Jack Fussell: Why Do Brands Fail to Really Know Their Customers?

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Why do so many companies take their customers for granted? 

They invest so much time and money to acquire new customers but not nearly enough to keep them happy and loyal?

In this episode of the Marketing Spark podcast, Jack Fussell talks about why knowing your customers and communicating with them is so important.

"We should be customer-centric all the time. We should have in-depth insight into what our customers want, what their fears are, their aspirations, and their  goals."

Jack, the managing partner with Campfire Social and a fractional CMO, also talks about the importance of branding at a time when many companies sound and look the same, as well as the rise of fractional C-suite executives.

My name is Mark Evans and I'd like to welcome you to marketing spark, the podcast that delivers small doses of insight, tools and tips from marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches. By small doses, it's conversations that are fifteen minutes or less. On today's show I'm talking with Jack Fussell, who heads up campfire partners, which helps PC companies drive revenue through brand alignment. Jack's also a fractional CMO and a longtime podcaster. Welcome to marketing spark, Jack. Thanks mark, thanks for having me on here. You and I spend a lot of time on linkedin talking about the value of brand and brand dean. And at a time when data metrics and KPI's dominate the landscape, what's your approach to branding and how do companies embrace a differentiated approach to establish a competitive and it just a load of question. But but you and I both understand that vout, that brand is super important these days. Yeah, that question cracks me up because it's like saying, Hey, I'm just meeting you for the first time, but what's the meeting of life like? That's a big question, because you know we do live in this space where we're metrics matter and we want to measure everything, and I get that, because we're dealing with you know, we're dealing with money, we're dealing with resources, and those resources we always wanted to make sure they can be spent and utilized in the right space piece. But the problem with that is that business is still, at the end of the day, unbelievably human and it's it's not just as simple as put up a sign, throw down some money for ads and watch the world come to you. Because, yeah, it's easier to play now than ever, but it also means everyone is out to play, and now our competition is global and our competition is everywhere, and so, you know, as this bit really been a doublehead sword when it comes to branding and marketing, because we can all do more now than ever before. Me, you and I are recording this podcast with a lot less investment than it...

...would have taken twenty five years ago for us to open a studio to do the same thing. So suddenly everyone has access to play. But the the backside of that is that now everyone has competition, and so reputation matters more now than ever before, because it used to be hey, I'm Joe Plummer, if I'd me in the yellow pages and I'm the only guy in your yellow pages. And now it's like no, I'm Joe Plummer and now there's fifty of me and if you don't like me, you can give me a google review or yelp review. You can create content against me, you know, and about me or, if you do love me, the other way around too. And so reputation, I think, is real is probably been the biggest game changer that it's just changing the way we do marketing, in the way we do business us and unfortunately, reputations. One of the things is metrics are a little more loose around that, and so, you know, I just I see all these things have kind of combined to actually make branding, and you and I've had these conversations a lot, true branding more important than ever before right now. As as someone who falls on the brand experience side of the house, as opposed to data, one of the things that frustrates me is that everything, as you mentioned, can be measured within the digital landscape, and so a lot of a lot of business decisions are driven by the numbers. A lot of business strategies are optimized based on well, if we do this a B testing, if we change this, how will the numbers change? And, as you say, you know, branding is in some ways is a leap of faith. You have to believe that your story matters, is that being differentiated is a really good thing and, I'm really necessary thing. So do you think a lot of brands are hamstrung by the numbers? Is that when they look at making an investment in branding, they have a hard time justifying it? Yeah, and I still think it comes down to the to defining what a brand is and defining what true...

...business success is, because I still think there's a lot of you know, I you've, I'm sure you've ran into it like I have. You meet someone and you're like, Hey, I do branding. They're like, oh, cool, yeah, you know, we have business cards and they match our website and and so many businesses still think of brand as visual identity. They think of it like a, you know, a logo, and it's not. And I think it's you know, as we as humans, and and I do honestly, sometimes I argue against the metrics simply by pointing out our own humanity and saying. Well, let me ask you, Mr CEO, what is your favorite brand? Can you tell me the ad that converted you to being their biggest fan? And they never can write because none of us are like, Oh, well, the reason I love Nike is because in one thousand nine hundred and eighty four, you know, the certain email dropped and it brought me know. It's like it's been this romance, it's been this woo, it's been this process and at some point where like I don't know where it came from, but I'm just a massive Nike Fan. I can remember a few ads. I can remember if you print, you know whatever it is. But yeah, I just I think I just buy into the way they think, and so I think sometimes we have to just kind of start with at the beginning and say branding is not all those things. Branding is it's what you feel. Is that is not only just reputation, like Oh, they have a good reputation, but it's what you feel when someone says the name Nike, Apple, Disney, Amazon, whatever it is, and helping companies to realize that every company, regardless of size, even a personal brand, even someone who's a content creator and all or podcast or whatever, even there, you know, it's like, Oh, Mark Evans and you think certain words, Jack Fussell, you think certain words, and it's helping companies to realize it's not what you say about yourself, it's what others say about you, and so metrics do matter. But really, if we're going to dive into metrics, let me look at your reviews, let me look at will people say about you. Let me look at your you know how many out of every thousand leads? How many are you losing...

...because of reputation? How many are you losing because of your reviews or your their the word of mouth? Right we're out on the street, and think of just how much more effective your marketing would be, even if we just fix that like so it's it's changing the conversation really, and I think that's somewhere. Is sometimes how we wear this whole thing kind of falls apart, and where there's some miscommunication is that you and I are communicating using the same words but with totally different definitions, and so I think sometimes we have to help companies understand first of all, hey, brand is reputation and it's everything. Is Everything that everyone says about you, thinks about you. And and then the metrics. Yeah, that can come into play later, because I agree you have to you know, and I do ab testing and we've flowed all that stuff out there, but that's not the defining thing. It's just more of like which one of these pieces of copies better written or you know, that's really what I'm measuring. But it all starts with understanding that brand is reputation. What I family interesting, and you may mention this off the top, is that we're all armed with amazing number of tools, and many of these tools are low cost or even free. In our arsenals and our marketing arsenals, we can reach global audiences very efficiently. We can do it at scale. We're all sort of the same on the same plane field and we're all armed in the same way. Even if those, all those tactical tools work, once you draw people into your world, branding matters, because that's when you can differentiate yourself, that's when you can create this perception that you're you've got something to offer, you've got something to value, and I think that's where a lot of companies drop the ball, is they're so focused on capturing attention, but once they once that successful. That's when they stumbled. Do you see that as as a problem in a challenge right now? Definitely, definitely, and I think it stems from you know, and we all do this, we all study each other, right, we all want to know, you know, if how's mark doing it, or how is...

...this guy doing it, or how is this guy doing it? In the company world it's well, I'm a shoe company, how are these twelve other shoe companies? How are they doing it? And you learn from them. The problem is is we all end up sounding exactly the same and if everyone is saying the same thing, then everyone's saying nothing, and I think that is where, you know, that is where a true brand strategy has to step in, because it's not just the front end, it's not just about a tension, but it's also once you get their attention, why should I buy from you versus the other ten or twenty or thirty or forty who are doing exactly the same thing? And and that differentiation it. That's it too. That's a two sided thing. You know, I think we used to think in the old days, of the early days of marketing and even back in the madman days, the differentiation was about the company, more like we're the best plumber because we've been in business for thirty years, or where the Best Shoe Company because we've were fourth generation shoemakers, and nowadays no one cares. Nowadays the new guy can have just as much of a market share as the guy who's been doing this for fifty years. The key to all this really is in the customer and it's understanding the customer. Who is your target audience? What are their biggest needs? True needs, not just like tangible but also, you know, a psychographically like what you know? Are you are? You know, if you're selling to a CMO, you're probably not just selling a service. You probably helping him feel like he's more secure in his role because it's the highest turnover job in the entire sea suite. They have the shortest shelf life. So you're not just dealing with like, how can I give this guy an email marketing strategy, but you're also dealing with how to help him succeed, how to help him feel secure. So once you understand all that about your target audience and you understand what's unique about your brand, then you marry those up to say this is how we uniquely solve your problem, whether you're selling shoes or whether you're selling a podcast, whether you're selling consulting services or software or whatever it is that you sell. That's really where the magic comes in. So it is much more than just let's...

...just throw a bunch of ads out and then everyone will come. You know, one of the things I encourage people to do is, when they're doing this, I pull up all their competitors websites on one giant screen. And when you do that, I was doing this a few years ago with a home builder and when you when we did this with them, we pulled up there, it was nine, nine websites on one screen and there's was in the middle. You can tell the difference to any of them. If you covered up the logos, they were all the same website. They all had the same giant header, they all said the word luxury, they all you could have just mixed and mingled the logos and no one would have ever known the difference. And when you do that, when you can't even figure out your own website based on a screen, your audience never will. And so that is a key part of that mark. That was a great question. So I want to continue aout conversation about branding, but one of the things that I wanted to touch upon is this idea of knowing your customer. What I find really interesting and somewhat troubling on Linkedin is so many marketers are waving the flag about it's important to know your customer, and to me that's marking one hundred and one. We should be customer centric all the time. We should have in depth insight into what our customers want, what their fears are, what their aspirations are, what their goals are. How do you explain this? We need to know our customer phenomena. The things to be happening right now? Yeah, I think it's because, as usual in business, we usually don't we usually we as humans, usually don't innovate until it's in response to something. Most of us are not sitting there and at night saying, you know what, life is going really well tonight. I think tomorrow I'm going to throw it all in the chaos and try a totally different approach. Like we usually don't zoom, for example. You know, my entire house right now is filled with there's five of us. We're probably all on some some version of zoom right now, and we had to scramble to make that happen. When covid hit. We had to scramble because none of us had that technology in place. We didn't have enough microphones, enough headsets.

So usually business is the same way and I think customer centric suddenly starting to come in the conversation because we're realizing none of us are standing out. We're realizing that all of us are competing and that suddenly my competition isn't just those in my zip code, but it's the entire planet. Anyone can do what I do, like the services that you and I provide. There could be a strategist in Kuala lumpour competing for the same gigs with us. That is a that's a game changer and what I'm amazed at. You know, when I do strategy work, one of the first things I do is I reach out as part of the initial process and I reach out to the ever who's hired us, right the director marketing or the CEO or the founder, and I'm like, I need to talk to ten of your customers thirty minute interviews. It takes them days to come up with names and in usually because they haven't spoken to a customer in a besides the sales process. Once they do sales, or unless there's like a customer service issue, they're not. They don't have customers on speed dial, they don't have customers. They're like, Oh, yeah, I was talking to Joe last week. It's always like yeah, let me get back to you on that, because they don't. They simply don't have those relationships in place. and My thinking is, you know, if you want to stand out in the marketplace, just talk to your customers. Like I think we should be talking to them not just as marketers but as company owners, as founders, as CEOS, talking to our customers on a consistent basis, because they change non stop. The things that influence them change non stop and usually we don't change until they've walked out the door. As usually what gets our attention a companies that are saying, suddenly we want to be customer focused. They're saying customer focus because customers are walking out the door and going somewhere else. I just find that incredible that it's almost like companies take their customers for granted. We spend so much time trying to capture their attention, nurture them educate them close the deal, once they come into the fold, it's almost like, okay, you're done, we don't have to pay attention to anymore because our product is going to be enough to satisfy you. Whereas when I do market engagement and and I go to...

...the same exercise as you and say I need to talk to your customers, what customers tell me is always surprising to the CEO. I'm never I'm never, you know, so amazed when the seagoes. They really said that, I mean and and the fact that they don't know this information is troubling. Is is disappointing. It really reflects on how they do business. One of the other things I want to talk to you about is, like a lot of people, you've you've been through an interesting career transition recently. I mean, I lost my job the end of April as a as a fulltime marketer with a SASS company. You've gone through a similar experience and a couple things I wanted to ask you about, just in terms of your own transition to where you were before and where you're are now. The rise of fractional CMOS, like, like ourselves, like, I think there's going to be a lot of really experienced marketers who are going to be looking to start their own gigs and I'm curious to get your take on what the benefits are of a fractional CMO. So talk about your story and then talk about about the fractional CMO movement. Yeah, I think it's I think it's fascinating. I really do think is the future, not just with CMOS, but I think fractional period probably like yours. COVID was played a big role in my recent transition because about you know, it was like, I think the end of June that I transitioned out of a full time role as well, as you know, do marketing operations with a company. It was covid related. Covid is not as much of a disruptors. It's been an accelerator. A lot of what we're seeing in workplace and education, these were all things that we're going to happen. They were going to happen later. COVID is accelerating them and it's just accelerating the way we work, the way we live, the way that you know, to a new level. I'm actually really excited about what was coming after all this. But I think the rise of fractional CMO is pretty amazing because C mo roles have always been, again I said this earlier, it's always been the shortest shelf life. You have on average about eighteen months as a shelf life for a CMO to company, because now you have experience falling undernyth them, sales falling underneath them. Everyone is kind of a...

...catchall bucket. If it's not technology or finance, it's probably going to be underneath this guy or Gal. You know, you're seeing some of it reframe to a CBO, you know, chief rand officer, some of it with the chief growth officer, but it's really the same type of role. I think the benefit, I think there's two benefits. For first of all, for us as Fractional C Mos, I think there's a tremendous benefit in that we get to work with multiple companies at the same time. We have seen repeatedly in business that ideas, the companies that do really, really well or the companies that bring different disciplines, are different thoughts from different types of segments together, and so they bring us, you know, maybe maybe it's a Bob Company, but they've studied retail and they've brought some aspects of that into their system. So when you have a fractional C mo a you're able to piece together these different fragmented thoughts, what other people would see as fragmented thoughts from one industry to another. The benefit for a company is tremendous because you're able to bring someone in at a fraction of the cost. You're able to really let them shine in their their most prime moment right. So we're not having to deal, you know, we're not bogged down in a lot of the the daily minutia of running something, but we're able to most of us as fractional CMOS. Most of us is CMOS period. We're strategist at the end of the day. Like we're really good at seeing where we live at thirtyzero feet. We're good at seeing the future, we're good at seeing the connections. We're least efficient when we're down in the weeds. Were least efficient when we're dealing with budget meetings and some of this, you know, some of that other stuff where we really shine at, let leading and, you know, making sure all the parts move together. Company really gets to buy the best of a CMO when they do fractional plus. Again, I would think. You know, I want someone who's being exposed to multiple different industries or or genres or disciplines or whatever. I want them in a CMO role because they're going to bring ideas to the table that you know, if I'm a healthcare company and I only hire CMOS with healthcare experience, well I'm really limited. But if I bring in a guy who also does some has some...

...v Toc space in his background, who has some re till maybe, who, you know, whatever it is, suddenly you get this fresh infusion of ideas. I still think we're the beginning of this and I really think covid is, I think this concept of fractional period is going to take off because you can have specialist who just nail it and who kill it and who are experts and you're able to bring them in and get the most efficient use out of them going forward. So I'm personally super excited to see what happens over the next few years, especially after when we come out of covid budgets return spending returns and how the landscape is going to be totally different than it was back in March. That's awesome. I've ever needed a somebody to support the concept of a fractional CMO like just I think I just got it right there. Thanks dare for participating in the PODCAST. Thanks everyone for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes or your favorite podcast APP. If you like what you'R her, please rate it. For show notes today's conversation and information about Jack, visit marketing spark Docco blog if you have questions feedback. Would like to suggest a guest, but want to learn more about I how it help be to be companies as a fractional CMO consultant and advisor. Send an email to mark at marketing sparkcom. Talk to you next time.

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