It is my great pleasure to bring on the show one of my all-time favorite managers: Michael Impelluso. While working with Mike, I increased my capacity for empathy for my co-workers. I came to think of my colleagues as customers.
Some of the skills I learned to improve upon were soft skills, hard skills, effective communication between team members and leadership, learning to clarify the ask, time management, and work life balance.
This episode covers all of these topics, as I find they are essential whether you are working as a freelance consultant, in an agency, or within an enterprise-level marketing department.
Mike is the Vice President of Marketing at CentralReach, the industry’s leading ABA software and services provider that helps organizations serving individuals with autism and IDD deliver evidence-based and personalized care. Mike has over 20 years of experience in Digital Marketing, Brand Management, and Lead Generation. He has managed agencies that deliver SEO and website services to hundreds of clients and ran corporate teams for privately owned and publicly traded organizations that drove significant bottom-line growth using cohesive digital marketing strategies.
Central Reach – https://centralreach.com/
Questions For Mike:
- Can you tell us your background on where you started position-wise in your career and where you have gone?
- How did soft skills play a part in your career?
- How did additional training with hard skills play a part in your career?
- Can you tell us about some challenges you had in getting other teams or senior leadership to align with your vision?
- How do you keep your teams agile?
- What were your biggest aha moments for managing team members in marketing?
- What was your biggest breakthrough in marketing that directly affected how the business performed?
- What recommendations can you give to young marketing professionals?
Episode #14 Transcript
[00:01] Matt Hepburn: Welcome to The EMJ SEO Podcast, where it’s all about you learning SEO so you can get an industry job later.
[00:10] Matt Hepburn: Have you ever worked with a manager and felt like you were completely supported, that your manager would go to bat for you and have your back no matter what?
In the corporate world where enterprise SEOs work, I have been lucky to be supported and empowered as an SEO in two out of the four enterprise-level positions that I have held.
In today’s episode, one of my past managers, Mike Impelluso, now a VP of Marketing at Central Reach, joins me to talk about some of the hardest-to-learn skill sets for working in a corporate marketing environment. I’m talking about hard and soft skills, communication skills, self-time management for productivity, as well as setting the proper expectations on tasks with colleagues and leadership.
Hey, it’s Matt Hepburn. I’m an SEO professional with 13 years of experience working as a consultant, working in large and small agencies. And for the past seven years, I’ve been working in the enterprise sector for some of the biggest brands out there. I provide SEO tips for beginners, and I tell you straight out what is going to work and what’s not going to.
As an SEO, we must break down complex subjects into digestible topics so that our listeners understand what we’re talking about. Otherwise, their eyes cross and very quickly. They’re not following us in the conversation, and we haven’t communicated what we need to communicate.
If you are working in an agency or as a freelancer, you’re going to have to talk with business owners, CEOs, or organizational leadership as a daily part of your job. And in the corporate world, as a member of a marketing team, it’s critical that you are able to communicate with other teammates, and managers across teams, as well as leadership. This would be in an enterprise-level SEO role.
In this next section, Mike’s going to talk about the importance of soft skills and his development in his job.
[02:08] Michael Impelluso: For me personally, soft skills is probably what came most naturally and what I had to depend on from kind of be aware of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can depend on your strengths while you work on your weaknesses. And I would say the soft skills, for me, it was more of a strength. And the way that I really use it was to kind of talk to people, ask questions, learn more.
And then when you build those relationships and you need help or you need a piece of information or they need help or they need a piece of information, now those relationships you’ve built and the communication channel that you’ve built is now working in your favor.
And again, you’re able to learn a little bit more or get a little bit of help outside of your normal swim lane. And that’s been just tremendous, I think, from the start of my career to this day, that is still probably the number one thing that I rely on and also something that when the pandemic came, I suddenly found myself being my main strength was to be in person and to be able to kind of communicate. And now I lost that, what do I do?
So it’s been a bit of an evolution of learning how to apply soft skills remotely, I think is something that’s newer that people have to get familiar with because it’s not as easy, I would say, all the time it’s there, but it requires to put some effort in to be able to have a coffee cooler talk with someone. That’s not as easy anymore, for sure, or to take a couple of extra minutes just to talk to people, as opposed to always so working so much, which happens a lot in remote jobs.
[03:43] Matt Hepburn: It does.
[03:44] Matt Hepburn: As an SEO, we have to always be improving and learning. Google and the Internet is always changing. So it’s a great way for us to improve our skills and to show leadership what we are doing by being capable.
As an example, in 2023, there are two opportunities for updating SEO skills, the first one being the change over to Google Analytics four. And of course, there are AI tools like Chat GBT and Jasper that are accelerating. Chat GPT just launched version four. In this next section, Mike’s going to talk about why you always need to be updating your knowledge stack.
[04:28] Michael Impelluso: The digital marketing realm, web development and design, you’ve never learned at all, you’ve never mastered it all. And if you’re really not staying on top of it and learning new things and trying new approaches, you’re going to get left behind. And I would say that’s kind of what I loved about it, was that I get a little bit bored if there’s nothing new after a while. And when there’s always new things, it keeps you on your toes. So I definitely found tools to kind of help with those skills, especially. Some stuff is complicated and longer and it’s not like you can learn it in a day type of thing. So I found some really good, I would say, tools that cater to the way that I learn and cater to the way that people on my team learn. So online coding tools where you take tests and deploy that and things like that, as well as optimization and how to optimize page load and there’s all these different courses that you can kind of take. But yeah, I would say I focused that very much for a lot of years and I still do. I would say it’s like I still need to keep learning. And as I keep growing myself still into new areas, I find myself I enjoy that part of learning new things. And I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into marketing operations my last couple of years. And in my free time, I’m reading books about marketing operations and different strategies. And I’m always downloading guides that just spark ideas. So, yeah, sometimes you take it all in for hard skills and try to learn as much as you can. And sometimes it might trigger something in you that you really enjoy and you’ve added kind of a new weapon to your tool set.
[06:07] Matt Hepburn: I love that anybody who says that they are at their destination, they are there. I usually say beware of because for me, this journey is constantly evolving. Right. And Google is evolving, so we have to stay on top of that.
[06:25] Michael Impelluso: The more you know, the more you don’t know in this industry. Absolutely.
[06:28] Matt Hepburn: Especially with this AI stuff coming out.
[06:30] Michael Impelluso: Yeah, now they know now.
[06:33] Matt Hepburn: Exactly.
[06:35] Matt Hepburn: Sometimes we believe we understand what the ask of a task is that’s being given to us. Sometimes what we heard is not what is being asked of us. In this section, Mike is going to go over why it’s important to clarify what the ask is and why before you start on that task, you got.
[06:57] Michael Impelluso:: To strip down the request sometimes in terms of there might be a lot of details or fluff added to the request and you don’t need all of that. You’re getting down to ultimately what are you trying to accomplish and what is the best avenue. Because sometimes with the initial request of the project, they’re going to have all of these opinions, but you’re ultimately supposed to be the leader and the experts in your area, so you’re supposed to understand the purpose and deliver forth the best projects and the best execution for that purpose. So you got to kind of strip it down. And then what I like to do is usually repeat back what I’m understanding and what I believe because sometimes that communication channel isn’t completely clear and leadership might be thinking or speaking about it one way and you’re speaking or saying yes in another way but you’ve got to make sure you are on the same page as them. This is what you’re trying to accomplish, this is what we’re going to do. This is when we’re going to do it. And once you get that kind of agreeance, then you should be able to, all right, this is what we committed to. This is what we’re going to do. The last thing you want is people to be unclear, leadership to be unclear, people on your team to be unclear, and to feel like there’s no way that you’re going to be able to accomplish what you committed to. So it’s a matter of, can we do this? We will do this and then do it.
[08:17] Matt Hepburn: As an SEO, it’s really easy to feel burnt out and overwhelmed with the amount of tasks that you’re being asked to accomplish on a weekly basis, especially if these tasks are coming from multiple departments or from other teammates. So to stay agile and to finish these tasks on time, sometimes that requires that you have a meeting to get a reality check here’s. Mike, speaking directly to that issue, how.
[08:43] Matt Hepburn: How do you keep your teams agile? I know how you keep yourself agile, but how do you keep your teams agile?
[08:50] Michael Impelluso: Yeah, I think similar to that last answer, a little bit strip it down to what do we need to do this week, this day. Strip it down to the actual priorities of maybe you have 50 things in your task list to work on. Here’s the three things that we need to get done today. Here’s the five things as a team we really need to get done this week. And I would rather you push out other things to make sure these things get done. So it’s really prioritization stripping it down to what is most important and sometimes stripping it down to what are we trying to accomplish? And then you come back to me with what you think the best approach to getting there is and when we can do it. But in terms of how do you keep the team agile, for me, I think it’s strip it down to the bare priorities and then the most important things that we need to accomplish and be able to deprioritize things, I think is something that’s not talked about enough. So it’s like, oh, prioritize this, prioritize this. Sometimes people prioritize everything and it’s just like, help. But you have to be able to say, I’m going to prioritize this. So then this thing is not as important to get done today or this week. If that doesn’t get done, that’s fine. I don’t want you to burn yourself out trying to get ten things done. Get these five things done, because those other five things, they can wait till next week. So it’s a bit of being able to deprioritize and that helps with Agility, don’t worry about that thing, I need you to do this thing. Cool, I’ll drop that thing and I’ll do this thing. And that’s part of it. And I think that’s part of what keeps a team agile insane is the ability to not just keep adding things to your plate and to your priorities, but also to take some things off. So that would be it.
[10:32] Matt Hepburn: Yeah, so I love that because that’s not always the case with management, right? A lot of times they’re just saying, we want you to be able to manage your own calendar and what your tasks are. They’re only kind of coming in on a one on one and saying, well, how’s everything going?
[10:49] Matt Hepburn: Right?
[10:49] Matt Hepburn: What do you need? They’re not actually helping you prioritize a load of work that you have to get done and like, what is the priority out of this? I got a ton of work here, I’m just going to plod through it. But which out of this is most important towards? And honestly, you’ll base it on due dates on a calendar versus, this is really needed by this time frame.
[11:17] Michael Impelluso: Yeah, 100%. I think also as leaders and in leadership, it’s one thing if people just feel like you’re talking down to them in a way where it’s just like, well, what are you doing? How are you doing? But when they’re having an issue, it’s like you should feel like if they feel like they’re on a sinking ship, they should feel like the first thing you do is hop on that ship with them and understand how to get out of it. Okay, so you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s too much on your plate. What’s wrong? Why are these things issues right now? How do I get this off of your plate? And they should come out of that feeling like they’re helping, not like they’re adding, they’re just putting more water in my boat.
[11:56] Matt Hepburn: Right, where they’re giving you a life preserver to get back into sanity.
[11:59] Michael Impelluso: Yeah. I should feel like, oh, this person is going to be in it with me. They’re going to help me out. I think. I think that is good leadership and good management, as opposed to just, hey, figure it out, let me know when everything’s going to be done. Why do you look so stressed? Just like, without understanding you’re. Like, do you really understand that? You want to understand, I think, what people are feeling and that’s going to keep them agile. And at the same time, Matt, I think we’ve experienced this. Sometimes you have to put in some extra time. You might have an intense project or something you need to do. And if you can’t give it back, if you can’t say, we don’t have a lot of things right, hey, why don’t you take off a little bit early today? Why don’t you just not work this day again? It’s a give and a take, and if you never give back, then people are going to get burnt out and it’s not going to last forever. And you don’t want that. So ultimately you want people to understand that I’m going to put it in the extra when I need to because I’m going to be able to be with my family or have flexibility at the same time on the other end. It doesn’t always have to be just sit in your seat 8 hours a day. Sometimes we’re going to have long days and sometimes you’re going to be able to cut out early. That’s balance.
[13:07] Matt Hepburn: A big challenge for digital marketers, especially now in the post Pandemic remote world, is burnout and having a work life balance. As Mike and I are on the front lines on this issue, I asked Mike to give us some insight into this very delicate issue.
[13:24] Michael Impelluso: Yeah, so let’s see, how do I have a good life balance? Well, once the pandemic hit, that got interesting because everything just got melded together. I would say turning off and disconnecting is something I’ve had to learn, particularly post pandemic, particularly when we were working together. Matt we worked at a global company and one of the biggest challenges was that that company was actually pretty remote before the Pandemic started, which meant we very distributed globally. So from a time zone perspective, there was really no, oh, it’s just nine to five people are going to be messaging me or emailing me or asking for things. It was actually 24/7 because it was constant. And that became a challenge to turn off. And I was certainly challenged with it because I never wanted to be the one not responding. I never wanted to feel like I forgot to do something, so I had to learn how to just turn off and that was all right. I’m going to work as hard as I can today and I get as much done. And again, I myself, same thing, strip it down to the priorities. What do I need to get done today? I’m usually pretty good with being self disciplined, so I’ll make a list of things I need to get done that day, early in the day, and I won’t let myself stop until I do them. And there’s like, that’s it. I need to feel that accomplishment. I got stuff done today. Here’s the things I knew I needed to get done, the big things and I might do 100 things in the day, but I needed to get those three things done. So I’ll strip that down now. And now when I’m done with that and I get everything done, I am going to unplug. I’m going to step away from my computer and go with my family and I’m not going to check messages, I’m not going to check email, and I’m not going to bother people after hours if I don’t need to. And then when I sign on the next day is when I see the next step. Don’t feel that burden, I think, to be constantly on anymore. And if people have a problem with it, I can’t duplicate myself. I do this job in part because I want to support my family. I want to be here for my family for the time that we have and I don’t want to sacrifice that. So I think work life balance, there’s a bit of self-management I had to learn how to turn off and I also had to communicate, I think, that to my team. I’m not going to be missing them after hours and I don’t expect them to answer to me after hours. So, same thing. We’re going to get this stuff done today. When you’re done, check out. I don’t want to bother you and honestly, don’t expect a response from me at 09:00 p.m. Because I’m probably not going to be checking, to be honest. I have to keep my focus on my family when I’m with them. I don’t want to be distracted and on my phone and checking my emails, which has happened at times. I’ve gotten better at so again, I’m just not going to check. I’m not going to look, I’m not going to be available. Sometimes my parents call me and I just don’t answer my phone because I’m just not looking at it. I’m unplugging completely, and people need to understand that. And that’s, again, me managing to make sure that work is done. Now I’m with my family and I don’t want to be distracted.
[16:21] Matt Hepburn: In this section of the episode, Mike gives advice to young professionals who are looking to get a job in marketing and possibly SEO. Let’s listen in.
[16:31] Michael Impelluso: I do love being able to give advice to those young professionals because people can easily, I think, find the wrong path, but find your passion. Not to be generic, but find a way to have fun at work a bit, to enjoy what you’re doing. I have found, personally, I’ve had bad jobs like the rest of us, jobs I didn’t enjoy. And I remember finding that I was going to bed later and later before work every night because I just didn’t want to have to get up to go, and I was just getting less and less sleep. And I would say to young professionals, make sure that you don’t dread waking up, getting to work the next day. You should enjoy what you do. And even if every aspect of your job isn’t just like you’re clicking your heels and having fun, the productivity of getting things done should be enjoyable. The people you work with, you should be able to have some good relationships that you’re able to depend on and network there. But you want to wake up and not dread work. You want to enjoy what you do. You want to be able to find a strength or a passion of yours that you know is going to be to fuel you on those tough days when you’re not feeling your best and when things are challenging, but you still enjoy what you do. It’s really that don’t go into something just for the money or just for this. You really want to tie it back to, you’re going to be doing this job for decades, so if you really hate it, it’s going to feel awful.
[17:59] Matt Hepburn: Yeah, you’re going to have that tightness in your chest as you’re about to go to work. You’re dreading it.
[18:05] Michael Impelluso: A lot of people get there. So find things that you enjoy to do and also be valuable. That’s the other part. So find a way to be valuable. Sometimes, especially when you’re fresh out of college, it’s working hard while you’re learning, but just being able to kind of take direction well and learn new things and run with it, but be willing to try and fail. Being willing to put yourself out there, do things that you’re not comfortable with. That’s probably the other part I would say is be willing to do things that make you uncomfortable. You’re not going to grow if you’re always comfortable. And I’ve repeatedly put myself out in positions that make me uncomfortable throughout my career, but I grow because of it. And as an example, public speaking is not something a lot of people don’t like. Public speaking, I certainly found that it was not something that I enjoyed to do. And I actually had a tougher time. I would say verbalizing things in front of big crowds than I did normally, and it was just a challenge. But instead of avoiding it, I kind of leaned into it and started just doing it more and more at every chance I could, even though I dreaded it. But eventually just kind of working that muscle, I got more and more comfortable. I learned how to prepare in a way that I could kind of think more fluidly. And again, it took years and years of just different opportunities of putting myself out there. And I’m still not great or still not perfect, but I’ve grown a lot and I have no fear of it anymore. And again, it didn’t come naturally. And I see that a lot with young professionals. That specific one. I hate public speaking. I hate talking in front of people I don’t want to present. They’re afraid of the judgment that comes with it. And putting yourself out there and people are going to think I’m stupid or my ideas are bad and it’s like, no. You also don’t want to be the person who has an idea and doesn’t speak up and then someone else says your idea and you’re sitting there.
[19:52] Matt Hepburn: Exactly.
[19:53] Michael Impelluso: I had that idea. Why don’t they know that I can contribute in that way as well? Not every idea is a good idea. I make jokes a lot. I’m more about quantity than quality. Not every joke is a good joke, but I still like to put them out there. So it’s being willing to put yourself out there to be uncomfortable and you’re going to grow because of it. That’s how you gain experience. And that’s why people later in their year, why their experience is valued, because they put them out there in so many different ways, in so many different situations, that they now kind of understand how to read and react to different situations better and how to work their way through them. Experience matters. And the way you gain experience is being willing to raise your hand and say, yeah, I’m willing to do that. I’m willing to do something new. Are you interested in doing this? Yes. Do you want to hop on this podcast and talk about this topic? Yes. Say yes a lot. It was like that movie with Jim Carrey. Yes. Man, I always liked where it changes his life just by starting to say yes. And I do like there’s an aspect of that that I always like to do. It’s just like, oh, sometimes I’m going to say yes because this is going to be interesting. I’m going to learn something new. I’m going to be in a new situation, so yes. So put yourself out there. Try new things, find ways to have fun while at your work with the people you do and the things that you do. Let passion lead you and to be.
[21:12] Matt Hepburn: Okay with failing too.
[21:13] Matt Hepburn: Yeah, you’re going to fail.
[21:17] Matt Hepburn: But I think some of the biggest lessons we can learn are from our failures. Where our strengths and where our weaknesses are and how we can work more towards those. Oh, I really enjoyed that. I think I would be really good at that. Versus I really hate this. This is horrible.
[21:35] Michael Impelluso: Yeah. Going back to one of the earlier questions about a big challenge that we faced and Leadership project we talked about, that was a very intense project and we were doing a lot of new things that we felt were the right vision. Matt, you as well. Like, we had these ideas and things we wanted to do and we took the opportunity to do them. We hoped that they would work, but we were really putting our ideas and our vision out there collectively and hoping that it would work. Obviously we felt very confident that it would, but we had to execute on it. And when you look back, was it easy for us to get all of that work done in three or four months? No, it wasn’t. But when I look back and I think about what I’m proud of in my career and my accomplishments, that’s one of the top ones. And because it was so hard and because we did things the way that we felt was the best way to do them, not the easiest way to do them right, we put ourselves out there. We tried new things. We launched an entirely new website architecture. We optimized things differently than they never had before. We launched a chat bot to go along with it that hadn’t been done before. A completely new brand, a completely new approach to converting people. It was all new. But we put ourselves out there and we did our best that we thought was best. And when we look back, it really helped the company. It was very successful and we, I think, are both very proud of that accomplishment.
[22:55] Matt Hepburn: Absolutely.
[22:56] Michael Impelluso: We’re willing to put ourselves out there. We were willing to try and do more than what was being asked of us because we thought it was the best. Yeah.
[23:03] Matt Hepburn: No, that experience is top of mind of some of the sites that I worked on in my career. So for sure with challenges, since we’re talking about challenges, what do you see as the biggest challenge to marketers in 2023?
[23:21] Michael Impelluso: Simple, one word efficiency. That’s where this year is going to be. Making sure that it’s like the generic answer, but like, do more with less. You’re not going to have bigger budgets this year. Leads aren’t going to be easier to come by this year, everything is the economy very much dictates how these things go. And during the Pandemic, we were just in this great period of growth and leads were easier to come by and big sales were coming left and right, but it’s just there’s ebbs and flows and right now we’re in one of those ebbs where you have to be efficient. You’re probably not going to be adding a lot of new tools and a lot of new spend, but you’re going to have to be able to kind of continue to grow your company, grow whatever the KPIs are that you’re working towards. You’re still going to have to grow them. There’s still an expectation for growth. Then you’re going to have to be able to get scrapping to get efficient. And a lot of times that has to strip it down. What are we trying to accomplish? What are the main goals? How do we get that done? What are the most important priorities to get those things done? And instead of trying to do 15 or 20 things this year, there might be three or five the most important goals that are going to contribute to your company’s success this year. And let’s make sure that we execute on those whilst not trying to do so much that we can’t succeed in the areas that are completely critical is the word of the year, I think. Yeah.
[24:51] Matt Hepburn: Actually brings me back to early on in the enterprise. When I started doing Enterprise, I had zero budget for tools. It was little to none and we were still able to make, I think it was like the first year over year, it was about 19% increase in traffic. And it’s just working smart, working with less and sometimes working with less is actually makes you strive harder to achieve your goals versus if you have a lot of tools and a lot of budget and then you’re kind of falling back less on your heels versus if you’re scrappy.
[25:32] Michael Impelluso: Yeah, 100%, maybe you have six tools, but do you have the time in every given day to use those tools to their maximum efficiency? Have you built maturity onto all of those tools so that you’re getting all of the features out of them? So that’s a good example of do we have six tools that we’re spending a lot of money on, but we’re really using two day to day. Let’s strip it down and focus on the ones that we’re going to really get the most out of and not just have all of these extra tools that we’re paying for that we’re not necessarily leveraging. So let’s be efficient in the tools that we have and how we deploy them. Right.
[26:07] Matt Hepburn: Especially when it comes to budgets, too. Yeah, so I think that’s kind of the list. I know this has been an absolutely amazing interview, so I wanted to thank you for your time and you have a wonderful day.
[26:24] Michael Impelluso: Yeah, no. I appreciate that.
[26:31] Matt Hepburn: Are you ready to break through and accelerate? How you learn SEO. Then please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. You can subscribe on the podcast platform of your choice or join our email list at podcast.focusvisibility.com so we can keep you up to date. This is The EMJ SEO Podcast with Matt Hepburn, and we’ll see you next time.
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