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

Episode 1691 · 3 weeks ago

Strong Brand Drives Demand with Lori Cohen

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Benji talks to Lori Cohen, Fractional CMO with Chief Outsiders

If you run marketing at a B2B company and you prioritize demand generation over building a brand, Lori says - "you’ll eventually hit a wall". Today we discuss how a strong brand drives demand.

Conversations from the front lines of marketing. This is be to be growth. Welcome back to be tob growth. I'm your host, Benjie Block, and today we are joined by Lori Cohen. She is a fractional CMO with chief outsiders. Lori, were so glad to have you here with us today. Thanks so much, Benje. Glad to be here. Let's do this. Lorie, just give us a quick snapshot of what Your Work Life looks like these days. That that's a little crazy. So you'd basically, I am a fractional CMO and so I'm basically consulting and currently I'm working with two very different organizations. One of them is a be tob company that's very well established, sort of. It's been around for about fifteen years and it's INTECH, the technology space, and I was brought in to help with the go to marketing strategy for a new product that's actually called big animal and it's basically a SASS product that brings a fully managed postgress to the cloud, like Amazon and Azure, etceter so. Think of it as a startup within an established company, right. So I'm doing that, YEP, and trying to help them actually find that lane to to really grow the business. And then I'm working with another company that's actually more of a services organization that this one is called the alternative board and they're like personal peer advisory groups that help business owners to really become better business owners, to manage their businesses, their personal life the community. So completely different and very, very different challenges with both of them. So I'm just a little schizophrenic. How's that? You like? Keeping it interesting might be a nicer way of saying it, but I'd totally I love that and I'm glad we get to tap into your wisdom on today's episode, having the view that you've had into a number of companies. We want to talk about this issue that you've seen kind of over and over again, that brands will prioritize the mansion and then eventually, basically, they hit a wall, they plateau, and so I wonder when did you first start noticing this and seeing that as a trend? HMM, you know, to be honest, I don't I don't know if I could say. Oh, that what my big Aha moment was, to be honest. Yeah, my career for the most part has been around building brands and building differentiation and I know that in the companies that I've worked with, whether it was a startup or a company that really needed to read position and grow, we saw once we did that at work and really got it right, that it would that it became the engine to growth. So I always believed in that. I always believed in differentiation. I always believed in the fact that even in be to be you had to be really creative, right, and there was you needed to take what you learned and be to c marketing and apply it to be to be. So I did. I've been doing that really my you know say, for twenty two years. I've always believed that brand is the essence of what separates the good from the great companies and the ones that are going to continue to grow and the ones that are eventually going to, you know, kind of stall out or just get too expensive to grow, you know, because it's just, you know, for every new customer it's going to take so much more money to cull through a thousand white paper downloads and find maybe one potentially. Yeah. So, okay. So you talking about repositioning...

...there and it's more than just a different sales or marketing approach. You really do believe it goes back to brand. I feel like I found myself in several conversations recently where we're talking about why is brand sort of this word we don't bring up, and especially be to B board rooms? But explain a little bit more of a why you feel like brand is the thing. Why is it branding that you care so much about her? You feel like this comes back to yeah, so I guess I would say think of it, think of yourself. Right, forget be to be, be Toc we're just people, right, get up in the morning, whether we're a CTEO at a company or a journalist or a developer. Right, we put our pants on or our sweat pants on, you know, one way at a time. We're just a person, right. But for some reason, be to be companies have got it in their head that as soon as you become the CTO from nine hundred and twenty five, you seem to want to communicate and get information in a really different way than when you're in front of the TV or you're reading a newspaper, or you're playing a video game or you're playing with your kids. Right, and searching for the things that you want. And so my fundamental belief is that we're just people. Nothing changes when we become during the work day, that nine hundred and twenty five or whatever that is. So communicate with us. Communicate with us in the ways that we're going to respond. And we know from B Toc companies and from marketing overall we respond emotionally to brandams. We do. So why, when you're thinking about a bet to be company, do you take that emotional way and talk about bits and bites and features? Right, why don't you tap into this? is going to make your life better, your work like better, it's going to help you get a promotion, you're not going to get fired. I mean, think about it, like IBM knew it way back when, when they really came up with the concept, is nobody gets fired when they buy IBM. Like they understood the fact that it's me, me, the person that are that's making those decisions, that are taking those risks. Appeal to me. Don't talk to me about the bits and bites. You know, we have our rational brain and we have our emotional brain and most of the time, in complex buying decisions, we totally use both, and I need to be typically we go for that rational just we lock it on the rational and we forget about the emotional, and that's what I think kind of, you know, ends up, you know, kind of falling flat. Okay, so let's go down this road for a second with be to be brands that kind of do fall flat a bit. And what, when you think of in your mind, are the symptoms of a poor brand? So I think if you're really looking at that kind of revenue mix, and at the end of the day, we really do want marketing to drive pipeline right, and we wanted to drive closed in one business, I think the symptoms are you're using those same channels here. You're just blasting and through money on Google ad words right, you're probably doing a lot of linked in stuff and basically the leads if you get them, if you get somebody to fill out a form chances or where you're doing content syndication, because that can bring in a lot of leads really quickly. What happens is if you actually follow the funnel and think about like what converts, how often, what's the payback, you're going to find that those type of leads probably convert at a point one percent after a year. So that one in a thousand is probably about what it is. And that's what's going to happen. You know, you're not going to fill a pipeline. You're going to feel good, you're going to create all these quote MQL's right if you're measuring that, but they're not going...

...to convert into sales opportunities and they're not going to work their way down the pipeline, right, because you're not differentiated. You know, you're kind of like spraying and praying with a message that's not resonating. Only when you and so you see it. You know you might not see in q one, but you're going to. You're going to eventually see that your pipeline is going to a road. There's no juice behind it to get it going again. So if you step back and you you know you don't play in the sales team because they're not following up on your leads, and the sales team doesn't Brill in the marketing team because they're, can I, creating junky leads right, and you just sort of step back and say, let's just sort of analyze, let's just really analyze. Where are the leads coming from? What do we think is qualified? What isn't qualified right and do that analysis, you're probably going to see that you're not bring yeah, at the end of the day, you're not bringing fires in in the right time in the buying cycle. So I'm not I'm not going to say your lead suck, I'm going to say they're probably not at the right time in the buying cycle right. So you got to fix that. And it's not just magic. Oh I'm going to fix the brand, like the brand is just one piece of it. Then you have to layer on kind of the right kind of programs to reach the buyer that you want at the right time, when they're in the right time in the buying cycle. But if you just simply focus on Google, add words, bits and bites and don't try to create some sort of emotional connection, it's going to be much harder, much harder to find those buyers when they're ready to buy. And I'm not saying it's easy. I mean I struggle with it every day. We're trying to come up with some campaigns for, you know, big animal. It's not. I'm not saying it's easy, it's not. You know, it's really hard. And the way you get those insights is not by sitting in the room, but it's by talking to potential customers. They're the ones that will provide you with the insight that you need. But often times you don't. You don't do it, so you don't get that that raw kind of input. You need to create that connection and then figure it out in the right kind of visual you know, kind of message to the audience. You know there's short running we we all do it. We think we know, so we put something out there, etc. So I would say you know what the symptoms are because you know it's hit in the bottom line, it's harder to fix it right because you got to be committed to fixing it and fixing it is not something that you do overnight. There is an amount of work that goes in to really trying to understand that customer, understand their pain points and then convert that in the kind of messaging that's going to resonate with them. Hey, everyone, if you've been listening to be to be growth for a while, you know that we are big proponents of putting out original organic content on Linkedin. But one thing that's always been a struggle for a team like ours is easily tracking the reach of that linkedin content. That's why we're really excited about shield analytics. Since our team started using shield, we've been able to easily track the reach and performance of our linkedin content without having to manually log it ourselves. It automatically creates reports and it generates dashboards that are incredibly useful to determining things like what content has been performing the best, what days of the week are we getting the most engagement and our average views her post. Shield has been a game changer for our entire team's productivity and performance on Linkedin. I highly suggest checking out this tool if you're publishing content on Linkedin for yourselves or for your company. You can get a ten day free trial at shield...

APP NOT AI, or you can get a twenty five percent discount with our Promo Code, be to be growth. Again, that's shield APP DOT AI and the Promo Code is be the number two be growth. All One word for a twenty five percent discount. All right, let's get back into the show. There is an amount of work that goes in to really trying to understand that customer, understand their pain points and then convert that in the kind of messaging that's going to resonate with them. Yeah, understanding before repositioning, because that's one thing is we can see a gap and we can go, Oh man, we got to fix it. So we got to do something quick, and then you realize it's actually going to get there's an understanding you need to have of your customer before you would ever actually be able to steer the ship in the proper reposition. So you mentioned brand and programs. I want to stick to the brand side here. Maybe define for us what sits in that bucket to you, because I think some, because we don't use that word as much in be to be, we all might be like, well, is it kind of everything we do a little bit about, a little bit of brand. But what to you, Lari is, is brand? Like what's it's in that bucket that makes it so important? It's it's what the customer thinks about you, period, plane and simple. It's how they relate to you. So brand involved of everything from the experience right going through your website, finding what they want, ordering something, not finding what they want. So it's sort of like I think brand is every touch point that someone has with you all together. It creates this kind of feeling and the their thoughts in their mind becomes the reality and the relationship that they have with your brand. So branding, branding is a logo, branding is a name, branding is a color Palette, right. That's branding. Brand is all those other insights and experiences that someone has when they think about your brand. It's what they're going to say about you when you're not in the room that you know. There's one good question. If you want to know if you have a good brand and people care about you, ask your customers how they would feel if your brand was gone tomorrow. I mean, would they care? Would they go, Oh, okay, I'm just going to go to x, Y and Z, or will they be like wow, I'm so bummed out that you're not going to be making x y Z. that's that connection, right. So you can ask that very simple question, how would you feel if our brand was gone, and you'll get a real sense of is there an emotional connection to with that bran and do people care? Do People Care? So for those that might find themselves in a season of Plateau right, which is what we were talking about at the beginning, I guess maybe I shouldn't speak directly to those people. But I would say, is there something that we can do to avoid that plateau if possible, or do you feel like it's a natural part of the cycle that you realize, okay, we're plateauing and now it's time to change it up, to reposition, and that's worth it? You know, I think it all depends, right, it all depends on so many factors. So I won't do all companies hit the wall. Will probably not right. But you know, I think that if you do find that your pipeline is going in the wrong direction, it's not going up into the right your hit. You're missing your numbers at every quarter. Again, step back, don't point fingers, because it's not going to don't fire the head of sales, the head of marketing,...

...you know what I mean, and bring in you know, rearrange the jet deck chairs. Yeah, we becomes sports teams, right, we just fire the coaches. Well, happen? How, come on, I have is it be to be all the time, right, all the time, and then that next person gets way more resources than you ever had to do the kind of things that you wanted to do. So step back, take a deep breath and say, you know what we can fix this, but let's step back and do what we need to do. So let's start with that customer research. Let's figure out why our brand isn't connecting, and those are the bread proms. Do those interviews. Talk to sales, talk to customers, talk to analyst, do all kinds of third party research. That doesn't have to be super expensive. Gather that data, the more first person with customers the better. Then take a deep breath, look at it and try to understand kind of what it's telling you. Because if you have an issue, whether it's that experience, you're disappointing customers, you have bad reviews on Gtwo or trust radius, start addressing those things right. Start addressing those things. If you believe in the company and you believe that you have a good product. Had A few missteps, you can make that right. You can totally make that right, but it has to be very deliberate. You have to, you know, start one step at a time to kind of fix that. Yeah, there's it's interesting because I wrote down as you were you're talking there. There's internal and there's external brand as well. So there is the way that you think of your customers think about you, and then there's also the way that your employees think about the brand and think about the thing that they're a part of, and it's oftentimes you can tell that something's leaking either. Sometimes it's on both sides, but, like you definitely can tell in that mix and brand encompasses both and I think you're in a great job of saying how we can potentially re position or start to identify and then change. You mentioned strong why you mentioned and delighting the customer. One another one I think we talked about maybe offline, was this idea of crisp messaging being a big part of brand. I wonder how you solidify that and kind of hone in on that new sort of crisp messaging. Yeah, that's a great point and and I first want to go back to what you said. You're absolutely right that brand has like it's three, three hundred sixty degrees. So it's critical to get that alignment inside and outside. So that I'm glad you brought that point up. So really interesting. I had an I had an exercise. It could have even been this morning, but this other company I was I'm working with right we did all this research, we did customer surveys, talk to a lot of people looked at their competitors, you name it, looked at their positioning and everything else. I really had after all of that. It's not like I pulled it out of the air. I mean I actually really felt like I understood where they could play and I articulated it in a meeting and I got hit, swatted down by the CEM. How does that mean? And I'm like, I kind of decided to not push it. Okay, I'll go back to the drawing board, I'll figure out, try to come up with something else right and I tried to do that, but in my heart of hearts I kind of thought that it was the right positioning. So fast forward to this morning. I was invited in. They call it a in advisory board, a customer advisory board. Listen for about an hour. They were talking about why they join, what their experiences were, how they felt, and I then, when we got to talk to them, I sort of floated this idea very gently about what I was hearing and I articulated the way I thought. I didn't say this is where I'm going to position the company. I said, well, do you think this sounds like? Is this what you're saying? And are. All the heads nodded and the CEO was on the call, by the way. All the heads nodded. And then we got into that and they really dug into...

...it and gave these unbelievable examples of why they felt that way. and to me now again, that's what there was, only validation by sex, but to me that's the start of it. You know, if you can get people who use the brand to go, that's exactly how I feel. To me, that's like super powerful, but again, not in a vacuum. You always need that feedback, because I could come up with something that's so off the wall right and then customers aren't going to respond to it at all. You have to take your ideas and test it, test it tested before you roll it out. But that's good validation. Like I feel very good that we're on our way to coming up with the right answer for positioning this company right because of that reaction we got today. I love that as an example and it really does drive home the important because with and and with messaging, if it's not resonating with the people that it needs to resonate with and it's not worth anything. Can Be the most creative thing ever but clearly that's not like that's not the ultimate goal, right, we're helping solve problems and so exactly it. There's a there's an expression being too clever by half. You know, I don't know if you get before. Yeah, well, sometimes, and I could be guilty of it too, you know, you try to be clever and you are, but you miss you miss your you miss your audience. Great, you're clever exactly. So that's kind of like being clever by by had too clever by half. Yeah, I like this a good, great conversation here, Laurie. I. As we start to wrap up, I wonder any resources you would point us in the direction of things that help you continue your thought process on brand and for those that want to continue to go down this road and think about repositioning specifically around brand, anything that you would point us in the direction of? So you know, there are there are books like Blue Ocean strategy that you could read that I think is good, which is sort of an Oldie, you know, but but still incredibly relevant, even if you read books like good to great also, you know, kind of good good reads, some of the other stuff. I mean, I do listen to PODCASTS, I listen to demand Jen live. I listen to a podcast by the guy who I'm so bad at this, who started like linkedin. That's also good. There's books on positioning. I mean I can kind of give you a whole like laundry, laundry list of of things, but linked in, just following some of the right people on Linkedin. Yeah, Da Dave Garret Gerhart is another good one to listen to. So it's always good to like, you know, also get different perspectives and find some really strong beat Toccmos to follow right and that's another way to kind of see what they're doing and try to take what they're doing and incorporate it in in what you're doing. But honestly, I just try to stay you know, read the Harvard Business Review. You can get it online. You just try to try to take in kind of as much information as you as you kind of have time for, because there's nuggets and so many you know, kind of so many areas. Yeah, Yep. Well, I know there's going to be people that are listening to this that want to stay connected with you, Laurie. Take a minute tell us where we can connect with you and then tell us a little bit about chief outsiders as we wrap up your okay, sure, so the place I'm probably most active is linked in, sometimes more active than not, so that's a great place. I am on twitter with the handle cat strat and those are probably the two best places. Or the other place, as you said, I'm working for a company that's called chief outsiders. So that's really easy. Chief Outsiderscom,...

...and it is a group. It's a national organization of right now a hundred and ten CMOS that had really like impressive careers and have decided that they don't want another corporate full time job. They want to be a fractional CMO. And I joined at the beginning of the year. I'm actually number ninety seven, so I got in under a hundred Anna and that's great. And there there are CMOS that have experience in industry, tech, beat a bit, you name it. If you have a problem, I'm telling you there's someone in this group that can solve it. And mostly we work with, say, midsize, some small mid sized companies. Say sweet spot is probably fifty to a hundred, you know, million dollars in revenue and it's, you know, oftentimes doing the things that I talked about you know, how do you start that growth engine again? What's the plan you need? You know, and then basically, we come in. It could be for like a sixmonth Gig to really take them through, you know, from strategy all the way to execution, and then get them to a place that we can leave and they could execute on their own. So it's free, it's very I'm really excited to to be working with chief outsiders. It's a great group of people, professionals. Well, you were our fractional CMO today for be tob growth as well. You came in, you consalted, you did your job and now you get to leave. We want to say thanks so much for being on the show and and dropping these insights. I know we're walking away with a number of things around brand and how do we kind of get back on track if after we plateau in this episode. So, Lori, thanks so much for spending time with us on BB growth. 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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