NEXT 2019 Podcast Series

NEXT 2019 Conference Series – Brianna Sylver – Sylver Consulting

Welcome to the 2019 NEXT Conference Series. Recorded live in Chicago, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Brianna Sylver, president of Sylver Consulting.

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We are live at the NEXT Conference.  Here’s an interview I was able to pull off with Brianna Sylver with Sylver Consulting.  Enjoy.


Congratulations on a great talk because at lunch I had a table of…  I was sitting at a table of six other people, me and… seven. I asked them their favorite moment of the day, and they all unanimously agreed that it was the Storytelling Workshop.    


Oh, that’s fantastic to hear.  


Yeah, swear to God.  Yeah, swear to God. Anyway, and then they talked about it for a good five to ten minutes afterwards.  It definitely hit a chord. Is that something you’re seeing in the space? Like, we need better storytelling.  


Definitely, I think we need better storytelling.  And I think… part of the reason why this talk exists is because I feel like a lot of the stuff that you hear about storytelling today is like it’s sort of very 10,000-foot surface level as far as how to do it.  And this particular framework really gets into the nitty-gritty as far as how to structure a story and what is the purpose and why you’re telling the story. Who are you telling the story to? How do you connect with them?  How do you communicate? So it goes through all the of four steps associated with that. But it makes me super happy to hear that because you know sometimes you’re talking and you’re like…    


What’s happening?


Yeah, like are people resonating with this?  Are they not resonating? So I wasn’t quite sure.  It’s pure delight right now.  


Yeah, yeah, seriously that’s absolutely the truth too.  Anyway, it was good; it was really good, really valuable.  Another thing that I think you’ll find interesting is… So, I’ve done about 140 episodes, which is to say I’ve talked a lot.  I always ask, “What is your biggest problem?” in a full interview. Inevitably – I would say 7 out of 10 times – storytelling is the big problem, like a lack of storytelling inside of the organization, which then connects… effects change or empowers the insight or extends the power of the insight to effect change.  Really, the quality of the story as opposed to the degree of quality of the research, which is a little bit counterintuitive, is in a lot of ways the missing ingredient from a brand point of view.          


I would 100% agree.  it’s interesting because I came to the market research industry by way of design.  So, I’m actually a graphic designer initially, and then I have a master’s degree in Human Centered Communication Design and Design Strategy.  And part of the value of design is sort of taking a human-centered design approach is in your ability to visualize the vision, and a big piece of that is storytelling.  And so, that’s always been just sort of my framework for how I approach my work. And so, when I started to bring in more of the market research side, which I did purposely because I think sometimes the insights gathering from a design perspective at least from a method and even frankly from a quality perspective sometimes can be a little lacking or flat…  And so, I found that the market research side of the equation really helped to create robustness that was needed truly I think to make really solid decisions. But now bringing in these two pieces of like, I would say that the market research is kind of the “What,” and the design is the possibilities for what that could mean.  


Oh, interesting.


And then the other aspect of our business brings a strategy and that’s kind of like, “This is what I’m willing to do.”   


Right, so, tell me a little bit about your business.


Sure, I’d be happy to.  So, my company is called Sylver Consulting.  We support mainly Fortune 500…


That’s Sylver.  


Sylver, Sylver Consulting.  We support mainly Fortune…


And that’s just because it’s your last name, not because gold.


Correct.  There’s a story around that too that I’ll be happy to share.  


I think it might be interesting to be honest, but we’ll get there in a minute.


So, Sylver Consulting, we support Fortune 500 organizations, mainly Fortune 1000, to really manage the transformation of their brands and offerings into the future.  So, we sit at the intersection of market research, design, and strategy. And we really support organizations to enhance their brands and figuring out why they deserve to exist in the forever-changing landscape, filter innovation pipelines, both looking at next gen as well as future offerings, totally new offerings, and then really aligning stakeholders around new visions for growth.  So looking at all of the change ‘cause a lot of the work that we do is really around transformational change, and it requires that people have to allow certain things to die, certain narratives or beliefs or values of the organization to die.   


That could be like a tectonic shift for an organization. 


Yeah, and it has been in many, many ways because in order to embrace visions for the future, they have to open up the space for that.  And so, there’s a lot of iterative, iterative conversation that has to happen, a lot of helping people to really interpret and understand and bring forth kind of these new visions together.  So, that’s that piece of our business.     


That’s really cool.  You guys are based in Chicago.


We are.  We’re based up in Evanston, so just north of Chicago.  


But your customer base sounds like it’s national, maybe even global.  


That’s correct.  So I would say most of our clients are in the United States, certainly some have global presence and we have capabilities to do research all over the globe.  I think, at this point, we’ve done research in 39 different nations across the world, multiple many times. But yeah… Ironically, not too many are in Chicago.




Yeah, you know it’s funny ‘cause I started the business and initially…  I started the business 16 years ago. And just sort of happened accidentally; like I call myself an “accidental entrepreneur.”  I ended up getting downsized out of a job; I had $200 in my bank account; and I was like… 


Mama’s got to make some money.  Now I get it.


And I basically leaned into my gift of talking and connected to people.  I started bringing… My first job actually was here in Chicago, and it was bringing customer centricity into the new product development process of a bank.  It’s the grace of God that that even happened. I don’t know how that happened today. But then like I would go to conferences and I would meet people and then that’s how I got into certain pockets.  And so then, I have a lot of clients in Dallas, Texas, because you meet them and then they travel to some place else. And so, just these pockets of networks start to happen. 


That’s really cool.  So, talk to me about who your buyer is.  Like who engages with you? At what level in the organization?


So, our buyers come from three different areas of an organization.  So, certainly customer insights or market research, and I would say typically it’s a director level or higher that are usually engaging us.  Also, innovation: people who really are in charge of looking at whole other futures or transformations for the company. And then sometimes customer experience departments as well.   


I’m just curious.  How do you… What’s your sales channel like?  It seems like those are hard people to get to network to.  It is like word of mouth or…? 


A lot of it is.  I mean a lot of it’s like…  I have a very, very rich LinkedIn following, and that is a big… 


I hope we’re connected.


Actually, I don’t know if we are connected, but we need to be


Oh, my gosh.  I’m going to look right after this.  


So, the LinkedIn has been really effective for me.


Their LinkedIn strategy is effective.  So it’s driving leads?


It’s driving leads, and it’s driving knowledge because, basically, people see, know what I’m speaking about.  We reference things that we doing out in the world from our company perspective. And then, what we’re finding is that then people…   I mean literally just this past week, I haven’t talked to this gentleman literally in ten years. And he reached out to me, and he’s like, “I have a project that I think you’d be perfect for.”  Haven’t talked to him in ten years, but he’s been following me on Linkedin for ten years. And so, now he feels like he knows me, right? And just actually last week, I got on the phone with somebody I met at IIeX a few weeks ago, right?  She was like knew all the stuff about me because she’s been following me. And I was like, “Wow, like this is amazing,” right? So there’s an element of trust that’s already built. And the good thing is because of the content that we share, there’s also an understanding of really how we can help.  So that then, the leads are qualified once they come.      


So, what frequency are you posting?  Do you have like some religion around that or just ad hoc?


So, I always think about marketing in sort of the “No matter what” essence of marketing where it doesn’t matter how busy you are, you’re going to do at least this and then sort of the other extra stuff.  So, the “no matter what” is at least one time a week.      


Got it.  And is that a post or actually prepared content?


It’s a post, and certainly I’ll post about this podcast, other things that are happening, but at least once a week, it’s something that’s a share.  


That’s super cool.  I think LinkedIn in market research is probably actually the most underutilized tool that could immediately create brand or customer value to businesses.  Look at the companies that are doing it. What’s so funny is like the big players aren’t doing it right, which makes me laugh. They’re like, “Look at our press release.”  They’re totally missing the point. What you need to do is add value to the constituents that decided to connect with you. And if you do that on a regular basis, there’s an affinity that’s built over time, which is the function of brand over time.  It’s just such a great, easy hack. You know the other thing I think is like podcasting. It adds overhead and that gets into bandwidth issues, but I’m such a believer. I’ve been amazed at how I personally get emotionally attached to podcast hosts that I listen to.  They don’t know me from Adam, but I feel like I could go to Christmas with them. They should be at my house at Christmas time. It’s like this really interesting dynamic that exists. And, again, it’s all predicated on the value that they bring to me.  


Absolutely, absolutely.  No, I’m finding the same.  Like I kind of got into being guests on podcasts in the last probably about a year now.  And I love the medium; I think it’s fantastic. And I’m kind of like, “Should I start my own.”  I don’t want to.       


Totally.  You should.  You absolutely should.


I should, I absolutely should and I will in time here, hopefully not too long down the road, but like… 


So, when you do it, framework-wise, you don’t have to do…  I would recommend a vlog. Like it’s the same work. It adds maybe a 10% tax on time, same money.  And the benefits are huge for SEO. YouTube is the No. 2 search engine globally, and Google loves YouTube, as it turns out.  It actually utilizes that search algorithm. And so, as people search for content that’s relevant to whatever you’re a subject matter expert in, and then, all of a sudden, it’ll be much more likely to pick it up if you have content in both places.   


How interesting.  So, do you just like…  How does that work logistically?  


There’s transcript uploads.  I’m going to talk about it when I go to that conference.  There’s a marketing conference that we’re putting on. I don’t even remember when it is.  It’s this year. I’ll send you the information.


Yeah, please do.  I would love to know more


It’s in conjunction with Priscilla, if you know her.


Oh, yeah, Priscilla, yeah.  For sure, yeah.       


Yeah, yeah.  She’s actually the chair of it.           


Oh, OK, great.


So, anyway..


Where is it happening this year?


I knew you were going to ask…  I can’t honestly remember any of it.


Yeah, let me know because I went to that conference maybe two years ago, and I thought it was phenomenal.


Oh, really.


I didn’t have much expectation going in because, generally speaking, market researchers suck at marketing.  And so, I had zero expectations going in, but I probably got more personally out of that conference – you know as far as how to fuel my own business – than I have at many.  And I came away from that conference, saying, “My gosh, the next time I go to one of these, my ad man, who does a lot of the support around these things, needs to come with me.”    


Yeah, I completely agree.  The added value of taking somebody else with you just so that you can absorb as much as possible is…  It’s 1 + 1 =3 scenario for what you’re able to pull out and then subsequently execute. Otherwise, you spend all of your time educating her on what you learned.  It’s like this time hack that’s huge. And people think of it as like they’re choking on a cheap hotel and a plane ticket. But I mean I tell you what: throw down the $1000 or whatever it is and call it a day.  It’s in Denver, by the way. I remember.   


Denver.  OK, I want to know more about that, yeah.  


I think it’s summertime; it might be fall.  I can’t remember. I’ll give you the information.




Alright, if somebody wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?    


So, if you want to get in contact with me, probably the easiest thing is through LinkedIn.  You can reach out to me at Brianna Sylver. It’s “Sylver” with a “Y.” That’s S-Y-L-V-E-R and my first name is Brianna B-R-I-A-N-N-A.


Brianna, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thanks for having me.


And we will include all your contact information in the show notes.  Everybody, thank you so much for tuning in today. I hope you found a ton of value in this episode.  I actually did. Can’t wait to dive in more with her offline. Sorry. Have a great rest of your day.