

Deirdre Bigley [00:11:43] Yeah. So it yeah, it’s you know, Mike is the foundation. Right. So he you know, this past year, he gave away over a hundred million dollars to 800 million, almost a billion dollars, almost a billion dollars and for all sorts of causes so.

Martine Paris [00:12:01] I’m really happy I watch Bloomberg.

Deirdre Bigley [00:12:04] Well, I mean, and that’s part of being an employee at Bloomberg. It and it’s part of the brand. Right? It’s about giving back. Mike is huge, obviously, about giving back. So it’s something that is in our DNA. It’s something that we are really encouraged to do. But the other thing from a marketing perspective is to make sure that, like every employee understands, you know, why he’s giving, what he’s giving and and the importance of being a Bloomberg employee, because you’re working for a company that all of the profits of the company go to the foundatin.

Martine Paris [00:12:35] all of the profits, I don’t think.

Deirdre Bigley [00:12:37] Profits.

Martine Paris [00:12:38] I didn’t know that. Yeah.

Deirdre Bigley [00:12:39] Go to the foundation. So that’s what fuels the foundation. And, you know, and you’re working for a company that is about, you know, climate, that is about oceans and, you know, you know, education and gun control. And, you know, and if you believe in those things, then you have a pride in working for a company like that.

Martine Paris [00:13:01] So if all of the proceeds, the profits go to these amazing charitable organizations, when you’re messaging your product to enterprise clients, is that a factor in your in your marketing messaging that that when they do business with you, they are helping to save the planet?

Deirdre Bigley [00:13:22] What we have found is that that’s not necessarily the best. Message to use for clients? I think it’s great in the sense that we try to we try to pull all those things together and, you know, it’s not something we’re ashamed to talk about. But, you know, you’re also charging these people a lot of money and then a lot of their money is going to the foundation. So, you know, I think you have to kind of use it in, you know, properly because you don’t want to make it sound like Mike is, you know, making all this money off of you and you’re giving it away. So, yeah. So we use it to kind of like help our causes. There’s a lot of clients that are into a lot of the same causes as Mike. So we bring them in. You know what Mike is doing? Events and things like that are happening.

Martine Paris [00:14:06] Wow. Fantastic. And so let’s just talk very quickly about diversity and then we might have time for some questions from the audience. And Bloomberg is incredibly diverse. I know when I watch it, I notice I notice that there’s more women than men for anchors on the shows and that they’re not just racially diverse, but they’re also diverse across ages and they’re diverse across sizes. And it looks like something that Bloomberg takes very seriously. I wanted to ask you is, as a senior executive within this very large corporation, you know, what has your experience of diversity been? And then how do you execute diversity through your your very you are the size of startup 230 people. That’s a lot of series. These startups are two hundred thirty people. So tell us a little bit about the perspective of diversity at Bloomberg and then how you message that.

Deirdre Bigley [00:14:57] Yeah, um, I think, you know, just bringing up news. I mean, it has been a concerted effort among our news organization. There’s a great article out last week that this wonderful reporter had done a study on the number of women female photojournalists that had bylines or credits with the major newspapers. And the average was 17 percent of all of those credited photojournalists were women. Bloomberg is at 48 percent of Ford photojournalists. So that doesn’t happen by accident. That has to be like a concerted like idea that is done at the very highest, you know, ranks of Bloomberg News to make sure Bloomberg also, as you said, makes sure that our on air talent is equal, but are a big push lately, is making sure that the quotable people, the people in our news who are being quoted, we’re getting more women to be quoted because, you know, when you’re in especially in financial news, it’s a lot of men. So that’s taken a really long time. We actually have a program where we, you know, go into companies and we teach these women how to be, you know, the the spokesperson for their company.

Martine Paris [00:16:14] So you media train their Assamese. They’re called you media train.

Deirdre Bigley [00:16:18] Yes, we do.

Martine Paris [00:16:19] Wow.

Deirdre Bigley [00:16:20] Yeah. Just so we can go back to them and get quotes so there’s more women that have a voice in the news.

Martine Paris [00:16:28] That’s fantastic, yeah, because it is very noticeable and it’s not just for us, it’s for Asian when I watch Bloomberg all day long. So, you know, it’s after hours, too. And then, of course, San Francisco time.

Deirdre Bigley [00:16:38] I think it was interesting to about my organization is that, you know, I actually really look at pay equality and gender equality within my organization. And I learned this like. Heartfelt lesson last year that was pretty painful, you know, no one can ask anybody what they make right when you’re switching jobs anymore, right. So, you know, people come in and they have to tell you what they want. And you’re not allowed to say what would you make your last job? You’re not allowed to do that anymore. So what I found when I was looking at all the compensation of all my employees, like I had this all of a sudden staggering, like inequity with women. And I was like, wait a minute, how is this possible that we have inequity with women? Like, we work so hard at this to make sure that this doesn’t happen? And what it turns out is that women were coming in and asking for less.

Martine Paris [00:17:28] So because we don’t have perspective, because we haven’t paid substantially less. Most companies don’t have transparency. So if you have a history, that’s why that’s why employers can’t ask for salary history anymore, because it was it was, you know, built in discrimination, discrimination.

Deirdre Bigley [00:17:43] But women weren’t understanding their worth.

Martine Paris [00:17:45] It’s really hard to check your value. I mean, I guess there’s Glassdoor, but if you’re making what you’re making, I work for an organization. When they they had asked me, how much do you want? And I told them and then they wound up giving me a lot more. It was like 50 percent more than what I had asked for. And I said, sure, yes, of course I accept. Why why are you I have to ask you, why are you why did you give me so much more than I asked for? And they said it’s even legal to pay you what you were asking for. So, you know, we have pay transparency and we have levels. And this is your level and that’s what you know.

Deirdre Bigley [00:18:14] Well, that’s what we wound up doing. We wound up putting in bans so that, you know, if you come in and you’re at this level, we will pay you between those two things, whether you ask for it or not, just because you’re never going to get equality when you know the women are not coming in. And like, I hope like women start really recognizing what they’re worth because it was astonishing to me.

Martine Paris [00:18:38] Yeah. Pay parity and just a non discriminatory practices are unconscious, conscious effort. Now, while ago there were quotas and we don’t have quotas anymore. But there was a time in America’s history where there were quotas, where they were women were universities were forced to push 50 percent through and make sure they were women and then large companies had to push 50 percent through this. Bloomberg have stated metrics of hiring practices like were you told you need like 50 percent hit these numbers, or is it just a conscientious effort on the part of all employees to strive for equality?

Deirdre Bigley [00:19:16] I mean, my organization Sixty six percent women that I’m marketing and that tends to be more of a female dominated, you know, career path. So for me, it’s super important. Right. All of the women’s issues, equality issues it is. But even from a Bloomberg perspective, you know, are there quotas? No, no. And we’re a privately held company, so we wouldn’t report them anyway. But it’s very difficult when, you know, Bloomberg doesn’t outsource any of their engineering. I know that’s insane that we have thousands of engineers that sit on Lexington Avenue, you know, every day. But we do. And, you know, and again, those tend to be there’s a lot of men like, you know, the whole STEM thing hasn’t quite like. You know, gotten through all the the ranks, so, you know, it’s still very male dominated. So I think engineering probably throws Bloomberg off in their weighting of of men and women. But it’s you know, it. But then you go to other departments and it’s really female.

Martine Paris [00:20:17] You know, I have my own I am a tech reporter and I do report on Silicon Valley. And I have my own theory about the STEM pipeline. You know, there are a lot of millennial female engineers, but the problem is that such they found like blind coding test that the women are just great harsher. When they when it’s blind, the women are graded higher. But when it’s not being degraded, graded harsher. And what happens is a lot of them come out of school and they go into engineering jobs and then they’re not supported, they’re not mentored, they’re not coach. They’re graded harsher and they don’t see well. So they drop out, you know. Does Bloomberg have internally what you can share with us mentoring programs to make sure that the women are asserting for themselves? I mean, obviously to New York, women know how to assert themselves here. But I’m just saying, you know, is there like a specific training program to help them that.

Deirdre Bigley [00:21:05] There’s definitely groups that come together and, you know, led by more senior female engineers and. Yeah, and they come together and they give them training. And yeah, I mean, Bloomberg is is very big on on training. And it’s it’s important. It’s important even my own department that has so many women. But, you know, what I found is that, you know, a lot of the women I was working with, like were great presenters. They were not you know, they didn’t have great voices when they were with these senior people at Bloomberg. So we had to start training like that was a big part of the initial stages, its men and women. Now it’s like, you know, just let’s hone it, you know, get good at it.

Martine Paris [00:21:50] I guess this is why Bloomberg is considered one of the best employers in the world. I mean, it’s such a thrill to have you here. I, I wonder if anybody in the audience has questions I don’t want to dominate the whole time period. Yes, please. Yeah.

Audience [00:22:08] You mentioned your effort in Mexico into Asia. Could you please talk more about. Working on the markets, you don’t know in the languages you don’t speak, especially in the first orderly stages when you don’t have a well-established theme.

Deirdre Bigley [00:22:26] Yeah, um, you you do rely on local people. So, you know, we have a major push right now in China. Um, you know, the markets are going to open up very soon in China, which means that, you know, you’re going to be able to trade in China and China. You know, we’ll be able to trade with the rest of the world. That will happen eventually pretty soon. So it’s a huge opportunity for us, you know, but, you know, my team certainly doesn’t understand the Asian culture being in New York. And that’s why we had to we had to, like, push to actually eliminate work in New York and get a really solid team in China. And it’s like for people, it’s like I’m like that’s what we’re talking about. But it was also a brand campaign. And we had to make sure we actually did hire an agency to check us on the brand campaign to make sure that we were actually doing it appropriately. So, yeah. So I think that you if you don’t have people on the ground that are marketers in that country that truly understand it, it’s really, really difficult. So we built up China this year. We’re building up India right now, you know, so those are the two biggest for me right now as like getting getting those, you know. Correct. But if you don’t have people there, you can’t you can’t fake it. Thank you.

Martine Paris [00:23:48] So, Deirdre, it looks like we’re out of time and I just wanted to let you close with, is there anything you’d like to share with the people in the audience on lessons learned and best practices in terms of growing an organization where one has some previously existed?

Deirdre Bigley [00:24:05] Yeah, I think the only thing I’d say is that, you know, if you can’t measure it, then nothing’s going to happen. And I think if you if you if you know, that has been my bread and butter is being able to go and sit in front of Mike in the management committee and explain exactly what I what I do. I mean, I could show him pieces of content. I could show on websites. I could show him pretty creative, you know, pictures. But it’s not till I show him the data that they actually care. So I think that that’s insanely important if you’re trying to build something up, is to be able to completely express, you know, what you’re contributing to the company.

Martine Paris [00:24:46] Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Deirdre Bigley [00:24:48] Thank you.