February 17, 2022

A B2B CMO Asks, Drew Answers

We’re switching things up for episode 280 of Renegade Marketers Unite. Instead of asking the questions, Drew will be answering them. Our special, stand-in host for this episode is Katrina Klier, CMO of PROS, who led the conversation for the benefit of her marketing team while taking a deep dive into Drew’s new book, Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands. 

This discussion covers everything from how to rethink marketing metrics, to how to justify B2B brand spend, to the book’s Clear Away the Clutter pledge. Drew also discusses B2B marketing trends in 2022 and more ideas gleaned from CMO Huddles, an elite community that unites and empowers a cross-section of B2B marketing executives to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Check it out!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • B2B marketing trends in 2022
  • B2B branding lessons from Renegade Marketing
  • The power of purpose-driven B2B branding, clearing away the clutter, and more

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 280 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: A Visit to the PROS Team
  • [1:45] Emerging B2B Marketing Trends in 2022
  • [8:00] What B2B CMOs Are Most Concerned About in 2022
  • [10:55] Rethinking B2B Marketing Metrics 
  • [16:00] How to Rationalize B2B Brand Spend 
  • [19:36] Behind the CATS Framework
  • [23:06] The Clear Away the Clutter Pledge
  • [27:20] Purpose-Driven Marketing in the B2B World  
  • [30:16] Perfecting Pithy: Developing Your Purpose-Driven Story Statement
  • [33:57] Rethinking Customer Advocacy and Customer Success 
  • [39:00] Building a Culture of Experimentation in Your B2B Organization
  • [41:29] Drew’s Reading and Listening Recommendations

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with the PROS team

[0:00] Cold Open: A Visit to the PROS Team

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Welcome to episode 280 of Renegade Marketers Unite, the top-rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals. This show is a bit different, of course we try to make them all different, but this one really is because instead of me interviewing a CMO, it’s a CMO interviewing me! 

And not just any CMO. It’s Katrina Klier, who is the CMO of PROS, an AI-based SaaS brand. The reason for this is that Katrina was hosting her marketing team, so this is a conversation for the benefit of her marketing team.  

Katrina and I do a deep dive into my new book, Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, covering everything from how to rethink marketing metrics, to how to justify B2B brand spend, to the book’s Clear Away the Clutter pledge. 

We also discuss B2B marketing trends in 2022 and more ideas gleaned from CMO Huddles, an elite community that unites and empowers a cross-section of B2B marketing executives to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. I think you’re going to enjoy the show, I certainly had a fun time making it. Let’s get on with it. 

[1:45] Emerging B2B Marketing Trends in 2022

“The notion of purpose has become even more important because if you're a purpose-driven organization, in theory, you have a better chance of retaining and or attracting.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: Thank you, everybody, for joining us today. We are joined today by Drew Neisser. Drew is the founder of Renegade and CMO Huddles. He’s helped countless CMOs unleash their inner renegade—me included at times—and told the stories of over 450 marketers via his podcast Renegade Marketers Unite, his Ad Age column, and his two books—which I have the fortune of having read both of them. Both are very good, by the way. 

His most recent one, Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands launched just a few months ago. Drew is ranked among the top B2B influencers in the US and around the world, actually. And he is a featured marketing expert on a whole variety of news sources. So, if you do not follow him online, I recommend you do because it’s insightful and inspiring at the same time. 

Personally, I’ve known Drew for over a decade. We sometimes go down memory lane of like, I think it was a cab ride uptown with another friend of ours after a CMO event or something that we started chatting, and just have stayed in touch ever since. So, well over a decade. 

I always like talking to you, Drew, because I learn something new every time I talk to you and I love how you can take these complex and occasionally esoteric concepts and really just distill them down into something that’s tangible. It’s pragmatic, you can do something with it, you can get your head around it. You don’t need a PhD to understand it, and you can actually have some impact with it. I always love talking to you, Drew.

Drew Neisser: The expectations are now way, way too high. We better bring it down a bit, all right?

Katrina Klier: All right. Well, it’s early in the morning, so.

Drew Neisser: That’s okay! [Laughter]

Katrina Klier: Let’s go with that. I’ve asked Drew to join us today to really talk a little bit more about building unbeatable B2B brands, which we’re going on this brand revitalization journey here at PROS in 2022. With that, Drew, thank you for joining us and welcome to PROS.

Drew Neisser: Oh my god, I’m so excited to be here. I remember that cab drive well. 

Katrina Klier: I know. It’s been round trip. It’s been all over. Well, let’s go ahead and dive in then if you don’t mind. Drew, you do lots of research in just your day-to-day business and you talk to countless CMOs and thought leaders in the marketing space. 

Since we’re early into 2022, what kind of trends are you seeing B2B companies in particular really leaning into? Because you know, a lot of what you read about in marketing, it’s like, the cool, interesting, attention-grabbing consumer brand stuff, which is interesting. But the B2B world is a little bit different than that at times, so what are some of the big things you’re seeing here for 2022?

Drew Neisser: Well, it’s funny. You mentioned CMO Huddles and you’re part of CMO Huddles, which is, for those who don’t know, a B2B community that we started actually in April 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. My insights are often based now on sitting in on—actually, moderating—four to five conversations a month with 10 to 20 CMOs. 

What’s most consistent in the last three months is, first and foremost, digital fatigue. And by that, I mean most CMOs are seeing some or most of their digital campaigns’ yields declining. If you think about it, if we wind the clock back two years ago, probably 50% of B2B marketing budgets went into physical events. 

Some CMOs lost that money, but a lot of them didn’t, and they just plowed it into digital. There’s so much money chasing the same group of people with webinars and virtual events and pop-up ads, and you name it. And so, the result is the yield has declined because there’s just way more messaging going on out there. So that’s one big one. 

Number two is the attention that CMOs are playing—I’m so glad your HR people are here because they do play a profound role, at least in my opinion, in how brands are really going to set themselves apart by looking at their employee and motivating and activating their employees. 

Employer branding has become much bigger in the face of the so called “Great Resignation.” The notion of purpose has become even more important because if you’re a purpose-driven organization, in theory, you have a better chance of retaining and or attracting. 

Then there’s this other one that’s so interesting and complex and hard… It’s this blurring of the lines between marketing and sales. My book, the foreword of the book, was written by Brent Adamson who I really admire. 

He’s written The Challenger Sale and The Challenger Customer. Brent had a new article in the Harvard Business Review that came out last week and he basically said that everybody’s looking at this wrong, that marketing and sales have to come together completely. I disagreed with him, but I did it politely. Anyway, but the lines have been blurred. 

And then this other issue that all CMOs seem to face, which is battling short-termism. It’s just really horrible because the pressure on a quarterly deliverable is so much that they often just don’t get the time to build what I would call a great brand. So that’s a lot that I just threw at you in terms of marketing trends that I am hearing a lot about among our CMO conversations.

Katrina Klier: Yeah, you know, I think those are all true though, right? You really see just the shift of spend and focus. And the channel fatigue and digital fatigue thing—I kind of in my mind equate it to… I’m going to date myself here a little bit but we all know how old I am anyway! When I was a kid there weren’t that many television channels. There really just weren’t and then cable came into play when I was still quite young when cable came to be. We lived in the test market for cable believe it or not. 

And then it expanded with satellite, it expanded the streaming services, and now there’s like a million channels to consume what we would classically call “television shows,” but then everybody complains nothing is on, there’s nothing to watch. 

It’s bombarded and you know there’s probably something good out there, but good luck finding it, right? So, I feel like sometimes marketing is a bit like that too when you get this like big swoosh into a few key channels. It just becomes this overwhelming amount of things to sift through. So, it’s gonna be interesting to see what 2022 holds for us. 

[8:00] What B2B CMOs Are Most Concerned About in 2022

“The biggest problem is what I call the peanut butter effect, where the marketer is simply trying to do too many things in too many channels and it's death by 1,000 paper cuts.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: Let’s dive into some of that a little bit more though because you do talk to CMOs all day basically with different things that you do. The CMO conversation is kind of the proxy, if you will, for what the whole marketing function is focused on and the challenges that it’s facing. 

Will you dive a little bit more into some of the things that CMOs are most concerned about in 2022 in terms of driving for those results, making sure that the team is on board in moving forward? If you were going to pick a few that you hear come up again and again…

Drew Neisser: Right, I’m going to break these down into a couple. I’d probably put the biggest problem is what I call the peanut butter effect, where the marketer is simply trying to do too many things in too many channels and it’s death by 1,000 paper cuts. 

It’s when your content plan takes over the world. You say, “Wow, we’ve got to have 10 pieces of content this week on 10 different channels against 10 different personas.” 

The result is you’re just battling like a machine trying to crank stuff out, and the opposite is needed right now. It’s gonna be about better, fewer and not more and more and more. So, the peanut butter effect is a big issue. 

Then we get to rationalizing brand spend and it’s one of those topics that we end up going back to in CMO Huddles probably once every five months. It’s like, how do we convince the board to spend money on brand? Which is really interesting and it’s silly because it’s hard to separate brand and demand, yet many companies do. 

But when you have a strong brand, you can see the impact immediately on your demand. The correlation is so high, but it’s amazing. And this comes down to metrics. Now you go from, well, brand is important, but then you realize that most B2B brands have no brand measurements in place. 

And then lastly—and this is one that I harp on a lot because it creates a different problem, which is over-investing in tech stacks. You’ll see companies where they’re spending 20% of their marketing budget all-in on technology. When they do an audit, they realize, “Oh, wait. 10 of these things we’re not even using, and the other 10 we’re only using to a quarter of its potential.” 

So, you know, we’re encouraging a lot of folks to do the audits and really make sure that, ideally, you’re spending about 10% on tech and not much more. Think about it—that other 10% actually goes to marketing, not to technology. It goes to marketing. 

Katrina Klier: I agree. You know, I think my whole team has now perked up if they weren’t already between those, especially with the peanut butter effect as we’re getting into the beginning of our fiscal year started in January. We’re trying to cull down the things to the fewer, more impactful activities and areas of content that we can zero in on. 

[10:55] Rethinking B2B Marketing Metrics 

“If we only focus on revenue, which is the metric that seems to matter to CEOs and CFOs, we're really not giving marketing the room that it needs because revenue is a lagging indicator.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: I want to maybe take these in a slightly different order, but if you could unpack the metrics thing a little bit more for me, because as we’ve gone into digital—and you and I have talked about this a lot since I was early into all that many years ago. 

It throws off so much data, but sometimes it can just be noise, right? How do you really think about metrics in a world where you can be drowned by data points that may or may not actually tell you anything?

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and this is a huge problem. It is one of the glories and really true pains of digital marketing is the data is available. But the problem is for, I would say up until maybe a year and a half ago, most of the metrics were formed… 

Classically, marketing was focused on MQLs. And frankly, MQLs? Pretty useless. I won’t say completely useless. I’ve been corrected on that. It’s funny, Chapter 10 in my book is Measure What Matters, and if there’s one chapter that I’m going to need to rewrite every six months, it’ll probably be that one. 

We had a huddle recently with Ross Graber who does metrics for Forrester and helps companies, their clients, figure out what are the right metrics. What he talks about is, particularly for enterprises, it’s all about focusing on opportunity, not leads. So that’s part one and it makes sense, right? It’s a pretty simple formula. 

For the most part, in most enterprises with some exceptions, there are a certain number of companies, let’s just say there are 100 companies out there that are going to issue RFPs or are going to be in the market either for a replacement or an upgrade or something in your category. 

If you’re only in 5 of those 100 opportunities, you have an awareness problem. And if you’re in 80 of those opportunities, you don’t have an awareness problem. But if you’re not closing a certain percentage, you have a closing problem. 

So, by focusing on opportunities, you basically say, “All right, we’ve got to make sure that we’re in front of everybody who is making a decision.” That’s part one. I think that’s a really interesting way of looking at metrics. 

The next thing where we’re seeing some really state of the art is in these predictive pipeline models. I’m way ahead of myself relative to the book because I feel like metrics are part four of this story. But anyway, predictive pipeline models. 

Another CMO of CMO Huddles has built these models where they can actually see into the future and say, “We’re going to need to do certain amount of activities for not only this quarter, but next quarter, and the quarter beyond.” 

All of these things come to the point that: If we only focus on revenue, which is the metric that seems to matter to CEOs and CFOs, we’re really not giving marketing the room that it needs because revenue is a lagging indicator. 

Most B2B sales are 6-to-18-month sales cycles, so what you close this quarter started as an idea in your customer’s mind 18 months ago. Thinking about predictive pipeline models helps marketers be the forward-thinking part of this. 

Then lastly, the long part—and I’m being a little long winded here—but simplifying the dashboard. My whole book is about trying to radically simplify B2B marketing. But when we look at a dashboard and we say, “What really matters?” 

To me—and this is somewhat confirmed by Forrester, they’re sort of with me with eight metrics. We slightly differ in terms of what ones matter. Most people would defer to Forrester. Of course, it’s my book, so I chose those four, but: Employees, Customers, Pipeline if you will, or Prospects, and Brand. And you should have two metrics that matter for those areas. 

One company I talked about in my book measures the pride that employees have being at the company and that’s their key employee metric. And a customer metric, obviously, about 50% of revenue for B2B brands comes from existing customers. Upselling, cross selling, renewals. You can look at your health there. 

Then lastly, I mentioned that most B2B brands do not have any kind of brand metrics at all. In the book, I talked about ways of doing it cheaply. This would never happen in B2C. You would never have a B2C brand that didn’t have a tracking study in place. It’s kind of shocking that very few B2B brands do.

Katrina Klier: I know. I think we do a lot more proxy metrics that you talk about in the book as well for the B2B side of things, which is interesting. 

I really liked your concept because I think a lot of people don’t think about it this way, outside of marketing, that revenue really is a lagging indicator. It’s really the culmination of a whole bunch of things that need to go well inside a business. 

Long before you get to closing a deal, your brand is out there well before you are. I’ve always said your brand is what shows up long before anybody knows who you are, or has met you, or anyone at your company, right? 

Revitalizing that brand spend is something that I know, marketing executives, CMOs, and just marketers alike think about all the time. Branding is sometimes viewed as this kind of esoteric marketing thing. Or a lot of CFOs are like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s why you come ask me for a lot of advertising money,” and those kinds of things. 

[16:00] How to Rationalize B2B Brand Spend 

“Just look at your cost per click on a Google ad. The minute your awareness goes up, your cost per click goes down. That's brand in action right there.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: So, rationalizing spend on brand marketing is tricky, right? It’s not something that you can pick up and hold on to. It’s not a specific thing that you can point to. 

It’s everywhere, but to be everywhere it has to be done well. But rationalizing the spend I think is a challenge for everyone. What have you seen as some things that have been more successful there, but also things that didn’t work when revitalizing brands?

Drew Neisser: Well, it’s funny. In huddles—which, again, as I said, we end up talking about brand and brand spending every three to four months for the entire month. What we discovered is that clever CMOs, being a clever group, have about 10 different euphemisms that they use instead of brand. 

Because brand is one of those words that for CFOs and sometimes for VCs and PEs, they just look at it and go, “Oh, that’s waste. We want demand gen.” 

It’s such a silly thing and it’s such an easy thing to prove where brand has value. So just look at your cost per click on a Google ad. The minute your awareness goes up, your cost per click goes down. That’s brand in action right there. It’s so easy to measure, yet you don’t hear that. 

So first of all, most CMOs have to disguise brand spending. One CMO calls everything “revenue marketing,” right? “Oh, my whole budget is for revenue marketing.” So that’s part one. 

Part two of this is, we at least have to start tracking brand health. We have to look at awareness, reach and, I’ll call it salience, which basically is: Do they know something about the brand that is important? Is there anything that sticks to the brand other than the name? Ideally, you’re tracking those things. 

Then we’re looking at opportunity participation, then we’re tracking brand impact on employees from a recruiting and retaining—and by the way, it’s also easy to do that. 

I’ll talk about this case in a second, but this company Case Paper and you know the CMO, Simon Schaffer. This is a company that we actually worked with to do their brand several years ago, and they invested heavily in employee understanding and education around their brand idea. 

Part of their brand idea is they’re the joker brand; they’re a humorous brand. Their tagline is “On the Case,” and it’s a pun because they’re Case Paper and they’re on their case, and everything they do has a sense of humor. They don’t take themselves seriously, but they take service seriously. 

Anyway, they are able to recruit employees—and I was talking to Simon just the other day—they have no issues with recruitment because every one of their recruitment ads has a sense of humor. And you look at 99% of recruiting ads, they have no sense of humor. It’s like, “Great pay, great opportunities, long term thing.” It’s all rational, rational, rational, and people like to work at companies that seem like they’re going to be fun. 

So anyway, long way of sending that the rationalizing brand spend starts with building relationship with your CFO, saying, “Hey, we’re going to create a revenue model for the organization. We are. I recognize that ultimately marketing has to contribute to revenue, but let’s break it down a little bit and say that brand matters and awareness matters.” 

And then there’s one other thing that usually happens that gets brand budgets up. A CEO goes to a conference of peers and they introduce themselves and nobody knows them. They go, “Oh, I haven’t heard of your company.” 

That’s the moment where the CMO gets the call, right? That’s it. It takes this sort of anecdotal moment where they realize, “Oh, my god, we got to do something. Nobody knows who we are!” 

But it’s something that a CMO needs to be disciplined about and get the CFO along and show—and you can do it through tests—the impact that brand can have on every other metric that you’re looking at. 

[19:36] Behind the CATS Framework

“You can be Courageous, Artful and Thoughtful, but if you're not Scientific, it all falls apart.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: Let’s type into the book a little bit more because, as you know, Drew, I’m an active reader. There’re flags, there’s highlights, there’s… Oh, I can’t read a book without little stickies, pens, and highlighters and there’s lots of good things highlighted in here. 

Speaking of humor a bit, you know I’m a bit more of a dog person. You’ve met my dog Jazzy—many people have. She’s like the social media clickbait dog as is Louie, your French Bulldog. He’s super cute. 

But you have this framework called CATS. C-A-T-S in this book. I really kind of love this framework. I actually have it written down and it’s on a sticky note right over here. It’s just a good reminder. Can you tell us a little bit about CATS and what the framework is and how and why you came up with it?

Drew Neisser: Sure. I’ll step back. When I wrote the first book, which was The CMO’s Periodic Table, one of the things that happened—that book was basically 64 interviews divided up into an organization of what I saw marketers had to do and then what inspired marketers needed to do. 

After I wrote the book, the question came out, “Well Drew, you know, 64 is too hard for us to deal with. Can you break it down on what makes a great CMO?” From that, going back and looking at all the interviews and thinking it through, we came up with Courageous, Artful, Thoughtful, and Scientific. CATS. 

Now, that framework existed for a while in just thinking about CMOs, and then stepping back for this book, about four years ago when we recognize this problem that B2B marketing had gotten ridiculously complicated but not more effective, we wanted to understand that. 

The first thing we did was—and this was literally thanks to The CMO Club, I went on a road show and I took those four things and I put three things behind each one. The steps that make up the 12 steps, and just started talking to CMOs about this approach. And it felt like there was some resonance. 

Anyway, I’ll break down Courageous, Artful, Thoughtful, and Scientific. Courageous strategy is basically exactly what it sounds and this is shocking: Most B2B marketing is doesn’t cut through, it’s boring, and it’s because there’s a strategic issue. They’re not differentiated. They haven’t dared to be distinct. 

Strategy is great, but you still have to ideate, you have to get to some place. And that’s the artfulness of this and that’s what often attracts people to marketing. That you can bring some art and design and some interesting thinking into it. 

The next area of thoughtful and thoughtful execution comes from a philosophical core for me which is, marketing doesn’t have to be pollution and messaging, marketing can actually deliver value to customers and prospects and employees and be a force of good. 

And this is me preaching a little bit, but I’ve seen it. One of the things I always ask folks when they’re doing content programs, for example, is: “If you share this with a customer, will they get value out of it? Will they say thank you?” That’s the basic framework of thoughtful execution. 

And then lastly, you can be Courageous, Artful and Thoughtful, but if you’re not Scientific, it all falls apart. And this is a problem with a lot of CMOs that they face. The issue is they aren’t getting the metrics right, they aren’t squaring those away from day one with their CEO and managing expectations. But it is a progression through this Courageous, Artful, Thoughtful and Scientific. 

Katrina Klier: I know. I just love that, and that is really the secret sauce of marketing. That blend of art and science and thinking forward while at the same time—for certain brands, in particular—paying homage to the heritage that got you where you are. It’s definitely the balancing act. 

[23:06] The Clear Away the Clutter Pledge

“We're going to be the Marie Kondos of marketing. We're gonna clear away the clutter.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: I want to kind of go into some of these a bit more, like in courageous strategy, you talked about marketers clearing away the clutter, and you actually have a Clear Away the Clutter pledge—see it’s highlighted and flagged in the book.

I’d like to read this because I think it’s actually kind of interesting. Now, you wrote this for CMOs, right? But a lot of these things actually apply to anyone that works in marketing. And I would argue people in other functions that intersect with marketing as well. 

The Clear Away the Clutter pledge is: “I will focus relentlessly on a handful of strategic priorities,” back to your peanut butter thing, right? So pick a few. 

“I will have the courage to say no to distractions.” That’s the bright shiny syndrome that we all deal with all the time in marketing. Everybody’s got somebody to come at you with all the time. So I’m gonna say “no” to the distractions and stay true. 

“I will delegate everything except the things that I can do that move the business and organization forward.” Now, not everybody has the luxury of being able to delegate but some of those things you can or you can bring in your peers to help you get it done better around the organization. 

“I won’t add my to-do list without taking something off.” I’m really bad at that. I need to focus on that one, some more growth opportunity for me.

And the last one I really love: “I will block off 30 minutes a day for thinking big.” I think that’s so important because you can get so bogged down in the minutiae. 

That’s the Clear Away the Clutter pledge in the book, which I think is fantastic. What inspired you to come up with this? What were the things that made you say, “You know, we really need to take a pause for a moment and think about these things if we’re going to be able to dare to be distinct”? 

Drew Neisser: If you talk to a CMO—and as you know, I talk to a lot of them—it’s like they are on this treadmill and they’re going and they’re going and they’re going. “No, I don’t have time to talk. I can’t show up for a huddle. I’m sorry, my CEO just called me. Oh, I got another request from sales.” There’s some adrenaline rush that seems to come from that. 

But it’s like, the daily calm. I don’t know how many of you out there have the Calm app, but the daily calm is, you spent 9 or 10 minutes with Tamara and you step away and you clear your head and you breathe, take a break. I just wanted to make sure that… 

We started the conversation in the book and say, “We’re going to be the Marie Kondos of marketing. We’re gonna clear away the clutter.” Because if you don’t, you can’t solve the problems that I go on to solve which are: How do we take this what has become incredibly complicated, matrixed down to even using AI to substitute one word or another to 750 different messages out there? How do we step back? 

I have to tell you one funny story. When I wrote the book, I had nine parts of this pledge, and one of the CMOs who read it in advance said, “You know, we got to make it shorter because we can’t do all those things. And the whole point of this book is to simplify.” 

We got it down to those five and I really think that it sets the framework for the rest of the book. If you clear away the clutter, then you have a chance to radically simplify B2B marketing.

Katrina Klier: I think that clutter theme is important. It comes up in a lot of different ways. You know, we talked about this in one of the huddles as well Drew. 

At PROS, we have this concept of “Work Well Wednesdays,” were we try not to have tons of meetings on Wednesdays. It does give everybody the chance, whatever level they are in the organization, to politely decline meetings that show up on their calendar on Wednesday, so that hopefully they can think big or take a look at their big to-do list and say, “You know, let me go back to those fewer more impactful things. What absolutely must go well, what would be nice if it went well, and what can I get to later?” 

And really clear away some of that, which has been helpful for us. I know a few other CMOs have things like that in their organizations as well. We like them on Wednesday, so you’re not worn out by the time Friday afternoon comes around. 

But anyway, I think it’s helpful. It’s important for all of us, whether you’re the CMO or the C-whatever-O or any person in an organization, to have that quiet time for your brain to just think and not be bogged down in the 25,000 to-dos that you haven’t gotten on the done list yet. 

[27:20] Purpose-Driven Marketing in the B2B World 

“Your purpose can help you be distinctive.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: I think that’s really interesting from that standpoint. In that same part of the book, you talk about big-P purpose, and little-p purpose and that there is a distinction. Purpose in marketing has been kind of a hot topic for a few years now. I think more people have embraced it. But you made some really good points around this. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Drew Neisser: Sure. I mean, big-P purpose is save-the-world purpose. It’s Patagonia, all environment, all the time. You can recycle their clothes, and every aspect of the company… REI does the same thing. It’s like, “We’re closed on Thanksgiving, because we want our employees to be able to give back.” Those are big-P purpose. 

But the reality is, when a B2B brand tries to go for a big-P purpose, often it’s what we call purpose-washing. It doesn’t feel real; it’s not part of why the company exists. Little-p purpose, though, is still available. 

I mentioned Case Paper. They’re “On the Case.” That’s a little-p purpose and basically, what it what it says is, “For every one of our customers, we are going to be reliable, resourceful, and responsive.” 

It’s not just that we’re on the case and we’re just going to be there lickety split and it’s all about speed. It’s about being able to be responsive, but also resourceful, so that their little-p purpose of being on the case is just fine. And there’s a sense of humor that goes with that. 

I would argue one of the brands that, way back in my career, I got a chance to name this product, which was the Toughbook. And that’s a little-p purpose; it protects you from losing your data regardless of the conditions that you subjected to. 

So, if you’re a military person and it gets a bullet through it, the computer will probably still work, which is kind of amazing. For that individual who has that laptop, that’s a pretty big purpose, right? 

It’s not that every brand has to save the world, and I think the brands that tout it, often it feels artificial. I want to step back for one second on this chapter because right before that, we talked about daring to be distinct. 

I want to make an emphasis on that just because you’re going through a branding process right now and it’s such an opportunity when you go through this to differentiate. 

Most B2B brands use the same voice, the same color, the same language as their competitors and it’s amazing, in this research that set up the book and I talk about it: 90% of marketers believe that marketing should differentiate. 

That’s a good thing. But only 40% of the same marketers—and this was over two different surveys—believe that the marketing they were doing was distinctive. You stop, and you say, “Wait, how is that possible?” 

Daring to be distinct is something that, really, one of the reasons that purpose fits into that is: Often your purpose can help you be distinctive. Those are linked often between being distinct and the purpose, which is why I want to go backwards on that one. Okay, back to you.

[30:16] Perfecting Pithy: Developing Your Purpose-Driven Story Statement

“What makes it a purpose-driven story statement is not the cleverness of the language. It is the number of programs that go to support this.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: You also talk a little bit about the perfect pithy, if you will—which for those of us in the team that may not be overly familiar with that kind of a term—it’s getting this incredibly distinct, short, very, very memorable, precise, but not constrictive statement about what your company really does. 

Can you talk a little bit—go into some really awesome examples about this book.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. I realize now that you could read it perfect, but it’s actually per-fect. That’s a problem with the English language that I couldn’t put an accent on “ect,” but it’s perfect pithy as in get to an eight-word story about your brand. 

You can think about it as a tagline on steroids. We call it purpose-driven story statement. The idea is, again, I believe ours is a noble profession. I really think when done right marketing can and should be substantive, that marketing sets up a promise and then makes sure the organization delivers. 

If you think about Toughbook, we didn’t need—we did have some great promises, but the brand itself was a promise and we just had to deliver on that and demonstrate it. 

I’ve mentioned “On the Case” for Case Paper. We did something heretical in that rebrand. We actually put “On the” on top of the word “Case” in their logo. We took this purpose-driven story statement and put it on the “Case,” so it was the literally and figuratively on the case. 

But what makes it a purpose-driven story statement is not the cleverness of the language. It is the number of programs that go to support this. So, Case Paper spent almost a year retraining their employees to be reliable, resourceful, and responsive. They introduced the humor and why it was so important in everything they did. They did a On the Case awards program on a quarterly basis and started to recognize it. 

Finally, they introduced it to customers, and then ultimately to prospects and their employee brand. But the point is, it was about a bunch of actions that they were to do. 

Now, I’ll give you an example of one where it didn’t quite work out. And this pains me because this is sort of my Roger Maris, 61 home runs moment. For Family Circle, I penned this line “Where Family Comes First.” 

It’s just a great tagline. I mean, think about it. The family is before circle; where family comes first. It actually was on the spine of the magazine for 18 years, which is kind of cool. But that was it. If we think about it for a moment, the promise of where family comes first was ultimately huge. We laid out all these things to them. 

We laid out, you know, “You could do the family symposium. You could talk about what family looks like. You could have the best family leave policy in the publishing world. Oh, and by the way, the chapter that you have in your magazine called ‘Family’ that ought to go first, not second.” 

We created this whole way of making the promise real, and in truth, this was before Simon Sinek and people weren’t thinking about purpose the way they do now. That wasn’t what they asked us for. They asked us for a small program that they could execute like a campaign. So, the difference between a purpose-driven story statement and a tagline is the number of ways that you execute against it to make it real.

Katrina Klier: Mm hmm. Well, I think that, you know, bringing it to life and not just making it a theoretical exercise is really, it’s essential now more than ever because people will just call your bluff in a heartbeat. 

Drew Neisser: It’s so true. 

Katrina Klier: They’re like, “Prove it, show me. Tell me how that really works.” And I think it’s really important to see it all the way through and to try some different things along the way as you also mentioned. 

[33:57] Rethinking Customer Advocacy and Customer Success 

“You know you have a brand when a group of customers will show up and want to be identified with your brand.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: So, thinking about execution, in your thoughtful execution part of the book, you talk a lot about the need to really focus on how you create and cultivate customer advocates. That’s a big focus for us here at PROS. 

Now, in some ways, you can say, “Well, that seems like common sense. Of course, you want your customers to be advocates for you.” But it’s always surprising to me how many companies don’t really go all the way through that. 

To your point with the Family Circle magazine of like, “How do you think about the whole program around it? How do you really bring it to life? How do you stay ahead of it? How do you really make sure that it adds value?” 

We’ve got a great little customer advocacy team and customer marketing team here who are just itching to do a little bit more for us and really make it that much more impactful. Can you talk a little bit about why that customer advocacy strategy is really so important and so essential to companies as they look to grow in the B2B world?

Drew Neisser: Yeah. There are several thoughts that I want to unpack on this one. One of the things in the book is, if you think about most marketing strategies and CMOs and how they’re being evaluated, it’s like, how many net new logos did you help us acquire? 

What the book does is say, “No, no, no. Your targets are backwards. Your targets should be employees first, customers second, and prospects third.” 

That was a nice theory. But at the beginning of the pandemic, it really came to fruition. And by the way, I had finished the book before the pandemic, and then I put it on hold because I wasn’t sure well, will this still work afterwards? I ended up rewriting it quite a bit. 

Anyway, at the beginning of the pandemic, every brand found out if they were essential or not. And they were introduced to the CF-No, right? What happened is, if you weren’t essential, the CF-No said, “No. I’m not buying you. Whatever it is we’re doing we’re going to put on hold unless you were somehow considered part of the digital transformation or some other thing they needed.” 

Now, what a number of smart companies did is they reached out to their customers, including the marketers—and I know CMOs who directly called their customers just to see how they were doing. This is the beginning of the pandemic. 

In some cases, they extended terms because nobody knew how things were going. In other cases, they helped their customers figure out that they could get more out of the software or the service that they were doing. 

What was interesting is, “You don’t have to spend any more money, you’re just not using us as well as you could and that might help solve some of the problems that you’re facing.” These efforts went a long way to help secure customers and raise satisfaction levels. 

So now the pandemic progresses, and in some ways B2B returned to normal, but what’s fascinating is that retention initiatives ended up being 50 to 75% of revenue growth for a ton of B2B companies. The business case was there to invest more in retention-related activities, like community building. 

Now, I want to make a big point, which some people talk about and some people don’t. There is this world called customer success. At some companies, customer success is a sales function, and people get rewarded for selling more in. 

At some companies, there are separation between sales and service. In my mind, when it’s one group and their incented to sale, you have a problem. It’s going to be problematic. But that’s a sidebar. 

The key thing is satisfied customers are really at the core of everything. You want to acquire net new logos? Well, you’re going to need 5 to 10 really great testimonials. You want great testimonials? You better be really taking care of your existing customers. 

So, there’s a direct pole here, right? Employees feel good about the company, they say good things about the company to the prospect or customer, customers feel good about it, they say good things to prospects, and it’s a wonderful virtuous circle.

Katrina Klier: It’s fascinating. And like you mentioned, it seems so common sense, but yet not always so easy to do and you’re never done working on it. 

Drew Neisser: No. 

Katrina Klier: You really can’t take your eye off of it. You really have to stay the course.

Drew Neisser: I didn’t cover any of the tactics, but in the book, there are a lot of different tactics that a lot of companies have used to help develop, whether it’s a customer advisory board, whether it’s an active community. 

Here’s one of the things I will say: You know you have a brand when a group of customers will show up and want to be identified with your brand. I’ve been to Marketo Nation and those Marketo-ites or whatever you want to call them felt really good about being there. This brand was part of their identity. 

In the book, I talk about Tableau, who went from 100 people coming to their user conference to 10,000 and what that felt like for the CMO as his community built. That is when you know, you have a strong brand. People want to wear your brand.

Katrina Klier: Absolutely. Absolutely. 

[39:00] Building a Culture of Experimentation in Your B2B Organization

“Testing to triumph is as much an insurance policy as it is building a culture of experimentation.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: I do want to ask you, Drew, you talked about test to triumph in the book. Some of that goes hand-in-hand with the MarTech piece of things so you can see stuff and everything, but that testing part I think is really interesting to distill and focus on and how you use the insights out of it in particular to continue to evolve and things. 

Not everything is going to work and maybe that’s okay if you’ve learned something. What are some areas of test to triumph that you think are really important for people to remember when they’re setting up your test and learn strategy?

Drew Neisser: I’m going to step back a little bit and just talk about why that’s the last chapter of the book. One of the things that I think a lot of us went into marketing for is because there’s an opportunity to be creative and try new things. 

I think one of the things is that digital and testing and marketing automation has kind of beaten the creativity out. One of the things that I thought was so interesting and I talk about this in the book is having tests and experimenting… 

One, it’s just a great way to build culture, but it can also save your bacon as a CMO and as a marketer. In Caroline Tien-Spalding’s case, she had always had a rule she put 20% of our budget into experiments. 

Well, when the pandemic hit and 50% of her budget can no longer be spent on events, she was very happy that she had an experiment in place that was working because then she just put all her dollars into the experiment. The experiment became the actual plan. 

Testing to triumph is as much an insurance policy as it is building a culture of experimentation. You’re absolutely right. You have to be able to accept failure. You’re also experimenting with little things but sometimes big things. 

Right now, ABM is the experiment du jour, and there are a lot of flavors of ABM that you could experiment with. The great thing about ABM is you can actually test it on a small scale, and then make it a big, big part of your program. 

So mainly, the chapter is about a mentality. It’s almost a perfect complement to the first chapter of clear away your clutter. I hadn’t really thought about that. As we are getting our mindset, as we start the book and end the book, we’re thinking: How do we make sure that we are in a position for the future to succeed even if what we’re doing today is working really well?

[41:29] Drew’s Reading and Listening Recommendations

“You can read too much, you can listen too much, so take a break to read some fiction, get yourself out of this world for a little bit. Sometimes you'll get perspective by leaving the marketing world and the pundits.” —@DrewNeisser Share on X

Katrina Klier: Very good. I have one last question for you, Drew. Because we’re into the early part of 2022 and it’s winter in many parts of the world, so it’s a time when people I think read and research a bit more because it’s just too cold to be outside. Or at least in New York, where you and I often are it’s too cold to be outside. 

What are things that you recommend marketers in general, regardless of whether they’re the CMO or not, what are things that you encourage people to read or listen to? Where else do you go for inspiration and information on trends?

Drew Neisser: Sure. I’m going to start with a couple of books. One of the things that I often prescribe to new CMOs, but I realized that this is probably the best business strategy book that I’ve read. It’s called The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. It breaks down a business and how you go about it. I love that framework, how he tackles that. 

Another great book to read that will help you really think about how your conversations are going—and we’ve actually used it to guide the growth of CMO Huddles—this book called Never Split the Difference by Christopher Voss. The book is about negotiation, but if you start to think about marketing as negotiation, it will really help you. 

Then this is sort of a favorite is Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips. It’s just a really easy book to read and process and think about what it means to be a leader. I am listening to so many podcasts. 

I like Douglas Burdett’s The Marketing Book Podcast, but I admit I don’t listen to all of them. I like Alan Hart’s Marketing Today podcast. 

I think part of the thing is: You can read too much, you can listen too much, and you can get confused, so take a break to read some fiction, get yourself out of this world for a little bit. Sometimes you’ll get perspective by leaving the marketing world and the pundits.

Katrina Klier: There you go. Well, good advice as always. I want to thank you so much for joining us today. As always, a pleasure, pleasure to get to chat with you. 

Thank you for taking time out of what I know is your busy schedule to join us and talk a little bit more about Renegade Marketing and building unbeatable brands. This is what we’re going to do team this year. We’re going to build an unbeatable brand for PROS. 

Drew, we thank you so much. We hope you’ll come back and talk to us again at some point. Have a very, very happy and productive 2022.

Drew Neisser: Thank you. Nice to see you all and best of luck. 

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser—hey, that’s me! Audio production is by Sam Beck. Show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, and learn more about my new book, visit renegade.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.