B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1721 · 7 months ago

Marketing: The Center of Corporate Strategy, with Rebecca Biestman


In this episode, Benji talks to Rebecca Biestman, CMO at Reputation.

We discuss:

  1. Why we need a language shift in B2B around "brand"
  2. How to bring up company positioning to the C-suite
  3. When to start prioritizing brand in your organization

Conversations from the front lines and marketing. This is be tob growth. Today on BB growth I am joined by Rebecca Beastman. She's the CMO over at reputation. Rebecca, thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me. It's great to be on. So, Rebecca, tell us a little bit about reputation and the work you guys are doing. Sure, reputation is a b tob SASS technology platform and it's basically a feedback management tool for companies. So we take all public feedback, like reviews and readings, which media comments, all of a company's private feedback data, like direct messages or surveys, put in our platform and we basically help companies understand where they're doing well where they need to improve so they can keep their customers happy and loyal. Fantastic. Well, when we originally connected and we were chatting about things you're seeing in marketing, things I'm seeing marketing, it was actually perfect timing. I don't know if I mentioned to this to you, but we've been serving our audience this past month or so and one thing that we've heard people mention several times is a discussion that they want to hear more around brand right and the timing is impeccable because I know you recently have also been in a couple conversations where you're talking about, okay, marketing needs to be the center of corporate strategy. I want and again it ends up being a conversation around brand and branding and it all starts to kind of, you know, flow together. But tell me a bit of these conversations you're finding yourself in recurringly. Yeah, I think traditionally people have thought of the brand or a brand refresh or rebrand is a marketing exercise and I feel like we're removing the conversation today and where it needs to go in the future is that the brand is just your company's strategy, and so figuring out who you are, what you do, why what you do matters, how you do it better or differently than everyone else in the market, those are all really core kind of corporate strategy questions that end up informing the brand. And so when you think about a brand logo, it's color Palette, it's a new website, all of that is the cast skating end results. That's not where the meat of the work gets done, and so having marketing be the center of that conversation is important because it not only means that the brand exercise and all those cascading outcomes will go well, it also means that marketing becomes this center of those strategic business conversations that are being had at the highest level, and we'll dive into a lot of that here over the next few minutes. I wonder where in the stages of company growth you see this kind of need to step back and start asking some of these bigger questions. Getting maybe more pilosophical here, you're kind of asking who you are these types of questions, like where in the stages of company growth should we be focused on that? It's such a good question. I think most very early stage startups absolutely go in with a point of view around where they're going to fit in the market, around the problems that their products or solutions are solving, and then, as you know and so many of your listeners know, over time in sort of the startup growth trajectory, you end up pivoting, you end up experimenting, you end up learning so much and then there's a period of time where they're sort of growth scale. Product market fit has kind of all been established and you're really building that company. Oftentimes there's that inflection point where then either the founding team or the current executive team will look back and they'll think, oh, what we originally thought this company was going to be all about has either changed or morphed over time, or the market has changed and shifted over time, and we really do need...

...to codify what this is. And you'll find that externally that happens a lot. And then internally these companies are growing rapidly with employees. So you start with a founding team, maybe a few other hires. You all know what it is you're doing and what you're trying to achieve. You have to codify that. It doesn't have to be this big company exercise. You start to add a hundred, two, hundred, three hundred Azero employees to that mix, suddenly what everybody thought they knew through USMOSIS turns out to not be true at all. So you go down the hall and you US One person. Who are you as a company or what is your company do tell me in a sentence you have from people. You get five different answers. That's a problem for the company. So it's usually that inflection point and there's no stage or revenue size where that happens, but it usually ends up being, unfortunately, a reactive exercise instead of a proactive exercise on the part of companies because they've basically just outgrown but they thought they knew about themselves. Yeah, and you end up feeling the tension internally and externally right like, because if you were to go down the hall and you have these different definitions, that internally does it's not great for momentum. And then externally, the like the look larger market is hearing different messages depending on who they talked to from your organization. So you end up with a brand problem that you might not actually label or call initially a brand problem. And you know so much that determines the success of be tob companies, be to be tech companies as you're going through the stages of growth and scale. It's really about focus. There are so many things a company could go do, especially early stage. The world is always start. So it's all about tradeoffs and decisionmaking. And what is it? What are the parameters that you use to make those decisions about what you should go do, where you should go in best time and resource, the brand and what you're building and how you're building it within the market helps to answer so many of those questions. It's your point. It's not just like a lack of alignment. That's anecdot. Role it really ends up impacting your business is ability to appropriately scale in the market. HMM. So it almost feels like what we're saying is that, while it's about brand, it's kind of like not about brand, because it's a change in language, especially when you're trying to change the hearts and minds of, let's say, key stakeholders. They've seen this a certain way. Maybe they've been product led for a long time, so they're going this needs to become a conversation, and I love the word choice you have on corporate strategy, company positioning. Talk about that a little bit, because it's it's a shift in the language, but then it can shift mindsets just by using different words. It's so important to use the right language around this, because the last thing you want is for something like this to be siphoned off to the marketing team or to just the marketing team in the CEO. That's not the point of this exercise and if it ends up going that way it will not be successful long term. So that holistic cross functional alignment within the business all undergoing this exercise together matters a lot. So when you talk about, for word, strategy, company positioning, market positioning, those are conversations where a lot of stakeholders across the business want to be involved and we can talk about how many people as too many people and who should actually be involved in that, but realistically your entire executive team should be bought in and taking part in the conversation and if that happens, success us fully. You end up finding much more cohesion within the business, especially those businesses that might still be founder led or product led and there might be certain preconceptions around what a branding exercise means, what a marketing exercise means, and so it's all about establishing that credibility really early on and, to your point, often language is very important to do that if you're trying to establish that credibility early on, because you they're probably wasn't a marketing department...

...when you know and then you have to start to grow that and then some of these conversations start to come up. So how do you establish that that credibility from the outset? I think every company, no matter the stage in size, desires, strategic alignment, desires, really clear positioning in the market. There is not a founding team that I've advised for. There is not an operating CEO in place that doesn't want that to happen for them. And again it's both internal and external. So when you start talking about it that way and you lay the groundwork for what's to come, sort of circling around that tent Pole, you'll suddenly find that you'll have very invested stakeholders from across the business and again, the marketing output. That's that cascading effect down. Once you've done all of this upfront work, and so that obviously comes you start to talk about visual identity and verbal identity and you know, how do we speak externally and what do we look like externally? So it's not as if that work doesn't end up happening as a part of the exercise. It's just that that's a corollary and it's really informed by the important strategic work up front. So is marketing owning this from the outset? Like who's bringing? Yeah, is that what you would say? I would say yes. Obviously that was a quick answer. I feel very passionately about it. I think that when you're undergoing an exercise like this, number one, you do need an owner of the exercise, like let's just put it out there right now. If no one owns it, that's a disaster waiting to happen. The reason it should be marketing is twofold. The first is that the marketing leader or leadership should have a point of view around this already, and that point of view can often be, you want to say, less biased, but can often be more pragmatic, especially if you're working with bounding teams who these conversations can get emotional for who have a long storied history potentially with the company. So that's important. But the other thing is that marketing is going to be tasked with the execution of this exercise and so at the end of the day, you need that through line from the very beginning and inception from this project all the way through that execution and that go to market. So for both of those reasons, both sort of continuity and point of view, it makes sense for the marketing leader to own this for the company. Hey, everybody, Olivia here. As a member of the sweet fish sales team. I wanted to take a second and share something that makes us insanely more efficient. Our team uses lead Iq. So for those of you who are in sales or sales ups, let me give you some context. You know how long gathering contact data can take so long, and with lead Iq, what once took us four hours to do now takes us just one. That is seventy five percent more efficient. We are so much quicker withoutbound prospecting and organizing our campaigns is so much easier than before. I suggest you guys check it out as well. You can find them at lead iqcom. That's La d iqcom already. Let's jump back into the show. As with the end of the day, you need that through line from the very beginning and inception from this project all the way through that execution and that go to market. So for both of those reasons, both sort of continuity and point of view, it makes sense for the marketing leader to own this for the company. Right. Let's talk about the execution side of things for a second. So it's one thing to talk high level. We have these conversations, we clarify some of this. Then, as you start to actually become a practitioner, what have you found to be those keys, like this is what creates. We've already in these first ten mints we talked fostering on the internal alignment because of...

...this and then that external message. So what becomes those first few steps in actually executing yeah, so once you have the basis, late and you can call it the messaging exercise, the core positioning exercise. Again, once you have that documented and codified, the next steps are really figuring out your verbal identity and your visual identity, and a lot of branding exercises, and I would say the majority of them out there, end up bringing in an agency partner to help with this entire process. There are some organizations that are staffed with the internal resources, both on the brand side and the creative and content side, to be able to incept this themselves. So I mean even the largest companies. I'VE WORKED FOR GAP I've work for very, very large fortune hundred companies that, if we use also used agency partners, even though we have the resources. So we can talk about that if you want, but eventually what ends up happening is the next phase is figuring out the verbal and visual identity. That ties directly back to the brand messaging and architecture exercise. Now how you incept those different options that you look at. You can do competitive analysis, you can do aspirational brand analysis, you can talk to stakeholders again inside and outside of the company, the same way you would have done for the messaging framework exercise. You can do all of that same primary and secondary research to provide a few options. But that's how you do it. And then once you hone in on everything from the typeface to the logo mark, to the Color Palette, to the adjectives and coloquialisms that we use or don't use, that's when you start to really form that identity piece. And from there it's really about, okay, what exists today? So taking an inventory of everything exists that is branded in some way, and it's a lot, and that's that. That's an exercise in and it itself, which we can talk about, and figuring out what needs to be updated, how, how does it to be updated? And then the net new piece, which is what doesn't exist today in that brand architecture, in that tactical output that we need internally, what doesn't exist today externally, what do we need out there in the market and not then becomes that execution layer, if you will, and depending on if you're architecting a new website, if you're going to launch an out of home campaign. I mean, depending on what this looks like for Your Business, that piece could take months and months, it could take quarters to get that piece of work done. It's interesting in this conversation because when you think about it, like you have a team that knows, okay, we probably should focus on this, but also, like at the highest level, you know how long it's going to take, you know all the work that needs to be put in. So a lot of times you see companies put this off as long as possible, like see, we have a product and it's kind of working, so we don't really need to re establish who we are, and we've added all these employees. But maybe we're not drifting too far from what you know, and then you lose momentum and it's like a little too late in you're trying to get to a place where you actually have the market fit and the internal language to drive like again, like further growth. So I think this is you super key. If you're let's say you're talking to someone like a founder who's highly been been highly product driven. What is it look like? Maybe bringing them along getting this kind of like buy in from the outset, because that's no small saying if you've already seen some level of success and now we're kind of trying to become like who we are. It's a very different type of conversation. And if you ask most founders whether their product let or not, they'll tell you we know who we are because they know who they are. So that even it's a it's another layer that you have to break through, because sometimes there's cognitive dissonance there where they don't even think it's a problem. If you ask the team, they'll be able to tell you. They might not all say the same thing, but they have such a clear vision in their mind and they either haven't done a great job of democratizing that information throughout the organization or it's just...

...changed and morphed over time as they've grown that they might not even see that. So the best way to get buy in is to be able to show examples of companies who do a really good job at this, where the founder or founding team they might not have, I even identified that that's a brand problem that they have. They might not even know what that looks like. So showing them what it looks like, especially if it someone in the space who's doing it really well and gaining competitive advantage. It's always helpful to have key studies and examples, and it doesn't need to be some indepth study that you've done. It's just to say, look here people who are doing it really well in our market or in ancillary markets, and you can see how much momentum that's driving for their business. And yes, it might mean that in order to take ten steps forward, it's going to feel like we have to take three steps back, but that's okay because in the end it's going to be worth it. And I also think the second thing is maybe not right at the beginning, but at some point setting the expectation that it never stops. I think that's the other piece, is that sometimes people feel, okay, we're doing this brand exercise and in six months or nine months it's done. That's not the case. The brand is living, breathing, ever evolving, constantly updating. If you really do want to be leading edge there and you see companies we're all the time, before we've even thoughting you to do anything to their brand, they're announcing something or they're reinventing themselves or they're tweaking something and modernizing something in some way that's best in class. So it's all about expectation setting early on in the process that this is just a behavior that the company it's a behavior in a discipline that the company is going to have going forward. Can you give us some, like a real world examples of how you see this play out? Well, like if this is done just excellently, what does that look like? Who Do you think of? Like? I'd love some examples, for I always say be to se brands are just a million times at this kind of marketing. The Need to be though I do there are cool cousin right exactly. I mean I definitely have you to be companies that I admire what you're doing a really good job of this. There's just the perennial examples of companies apple, Nike, the ones that you've always heard about forever. I think there's also just some really great examples of more like mission driven brands who really just know who they are and know their personality without having kind of flashy brand campaigns or staffs of people doing it. You think of somebody, even a company like Pedagonia or Ben and Jerry's, where like their brand is something that would just spark an emotive response from anyone, positive or negative, but it's like they knew who they are. They are very set in that identity, and so I think companies like that do a great job. I think that there's some big tech companies who do a really wonderful job of this. I think there's some startups that are coming up. Attentive is one who I think is doing some really interesting stuff with their brand and out of home. There's just some really good examples out there of people who are not trying to be everything to everyone, they're not trying to dilute that brand equity, which, again it's all about focus, and they're really just staying simple, approachable consistent. Like those are some of the core pillars, because it does take time to build things like this up all right. So I think there's probably two groups we should chat with specifically as we start to wrap this conversation up. Which one would be early stage startups who could kind of get out ahead of this thing and start to put a plan in place maybe before they're like, oh, we should have done this earlier and then you have maybe later stage startups right, this would be the second group who need to have these conversations like now, or they're in that right. I want to talk to both. Let's go early stage first. Maybe it's advice input that, Rebecca, you would give. What would you say to that early stage start up trying to get ahead of it? First of all, I would say you're doing the absolute right thing. Congratulations,...

...because ninety nine percent of startups are not doing that thing, so you've already won. I would say you don't need to overcomplicate it. So you know, bringing exercises can get very complex, especially for later stage companies, which we can talk about why that is. But if you really are early stage and you're just starting out, think about something that's enduring, knowing that you are going to pivot and Morph and change over time, knowing that that might happen and at the market might change around you. So I would say, Bifur, keep the exercise. Think about who you are today, who the market is today. Again, you are, what you do, why you do that better than anyone else, why it matters. Those are some key questions to answer one sentence, make it really simple. Think about that for today and then think about that five years from now. If it looks exactly the same, great, if it doesn't, that's okay too, because you're going to be building and changing over time and they and just know that, their fluid in my pivot, and so I would say just thinking about that, thinking about the exercise and doing the extra size cross functionally is really important, and then having that verbal and visual identity, having the output stem from that, it's much easier to go and tweak the original artifacts that are in place then incepting something totally new. And from a very tactical perspective, the good news is you probably don't have hundreds of data sheets or depth, but it's awesome. Well, he's using a slightly different deck to go out there, so you're in a really good place when it comes to the execution element of that. But really what you want to think about in your mind is enduring, like knowing that there's so much that's going to change over time. The more you can find something that you can like really stick a stake in the ground here and hopefully for tomorrow, will actually be a really helpful guide post again as you consider making all of these strategic decisions for the business for a late stage startups, which I've been through this Rodeo three times now, and emit vising for a couple of later stage startups. It's a really common time, you know, between that thirty five hundred and eighty five million dollar are our piece. You have product market fit established, you're growing, you're scaling. Oh, but things are things aren't as easy as they used to be. Oh, things are breaking, things are getting hard, there's a lot of friction in the system. Now that's usually the time when this exercise comes around. Totally doable, absolutely, not too late, just a lot harder. So I would say is for the later stage startups. You definitely need cross functional alignment. You should absolutely be talking to customers or perspective customers in your primary and secondary research. There's so much to do on the tactical execution front that you need to make sure that you're giving yourself and your team's enough time to do that piece, because, in addition to all the new great stuff you need to produce and want to produce, there's a whole host of stuff that already lives in your company today and you don't even know about two thirds of it. You don't know who's using it. You don't know what team owns it, you don't even know where it is. So that's the other piece where don't cram that timeline and have it potentially adversely affect the execution piece of it, because you and the team don't have worked so hard on this that you don't you don't want to get caught at the end. Yep. It's interesting because the sooner you can have these conversations and do some of these exercises. Granted, they get more complex over time, which you've alluded to, but this sooner you do them and you have gone through it once before, people see the value of it, and then doing it again down the road as things shift, as they always do, you already know how beneficial it was last time. So to call yourself back to it you're going to be. That's where I see you setting yourself up for success like that's where I would advocate, if you are in early stage startup, do the exercise now, even knowing it's going to shift a couple years down the road, because then everyone internally is speaking the same language externally. You feel like proud of your message. You know that it's clear and you can always go back and people are understand why you did the exercise last time.

So now you when you do it again, it's not this like, Oh man, we got to get all the stakeholders back on board for this. That's exactly right. And set up a keydence. Just say to your executive team, Hey, every year we're going to look at this stuff once a year and we're just going to see what's changed in the business. HAS ANYTHING CHANGED? And even that will set a really good motion in place and the expectations again. It's all about setting expectations. If there is one little mindset shift to me, it's always I want to press all of our listeners over communicate from a marketing standpoint. If you're the type of person that goes out of your way to overcommunicate with the rest of the organization using your language, because it's probably one of your tools that you already have, it's probably one another reasons you got hired. If you can help your language translate to the rest of the organization, you make yourself extremely, extremely valuable. So that's one of the little cheeks we can take away from this episode with with Rebecca. Man, this's been fun. I really like this conversation. There's so much more we could roads we could go down. But for those that want to stay connected with you and what reputations doing, tell us a little bit of how we can we can connect. Yeah, find me on Linkedin, Rebecca Beastman. I'd be happy to connect, talk more answer questions. Very passionate about the subject, so you'll free. Linkedin is always the best place to connect with me as well, so feel free to search Benjie Block over there. For our listeners who haven't connected, always talking about marketing, business, in life food. Would love to answer a question or just get in conversation with with all of you. So if you are listening and you have yet to follow a podcast on whatever your favorite podcast player is, go ahead and do that so you never miss an episode. And Rebecca, thank you so much for stopping by B TOB growth today. Absolutely thanks for having me. We're always excited to have conversations with leaders on the front lines of marketing. If there's a marketing director or a chief marketing officer that you think we need to have on the show, reach out email me, ben dot block at Sweet Fish Mediacom. I look forward to hearing from you.

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