January 6, 2022

B2B Renegade: Meet David Koerner, 75F Marketing VP

75F is not here to market via Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). That’s why the smart building automation brand has banished the words “climate change crisis,” and “global warming.” Not because they are not dedicated to making the world a better, more sustainable place, no—that’s integral to 75F’s mission.

In this exciting episode, 75F’s VP of Global Marketing David Koerner joins the show to share how 75F is marketing sustainability in a whole new way while going up against some heavy, well-known competition in their space. Having helped close the largest Series-A funding round in Minnesota history, David is a master marketer. Tune in to hear all about how the B2B brand has rolled out a truly renegade marketing strategy—cutting through the clutter to do what they do best in a big way.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How 75F markets smart building automation
  • What a truly renegade marketing strategy looks like
  • 75F’s marketing metrics, and why 75F still measures MQLs

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 274 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands
  • [1:04] How 75F is Making Buildings Smarter
  • [10:53] Differentiating 75F via Asymmetric Marketing Strategy
  • [18:31] The Secret to B2B Excellence? Cutting the Clutter
  • [25:26] How 75F Makes It Brand Mission Real
  • [29:49] The Challenge of Marketing Sustainability and Value of Partnerships
  • [37:18] Marketing Metrics at 75F
  • [42:17] B2B Marketing Lessons Learned in 2021

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with David Koerner

[0:00] Cold Open: Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands

Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. You may know that I have a new book out called Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands that is now available on Amazon in paperback, ebook, and audio. Yep, I did the voiceover!

Crammed with fun-to-read stories and game-changing insights I’ve gleaned both as an interviewer and a practitioner, I can’t wait for you to check it out.

In fact, for listeners of this show, I’d be happy to share a PDF for free of the entire book if you’ll commit to writing a review. Just hit me up on LinkedIn and reference this show. Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

[1:04] How 75F is Making Buildings Smarter

“There's this renewed focus on health as customers return to work, on making those spaces work as good as they possibly can, and on modernizing our building infrastructure in major cities around the world.” —@brandeveryday @75f_io Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! As I’ve referenced on this show many times and crystallized in my new book, Renegade Marketing, being a CMO today is really, really hard. But the successful ones are truly the cool CATS of marketing. CATS being an acronym for courageous, artful, thoughtful, and scientific.

And lest you think the CATS framework only applies to previous guests, I’m thrilled to introduce you to today’s guest, Dave Koerner, the CMO of 75F, a global leader in smart building automation.

David has a strong entrepreneurial streak having founded one company while he was still in college at Penn State, and another one when he graduated. He then spent almost 8 years at 3M, followed by Head of Marketing stints at Intelivideo and Quisk. He joined 75F in August 2019. Hello, David. Welcome.

David Koerner: Hey, Drew. Thanks for having me.

Drew Neisser: So first of all, how are you? And how are things in Minneapolis?

David Koerner: They are great. It’s lovely outside. We’re here in the office, which is fortunate for us. And, you know, looking forward to the new year.

Drew Neisser: Yes. Well, let’s dive into it then. We’re going to start, as we do, with courageous strategy. Maybe you could give a bit of background on 75F and what the situation was when you arrived.

David Koerner: Sure. 75F is a Bill Gates-backed, cleantech company. I arrived to help win that Bill Gates Series-A funding. We closed the largest round in Minnesota state history, and we used smart sensors and controls that we designed and built here to make commercial buildings, commercial offices like this one, more energy-efficient and more comfortable. Improving indoor air quality with a bunch of built-in analytics and AI to make buildings healthier and safer.

Drew Neisser: This is an area that I actually know a fair amount about because I’ve been on the—you and I have talked about this. I’ve been on the Urban Green Council Board now, gosh, more than nine years.

This whole world of building energy maintenance inside—I know that most people listening don’t think about much. But it’s complicated. And the things that I have learned, for example, one side of a building gets hotter at certain points of the day. The number of people you have in a building on a floor really starts to matter.

I’m curious, what is state of the art right now for what you all do?

David Koerner: Sure. It’s pretty high-tech. We use these lightweight wireless sensors, throw them up over a space. We’re not talking about just temperature now. We’re talking about temperature and humidity; we’re measuring CO2 and VOCs. We’re measuring light and sound, infrared occupancy.

And then we’re controlling the dampers, those ducts that you see in the ceilings everywhere you go, and equipment that’s on the roof or in a basement in order to redirect air where it’s needed most.

It turns out that buildings, as you know, are one of the great contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and 50% of the energy in those buildings and roughly 50% of the carbon has been heating and cooling those spaces. Half of that is wasted.

Buildings spend most of their time with the lights on, with the heat on this time of year, and nobody’s in those break rooms, in those hallways, in those bathrooms. Buildings can and should be much more efficient.

And we believe that building owners and operators don’t have a moral imperative to do something about this, but they have a great opportunity to do something about this with cutting-edge wireless technology like ours.

Drew Neisser: And so, one of the things that makes this area so interesting to me is that we’re not just talking about energy efficiency. We’re talking about healthy quality, the quality there, and I would imagine that this is even become more important in the COVID period, than pre. Air quality. And again, this is where this stuff gets very complicated very fast.

David Koerner: That’s why I love what Urban Green Council’s doing. And thank you for being a huge part of that organization for so long. Because it’s a grassroots, ground-up movement to hold buildings within the city to a higher standard.

When I started even two years ago, even as Bill Gates was coming on as a lead investor, we were getting the majority of our calls from customers that were just trying to lower their energy costs or trying to take control of their building. They were too hot or too cold in offices.

I think the global pandemic has exposed some of the problems with modern buildings today. We have driverless cars, but our buildings are still running incredibly ancient, full hardwired, inflexible technology.

In that context, I think customers more and more are asking for indoor air quality improvements are tracking CO2 or VOCs are particulate in their space. BM 2.5 is a type of sensor that measures the airborne particles within Office buildings, and most spaces are above EPA suggested limits.

The majority of customers we’ve installed this far are well above the EPA average. I think that there’s this renewed focus on health as customers return to work, on making those spaces work as good as they possibly can, and on modernizing our building infrastructure in major cities around the world.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I have to say, first of all, the number, I think, in New York City is 60% of the greenhouse missions are from buildings first of all, which is always an astounding number to consider. I don’t think it’s the same everywhere. It’s more like 50 or 40%. That’s part one of this thing.

Part two that drove me crazy during the pandemic was—and this is New York City data—at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, occupancy was at about 10%, office occupancy. But electrical usage was still in the 90 to 100% range.

And it wasn’t just because there were servers left on and other things like that. It was due to the way these leases were written. A tenant could use it as an excuse if the building didn’t keep the building at a certain temperature. It just drove me crazy.

The other part of this thing that, you know, really comes down to it to me is, you have to put it in the tenants’ hands. You have to make them responsible, because if they’re the ones who get the savings and the benefit from this kind of thing, it’s where you really can see the changes happen. Not only do they get better air and assurance for their employees, but they also know and can tell their employees that they’re doing everything they can.

That’s the case in New York City. I don’t know if that applies to other places. You want the buildings to do it, but if the tenants do it, they see it and they feel it.

David Koerner: Absolutely right. We’re competing against the biggest names in the industry. Johnson Controls, Honeywell, Siemens, Schneider Electric. These are companies that have been around 100 years.

In most cases, the buildings were installing 75F the products that exist in those buildings are collecting Social Security. These are insanely old products and they’re completely inflexible.

So, during this pandemic, I think we started really getting serious in April of last year. We decided to go remote while we sorted things out. And then as we heard more and more companies were pushing workforces remote, we wanted to make our own offices safe.

So, we decided to push this upgrade. Again, all of our systems are cloud-based. We pushed this upgrade called epidemic mode, which are engineers just sitting in basements across the country… By the way, in Palo Alto, they do cool stuff and in garages, but here in the Midwest, we do cool stuff in our basements. So, we created this epidemic mode, and we started reaching out to existing customers and offering it up to them.

This essentially just maximizes ventilation by using our existing occupancy sensors to detect that there’s somebody in that space. And then we use third-party weather data and forecasting, as well as historical data about the building to predictively and proactively maximize airflow in those areas.

That pivot, that focus on the end-user—like to talk about—on the occupant, on the tenant is really, I think, what carried us through this incredibly difficult time within building tech. When customers were disappearing, it was tenants saying, “Hey, how do I get my hands on this? Where do I buy? How do I get this installed?”

Drew Neisser: Yeah. I mean, it is a really hard time for the whole real estate industry. And again, I’m more sensitized to New York City where, obviously, real estate is really important.

[10:53] Differentiating 75F via Asymmetric Marketing Strategy

“We hand out trees instead of branded swag.” —@brandeveryday @75f_io Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about this from a strategy standpoint. You’ve already mentioned that you have huge competitors. So, how does that inform your strategic approach?

David Koerner: We are focused on prioritization. On marketing first principles. Those are fairly basic. Lead gen, sales enablement, brand are the three things that everyone on our marketing teams globally are just trained in on. Those are always our priorities.

The way we deliver—now we have a way to sort all of the things coming over the transom at us and determine what’s going to generate measurable business impact.

The way that we do that is by a couple of principles, and one is to differentiate ourselves, to mentally make ourselves more available. That’s, for us, a focus on hardware.

We are vertically integrated; we manufacture on hardware. Most competitors are an AI platform or a software layer of some kind, an analytics package that is not delivering data, is not full-stack. So, we focus on hardware to a huge degree.

We just launched the most popular—I think more views than any other commercial—thermostat YouTube video in history. We spent a ton of our marketing budget making a full ad, 90 seconds, I believe, for a thermostat. It was very well received in the industry. We have full-page ads and trade publications and stuff.

Focus on hardware, that’s pretty basic one. Another is get closer to the customer. Another super basic, you talk about it in your book at length. I mean, we’re not doing anything different here. Honeywell cannot have their phone number on their website, Johnson Controls cannot have live chat. They would just be overwhelmed, right?

But we can because we don’t have their customers yet. We put our phone number right up at the top, we always have live chat. We have 24/7 customer support. You’re talking or videoing to a real person.

Our product—I don’t have one here—but it’s actually a panel on the wall. You can video in from our screen. A technician, a building engineer can video in from our screen and get support or help if they’re reformatting an office, no programming or anything required.

But the big one, Drew, I mean, the one that I think is really interesting for Renegade Marketers everywhere is this take on renegade-ness that we call asymmetry, which is, let’s be incredibly asymmetric.

I could take this podcast—this is one of the best marketing podcasts out there, I think—and if I was going to compete against you, it would not make sense for me to launch a podcast today.

You know, if I had your knowledge or connections, it still wouldn’t make sense. You are using this medium, and I need to find marketing channels that are not somewhere where my competitor can succeed.

We’ve probably reached peak podcast now. I mean, I was on a flight with somebody that didn’t have a podcast and I was like, “Whoa, where are you from?”

Drew Neisser: Exactly. But let’s focus on—So this notion by the way, if I had music I would have gone “Duh, duh, duh, duh! Asymmetry! First time ever on Renegade Marketers Unite! Asymmetry.”

I talk about it in the book as you mentioned, it’s just zig when others are zagging. Go to a place where you have something on your own. Just committing to that is, you know, if we talk about daring to be distinct, that’s one because most of the time this happens: People look at their competition.

They say “Well, where are they marketing? Oh, well they’re going to these trade shows. Oh, they’re in these ads.”

Then they say, “Oh, well we better be in these trade shows and these ads.”

And you guys just said—and I love this. You mentioned this in the pre-show, which is, “If our competitors are doing it, we don’t.”

David Koerner: Right. We’re here in the office today because Honeywell and Siemens announced a couple months ago that they were going to be out through next year. So, let’s do the opposite of that.

If it’s a trade show, if they have big pavilions and huge TVs and are sending 50 people in a truck, we need to do something different. We had a tradeshow where we brought a tree. We just pitched outside on the cement floor of this place, and lawn chairs and a beer cooler, and just invited customers to come up and talk to us.

That’s a cheap tactic, but it’s making sustainability and what we’re all about a lot more approachable. We hand out trees instead of branded swag. Like living, sapling trees. You can go home, plant, watch them grow with your kids, and hopefully remember us in the process.

Drew Neisser: Okay, I gotta stop you before you go on.

David Koerner: Go for it!

Drew Neisser: There are just so many cool ideas here. And we are already moving into artful ideation, and it’s great.

First of all, I love trade shows. I love thinking about Renegade Marketing in the context of trade shows. Your tree reminded me years ago, when we were working with DoubleClick, and I mean, this is from the archives of Renegade.

We had a 10×10 booth and we filled it with beach sand and a beach chair and had a model sitting there reading a book and the book title was essentially the ad.

David Koerner: Nice.

Drew Neisser: And you know, we had, I don’t know, I can’t remember what we gave away. But it was, first of all, you were gonna win a trip somewhere by work nominating someone to work smarter, not harder. And she was reading this book called “How to Work Smarter, Not Harder.”

It was incredibly effective because everybody else had their 10×10 with a computer monitor and a nice person dressed up. Anything that you can do that is human.

There was a story there, by the way, and I’m not a fan of a gorilla in a jockstrap approach because you can always get attention with a gorilla in a jockstrap, but that’s what people will remember. So, unless you’re selling gorillas or jockstraps or both, you’re not going to get very far with that approach.

Your case of having sod and a tree, you were really just talking about the end benefit here folks is saving the planet. That’s pretty cool. And oh, so the next part that I want to share, all we really need to do to solve climate change is to plant a trillion trees. I just wanted to say that on the show, just to get a trillion trees. They could absorb enough carbon to at least give us a chance.

David Koerner: Yeah, there’s millions of dollars, billions of dollars being spent right now on carbon capture. But it turns out you have a few plants in your front yard that hundreds of thousands of years of a head start on carbon capture, and we just need more of those.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, oh, that’s right. We talked about that thing in Iceland. It took 20 years to build and it’s hugely expensive and it sits there and it grabs like, you know, 10 meters worth of carbon. So, yeah, think about trees. More trees, folks, more trees. Just a trillion.

[18:32] The Secret to B2B Excellence? Cutting the Clutter

“That 2x2 framework helps you determine: Do you reduce the effort in something, increase the effort, increase the impact, or reduce the impact of that something?” —@brandeveryday @75f_io Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I love the example of the tree and handing out the sapling, which has real value. Let’s talk about some of the other things that you’ve done. I know you’ve done a lot of cool things.

David Koerner: Yeah. So, if you skip past the tactical stuff, which I think is easy, and move up bottom to top on the CATS framework. The other thing we do is we cut.

The only way that this is possible, the only way we have money to spend on an ad is, we cut everything. We cut out a lot of agencies because I think there’s some slack there. There’s a lot of performative work. That’s unfortunate.

We cut our blog almost completely during the pandemic. We had no blog because we decided to launch a webcast. At peak, I think there were 30,000 people that viewed a webcast. That was a huge undertaking. Everyone on the team was involved. Live shows are very painful. We had some spectacular failures figuring out how to run a live show.

And we kept losing desks, of course, during COVID times, so super high stress, wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. Then we shut down all our social pages. I mean, we had a reasonable Facebook page, but we can’t compete with Siemens. They have social media experts, SVPs of Social, so let’s cut that right away. Cut cut cut.

We use a 2×2 framework and it’s pretty straightforward. Just where can we prioritize. And then as a marketer, I think, I have to make sure I have the time and space to make those cuts.

And when I start doing that, by the way—and I’ve done this at a few organizations. You come in, you have this bold vision, and then you say, “The only way we’re going to pay for this is we got to cut a lot of stuff.” They say, “Well, then what’s left? When you cut all of our display and you cut our social and we’re not doing retargeting and we’re not using our agencies anymore, then what are you going to do?”

That’s where you have to have some creative tactical ideas that you’re pretty sure have a reasonable chance of working and move that way.

Drew Neisser: I love this. And you know the first chapter of my book is “Clear Away the Clutter.” It’s a mindset thing, but it is also all the stuff that you do. We see this whether it’s in tactics, “Oh, we have to do that and we have to do this” or we see it in personas, “Oh, we have 12 personas, we need to develop creative for all 12 personas.”

What you have in most marketing plans is peanut butter, just spread all the way up there and nothing that really does cut through. You mentioned 2×2. What do you mean by that?

David Koerner: You know, a 2×2 framework where you are measuring impact versus effort on axes and you’re looking to get in that top right corner. You can’t increase the impact of something while simultaneously reducing the effort of that something.

So, you take your key marketing initiatives, and you drop them based on size, then you… “Our blog’s not working. Are we going to spend more time trying to make this blog good, when across town we can see from LinkedIn they have 23 people in their newsroom producing world-class content?”

Or are we going to say, “Let’s find a way to win with no content.” And maybe customers don’t even need content. And if they do, maybe we shouldn’t be the ones producing it.

Can we have enough humility to recognize that we’re not going to change anybody’s mind on the future of smart cities or the advantages of IoT? That 2×2 framework helps you determine: Do you reduce the effort in something, increase the effort, increase the impact, or reduce the impact of that something?

Drew Neisser: Unbelievable. And I want everybody—I’m going to put a huge thing on this. We spent the last three months of CMO Huddles, so that’s 12-plus huddles, talking in various ways about what I call digital fatigue, which is just that… so many… everybody’s doing exactly the same tactics. Exactly.

You talked about display ads. They’re doing SEO, they’re doing content, they are doing webinars, they are doing virtual events, and often they’re doing the same kind of a virtual event.

As we round out 2021 and really put down stakes, what could we do differently in 2022? The simple answer is, “Less, better.” And that better bar is defined by any number of ways, whether it’s just doing it bigger, but also doing it more creatively and doing it differently.

I think that you’re just way ahead of the curve. Obviously, I mean, the whole roots of guerilla marketing is making up for lack of budget with ingenuity, which is kind of what you’re really thinking about and doing. But I think there’s more to it than simply that, and I think that some big brands are afraid of making big bets.

David Koerner: Most marketers would rather be wrong inside the normal range than right outside of it. You go back to your executive team, your board and you say, “Hey, look, we’re optimized for display. We’re doing everything we can on Facebook. We reproduce three blog posts a week, like what do you want for me? I’ve done everything.” And, of course, Renegade Marketing is not that way.

Drew Neisser: It is not. Alright, we’re gonna take a quick break. And then when we come back, we’re gonna just… This is so interesting, and it’s so different from any show we’ve done in a while. Stay with us.

Show Break: Get Your CMO Huddles Guest Pass

Drew Neisser: If you don’t mind, I’d like to plug CMO Huddles for a second. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share care and dare each other to greatness.

One CMO described huddles as timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment. Literally, they used those words. While another called it cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session.

If you’re a CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit cmohuddles.com or hit me up on LinkedIn to see if you qualify for a guest pass.

[25:26] How 75F Makes It Brand Mission Real

“On your first day, you get this book. It explains who we sell to, what our product is, why our product matters. We have 75Fisms and cultural frameworks.” —@brandeveryday @75f_io Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’ve talked about the strategic thinking behind your approach, which is, they’re doing it, we’re not. Focus being your friend. Really, to use the cliche, literally thinking outside the box. In this case, outside the sandbox getting to trees.

So, as we start to think about execution and the challenges of execution… You ditched your agency, you’re doing less. But one of the things that is so important in any form of communication that you do, whether it was this webcast or the tree giveaway, is getting your employees involved and excited and thinking about the brand in some framework that allows them to tell the same story that marketing has helped define.

I’m curious how, in your—whether it’s the 2×2 framework, whether it’s in your approach—how you handle and think about internal communications?

David Koerner: That’s one of the most fun parts of this job. And something that perhaps doesn’t apply to most of your listeners because we’re a mission-driven organization.

Our average customer is going to save 49,000-kilowatt hours of energy using our system, which is the equivalent of planting 161 trees. Everybody, including myself, took a pay cut to be here. We’ve got folks coming in from Facebook and Cisco and all these other places who were just burned out with the engineering they were doing and looking for something different. We start with some cultural alignment, and that’s a big part of our hiring process.

We’ve done a couple of things that are, you know, staying within the Challenger, the Renegade mindset. One, we have a book, I can’t see you in here, I’d hold it up. It’s called The Orange Book. In it, it’s our onboarding guide. It’s actually a printed physical book.

So, on your first day, you get this book, it explains who we sell to, what our product is, why our product matters. We have 75Fisms and cultural frameworks. We actually have printed out a culture canvas, so we have all that documented.

And marketing is responsible globally for trying to bring everyone to us to a similar place. We’re all speaking the same language, so we all are understanding and recognizing the challenge we have, why it’s so important to move quickly, why we do what we do.

Drew Neisser: And, you know, this gets back to the power of purpose. Again, we really skipped right on that. The thing that, you’re absolutely right, is that lots of the companies that I’ve had on the show, they will claim to be purpose-driven, but they’re certainly not mission-driven, although we’ve had some that are.

Like a nonprofit organization, you have that competitive advantage. Although I would suspect that, you know, Johnson and Johnson or your other ones might be able to claim the same thing?

David Koerner: Yeah, sure. I mean, where we’re different is that they’re producing the equipment. So, this is very specific to our industry again, but a unique distinction is that traditional competitors have a disadvantage and they’re installing a multimillion-dollar system in a small hospital somewhere in Kansas.

The control system, the way we save customers money is we use that equipment less. The equipment lasts longer, you have less maintenance and repair, and you buy less equipment.

We pose an existential threat to the equipment manufacturers that are doing a brisk business today. That’s global. 75% of the buildings in India in 2030 haven’t been built yet. When you look across the landscape, we’re doing something that competitors out there aren’t doing. And to the extent we can lean into and tell a clear and consistent message to as many customers as possible I think we can win.

Drew Neisser: Interesting.

[29:49] The Challenge of Marketing Sustainability and Value of Partnerships

“We're trying to thread the needle. There's a Goldilocks zone here, and we're trying to hit that right in the middle.” —@brandeveryday @75f_io Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I think this is probably a good point to just talk about sustainability and the problem… You know, you and I were joking about this as being a marketing problem. But we really weren’t.

The part I was joking about is, as a marketer, as a trained marketer, I tend to see problems in the context: “Oh, that’s a marketing problem.” Talk a little bit about, why is it so hard to sell sustainability?

David Koerner: It is so political. My entire life has been witnessing firsthand the failure of the climate change movement, of the environmental movement to bring customers with them, to influence customer choice.

And if you think that the most pressing challenge of humanity is a transition to clean and sustainable energy sources over the coming decades, then you have to also recognize that our marketing has been failing to do that.

We’re trying to take a slightly different spin on that. Because, of course, as any cleantech company, we don’t want to be caught in a very partisan position. We spend less time… we spend no time at all, actually, we’ve banished the words, “climate change crisis,” or “global warming.”

We’re not here to solve climate change. We’re here to give customers a choice to do something that’s going to benefit their bottom line, that’s going to help occupants, that’s going to help them reduce the carbon in their cities and protect the existing infrastructure in the US and our existing energy policy.

We’re trying to thread the needle. There’s a Goldilocks zone here, and we’re trying to hit that right in the middle.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and really, if this is a tradeoff conversation, “Oh, well, it’s going to cost a lot of money and its impact is going to be 10 years, 20 years, 50 years down the road” and it’s either-or then, yes, then this is a problem.

But this is really a conversation. You can save money. And oh, by the way, the good news is you’ll use less electricity, and therefore you will be doing your part. I think part of the thinking here, and the reason why we have this marketing problem that we’re describing is, when you talk in such lofty terms, it’s like me saying, “You know what? I’m going to stop the ocean.” Right?

Whereas I could, in the old saying, “I could throw a starfish back into the ocean. I can do one of those.” And so to me, and this is what’s been so interesting about being on Urban Green Council, it is about doing a lot of little things and planting a trillion trees.

I mean, that’s what your world is. This is something that you can do today that doesn’t cost you more money that will actually make a difference.

David Koerner: That’s right. I think there are marketers that that do a good job of talking about that. Elon Musk, you know, love or hate the guy, he never says, “Get rid of your pickup truck.”

He says, “Keep your pickup truck and park the Tesla in your driveway.” That’s kind of what we’re trying to do. I think there are two places where we’ve moved a little bit above strategy and rethought our business in order to address this.

One is partnerships. We took an investment from Siemens several months back. Siemens is our competitor. They’re a leader in our building controls. We took a partnership, a co-branding partnership, to launch a brand-new line of control products with Daikin, which is the Japanese leader in HVAC control.

Turning competitors into partners is a way in which we can have greater leverage, where we can make a dent in the universe just a little bit faster. We have a few dozen salespeople around the world, and Daikin has over 900 in the US alone. Siemens has I don’t know how many thousand sales reps.

We’ve moved from being a standalone product, saying we can do it all maybe without the bells and whistles of these larger, much more expensive competitors, to saying we’re an ingredient brand. That these solutions offer a “Powered By 75F” product.

And that involved top-down, executive to investor, a rethink of what we want the future to be. We believe, in the future, all buildings should have a smart building automation system.

Just like Henry Ford said, “There’s going to be a car in every garage.” We don’t care if it’s our smart building automation system or not. We just know that 85% of all commercial buildings have no system today. They just have a thermostat in your house. You walked in and you punch it on or worse, it stays on all night because that’s easier for somebody somewhere.

We need to move past that. That, partnerships, was one of the two core strategies that we use to tackle this very real sustainability and impact problem.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I gotta say, and it sounds so simple, and just the small businesses that are listening to this… Thinking about yourself as a partner for somebody who was bigger, is not as nimble, may not have your product. You solve a problem for them, they solve a huge problem for you.

That’s just a smart, thoughtful way of executing because in many ways, partnerships make it easier for your customer. When they’re disassembled, it’s harder for them because they have to buy two different things. So, think about partnerships as a way of making it easier for your customer to buy.

The other thing that I think is so funny is that 75F sounds like an ingredient brand. “Wow, what’s in that system?” “Well, it’s got 75F. It’s a sparkling drop of…” It’s an ingredient. Okay, we’re gonna take another break. Then when we come back, we’re going to talk about measurement and the future of all this. Stay with us.

Show Break: B2B Market Research Services at Renegade

Drew Neisser: Have you thought about doing some market research but didn’t have the manpower or expertise on your team to make sure your research your research was methodologically valid, insight-rich, and newsworthy?

Research that can be a tentpole for an entire quarters’ worth of marketing and activities. Research that your SDRs can use to help move lead into a genuine opportunity. It’s a lot to ask from market research, which is why more and more B2B marketers are coming to Renegade for help in this area.

We will help you craft the questionnaire, field the research, analyze the results, and even write up and design the report if your in-house team is too busy. We’ll even present it in a webinar as we did recently.

If you’re a B2B CMO even thinking about market research, do yourself a favor, visit renegade.com, and set up a time for us to chat.

[37:18] Marketing Metrics at 75F

“There are folks that are trying to kill MQLs if you trust my inbox full of spam. But we believe in them, and we've been growing that 3x year over year.” —@brandeveryday @75f_io Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’ve talked about a courageous strategy, both in terms of limiting the amount that you execute and being different from your competition.

We’ve talked about ideation and the power of having purpose in order to keep your employees engaged and involved. We’ve talked about all sorts of different ways of executing.

We haven’t really talked about measurement other than at the very beginning, you talked about the three things that you wanted to achieve in terms of demand generation and brand. And the third was… I don’t remember. What was it?

David Koerner: Sales enablement.

Drew Neisser: Sales enablement, of course sales enablement, okay. So, when you go and talk to your boss, what are the metrics that matter to you, or to him or her?

David Koerner: MQLs are still very important to us. I know AdTech and MarTech seem to be moving away from MQLs. There are folks that are trying to kill MQLs if you trust my inbox full of spam. But we believe in them, and we’ve been growing that 3x year over year.

We do not do a lot of shouty outbound stuff. Instead, we leverage the channel. We leverage live events. We’re back to doing live events now. Do not invest a penny in virtual events, which if I could rant, I believe should be called virtual-can-I-just-get-a-copy-of-this-video-sent-to-my-inbox-so-I-could-watch-it-later/not-ever-watch-it events.

Most of our communication is to drive customers to just 8 sticky content pieces. I’ve heard other guests on your program talk about this approach. It works across a lot of our ABM campaigns, and our ABM campaigns are again different because we’re going bottom-up from an organization to blueprint what their needs are, what if any control system they have today.

These are phone-based marketing automation programs. We’re not doing a lot of spam emailing that’s outbound, and it’s very channel-based. So, MQLs continue to be super important to us.

On the brand side, the number one thing we’re doing is we do engage an agency actually through Bangalore that is another phone-based agency, and this is brand awareness and affinity messages to several different industry stakeholders to just see where we stack up against the big four, big five competitors we have out there.

Drew Neisser: I can’t let the thing about MQLs go just completely. I can’t. And I think, here’s the way I’m gonna rationalize it in my head. This is somewhat different than most things.

So, the conversation that we had in a bonus huddle with Ross Graber of Forrester really helped me see how an enterprise sale works and why MQLs make no sense. Because MQLs represent an individual, not necessarily an opportunity. And more importantly, and this is where it’s different than it is in your situation—in most enterprise sales, there is a finite number of companies that are going to be in the market for that particular product and service that particular year.

Marketing is about measuring how many opportunities of the total opportunities that you really got. I’m gonna go this way, I’m going to try to rationalize MQLs, in that you’re selling something that people don’t necessarily put an RFP out for any given year.

You have to create a market. And in order to create a market, you have to have little mini converts. And each one of your MQLs represents a potential mini convert.

David Koerner: Each one of our MQLs is manually vetted. And this isn’t all enterprise. It’s a bunch of channel folks too. These are distributors and controls contractors and systems integrators across the country. They’re Chief Sustainability Officers and CEOs and a couple of marketing people from large organizations that have carbon targets or are forward-thinking companies.

But generally speaking, like you said, anybody who can pay their energy bill this month can install a 75F system. It pays for itself in less than two years. We’re creating demand by educating customers that these solutions exist.

Drew Neisser: Right. So, when you have to create demand, you have to have a, we’ll just call it a broader brush.

[42:17] B2B Marketing Lessons Learned in 2021

“Question what you think. Most of what's worked in the past isn't working great now.” —@brandeveryday @75f_io Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Two last questions. One, did you try anything in the last 12 months that didn’t work the way you had hoped?

David Koerner: Oh, well, we tried, I think, two virtual events before we decided that we should slap ourselves before considering it again One here and one in Singapore. We’re trying things all the time that fail fairly spectacularly, I think. But it’s largely tactical.

One thing that we’re trying but the jury’s still very much out on is—I talked about high-level organizational changes. We created this group called C4SB, the Coalition for Smarter Buildings.

We reached out to our competitors that are roughly our size, so we have some unread messages sitting in the DMS of the Honeywell and Johnson Controls of the world. But most of the C4SB members are roughly our size, and we hired a lobbyist in Washington. We also have a lobbyist in Delhi. And I believe we have a consultant in Singapore too.

So, we’re working with governments in order to have a seat at the table while we’re small and we don’t have the resources by pooling resources. We hope that we can have an equal voice, and the jury is very much out on that because this gets hyper-political.

We don’t have the ability to move the needle on anything like a Build Back Better kind of Biden initiative, so we have to manage our victories and our expectations. We’re still evaluating whether this is something that’s gonna work or not.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s really interesting. And one, applaud the initiative in the sense that, yes, if you can build a community of like-minded people, then you’re expanding the world of opportunity as we’ve talked about because you’re having to create… It’s interesting.

I mean, in many ways, that’s what Urban Green is doing, not just in New York, but we realized, “Look, we could actually have the most aggressive legislation in New York City in the world and have it implemented and see our CO2 emissions drop and still be underwater in 50 years.”

What we’re hoping through the Urban Green is through the lessons that we learn in terms of things that work and don’t work, both from a legislative standpoint, as well as an infrastructure type standpoint, that we can, you know, export these things around the world and have partners in various of the largest cities in the world because it is a global problem.

And again, this gets back to the marketing problem which, “Well, it’s a global problem. What can we do about it here?” And I think that’s the huge mistake that any of us make. We can all make a difference. I admire the bravery and the courage that goes with that ambition.

Last question, if you were to close, we’ve got a bunch of CMOs listening—the biggest lessons, two biggest lessons that you’ve learned as a result of your efforts in 2021.

David Koerner: One is to question what you think. Most of what’s worked in the past isn’t working great now. I think when you look very closely at your SEO performance, if you look closely at what’s really required from a content side as all these AIs are generating just reams of fake content, thousands of words about everything under the sun, you’ll find that there’s probably some very critical and structural problems within the organization.

If it’s a plane, it’s not crashing, but there might be some cracks developing in an important wing piece. Get in front of those and make sure that you’re talking throughout your organization as a leadership team about what those are So that there are no surprises.

Everybody sees, “Hey, this is happening.” Our paid search performance has continued to decline. Everybody I’ve talked to is seeing the same thing. This is fairly bad. If you’re not local and using local search-based strategies, it’s really hard out there for organizations.

And if you’re small like us, then you lose. If you’re big, then you can weather the storm and win. Question what you think is really important. And then another, I think, I would lean into asymmetry.

You talked about it in your book. Make sure 10 or 20% of your marketing is R&D. Let’s just make that moonshot. Like, let’s recognize that our marketing works less well than we think it does. That we don’t know why our customers buy that.

At best, what we’re trying to do is influence their behavior. And then let’s make sure that if we’re testing something, it’s not an A/B test of some word order in our hero or something, that we’re doing something that can 5x our business. That this is something that is completely truly revolutionary or disruptive.

Drew Neisser: Love it. What a great place to close such an interesting conversation. David, thank you for being on the show. It’s awesome.

All right, well, so if you’ve enjoyed this episode, a couple of things. I’m stealing directly from Douglas Burdett here and The Marketing Book Podcast. Do find Dave on LinkedIn and tell him how much you enjoyed having him on the show.

I mean, this would be a nice thing. He’d enjoy hearing from you. Also, I always appreciate it when you write a comment or review about this show or any of the other shows of Renegade Marketers Unite.

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, or learn more about my new book and Renegade visit renegade.com. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.