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How Signifyd’s Kalina Bryant became one of America’s most fearless marketers

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Few know better than Kalina Bryant that marketing is a daily act of bravery.

In the course of the last year, Signifyd’s head of customer marketing has built a national roadshow of commerce meetups that are part college-course, part laid back dinner party; launched an online community of retailers hungry for knowledge and generous with wisdom and formed a high-powered customer advisory board that serves as Signifyd advisors and advocates.

Maybe it’s no surprise then that marketing tech giant Marketo named Bryant to its latest Fearless 50, a group of marketers who, to paraphrase Marketo, have tapped their unstoppable drive to become the boldest and most fearless marketers in the business. 

“When you have the fearless mentality,” Bryant says. “It’s almost like, if you believe in something, you’re going to go with it regardless. No one can tell you differently. You make up your mind and you just do it.” 

That’s not to say being named to the F50 is a given. Nor did it come without deep thought and hard work on Bryant’s part. Marketo, which is now an Adobe company, considers hundreds of marketers for the honor. 

“At Adobe, we understand that it takes a lot of courage and passion to challenge the status quo and transform how you engage your audience,” Marketo’s Rena Gadimova wrote in a company blog post announcing the honorees. “This is why we recognize the top 50 talented marketers, to celebrate their success and share their mission-driven, inspiring stories with the world.” 

Bryant’s story reflects that courage and passion. About a year ago, she left a well-paying marketing job without a solid Plan B. That’s not the same as leaving without a plan. Bryant wanted to sketch out her next move and her move after that and the one after that. 

Who do you want to be next?

“I started doing some exploring and really evaluating myself and understanding, “Who do you want to be next?’” Bryant says. “And I realized I didn’t want to be afraid. I didn’t want to settle for less. I didn’t want to just do what someone else asked me to do.”

Signifyd head of customer marketing Kalina Bryant

Kalina Bryant

In short, she was out to optimize her career and her life for the longterm. She kept in mind a CMO whose work she admired and who had been named to Marketo’s 2018 Fearless 50. And she thought about the sensation she had reading the biographies of the winners.

“I started thinking, man, I want to be that fearless as well,” Bryant says. ” I wanted my voice heard. I always had the ideas and was always willing to share, but I no longer wanted to be in the shadow. Most importantly I wanted to receive credit for the idea.” 

Within a week of leaving her job, Bryant was on a Norwegian Air flight.

“I just decided I’m going to do this,” she says. “I booked a one-way ticket to Europe to visit friends and write out all of my plans and ideas and what I wanted out of life.”

And she wrote. In bed. On the beach. Anywhere. In the Netherlands, Turkey, Germany. And then back home in the U.S., where she heard from a turbo-charged startup with big customer marketing ideas, vast white space when it came to strategy and no specific budget for its fledgling customer marketing programs. 

Daily act of bravery, remember?

Yes, Bryant took the job at Signifyd — after presenting executives with the fruits of her writing, thinking and strategizing in Europe.

“I took all those ideas and put them in a PowerPoint,” she says. “It was just a combination of everything that I had successfully done in my past career but if I had an opportunity to do it better, that’s what I would do. After that, it was a perfect match with Signifyd.”

Bryant’s approach to customer marketing comes from her previous experience in sales and the understanding that each part of an organization serves an important and distinct purpose.

In sales, the focus was on, well, sales. Closing the deal. You check in frequently with the customer. You answer whatever questions they have.

Customers should feel like partners

“I wanted so much more for my customers, I wanted my customers to feel as though they were partners and not just a number,” she says.

Marketing gave Bryant that chance. Marketing owns the customer relationship from beginning to end — with customer marketing intensely focused on the post-sale relationship.

“I thought the description of it was maintaining that customer relationship from beginning to end and that was something that was amazing to me,” Bryant says. “This was exactly what I wanted to do. So, when I started embarking on it, I started looking at, ‘OK, how can I have the ability to talk with customers on a regular basis and understand their pain?’ And then, not just understand their pain, but actually source the right people to fix the pain.” 

The answer was a customer-centric approach that had four key elements: building customer relationships throughout the entire customer lifecycle, providing measurable value to each customer, supporting every customer’s growth and generating loyalty and advocacy at scale. 

That sounds great, but how? 

Since joining Signifyd in December, Bryant and her team have launched FLOW, a series of meetups featuring a fireside chat with a retail thought leader over dinner, initiated FLOW Forward, an online community providing shared knowledge and networking, and recruited a customer advisory board with representatives from Boardriders, Crown & Caliber, Rite Aid, Samsung, Stance and TUMI. 

Taken together, the channels provide retailers with the support and knowledge that will lead to greater success. Meanwhile, they provide Signifyd a deep bench of fierce advocates who authentically explain to prospects Signifyd’s value in unlocking revenue that they are leaving behind because of measures to counter fraud and customer abuse.

For instance, Bryant says, FLOW allows merchants in cities like New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and more to come together for a nice dinner with a group of people who understand each others’ challenges. 

“FLOW is a space that you look forward to coming to after work,” she says. “It’s 5:30 and you have a nice cocktail, but you also get to collaborate. You get to have a mini-therapy session with other like-minded commerce individuals.”

Signifyd understands how to optimize revenue

FLOW attendees come away understanding that Signifyd isn’t simply a fraud protection company, that it is a company that understands commerce and provides ways to optimize revenue along the buying experience. They learn that Signifyd is a partner that can connect retail professionals with retail professionals and others who can help them achieve their goals. 

FLOW Forward provides a similar role, but in an online form that provides a more immediate way to connect and learn when and where it’s convenient.

Sigifyd’s customer advisory board (CAB) not only provides invaluable feedback on products and the challenges that retailers face, it offers a group of strong advocates who can best explain how Signifyd propels businesses forward.

“By building the customer advisory board, picking those select individuals that we did as customers to join us, we gain not only a lot of material and feedback, we also gained partners,” Bryant says. “These are individuals we trust long term and have a mutual investment with. We pride ourselves on giving them white-glove treatment and in return, these individuals are willing to go above and beyond for us.”

Now, as a member of the Fearless 50, Bryant says she’ll have a circle of peers and mentors who will provide inspiration and guidance as she expands and improves the programs in place and adds new avenues to nurture customer relationships.

The honor, you see, isn’t just a trophy to put on a desk. It comes with a learning community — webinars, speaking opportunities, chances to share thought leadership and plenty of interaction. 

“When you want to always stay innovative, you’ll also need to have those individuals who are willing to challenge you, willing to ask you questions that get your mind thinking,” Bryant says. “I think sometimes that’s what you’re missing in marketing. It’s not that you’re not smart or that you’re not creative. Sometimes you just don’t have that network system that will never not want to listen to you, and that will just take the time to meet with you.” 

The Fearless 50, then, is another tool, a powerful one, for getting things done and for calling up that bravery that every marketer is looking for every day.

Photo by Bauman Photographer

Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].