For our Humans of Marketing series, we got the chance to speak to Tyson Baker, Digital Marketing Manager at Zimmer Biomet, about her marketing career and what drives her and her team. From Post Malone to Robert Rose of Content Marketing Institute, she shares her inspirations and what makes her approach to marketing, working mom-hood, and leadership unique.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Christine: Hi Tyson. Thank you so much for talking to us. This is really a conversation to spotlight your perspective on marketing, your career path, and what drives you as a marketer. So let’s start with the basics: What got you into marketing? What has your career path looked like?
Tyson: I actually started at Zimmer Biomet about nine years ago, in education. I took a break and left, and Holly [McCormick, Director of Marketing Communications] called me to come back in because I had been working on some digital technology related to surgeon education. I think Holly saw my ability to strategize and see the big picture, and I know a lot of people in the organization. So it just made really good sense to come back. I’m also a bit of a bulldog. I respectfully don’t take no for an answer. I’m—respectfully— always trying to power through, staying super solution-oriented. Those characteristics, combined with creativity, have served me well, especially in this role.
Christine: It’s funny how much that relationship-building matters. Obviously toughness is a big part of marketing, being able to have that thick skin and really fight for what you think is going to work, whether that’s budget or your team or just an idea that is worthwhile. Let me ask you about what inspires you, what gets you up every day and ready to go. What keeps you motivated?
Tyson: Full disclosure, I’m 40 and I think by now you get an idea of who you are and who you aren’t. And I also have young kids. As a working mom, it hasn’t always been easy to figure out how to balance career and family, what that looks like and all the pressures that you put on yourself. So I think for me, leaving every day is just finding myself again. But especially with Zimmer Biomet, I also think about our patients. My father had a hip and partial knee replacement just this last year, and now that I get to do a lot more consumer marketing work in the digital space, it’s motivating me more than ever.
A lot of the work that we’re doing is identifying personas and journeys and understanding how we can help people with the resources and assets we’re creating. We have to make sure we get those in the right places at the right time in front of the right people. And it’s ever-changing, so all of that makes me get up every day and just attack. It’s not an easy environment to market in because it’s super regulated, but I have an amazing director. I’ve had a couple of amazing mentors in my life.
Powering through because I know that something is right is what gets me up every day, along with wanting to show my young girls what it’s like to be a working mom and have grace with myself. It’s also about being able to prove to myself that I can do things when, half the time, I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m figuring out as I go and it’s super exciting and I’m really passionate about it.
Christine: I really take to heart the working mom thing. I think about how I looked up to my mom who was an attorney. I would love to hear a little bit more about mentorship and the role that played for you. How did you develop mentor relationships and what benefits have you seen in the workspace and in your career?
Tyson: Mentors are everything to me. I actually started young. I worked in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame, doing events. And I had a director named Jo Ellen Drennon, who is still a great friend to me, and was just amazing. She included us in everything. Just the idea of being in the room and taking it all in was something that she believed a lot in, and then empowering us to do things and being there when we made a mistake, and allowing us to say that we made a mistake. In a corporate environment, it’s scary to make mistakes. It’s scary to think about people not being in agreement with you. I think that having her set that tone for me, not only as a director, but as a mentor and as a woman who was a mom as well, really, really hit home. I also can tell you that I think a little bit is built in you because I just always say I have no boundaries. I’ll ask anybody anything. Not “anything,” but if I need something, I don’t fear asking for help.
I’ve always had a mentor, in any role that I took on, because the best resource to figure out how to do something is somebody who’s already doing it. I’ve taken that to heart personally; when I became a manager, the first thing I did was get two different types of mentors. One that was like me and one that wasn’t, because I was really fearful about how I would take on leading, not managing but leading people within my team. I take that super seriously and I care so much about my team. And I try to give it back. I do junior achievement work and get in the classroom a lot because I have a faith-based belief that we’re all here to help other people, and that people are more willing to help, but you have to ask them.
Christine: I think there’s a heavy fear factor in asking for help or even seeming vulnerable or opening yourself up to those kinds of relationships. And it’s always great to hear women supporting one another. I’m wondering if you had one piece of advice to give to somebody earlier on in their career, somebody who is facing some of the same questions you did, what would that look like? What would you say to them?
Tyson: The only thing I would say, and this is probably a little bit biased because it’s how I operated, but don’t wait for anybody to give you the answers. When I started at Zimmer Biomet, I was a temporary employee in HR and I had come from event planning. I knew that if I could get into the events team that would be a really great place to start my time at Zimmer Biomet. There’s this certification called CMP, and I started a training class so that the other meeting planners who were full-time could take part and tried to encourage them to get their CMP. I’ve always tended to go out and get things myself. If there was a young person in front of me saying, “I want to do marketing and I want to be at this level,” the first thing I would say is this: read or listen to podcasts. It’s an amazing way for us to educate ourselves in a quick fashion. And there’s a crazy amount of knowledge out there. Don’t be scared to ask for a mentor and if you want something, you have to go out and get it. I’m not saying that you demand or have an expectation that you’re gonna get it or that you’re going to go from A to Z super fast, because you have to be willing to do the work. But I also think that I’ve seen myself benefit, and other people benefit, by going out and getting things themselves.
Christine: It is that balance, right? It’s not it’s like I’m owed this, but it is about asking for what you deserve and seeking that out and seeking those experiences out.
Tyson: I think also too, just to piggyback on that, be willing to go above. It’s easy to say, “I don’t need to do that because I don’t have to do it.” But if you have a passion and want to go somewhere, you’ve got to do the things that aren’t always the most fun.
Christine: Was there any particular piece of advice that has stuck with you that somebody gave you either in the sort of mentor relationship or beyond that that has helped you as a marketer?
Tyson: We are all still receiving constructive criticism on the daily. And I think the best quality about me and the worst quality about me is that I’m passionate, which makes me emotional. So I think that in environments where you get super emotional, especially in a large corporation where people are tripping over themselves sometimes, being able to be stoic and not so emotional has been great advice. Jo Ellen was amazing because she taught me how to budget. She taught me about the importance of budget, especially from a sales perspective. She taught me to not fib or cover up if I made a mistake. She taught me how to be honest in a corporate environment. She also taught me that if you do this, there will be people that will do this for you, too. And it’s been true.
Christine: I would love to hear a little bit about both about how you motivate and lead your team and how you work with people outside of your team at the organization, other stakeholders that will have differing things that they expect or want or are prioritizing. What does that look like for you, finding that balance?
Tyson: It’s hard because when you’re passionate about something and you think you see something so clearly, it’s difficult when you don’t have the whole picture. I don’t always know the entire picture. I can only see this small, focused piece. My job is to try to align with the larger business and ensure that everything I’m doing has a tie or a connection and return on investment for the business. Everybody has great ideas, but are you able to tie that to overall strategy, show ROI, and communicate and present it all?
I take mentoring my team and leading my team super serious. So for me, when I became a manager, I got a mentor. I took multiple classes that were offered at Zimmer Biomet. I read like crazy.
I think I do that because it allows me to understand each of my team members as individuals, and understand their weaknesses and the way that I approach the team. I’m really, really hands off, but I’m there every other week in a one-on-one to help them, to encourage them. Basically I help them overcome mountains, because as a leader, they don’t need me telling them how to implement marketing automation. I’m there during the contracting process. I’m there to overcome hurdles in this bureaucratic world that we live in because we all have so many processes. I think that it’s also about in the morning, after a run, when you feel super inspired and you realize why: it’s your team, it’s not just you. Then you’re sending out that text message right then and there and saying thanks. Thank you goes a long way, and so I keep it really simple. I treat them like I treat my family.
Christine: I’ll honestly say it sounds like this is a pretty incredible place to work with this amount of investment and development. Can you tell me a little bit more about what makes Zimmer Biomet special as an organization?
Tyson: I think you have to start with what we get to do. At Zimmer Biomet, we get to help patients every day. Not a lot of people get to go to work saying that they actually physically get to help people. Especially in my role right now, we’re working on a consumer hub where patients can go at any point in the journey, whether they’re just having a little bit of pain and dipping their toe in the water of research or whether they are scheduled to undergo surgery. For me that is massive and is even more meaningful as I’ve been more involved in the consumer space.
Zimmer Biomet as an organization is an amazing place where we get big opportunities in a small town. The culture has become our primary focus. I really appreciate that because it doesn’t have to be that way. Like I signed an agreement to work, you pay me this much and I come to work. The fact that Zimmer Biomet does so much to show we’re valued and to retain talent speaks volumes.
Christine: That is big. What is something that you are working on growing yourself right now? Is there a specific skill or skill set that you’re working to develop?
Tyson: Two years ago we didn’t do digital marketing. We had a website, some people were on social media, but we had to go through a complete digital transformation. Implementing marketing automation, implementing scoring, redesigning our global site, creating a patient site. Getting policies in place to support this all within two years is super aggressive. I have been on a ride of learning by default, daily.
I also think that I am ready to start to grow even as we start to put these foundational pieces in place, as we learn more about our analytics package, as we learn more about campaign building, as we start to dip into the consumer space. I’ve actually just started researching programs for journalism because I’m not a writer by trade. I read about a book a week, but by trade I’m not a writer, so I actually am starting to look at how I can get more into the content space. Even if I’m never asked to do it, it’s a great growth opportunity for me that I’m super interested in.
Christine: I’ve heard that from a lot of different marketers that didn’t come to it through writing because I’m on the content side. I, on the other hand, came up through the writing side and tried to gather marketing skills.
Tyson: It’s really awesome how those two worlds are coming together. One half of my job, which is the patient site, functions like a publication. We have an editor-in-chief and it’s a whole different world when we’re shifting gears and creating a surgeon, investor-style website. It’s like getting experience on steroids.
Christine: Talk to me a little bit about communication in your organization. What does it look like to share your wins and your successes beyond your team? What does reporting up the chain look like?
Tyson: We‘ve recently partnered with professional golfer Nancy Lopez as our brand ambassador and connected with the LPGA [Ladies Professional Golf Association].
Trying to share it all can be difficult, but within Zimmer Biomet, we have some great communication tools. We have a great internal communication organization. We also have local and global newsletters that go out weekly.
We have an intranet that is constantly updated and functions like a publication as well, where you can syndicate and submit stories. Sometimes we repurpose those for external use because they might be a patient story, or something that ties back to work that’s been done either on the product side or on the marketing side of the business.
If somebody had a life event, it’s special. It’s awesome the way that we are able to celebrate each other. I’ve also been on a one-on-one call and taken the whole hour and a half and just talked about the hard work that all of my team’s doing individually, to just recognize people for what they’re doing for each other.
Christine: That goes such a long way. We’re all really busy, and it’s easy enough to lose track of giving people that credit and it means a huge amount when somebody takes the time to really acknowledge that.
Tyson: People are not perfect. I’m not perfect, but encouragement can go a long way.
Christine: We all make mistakes, but you talked about your mentor teaching you not to cover up that you’ve made a mistake. It’s okay to make mistakes. We make mistakes. It’s what you do with that. It’s what you figure out from there.
Tyson: I find in a corporate environment sometimes it’s easier to point fingers. I’ve done it. I’m not living in a glass house saying I never did it. I just have found more success in not doing that. It’s about being accountable.
Christine: I’m a big believer in that too. It’s frustrating when you get into that blame game and it’s tough to get out of once you’re in it, but it’s also the environment created on the team. And you talked about some of the great leaders you’ve had and mentors you’ve had and what you’ve developed on your own team, and that really makes the difference.
Tyson: In marketing too, having people around you who you can just brainstorm with and be vulnerable and honest around. I take attitude over skill any day.
Christine: I totally agree. Let me ask you a little bit more specifically about your role. What’s something that when you look back at your achievements or things that you’ve been a part of makes you feel great?
Tyson: That’s probably the hardest question anybody’s asked me. Do you guys know who Robert Rose is?
Christine: Yes. From Content Marketing Institute.
Tyson: I started in August, we went to [Content Marketing World] in September. We met with him one on one and then off we went. This is what I always say to my team when they’re in the middle of it: look back at how we have chipped away. Not just chipped away, but I would say steamrolled through this thing. You forget how far you’ve come. For me it’s hard to pick one because in my two years in this role, we have gone through a consulting process of defining technical requirements for a marketing automation tool. We went through the vendor selection process. We implemented a phase one and we’re on to a lead accountability process.
We are 40% into a global .com redesign. We are a month away from a patient content hub that was fully thought through with audiences and personas, journeys, content mapping, and content production. It’s wicked. I think honestly if I were to say now what I think my greatest accomplishment is, it’s having each of these team members do things that they never in a thousand years thought that 1) they’d ever be doing, and 2) that they’d be able to accomplish.
Christine: Wow. That’s incredible. Obviously when you’re in the digital marketing area, there’s a lot of different things that you’re touching and weighing in on that you might not be responsible for directly. And I love the amount of trust you’ve built with your team. When you’re working with other stakeholders, do you feel like you have a good way of introducing the data you use or the insights you have that can help influence your organization?
Tyson: We’ve been looking at, especially with this LPGA campaign, using data insights to drive people through that journey and prove to the executive team that the spend is gaining a return.
We’ve been able to help the whole marketing team understand, when they go to create messaging or taglines and names, how important it is to take that time and prepare and look at the data to understand the customers. Then we’ve started to look at tagging that information and reporting back on performance from a content engagement standpoint.
It’s not like they’re garnering leads like the consumer or e-commerce space, but being able to provide those insights and that return on investment is awesome. I do have to say we’re slow and steady with it because there’s a lot of cleanup that has to be done in order to even get the analytic output. Everything that we’re building right now is 1,000% going to be metric-driven. We’re implementing Adobe Analytics. We have Google Analytics. We obviously use Conductor and are driving our content producers to work with Conductor one-on-one to look at keyword performance and measurement.
Christine: It sounds like you’re quite the evangelist, which is awesome. The data is so empowering and the insights that drive it help us understand so much. Obviously, we’re big proponents of that, but I’d love to hear about it in motion and how it’s helping teams and brands and organizations get where they need to go, and help the people they need to help.
Tyson: It’s a funny thing — the biggest pain point, and where people probably give up, is in getting started. How do you even get started with a content hub? How do you even get started with a redesign? How do you even do a digital transformation? We presented the same presentation probably 50 times, 50 times relentlessly and passionately communicating how we knew doing it different was going to change the business. Then you get the right person that listens and everything starts to become easier.
Christine: So this is what you meant by being a bulldog.
Tyson: I’m not saying I don’t go home and cry some days. I do with nobody around, but you really have to be relentless and you have to be firm in what you know and be vulnerable enough to communicate that because some of the best ideas live within people who aren’t managers or directors.
Christine: That’s definitely true. Creating an environment where people can feel like they can come up with those ideas or surface those insights and those ideas is so important. I would love to hear a little bit about you outside of work. What outside of work kind of helps you be a better marketer?
Tyson: I run. I wake up every morning at 5:00 a.m. and I read until about 6:00 and then I go and I run and I listen to music. I’ll be honest, music has always been an inspiration for me. I feel like music is life. When I’m trying to think about doing things differently, taking that 35 minutes and running and listening to music, it’s powerful for me.
I read a ton, too, not even about marketing or business. I read about life. Marketing deals with people and it deals with understanding people, right? Truly understanding people is more of a psychology. I think that those things really get me into that mindset of trying to figure out emotionally what somebody is dealing with or going through or feeling, even with my team.
Christine: I’ve got to ask. I’m a book monster. I also love music. What’s the one song you have on repeat right now and what are you reading right now?
Tyson: You’re totally going to laugh at me. I just love Post Malone right now. As for reading, I’ve read a lot of books. All the Rachel Hollis books and that whole space. But I recently read a book called “Present Over Perfect.” It literally changed my life.
Christine: Now that we’re on the subject of influences, you mentioned podcasts before and that you would recommend that younger people get involved and seek out this kind of information. What are the podcasts and who do you go to?
Tyson: Obviously Robert [Rose] and Joe [Pulizzi] from Content Marketing Institute have been a foundational piece. I listen daily to the Rise Podcast by Rachel Hollis and started to list to Hidden Brain on NPR. I read almost everything they push out. I also follow Amanda Todorovich, who is in charge of the content marketing department at the Cleveland Clinic.
There’s Jonathan Mildenhall, who created the whole brand for Airbnb and did some work at Coca-Cola. He said the most poignant thing one time, which really caught my attention: “Tell the 40 year-old you to shut up because the 8 year-old you needs to take over.” Something like that. We all forget that the 8 year-old self was the most brilliant, but the 40 year-old with all of our control and preparation and planning can get in the way.
Christine: I love that. So the last thing I’ll ask you is what’s the weirdest, yet work-appropriate, thing you’ve ever googled?
Tyson: I don’t know if this is inappropriate, but the other day I was with the marketing person from MyMobility™. So MyMobility™ is the Apple Watch application we have for patient search and surgeon engagement throughout the entire continuum of care. And she was sitting next to me and we were at the dinner table and she said something about how she played basketball at Marquette So I straight up googled her right there. I think it was so awkward for her because the sales reps, her director, the marketing director, the product director were all involved. But it was fun and playful and it actually led to us all playing one-on-one later because one of the sales rep was like, “There’s no way that you played at Marquette and you’re that good. Let’s see!”
Christine: I know I’ve started to fact check someone on Google in front of them before. But I try to be sneaky.
Tyson: So you know how awkward it is, and since she played basketball at Marquette, there’s a million pictures of her and I’m like, “Have you seen this picture? Have you seen that picture?” And she’s like, “Yes.”
Christine: She’s like, “I’m that person.”
Tyson: I’m that person.
Christine: If there’s anything you want to share, we’d love to hear it.
Tyson: If anybody ever wants to reach out or wants to brainstorm I’m really passionate about people and sharing and fellowshipping. I always see these situations as an opportunity to connect with other people. I’m an open book and happy to have a virtual coffee, if you will.