142 - ft. Michael Brenner: Marketing in the Age of Disruption
142 - ft. Michael Brenner: Marketing in the Age of Disruption
Today I have a special, special, special guest. It’s a very good friend, Michael Brenner. And he's a CMO influencer, motivational speaker. You have to check him out! Also, he owns the Marketing Insider Group. And I use that website quite a bit, actually. There's a lot of useful contents regarding content marketing, search marketing. So anything digital marketing related. So welcome Michael. Michael Brenner: Yeah, Pam. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me. Pam Didner: Am I loud enough? Michael Brenner: No, you're perfect. You're perfect. Pam Didner: So, 2020 has been an interesting year, especially for all of us marketers. Obviously for me, I want to be 100% transparent when March hit, like all of my pipeline just like disappeared. So what have you been seeing in the past four months? Your observations? How is the B2B marketing landscape doing as a whole? Do you have any insight to show with us? Michael Brenner: Yeah, a couple of things. One is I think that there was a pretty early on a shift out of, let's say, blatant promotional ads. And it started in B2C. I think even the CEO of Coca-Cola said “brand advertising is completely ineffective,” which I love that quote. I'm like, says the largest, most recognized brand in the world. And I always explained the context for that quote with, during the pandemic, but why is it not applied normally? You know, like why does he think brand advertising isn't effective now, but it is in other times? So I think B2B, marketers shifted budget out of those kinds of display ads and things like that. Pam Didner: More promotional centric. Yeah. More promotional things. Michael Brenner: Yeah. I think they shifted away from sort of, you know, having a banner ad next to a bad story on online about people dying and stuff like that. But also event events weren't happening--as you and I know, cause that's where we always get to catch up and see each other--either shut down or moved online. And so a lot of brands I think, shifted their budget out of events. I mean, we got a couple of clients who just basically said, “Hey, I was going to spend this 30 K on this event, but can I buy your services for a whole year? And so we got one or two clients just because they shifted out of an event spend. Pam Didner: Fantastic! That’s fantastic Mike. Way to go! Michael Brenner: I feel very, very lucky. And, um, to have been able to support some fun clients with that stuff. Uh, what else? We also saw I think marketers were really, really struggling just emotionally and mentally, but, really feeling the pressure of delivering, you know, ROI. Pam Didner: 100% agree. Yeah. Michael Brenner: Yeah. Yeah. So I, I did like Jay Baer and asked me to do like a video. He was working with Oracle or some company, I think it was Oracle. And he's like, what's what are you seeing? And I said, we're seeing a return to focus on the corporate blog, which I think is really interesting. It's cause it's, you know, and lucky for me cause it's what we do. But, um, you know, it's just, it's, it's SEO, it's organic traffic. It's measurable. It's not spammy ads. Just original thought leadership, helpful kind of content. What I'm hoping is that it continues and, you know, I love telling people like “the future of marketing, ain't what you thought it was.” It's what it was always supposed to be. And that was helpful content to live deliver consistently. You know, it's not going to be AI and AR and VR and all these fun, voice search. And all of those things are trends that we should all be paying attention to. I think it's just back to the basics, focus on customers, deliver content that they want and try to figure out how to convert them. Pam Didner: Yeah. I, uh, I saw similar trend, as well, in terms of the marketing needs to actually showcase the ROI. At least from my perspective, you are talking about the content--that shifting back to the basics--which is the original content, creator content. What I have seen is to show your ROI is an another approach, which has worked very closely with your sales team. And that's a thing I see that the more and more marketers, especially actually on the B2B side, they actually why to make an effort to align with your sales effort, whatever seems to be doing, we try to compliment, compliment that such as account based marketing. And even they do re-targeting ads nowadays. It's pretty, pretty, uh, specific. Michael Brenner: Yeah. Isn't that funny that it's sales and marketing alignment, you know, you and I were talking about that 10-15 years ago. Pam Didner: Don’t you think that’s kind of basic (laughs) but anyway. Michael Brenner: It's true. And a lot of it's because I think salespeople who are used to being out on the road and going to events and shaking hands with people. And they're sitting in their front of their computers like you and I have been, and they're like, “wow, I think I need the marketing team to help me with content.” And with, like you said, account based marketing, you know, all of those kinds of things. Um, the sales and marketing alignment conversation came back to the forefront. Pam Didner: Yeah, I totally agree. Totally agree. Michael Brenner: Yeah. It's kind of fun. Pam Didner: Yeah. In terms of the shift, I have seen some challenges I heard from at least my clients or talking to some marketing peers. And obviously one of them is the buyer’s purchasing behaviors have changed like 50% of the buyers, especially on the consumer side. I'm using this as a data data point that they actually tried a purchase through a new brand. I mean, the first one I have to can tell you is probably everybody's using Zoom, but before the pandemic Zoom was not a popular, right? And that's the new purchase. And also another thing that everybody's using is the, this selfie ring. (makes ring sound) Right? So that's also a new purchase. Obviously, if the customers are spending money on something else, that means they are not necessarily buying stuff from the existing brand. So, with that being said, what do you suggest that marketers should do? Because they obviously like, like,us, they probably see some of the existing customers disappearing or going somewhere else. Michael Brenner: It's a great, question. I've always talked about retention as the sort of stepchild-- it's the lost, lost child of marketing objectives. There's only four: reach, engage, convert, and retain. But we never talked about retention. And I think in what we're seeing now, it exactly to your point is we need to make sure that we're keeping the customers we have first and foremost. Pam Didner: I totally agree. And the sales goal has changed as well. For the longest time is always a net new. Right? Try to get the net new, which is the new customers. But during a pandemic, they shift their strategy is basically what can we do to retain our existing customers? What can we do to cross sales and the post-sales? So it's a similar strategy. Michael Brenner: We have one client where we worked with them on a gifting strategy. You know, we talked about, you know, instead of sending pens and pencils and, you know, um, you know, t-shirts with logos on them. I actually have somebody on my team is really good with puns. Pam Didner: Really? Do you know a tool called Aoyce? A-o-y-c-e ?. So check it out Michael. It’s algorithms to actually crawl customer’s social media profiles, and then the machines will come up with some interesting ideas and the marketer to suggest what kind of ideas you should gift them. Michael Brenner: Interesting. Pam Didner: Yes, I know Michael Brenner: I’m checking it out. Pam Didner: They’ll do fulfillment as far as I know. So check that one out. Michael Brenner: I like it, Pam Didner: But keep going. Sorry to interrupt. Michael Brenner: No, no, no, that's great. I'm, I'm going to check that out because it's, like I said, it's something we've been asked to do for clients. It's something we're doing with our own clients. Um, I'll, I'll tell you one of our strategies. So John and Kira’s does a chocolate it's a bumblebee. It's kind of a famous sort of gift thing of chocolate. And so I send it to our clients when we first sign up with them and say, “looking forward to creating buzz-worthy content with you!” Pam Didner: I like it! I love it!. So that’a also kind of aligned with your message and what you offer. Michael Brenner: Exactly. So, yeah, so I, I, you know, but I see large brands trying to figure out how to do that at-scale. It's kind of like account based marketing in a more personal – Pam Didner: In a different way. Yeah. I was going to say that: it's another form of account based marketing. I know we don't use that term for like, you know, gifting, but it's a different form of account based marketing and full retention. Michael Brenner: Yeah. I mean, it's kind of like account based marketing and personalization and being more human, you know, just kind of being more, more like literally personalized, not just like “Dear Pam” in my email, but like actually Dear Pam, I'm sending you a personal gift that might be, you know, something you like. Pam Didner: Yeah. But on top of it, everything, all the benefit you say plus on-brand. Yeah. Michael Brenner: Yeah. And it all comes back to relationships. Right? I mean, I think that's, what's, that's, what's winning, what's winning in these days. Yeah, the AI can help, but in the end it's really because it's… Pam Didner: … it’s building the relationship. It's a full circle. So. Obviously marketers are all making changes, small, large, right, to accommodate the current situation. And we know that we probably in this for a long haul. (laughs) Michael Brenner: Yeah. Pam Didner: Do you actually have any suggestion in terms of if they are making changes right now? Obviously there's so many things we have to tackle first, right? What are like one or two things that needs to be done first? Michael Brenner: One is I think marketers need to better define what marketing is to the rest of the organization. And what I mean by that is there's always been two kinds of marketers. There's the strategic value driven, “I'm only going to do stuff that drives value” marketer and that's kind of what I've always tried to be. And then there's the people--and we all know them, we all, we've all worked with these people--they're the ones that just, they just want to do what they're told. And we, you could say that the brown-nosers are, they're the, the butt kissers or whatever you want, whatever analogy you want to use for them… Pam Didner: But you know I have to be … the thing is Michael, I have to be a devil's advocate sometimes like in the big enterprise--both of us work in the big enterprise for a long time--you have to deal with politics. And sometimes you just have to play the game. I mean, not all the time, but in certain situations. Michael Brenner: Sure, yes So like, if your boss says, I want you to go pick up my dry cleaning, do you do it? (laughs) Pam Didner: Probably not, I was like, someone else do it. But I'm talking about like content, like sometimes your boss want you to create, but sometimes he was just like self-serving. That's the things I struggled the most, a lot of times. Michael Brenner: So this is--and I talk about this in Mean People Suck-- there's this, I call it the “you can't have your cake and eat it too” problem. So, um, basically, and I use this analogy with, with a difficult stakeholder a couple of years ago, when I was at SAP, she was asking for leads. And I said, “Great. That's what I know how to do. This is the program is how we're going to do it. I'm going to use existing budget. You don't need to spend anymore. We're just going to shift away from the stuff that you liked to do, but didn't work and put it into this other thing.” And she said, “No, I want a chocolate cake, but I want you to use vanilla icing.” And I'm like, Nope. Or “I want a chocolate cake and I want you to use the sand from the beach.” Like I, so I, I remember telling her I'm like, “you can't have a cake and tell me how to bake it.” Pam Didner: Yeah. Michael Brenner: If you want a chocolate cake, I know how to bake a… Pam Didner: Like let you do your job.. Michael Brenner: Yes, exactly. So, sure. There were things we did for her that weren't adding value, but it was only after we made sure we were doing things that were going to give her the goal that she wanted to achieve. And that that's a conversation I think marketers need to have today. It's listen, we, we can't just be the team of people that go do stuff for you at the whim of any executive. Um, we can do things like you said, and playing devil's advocate, I think that's important. There's always going to be times when you have to play the game. But it should only happen in let's see over time, right? Like in the four quarters, you know, again, following the same analogy, um, during the heart of the game, you need to make sure you're going to win. And if that means doing a little dance in the end zone or what, you know, or whatever, then you can do that. But, but it has to only be after you've met the business goal. That's the first thing. The other side of that coin is so we have to redefine marketing as strategically delivering value for the organization. The other thing--and this one's even probably harder--I think marketing needs to help lead the cultural transformation inside companies to focus on customers. And it's just like, it's just like we, you know, the people that are butt kissers at work? that we've worked with before? In the same way, we know the companies that don't give a crap about customers and, you know, they'll say, “well, I'm here to support the brand. And the brand has to drive profit.” The best way to get profit is to focus on customers and the best team that can lead that transformation is marketing. It means that they're talking to the CHRO. It means that they've got the mandate from the CEO to deliver employee engagement policies that focus on customer service; they are training on customer service; they're enabling their employees to not only be engaged at work, but also to make sure that they're engaging with customers and driving value there. Pam Didner: Yeah. But that's a total older, would you say? I mean, in terms of marketing, a lot of times we focus on content creation. We focus on the marketing outreach and I don't think that is something that the marketing usually takes on. Right? It’s usually HR’s job to drive the cultural difference, the cultural transformation, and even is Operations job to kinda make sure everybody focused on processes. But the customer part of it, uh, some, some of them actually within the sales team because they've worked with, uh, uh, customers and those will key accounts. Yeah. So I liked that. And that's actually, like I said, um, it's something that marketers needs to focus on internally. Michael Brenner: Yeah, absolutely. And, and, you know, I mean, I have a client who's CMO is a product marketer by training and wants to bring a product marketing, focus into all of their marketing. And it's the opposite of strategic. It's the opposite of customer focus and it's shortsighted. And it sounds great in the ears of the CEO, but it doesn't work. And you and I have talked about this, Pam, is bringing together the product marketing and the content marketing mindset to work together because we have to work together. Content marketing doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists to sell more products. But it, it works because it doesn't lead with that message. It doesn't lead with, “we have great stuff, you should buy it: because no one wants to listen to that. No one cares about your speeds and feeds and, you know, texts and specs or, whatever, whatever phrase you want. Pam Didner: What? That’s not acceptable. (laughs) Michael Brenner: But, you know, when we let product marketers run the ship, it's a disaster and we all know it. We've all seen it. And it's, it's why we have to redefine what marketing is, focus on results and put customers first across the entire organization. And that's a winning strategy for marketers. It's a winning strategy for marketing. So what's the opposite? The opposite is marketers are just people that do shit that people ask him to do. And what's that mean? It means creating brochures for products and making the banners for when we go back to do events. I mean, that's what marketers are going to end up being and that's what marketing is going to end up doing in those organizations that don't make those changes now. Pam Didner: Yeah. Any other additional point that you want to add in terms of planning 2021 discussion? Michael Brenner: I think the two things that marketers should be doing at a tactical level for 2021: ask your customers, what are their greatest challenges for 2021? Pam Didner: I like that. I love that. Yup. Michael Brenner: Have a plan to address those challenges, create the context for your solutions. And ask the sales team what their greatest challenges are. They're going to say leads. They're going to say having leads more qualified, they're going to say, you know, net new, they're going to say what retention strategy, whatever those, whatever they are, ask them what they are. Quantify it and create strategies to address them. That's it? Simple stuff. Pam Didner: Understood. So tell our listeners, how can they find you? Michael Brenner: Well, I would love to say just Google me, but you know, the problem is, is, um, is there's a really famous, I swear to God, there's a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon that show up first in Google. Pam Didner: As a Michael Brenner? (laughs) Michael Brenner: And then there's a historian. Well, there's actually two there's the political writer and a Jewish historian who writes like a book every three months it seems like. Uh, so these folks come up for me. So I, I wish I wish I came up first, but I do think the brain surgeon, the rocket scientist, the political writer and the historian probably should come up before me. Um, but yeah, MarketingInsiderGroup.com go to LinkedIn. And if you do search for Michael Brenner on LinkedIn, it should show up. Pam Didner: Awesome. Hey, I want to ask you one question. All right. Kind of silly question, but I love it. What is the useless talent that you have? Michael Brenner: This is, this is the most useless talent, and there's gotta be some sort of a name for this, but I, for some reason, even as a kid, um, read words backwards. So when I see like a billboard, I read it backwards in my head to see if it creates funny words or funny sounds. Pam Didner: I love that! I absolutely love that! Michael Brenner: Yes, So your first name is "map" backwards, right? Very, very simple. Yeah. So I'm Leahcim Rennerb, Michael Brenner. So, yeah, so, Pam Didner: Oh my goodness. So when I see you, the only thing that pops into your mind is map. Okay, great, fine, I feel the love. Michael Brenner: No, no, no. It's not that it's not that crazy. It's just, when I see words, I see my brain just does this, like little it's, like I don't have a boredom or something, I don't know. So I told my kids that this morning, and they were actually using bad words backwards to kind of make a joke about it. (laughs) Pam Didner: (laughs) Isn’t that the saddest, when you tell something like this to a kids, the first thing audio into my...