Q&A with Prosper CMO Cheryl Law: The Secret to Marketing in an Emerging Space

From reporters and venture capitalists to marketers and execs, we work with some pretty interesting — and outright impressive — folks. We focus a lot on the media side of PR, but what about the marketing side? In our Marketing Hacker series, we’re taking a deep dive into what makes some stellar marketers get out of bed, what makes them tick and what they wish they knew from day one on the job.

Our first marketing hacker, Cheryl Law, joined a fast-growth company in an emerging space after working with some well-known consumer brands including Procter & Gamble, Hotwire and UniversityNow. As the CMO of Prosper Marketplace, she’s shaping the voice and dialogue for one of the leading marketplace lending companies that speaks to both a business and consumer audience.

Q: What attracted you to Prosper?

I’ve been interested in marketplaces for a long time. I believe they are good for the consumer because they bring new efficiencies and innovation to traditional industries. Prosper, in particular, has a unique product that meets a pressing consumer need. It can change people’s lives for the better, and I’m excited to be part of that, as well as work with a management team that has a great vibe and a proven record of success.

Q: What are your thoughts on the peer-to-peer lending industry?

It’s an incredibly exciting time for this industry because it’s growing by leaps and bounds, and yet, we’re really still just in the infancy of where this can go. Prosper is using technology to create a better and easier way for people to borrow and invest money and advance their financial well-being. As a result, we are disrupting a traditional industry by bringing borrowers and investors new opportunities.

Q: When you worked at Hotwire, the industry was transitioning from novelty to an accepted part of the marketplace. Now, you’ve joined Prosper at a time when a larger part of society is being introduced to P2P lending. What has your experience with new and more novel products taught you about helping a brand become more established and front of mind with consumers?

The most important thing I’ve learned about marketing is that you always have to tell consumers the truth. I want our marketing to be straightforward and help people understand what we do, how it works and why it works. Too often we may be tempted to think “regular people” can’t understand these new business models, such as opaque travel. But they can, as long as we’re disciplined and articulate in the way we talk about ourselves. At the end of the day, it comes down to treating consumers with utmost respect and serving them well. If you do, they will help you grow.

We’re also in a new and competitive industry. One thing we tried to focus on at Hotwire was not getting discouraged by the skeptics, but at the same time, listening to what they have to say. The skeptics can help you understand what barriers you will face and what your message needs to be. Listen to them carefully.

Finally, I believe marketing needs to be held accountable for ROI-positive growth. Measure everything. Scale what works and kill what doesn’t. Marketing is not subjective; it is quantifiable. If you follow the data markers, you will succeed.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

I have received good advice from various people at different times during my career. When I was a new manager at P&G — and the youngest person on the management team — I tended to “listen first, talk second.” And that is great, to a point. A mentor took me aside and advised me that I needed to speak up and jump into conversations at the leadership level. She told me, ”You know the material, you have good insights, don’t wait to be asked — take a breath and jump into a conversation, even if that conversation is fast-moving, or loud, or heated, or all three.” I did, and it made all the difference.

Another piece of advice came from an article I read a long time ago about recognizing people on your team. The article’s thesis was: the work that your employees present to you is basically like a gift in their minds. Receive the work as you receive a gift — with thanks and appreciation. Especially in a creative field, this is important since I see a lot of work for which people have pride of ownership and authorship.

Finally, my dad, the best mentor and support ever, often gives me great advice. Years ago when I was up for a big promotion but hesitant to accept, he told me, “You aren’t expected to know how to do the job of every single person on your team. You are expected to be able to listen, lead, understand their challenges and break down barriers.”  If you are good at that, you will succeed as a leader.