Mia Fileman 0:05
Life’s too short for crap marketing.
The “Got Marketing?” Podcast is for marketers, business owners, and entrepreneurs who want marketing that’s fun, accessible, and meaningful.
Join me, Mia Fileman, for inspired chats with my favourite marketing insiders about marketing that works; campaigns that inspire; and the fads, fakery, and false prophets to avoid.
Hello, friends! Welcome back to the “Got Marketing?” Podcast!
I’m your host, Mia.
In today’s episode, we are going to tackle the big question. “Is the grass greener?”
In-house marketer or entrepreneur?
My guest has made the move from chief marketing officer to startup founder. Kiarne Treacy is a new business friend, but I absolutely loved her at Hello.
Welcome on to the show, matey!
Kiarne Treacy 0:59
Thank you so much for having me, Mia!
Mia Fileman 1:00
It is such a pleasure.
We connected recently through this incredible women’s networking community called One Roof and sparks flew. They did – at least for me.
Kiarne Treacy 1:12
Absolutely. Straight away!
Mia Fileman 1:15
I’d love to hear your story about how you made that transition from chief marketing officer to entrepreneur. Dish it all.
Kiarne Treacy 1:26
Yes, it was never really meant to be that way in my head.
I’m a career marketer. I was still at uni, and I already had a marketing role. The time came that it was the right time to move on from my big corporate marketing position. I decided to take some time to rest and look for the next big thing because I loved my job.
The pressure that I would find a job that I would love equally was mammoth. It was a mammoth task, and I decided to do some freelancing. Before I knew it, I was doing the best work I had ever done, I had the most flexibility that I had ever had, I was earning more money than I had ever earned, I was being so impactful for the businesses that I was working with, and I could see tangible change and growth.
I thought, “Wow! This is maybe where I was meant to be.” I was working as a boutique marketing consultant. I had a few clients wanting to talk about sustainability. I thought, “Cool! This is a really interesting space to be in.” I did some research and came back to my clients.
I said, “I think we’ve got to be really careful talking about sustainability because it is fraught with danger. It is a confusing space as it is. Unless you are absolutely certain of what you are talking about – and the extent of what you are talking about – it is a pretty risky thing to do. Why don’t we start with getting our story on paper before we start marketing it?”
Client reluctantly agreed and said, “Yes, but where am I going to put this information? How do I tell the world that we have made this progress?” I immediately said, “There must be a comparison site or some website out there that lists all of these credentials so that we can go and find them.” I Googled for a few minutes. “I don’t think this exists, but it probably should.”
Within a few minutes, I was on GoDaddy.com, found a really cracking domain name, put my credit card down on the spot, and said, “Giddy up! I think this is what I was meant to do with my life.” That happened in a space of 90 seconds. Everything evolved very quickly.
Before I knew it, I was sitting down, writing a brand strategy for myself which was the first time I had ever done that. Being a career marketer and a brand consultant by trade, that’s the work that I did a lot of. I sat down for a couple of months and started putting pen to paper about “who are we going to be?”
Here we are!
Mia Fileman 3:55
Kiarne Treacy 3:58
Yes, dot-com, dot-org, dot-au – I’ve got them all.
Mia Fileman 4:01
You’ve got them all. I love that.
There’s so much to unpack with what you said. First, take us back to CMO. Who were you working for? Why did you love that job so much?
Kiarne Treacy 4:12
I was at Vocus Group in the retail division with Dodo and iPrimus. I headed up the marketing department for consumer which was Dodo and iPrimus at the time. I loved the business. I loved the people that I worked with. I loved the work that I did.
I was very, very fortunate to work with some incredible minds. I was fortunate to travel a lot. I got to see some awesome parts of the world. I had an entire team in Melbourne and an entire team in the Philippines. That was an absolute joy to lead and to work with.
I loved it. I couldn’t even put my finger on exactly what it was. Every day, going to work was challenging. It wasn’t always easy. I wouldn’t say every day was amazing, but I really loved it, and it felt very purposeful to me.
Once you take the next step, you start looking at what’s available, and recruiters start ringing you and telling you what’s out there, and you think, “Gosh! Is that something that I could sell? Is that something I want to be associated with?”
As a marketer, regardless of what anybody says, you’re selling a product. If you don’t believe in that product, or if you can’t get behind it, then that’s the hardest job on earth. The opportunities that I was offered – some were really great organizations and retirement villages – there was heaps of money in that, but I thought, “I don’t know that that’s what I want to be selling right now in my career.”
Mia Fileman 5:32
I say this all the time, but marketing is not the business of polishing a turd. We can’t shine shit. It’s about advocating on behalf of a product or a service or a brand that we are really invested in.
Kiarne Treacy 5:45
Mia Fileman 5:46
Because marketers are brand custodians. That’s what we do. They become our babies.
Kiarne Treacy 5:51
I think you get to a point in your career where, if somebody asks you to polish said turd, you have got a couple of choices. You can say, “No, I’m going to do it the right way,” or you walk away. I think that’s a great luxury that I still have to this day.
I don’t have to work with or for anyone or any product that I can’t get behind. I don’t have to love the product, but I do have to believe that what I am saying is true to the product and true to the audience. That’s really important to me.
There are lots of things that I could sell but I would never use, but if I believe that it’s right for the person we’re talking to, then that’s okay.
Mia Fileman 6:27
Absolutely. It’s very admirable.
It’s such a good point that it’s not about you personally needing to use the product. It’s about you knowing that there’s a market out there that is going to love this product even if it’s not you.
Kiarne Treacy 6:39
Mia Fileman 6:40
But you know that real turd polishing where you are like, “This is fundamentally flawed. This is not good. No one is going to enjoy this, and it’s now my job to try to flog something that no one is going to want.” It’s very soul-crushing as a marketer.
Kiarne Treacy 6:55
It is, particularly when you work in an organization where the role is intended to find ways to dupe people that are weak.
I won’t specify, but there was a job opportunity in an industry that I couldn’t get behind because the idea is “how do we squeeze more and more money out of the vulnerable?”
Again, an opportunity where I could have earned a lot of money, but the idea of being responsible for building clever targeted messaging and automation to try and squeeze money out of people who are vulnerable was something that I couldn’t stomach. I think I’ll be forever grateful that I made that choice.
Mia Fileman 7:30
I used to be the assistant brand manager for Vegemite. Peanut butter was also in my portfolio. Assistant Brand Manager of Spreads. I loved that job. I was like, “This is awesome! I’m working on Australia’s most iconic brand.”
There was one day that I went into a meeting and there was someone there whose whole schtick was about removing the peanuts from peanut butter and replacing it with some sort of peanut butter filler – some synthetic maltodextrin thickener emulsifier rubbish that was a fraction of the cost of a peanut to try to drive the profitability of that spread up. I’m like, “I can’t get behind this.”
That was the beginning of the decline of working with Kraft. I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t think I can do this.”
Kiarne Treacy 8:23
It’s funny how you become so connected. I think that’s admirable, to be honest.
When I was at Dodo, we described it as “our bird.” I’d say, “My bird.” You feel that way. You absolutely feel that way, particularly when businesses choose to change. Dodo was going through a transition.
I couldn’t get behind it, but not because I didn’t believe in the choices they were making. It was so disconnected from what I’d always known. It actually felt okay to say, “You know what? Let somebody else take this on.”
It’s hard to watch something change. People are terrified of change. Whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent, it doesn’t matter. When you’re passionate about a brand because you think it’s your own and you think nobody will ever love it like you do, and you think you’ll love it for the rest of your life when you’re in it.
But you do learn that it’s actually okay to say, “That was a great time in my life,” and move on. Although I do think that Vegemite – talk about iconic! Dodo is an iconic brand, but Vegemite? That’s another level of icon.
Mia Fileman 9:29
Yes, I was just an assistant brand manager. I ran reports day in, day out. That’s pretty much all you do as an ABM.
Kiarne Treacy 9:36
Haven’t we all?
Mia Fileman 9:39
Then, you started consulting. This is really interesting. I really want to talk about this because there are a lot of marketers that now listen to this podcast.
A lot of in-house marketers who are millennial women – like me and you – who are working 50, 60, 70 hours a week in a corporate job; big commute; childcare is expensive; and are thinking of making the plunge from in-house corporate role to starting a business and consulting is a really nice jumping off point.
I’d be really curious to know, what did you do for these clients? What did that look like? What were some of the things that they needed the most?
Kiarne Treacy 10:21
The first thing I would say is, when I embarked on building my own agency, it was not my intention.
There’s a bit of a saying in our industry where they would say, “She went out on her own.” I did not go out on my own. It was never my intention to go out on my own. Had I intended to do that, things may have gone differently because you have a different mindset when you’re like, “I’m going to go and start consulting,” because it’s not as easy as it may seem.
I made myself available to a few people. I made a few phone calls. I said, “I have an idea. I’m going to take some time off from a big corporate job, but I will get bored, so I was thinking of doing some part-time CMO work. How about a business that can’t afford a full-time CMO but could utilise one for a day or two – for strategy, for hiring people, for making sure that everything is reported correctly?”
My friend said to me, “I don’t know. Let me think about it.” The next day, he called me and said, “Hey! I’ve got somebody I want you to meet.” That person that I met was a gamechanger for me because it was my biggest client at the time has been with me for five years. Most importantly, it was – and still is – the most impactful work I have ever done in my career.
That happened organically. That is not something that I set out to do. I think that makes it a little bit easier. I didn’t have expectations; nor did they necessarily.
What did I do for them? I figured out my niche really quickly. I was very fortunate because, if I had said, “I’m going to go out and do this on my own,” I don’t know what I would have thought I was going to do, but I started building out brand strategies.
I had done a couple with some external agencies while I was at Vocus Group. I learnt a hell of a lot. I knew what contributions I could make. But I also knew that doing that kind of work can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I thought, “What if I could create a little bit of an in-between that’s nowhere near that expensive but you get more than most businesses can do in-house on their own?”
The ones that are the most effective are the ones that gave me time to work properly. I would sit down with businesses who are in a big hurry to transition. They want to grow. They want to change. I’d say, “Give me three months.”
“Give me three months to interview every single person in this business and really identify who you are and where you are going. Let me write you a 40- or 50-page strategy and then let me implement it for you.”
It is so scary. Everybody is terrified when I show them the roadmap. Everybody is terrified when I show them the time, the price, and what they are going to get for it because they can’t visualise what they are going to get at the end of this, but I also have a rule.
If somebody says, “Can you write me some content? Can you build me a campaign?” if there is no brand strategy in place, I will refuse the work because I can’t do it properly if we don’t know who we are, who we are talking to, and what we are telling them.
For me, it’s impossible to properly do a service for somebody and to do it in good conscience knowing that we can get an outcome. It’s very hard to get an outcome when you don’t have a brand strategy. I think of it like bumper bowling.
A brand strategy is the bumper bowling. Everybody is flinging balls in different directions, but your laser focus is those pins on the end. As long as you have these guidelines that you know how to stay within, you can get to the other end.
I am very strict with my clients. Sometimes, I will say I’m pretty tough on them. We will sit in a room for three days if we have to – to agree as a leadership team or as an organisation on what that laser focus is.
When somebody runs into me and says, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s do an ad campaign that does this!” I say, “Is that getting us to that particular goal? Are we trying to make quick sales? Are we trying to grow brand awareness? Are we trying to convince people of something that they didn’t know? Let’s be very clear on what we’re trying to do.”
My work as a consultant has been very much around building out a brand strategy and making sure that the business is equipped to implement it. That’s where my agency started growing a little bit with creative teams, et cetera.
One of the worst things that you’ll do – and every brand strategist will tell you – is you hand somebody an incredible document that is perfect for them. You hand it over and they can’t afford you anymore and they can’t use it. That’s the worst.
There has to be a happy medium. That’s why I always initially give a quote for “if at the end of this, we do any one of these ten things, here is approximately how much you’ll pay for it,” and none of that money goes to me.
I’m not a web developer. I’m not a TV network. I’m not YouTube. I’m not on Facebook. All of these dollars are how you use my work. I also say, “If you don’t have the money to do these things, maybe have a think about whether this is the right work we should be doing right now for you.”
It’s all about implementation at the end.
Mia Fileman 15:35
Totally. I love that analogy. That is so good.
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When you say “have a laser focus,” I’m sure people are listening and going, “I have a laser focus! It’s to make more money! It’s to grow my brand!”
Can you give some examples of a really noble laser focus for a brand?
Kiarne Treacy 16:41
In this context, this is not about vision and values and purpose or anything like that. This is about what is the key component to growing a business commercially. It’s not always the same thing. I’ll give you an example.
If you are an e-commerce brand, generally, your laser focus is about “how do we get traffic and convert traffic?” but if you are an FMCG brand, you are an impulse purchase, you are a commodity purchase, there is absolutely no need in trying to work on these conversion tactics online particularly.
All you are trying to do is have top-of-mind brand awareness. When somebody is walking down that aisle, they say, “I know this brand. I know this product. I have been meaning to try it.”
When I say laser focus, when I talk to people about “let’s grow brand awareness, let’s make sure they know who we are and what we make” then that’s all that matters.
When they say, “Let’s do a sale! Let’s do X percent off and let’s change our TV commercials to do this sale,” I say, “Sure, but our laser focus is to tell them who I am, what I make, and is that right for where we are going? If we spend three months off-track, are we losing?”
Nine times out of ten, managing directors, CMOs, whoever they are in the business will turn around and say, “Yes, you’re right. Let’s stay on track!” because we all agreed on this three months ago – exactly what we were trying to achieve here. It makes such a huge difference.
I had a client in the sporting space. I said to him, “I need to know what the laser focus is here. Are we trying to grow an audience to get sponsors? Or are we trying to sell tickets?” He’s like, “Why does it matter? Can we do both?”
I said, “Absolutely not right now. We have a very limited budget. Either we are trying to make money from the few people that will pay for a ticket or we get them all in for free – we do everything we can to grow audience – and then we go knock on the sponsors’ doors and say, ‘Hey! This is the size of my audience.’”
That’s the example of these conflicting laser focuses. That was actually a really challenging one. We didn’t really resolve that, to be honest. That was one of those circumstances where the owner couldn’t understand why I would restrict him.
I get that, by the way. Entrepreneurs – we’re all mad. We’re like, “No, I want it all, and I want it now.” I didn’t end up working on that project because I really needed to know – one way or another – “what are we trying do here?” That’s why I’m so strict.
Mia Fileman 19:21
I say all the time that strategy is about making choices. What you said to me sounds like, ‘What are we deciding to bet on?” What we bet on is going to grow our business and make sales, but we can’t do everything, so where are we choosing to focus? I really love that.
Kiarne Treacy 19:43
It’s scary because I have to advise somebody to focus on something that may not be right.
Again, it’s never my job to tell them what the focus is. That’s why I spend weeks interviewing every person in the business – people that used to work in the business, customers, anyone that will talk to me. That’s a big part of what I do to build a brand strategy.
If there are any marketers listening that are trying to figure out the first thing that they should do, you write a bunch of questions and you go ask everyone in the business.
When I present back three months later a 40-page document about who that brand is, the first thing I say to them is “I did not decide any of this. All I have done is taken all of your words, all of your thoughts, and all of your plans; put them in order, made them make sense; and I’m presenting your ideas back to you.”
All of this already lives in the business – unless you’re doing a transition, but that’s a different conversation.
Having that laser focus and being very clear on it and understanding the strategy actually makes your job easier in the end, to be honest.
Mia Fileman 20:49
It would also change if you are a new business in a new space like technology. How long did it take to write your brand strategy for Sustainable Choice?
Kiarne Treacy 20:59
Great question. It took me a little under three months.
I can tell you now that, if I brought that 40- to 50-page deck out now, there’s only a couple of slides in there that no longer apply. There’s a couple of slides where I said that I felt that our target audience was supermarket brands and supermarket shoppers. The reality is it’s so much broader than that.
But I had a really clear idea of what we’re trying to achieve. I think the cool thing is that I knew that how we get there, what the product itself is going to be, I wasn’t worried so much about “what am I trying to do right now?” or “what am I building?”
Also, I have the most incredible developers that I trust with my life. I knew there was no point in telling them what they were building because they were going to work with me to tell me what they’re building.
I knew what I wanted to do was build a technology that radically affects Sustainable Change in mass market consumption. That’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. To be honest with you, I’m still not 100-percent sure what thing we build will have that impact because we’re building lots of different things with that in mind, but we knew what we were trying to do.
We were trying to make the world see that mass market consumption is not going anywhere and fighting against it is not the answer but creating a healthy conversation and allowing businesses to have a voice about what they are doing.
What is good, what is bad, what is hard, why it is hard, being honest about the reason that you still want the same quality and the same price and the same availability of product, but you also want it to be entirely sustainable which – let’s be honest – that term itself is like, “Entirely sustainable? Good luck.”
I wanted to be different to people that are in this space. People in this space are often advocates. They are environmentalists. They are trying to push back and fight against big businesses. Power to them; I have no issue with that – you go fight for what you believe in. But my approach is really different.
It’s a commercial approach. I understand what you are trying to achieve here and that you want to keep your business going. You also want to keep however many people – whether it’s one or a thousand or a hundred thousand people – employed. You want to make sure that those people can still feed their families. You want to make sure that your customers can still buy your products if they want to.
I looked at this from a different lens. I looked at this from the lens of the people in the businesses, the businesses themselves, what they are trying to do, and what impact it would have if you suddenly didn’t exist anymore. That’s not necessarily the answer.
Unfortunately, fighting against it wasn’t going to work. I decided to build out a strategy for something that was going to work harmoniously with the businesses over time to help them, and we think that we help businesses to communicate their messaging in a way that is not put in their marketing because obviously that is risky, but giving them a safe space to publish their credentials.
Also, what we hope for is a bit of healthy competition within our platform. If they are all trying to outdo each other in their environmental impact, that’s amazing. What a win! But, also, giving consumers better access to that information and – to a certain extent – democratising the data. It’s a very long, slow process. We are not there yet, but we have a very clear idea on who we are.
Also, in that document, we had our brand values, how we treat our customers, and what we need to do for success. I would have quoted three of our five values in conversations this morning before I got here because I said something and said, “Actually, that’s not me being impartial. I take it back.” Or “Actually, let’s do that because it’s genuinely the right thing to do.”
We live and breathe those values. You can’t live and breathe values if you Google what are good brand values and you add trust and integrity. That’s part of what I insist on doing as a part of brand strategy – unless they have it which is great – but being able to live and die by the words on the wall is absolutely imperative to staying on-track and on-brand.
Mia Fileman 25:38
I think it’s a really clever solution that you’ve created because greenwashing is a real thing. It’s awful. I have no appetite for it at all, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate steps along the way that brands are taking – meaningful steps.
There is no perfect solution. Unless you’re a climate scientist, there is no perfect solution to sustainability. Like you said, I want to go into Woolworths, and I want to pick up a product off the shelf and it would be good to know what steps they have taken without them having to overstate it and without having to mislead anyone.
I think it’s a really clever way of saying, “Hey! This is the platform where we can share the steps. We can share the milestones without going out with a marketing campaign that’s completely tone-deaf.”
Kiarne Treacy 26:33
I think that’s such an important point – one that not everybody agrees with, by the way.
Greenwashing is so much more prominent when you are using it as a competitive advantage in a space where your consumer is not given the time and opportunity to make a choice.
If you put it on a label, that is the scariest space because you’ve got milliseconds for somebody to walk down an aisle and go, “That one’s organic. I’ll buy that. Now, I’m doing the right thing by the planet.” You’ve given yourself an unfair advantage where it may or may not actually be a good choice.
In that case, I think it’s fraught with danger and needs to be tread really carefully.
The other side of that – a side that still gets accused of greenwashing, and I fight vehemently against this – is when a business publishes the work that they’ve done, the steps that they’ve taken, and what they’ve achieved.
There’s a difference between putting something on a label and publishing something on LinkedIn about something that you’ve done. I see it all the time – people hashtag “greenwashing.” “These guys have said that they’ve planted this, or they’ve put up this windfarm and that’s not enough.”
No, it’s not enough, but it has been done. Allow them because, if we don’t allow businesses to talk about the steps that they are taking, we are (a) shutting down the conversation and (b) we are excusing them from the conversation.
When they are not allowed to say, “This is what I have done,” they sit in silence, but the reality is that there’s so little knowledge around this right now that everybody is doing the best that they can. When you see people screaming about “how dare they say that they’ve build windfarms when there’s still this much plastic in the ocean!” there’s a lot of people that are involved in that.
Firstly, we’re consumers, and we’re still the ones that are allowing that plastic bottle to land in the ocean at the end of the day. Also, we still turn the lights on. Everybody is aggressive about power companies, and I think, “Are you going to sit in the dark?” You have to be willing to sit in the dark because we’re not ready yet.
What we need to do is encourage conversation, transparency, and education. I’m no expert. Let me tell you. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to figure out how we can educate people like me. I haven’t cracked the code yet. It is very hard.
Mia Fileman 29:05
There’s a special place in hell for keyboard warriors. Often, in defence of society, I will say that it’s often a very loud minority. It’s not the majority.
There are quite a few people that can use critical thinking and say, “Building a windfarm is awesome! Let’s give them a pat on the back for that.” Unfortunately, like with everything, there’s always going to be those people that are the squeaky wheels that get the most oil.
I would love to understand how you went about starting a purpose-led marketing technology brand. Like me, presumably – managing teams – you had a copywriter, you had a social media manager, and you probably had a publicist at Dodo doing all these things for you.
What did you do first, second, and third as a bootstrap startup founder?
Kiarne Treacy 29:58
It’s absolutely unequivocally the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. I often say that I’m glad I didn’t know because, if I had known, I may have been too scared to start.
The first thing I did was what I know best. I wrote a strategy and a brief. I took a brief to designers and developers. I said, “Here’s the brief. This is what I want the brand to look like. This is how I want it to feel. This is what the technology should do.”
That part was like silk. I had worked with my developers before. I knew exactly what I was trying to do there. I knew how to commercialise the business. The day came, and I was like, “I am ready to go out there and do this! I’m going to start by hiring a salesperson.”
We were in lockdown. I was still running my agency. We had this one full-time, very senior, very experienced salesperson hit the phones and start dialling to see what she could do. I must say, a lot of things have come naturally to me in building this business because I have had so much experience, so many people to teach me, so many people to call me out on my flaws over the years. While that can be challenging, it really awakens you to where your gaps are.
I think it felt so natural and so easy for me to do because I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I still don’t. Trying to navigate what I don’t know, waking up sometimes and going, “Oh, my god! No-brainer! Why haven’t I done this?” “How many of those are there?” “What is everybody around me thinking right now? Have I said something stupid that everybody thinks I’m crazy and I can’t see it?”
That is far and away the most challenging thing. To this day, I honestly don’t know. Do you ever solve it? I honestly don’t know. I read lots of books. I listen to podcasts. I listen to audiobooks. I ask questions. We do feedback forms. You name it. I still feel like I don’t know 99 percent of the things I need to know.
Mia Fileman 32:02
You need to find some friends in business and make them your outsourced CEOs. That’s what I do.
It’s a gamechanger! You find two or three other women who are in the technology startup phase. You get together once a month or whenever you need. You’re like, “I’m going to talk, and I’m going to listen,” because we cannot be objective about our own businesses. We can’t see the forest from the trees.
The amounts of times that Odette Barry and Melissa Packham have saved my behind – you have no idea. It’s unbelievable. They’ll say something, and this cool dread covers over me because I’m like, “They saw that so quickly, and I was completely oblivious to it.”
It will change your life if you do that.
Kiarne Treacy 32:52
Yes, it’s interesting.
I think a lot about the network around me. I often make a lot of phone calls to a lot of people that I know and say, “This is where my head’s at. Can you cool me down? Can you make me grumpier so I can be tougher? Can you give me some advice?”
The biggest question I love asking is “honest to god, if you were me right now, what would you do?” When you get the truth of that, it’s so fascinating. Often, you can’t do it because, if you were me right now, in your imagination, you’ve got more money, more time, or more resources than I do.
I think maybe sometimes we use that technique to get people to confirm what we already believe, but if that’s what you’ve got to do, then that’s what you’ve got to do.
One thing I’ve found about my network and how to keep my network strong is that the people that are really active in my network are not the ones that I sought my network from. They’re not the ones that I joined groups to meet. They’re not the ones that I have reached out to and connected on LinkedIn and said, “Hey! We might have some synergies. Let’s connect!” I have tried that actively.
Often, the most valuable people in my network are the ones who I’ve done something good for once and they don’t forget that. I see it more and more every day. I’m in lots of groups and I really try to actively be in those groups, but where my network is – the ones that I ring every day – they’re people over many years that I’ve bought something from, or I’ve helped them get a deal over the line or something like that.
That networking thing as far as finding people that can understand you and help you is one side of it. The other side of it is remembering to be good to people. That often is the most magical thing of all.
Mia Fileman 34:44
That’s exactly how you and I connected.
I’m pulling together this panel discussion – Campaigns for Social Impact. I was looking for people who are campaign specialists but also working in the impact space. I didn’t have a lot of time to pull this together, and you did me an absolute solid.
You’re right. I’m never going to forget it. Now, it’s like, “Whatever she needs at any time of day or night, I’m at the end.” That’s really one of my brand values – generosity. I am not hiding behind a contact form on my website. Or “you can never have my email.”
I literally have built this business on being really generous with my availability and my ideas and my time. I think that has certainly served me extremely well.
Kiarne Treacy 35:33
I think I actually didn’t really notice it until preparing for what might come up in this podcast. I thought about how we’re talking about networking and how we utilise and leverage and activate our networks.
When I sat down to think about it, I was like, “My network – the ones that I really get the most from are not the people that I network with,” and I never really actually sat down and thought about who they are and how I created that community. I have never had a purpose to sit down and say, “So, in your community, how did they get there?”
Having a moment to think about that and lining everybody up that’s in my head and realising, “Actually, these are great relationships. I’ve never asked anything from them before,” it’s an interesting way to look at it. That said, I’m all about continuing to grow networks and actively pursuing them because I’m in a few of them.
More than anything, I love helping. I love being able to say, “I’ve got an idea!” but these communities of like-minded people or people that understand you – particularly when they understand you at your low points – is really very helpful.
Mia Fileman 36:44
Extremely helpful. Totally.
Final question. Why did you choose to start a business in the sustainability space that’s for profit?
Kiarne Treacy 36:55
I had never considered starting a business that was not, to be honest with you, because the most important thing about having a good sustainable business is having a great team, first and foremost. I want my team to be paid fairly. I want them to love the perks that they get. I want them to be able to enjoy the flexibility and the joy of having a business that can support them.
The best way to do that is to have a healthy commercially viable profitable business. I believe deeply that we have a right to exist and to be profitable. We will provide an excellent service at an inexpensive cost to these organisations and they will get a great deal of value out of us.
I feel that we would be doing a disservice to the product if we struggled to be able to build it or if we struggled to connect with the right people.
For me, building, being a female founder, trying to lead a business, and looking at you – go and have a look at the statistics on who runs the unicorn startups and how many female-founded businesses we have in Australia alone – it’s challenging. There are very few.
The funding for female-founded businesses is nominal compared to male-founded businesses, the success rates, and the likeliness of the deals being done, et cetera. From my perspective, I’d be doing a disservice to women in business if I didn’t allow us to be a profitable and successful business.
Mia Fileman 38:32
I completely agree.
We know that you need money to make real impact which is why we keep trying to hold these big brands to account – like the Colgates, the Krafts, the L'Oréals of the world – because they have the money. They can create the impact.
You creating a business that’s for profit, you need that money to actually make the positive change. Becoming a social enterprise or becoming a not-for-profit might hamper your goal of creating bigger environmental impact.
Kiarne Treacy 39:08
We’ve got a bunch of social enterprises and product stewards, et cetera. A lot of them are not-for-profit. They come to us. I thought initially that they would be like, “We don’t really like this platform. We’ve got our own thing.”
But they love it because they’ve never had a voice, because they haven’t had marketing budgets, or their brands haven’t supported them in growth, so they come to us. “Yes, finally, a platform that’s designed to help us sing.” That makes me so proud.
If that’s what we’re doing – uplifting and supporting the social enterprises, the product stewards, the purpose-driven businesses, and the climate technologies, and we create a safe space for them all to work cohesively and cooperatively – then that’s good enough for me.
Mia Fileman 39:48
Totally. Exactly as you said – we need female CEOs like you to be making money and topping the tops of the Forbes’ rich list.
That’s how we’re going to achieve equality – by inspiring younger girls to go, “You can create a business that creates impact without having to make it a charity or a social enterprise. It can absolutely be for profit so that you can reinvest that wherever you like – like Patagonia.” It’s a for-profit company that have given away their entire wealth.
It’s up to you to do. Maybe I won’t be giving away my entire wealth, but part of it.
Kiarne Treacy 40:27
That’s a big part of it – make lots of money so you can do great things with it and give it back and put it in the hands of the right people that need it or the places that will do good for people and planet. I’m entirely unafraid of doing that as well.
Mia Fileman 40:42
That’s exactly what I was trying to say, but you said it so much more articulately.
Kiarne Treacy 40:48
It’s rare for me to be the more articulate one, so I’ll take it.
Mia Fileman 40:50
It has been an enormous pleasure chatting with you. I think that this was such a great discussion.
Is there anything you want to leave us with other than encouraging everyone to go and check out SustainableChoice.org, SustainableChoice.com, SustainableChoice.au?
Kiarne Treacy 41:08
I would say that the key message from me particularly about my platform is that we need to enable more conversations. The issue of sustainable consumption is an issue of supply and demand. By having healthy conversations, we drive that demand.
Focusing on positively talking about good change and trying to do better and asking questions around how we can do better – even if we are imperfect – progress is absolutely critical.
For businesses and for marketers out there who are embarking on “how do we start talking about sustainability?” get your ducks in a row. Write it all down. Get all your certificates together. Once you’ve done that, start thinking about “which of these things do we have the right to put on the pack?” but first let’s put it all on paper.
Yes, call on me because we’ve got a platform that was designed very specifically to help you do that.
Mia Fileman 42:04
Gosh. You’re clever.
That’s what I love about hosting this podcast. It’s literally my job to get to talk to insanely clever people all day. I love it.
Kiarne Treacy 42:13
It sounds like a good job. I’m flattered and honoured and very grateful that you’ve had me on today.
Mia Fileman 42:18
It’s me that’s incredibly honoured.
Thank you, Kiarne! Thanks for joining us on the “Got Marketing?” show!
Kiarne Treacy 42:24
Mia Fileman 42:25
You listened right up until the end, so why not hit that subscribe button and keep the good marketing rolling?
Podcast reviews are like warm hugs. They’re also the best way to support a small business. You can connect with me, Mia Fileman, on Instagram or LinkedIn. Feel free to send me a message! I’m super friendly.