What's a Fractional CMO and How Do They Deliver?

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

One of the more interesting business trends is the rise of the fractional executive.

It's the idea that you can someone with skills and experience but not on a full-time basis. It's an intriguing model for companies looking to fill gaps economically.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, I sit down with Malcolm Lewis to explore the fractional CMO (FCMO) model.

We look at the definition of FCMO, what they do, how to hire one, and how to define the rules of engagement.

Malcolm also talk about the value of positioning as a pillar of the B2B marketing foundation.

Learn more about how I help B2B SaaS companies with positioning.

Malcolm Lewis and I are kindred spirits. We are both huge advocates for the power of positioning and how it plays a key role a crucial role in the company's marketing, sales, customer sex and product development activities as well. We have positioned ourselves no quin Intendive as fractional chief Marketing Officers. I titled that sounds sexy, even though a lot of people don't necessarily understand what it involves, assuming they've come across the title at all. Malcolm and I connected via LinkedIn. It has turned into a collaborative relationship that has allowed us to evolve and change our consulting service offerings and messaging over the past few months. It's a great illustration of the power of LinkedIn to bring people together. Welcome to Marketing Spark, Malcolm, Thank you, Mark. Delighted to be here and appreciate the opportunity. As I set off the top, you and I call ourselves fractional cmos, so hopefully we have a good idea of what this entails. How would you describe a fractional CMO to people who haven't come across the concept yet. Yeah, I kind of define it um big picture medium picture and then some details. So big picture, I just define a fraction with CMOS a pop time marketing leader. Um, if we double click on that, this is somebody that can translate business goals, which is typically to grow sales of a particular product or multiple products by a certain amount, translating those business goals into marketing strategy, marketing goals, and marketing tactics. You know, it's obvious to folks like us, but I sometimes have to explain to CEOs that they're far more likely to actually achieve those business goals if there's a strong marketing strategy and technical execution plan to support that. And then I kind of drilled down on that and I say, well, look, you know, the fraction with CMO gonna do two things, and one has to be done before two. First, we're gonna help you create that strategic foundation. We're going to create a clear and compelling customer story for the product that's going to include targeting, position, and messaging. But then we're gonna help you actually deliver that story to prospects through technical marketing programs and deliverables things like website t email campaigns, paid search, paid social webinars, plus sales support like training and materials so that you can actually get that great story in front of prospects and generate the pipeline and revenue that you're looking for. So that's kind of how I define it. I find that fractional CMO most folks get the concept of a part time leader. I actually typically spend more time explaining what marketing is and what marketing does and defining the marketing process and getting alignment on that than I do explaining what a fractional CMO is. That's a great definition. I took notes during your comments, and I'm going to definitely incorporate them into my position, into my messaging. That's awesome. I decided to call myself a fractional CMO a couple of years ago. I had tried digital marketer, marketing strategist, brand positioning expert, marketing consultant, and none of them seemed to stick. None of them seemed to resonate, and I was struggling to gain some traction to put the spotlight on what I do. And I decided to embrace fractional CMO because it did to me represent marketing leadership both from a strategic and tactical point of view. At the time, I thought that fractional CMO the concept would just explode with the rise of people working from home and you know, contract employees and the idea that the fractional chief financial officer had gained set traction. I thought, well, it's a no brainer. I'm gonna be riding the wave. And to be honest with you, there is momentum, but it's slower than I expected. I would be interested in your take on how this concept is growing. What do you see as the pros and cons of the model? Do you think that people understand what it entails and why it could matter to them. It's a load of question. I guess what I'm trying to say is I thought this the thing would be huge, and it's not. It's not as big as I thought, And just wondering what your perspective is on that. You know, the last part of your question was is a little bit about what we talked before about before, which is UM actually setting an expectation as to what marketing is. I think UM, I think a handful of CEOs and that typically in companies that that growing faster, understand the critical role that marketing plays alongside sales and other products and actually not only delivering a great product, but delivering a great story that actually compels people to try and buy the product it. In terms of...

...the model and momentum, you know, I'm fairly new to this, as you know from from our conversations, I only started earlier this year. I'm definitely seeing enough demand. And the good thing is that folks like you and I, we only need two or three clients at the time to keep ourselves busy. In terms of the title, I definitely noticed that as soon I I also I played around with positioning, coach, messaging coach, product story coach, strategic marketing consultant, marketing consultant. As soon as I started calling myself a fractional CMO, the unsolicited leads started coming in. So if we went on to Google trends, I guarantee we would find that that fractional CMO would get far more He's getting far more search traffic than all of those other kind of monikers that you and I chose In terms of pros and cons you know, obviously the biggest benefit for the company is is they get an executive that will actually help them try late business goals into marketing strategy. And tactics um and actually get the results they're looking for. And you know, if you don't have strong marketing, you know, sales suffers from long sales cycles, small deal sizes, lower CLOSU rates. Customer success is getting slow product adoption, low engagement, high churm. Product is probably building features of customers don't want, and and a and A CMO, whether full time or fractional, is there to stop those things happening and fix those problems selfishly from our side, And I wasn't quite sure whether this question refers to us or to the customers. From from our perspective, I love the variety of of working with two or three different clients at the same time. I got one in particular, literally is blowing my mind in terms of some of the stuff that I could be doing. In terms of negatives for a company. Well, by definition, if it's a fractional CMO, you're not getting a d of their time and focus. So you know, the marketing results, pipeline and revenue are definitely not going to be as strong as they would be if you had a dedicated, full time CMO, somebody that's constantly working with sales, constantly working with success, constantly working with the demand gen team to make sure the stories as strong as it can possibly be, and that it's being delivered through tactical programs through sales without anything getting lost in translation. So that's the biggest negative for companies. And I think the second negative is a part time fractional CMO is far more likely to move on, and so as a CEO, you risk losing not only that leadership, but all of that company knowledge and expertise that that was in the head of the fractional CMO. That's kind of how I see it. Does that resonate with how you're seeing it? A statement and a question? Okay, The statement is that I think the fractional CMO model is very set see and as you and I have discovered it, it's like it's like beasta, honey. It's very attractive because it sounds good. It sounds like this somebody who's experienced to co marketing leadership, and I think from a marketing perspective for marketers, it's a very good concept to embrace. The statement is I think a lot of people who are just marketing consultants are embracing the fractional title. So I think there's gonna be some confusion in the marketplace among customers because they're gonna have a tougher time figuring out is this somebody who's experience and knows what they're doing or is it just somebody who's trying to ride the way. So that's the statement the question would be, and I grapple with this on a regular basis, And this is something I've been thinking about a lot recently, is whether a fractional CMO can effectively lead a company's marketing for it. So follow me here. As a marketers of marketing leader, you have to be drinking the kool. The CEO wants you to have your hands on the lever at all times and know what's going on. They want you to connect with multiple stakeholders. They essentially, if you're gonna be responsible for leads and sales, if you're gonna be a revenue based or revenue driven marketer, then you really need to be driving the car, if not all the time on a regular basis. So is it possible for a fractional CMO to actually do an effective job when they're not working all the time and leading and drinking the cold on a regular basis? I think it. I think it is possible, and I think it depends on whether or not there are some existing marketing resources in the company, whether it's marketing, sales, or or other disciplines. There's strategy, which sets goals, sets objectives, sets metrics, creates dashboards and measures progress. And then there's actually doing the work and and and there's work to be done on both the strategic side and the technical side. On the strategic side, there's customer research, there's market research. There's competitive research to be done. There are exercises you...

...can go through to identify, you know, your unique positioning, that that intersection of something that you do exceptionally well that customers really want the competitors don't do. There's work to be done and templates and processes that you can go through to develop your messaging. And likewise, on the execution side, there's there's folks that know how to run email campaigns, know how to set up and run paid search, paid social. I think the only way a fractional CMO can work is if if the CEO understands that there's a separation between strategy and execution, oversight and execution, and is willing to either higher or rent the resources necessary to actually do the work. You're definitely not going to hire a fractional CMO and have them become a one person marketing team that's going to magically do everything that are traditional. You know, even in a small company, three four or five person marketing team. In a large company, you know, there's a hundred plus folks that are doing all those different things that I just mentioned. The key is is separating what you should be doing and getting the work done. And as somebody is hiring a fractional CMO, being prepared to either hire or rent some of the some of the resources required to take advantage of the expertise of the CMO and actually do the work. And of course the CMO is then going to help you review the work and guide the work and even help produce the work. But they're not you know, they're not doing all of that work all of the time, because then they're not fractional. They wouldn't have time to do it for more than one client. I like the fact that you raise the issue that some companies that expect a fractional CMO to strategize and also do the work, because I run into situations where they've paid me a monthly retainer to be their fractional CMO and provide marketing leadership, and then when push comes to shove, when it comes to tactical execution, they turn to you and they say, well, we're paying you really well, you should do tactical execution as well. And that's a problem that I run into on a regular basis because I agree with you that a fractional CMO thrives when there's marketing firepower that they can leverage. There's people who can actually do the work, and a fractional CMO can provide the strategic guidance, they can review, they can brainstorm, they can idiot, but ultimately you don't want a frational CEMO to do the work. You have specialists who are great email people or content or SCM people. And that's when that's a one plus one equals three kind of proposition. Related to that is the question or the reality like, given the current economic conditions, do you think the fractional CMO model will be more enthusiastically embraced by budget conscious companies? And the one caveat or the wild card that I that comes to mind amidst times when marketing budgets are being scrutinized, is whether people actually want to pay for strategy. My take is that there's a huge desperation for leads. Strategy seems to be taking a secondary role because it's all about tactics. Tactics Tactics get leads in the door so we can close some deals. What are your thoughts on whether the fractional model is it more attractive right now just as attractive less attractive? How do you see the market? It's it's hard for me to give a broad assessment, but there's there's there's a good, steady trickle of interest coming to me. For me, it's it's a qualifying question. Do you believe that strong tactical execution, that's strong pipeline and strong revenue is predicated on a really strong customer store? Do you believe until you've developed and tested and validated with customers your product positioning and messaging, do you believe that that's the necessary prerequisite to actually generate quality leads at scale? And if they don't believe that, and you can, you can easily. You know that it's very easy to ask that question and look them in the eye and figure outfly believe that. Um. If they don't, actually I just move on. It's right, That's that's a losing battle for people like you and I, because both you and I, you know, CMO is coming two flavors. You're you're either you're either a black belt and strategy and you're really good at targeting position and messaging and good at translating that into go to market, or you're a tactical go to market specialist, right, either a broad specialist or you've got particular expertise and paid search or paid social or whatever it is. The budget conscious CEO typically does just want leads, and they just don't understand that there's some some work to be done to get those leads, and if you don't do that work, you're gonna get garbage leads. Um, I try and educate those folks, if i'd if if we get alignment on,...

...we've got to do some work up front. By the way, it doesn't have to take forever to do that work, to actually test and validate the existing story and tweak it if necessary. But if if folks don't want to do that, I actually just walk away, because that's that's not a situation where you and I can be successful. Did I answer all of your questions there? Let me know if I didn't. Yeah, you answered all the questions. There's a lot to think about when it comes to the relationship or the nature of the engagement between a company and a frational CMO. When a company is looking to hire a fractional CMO, what do you think they need to consider? Given that marketers come in different shape, sizes, skills, and experiences you as you noted, there are some praitional cmos that are black belts and strategy there are some that are black belts in tactical execution. I tend to fall on strategy side because I I lean into positioning, messaging, and and go to market planning. I think you're in the same boat as well. So if I was looking for a fractional CMO, what are some of the key considerations so that I can find someone who is going to be a partner's going to help me be successful and ultimately it's gonna be a win win proposition. So I think there's a couple of ways to think about it. UM one and I find this people when when when I talk to CEOs, they either say we need we've got a story problem or they say we've got a lead problem. If they say they've got a story problem, I know that they need the fractional CMO like me that has that strategic background where we specialize in crafting, testing and delivering the story and working with demand gen to get that story to deliver it properly. If they say they've got a lead problem, then they're probably going to be more interested in a CMO that's got a strong demand gen background. And you know, if you think that you've got a rock solid story and you think you've got a lead problem, then you should hire a fractional CMO that's basically a former head of demand gen that's calling themselves a fractional CMO. Um, if you've got some doubt that your story is fully fleshed out, if you've never tested it and validated it, if you've got all the symptoms of a weak story that you and I have talked about. Weak engagement and conversion on on ads, weak traffic week conversion on the website, long sales cycles, small deal sizes, everyone's asking for a discount, high churn, long onboarding times. Those are all symptoms of a story that needs work. But it boils down to what the CEO believes. If they think the story is solid and they're still getting subpar pipeline and revenue, then it's a solid story that's not being delivered properly through good demand gen execution. Go hire a demand gen expert. If you've got any doubt that the story is part of the issue, then I would recommend that you start uh the CMO that has a strong storytelling background, because it's a lot easier to nail the story and then hire or rent the execution folks to deliver that story. Most guys like us can tell you how to do that execution to help you fire higher or or rent those folks. Very few demand gen people are very good at nailing the story. They're just too kind of mostly mutually exclusive skill sets. One's very strategic, one's very tactical. So net net very long answer. The short version is, if you think you've got a rock solid story and you want and you think your problem is leads, hire somebody with the demand gen background. If you think you've got a story problem, hire somebody with a strategic product marketing background. So if I kim to you as a ptv SaaS company and I said, Malcolm, I love your experience, I love what you have to say on LinkedIn. I have a problem. Would it be fair to say that you would answer them by saying, I'm not the right person for you. You need somebody who is a demand gen expert. I can help you with your story. But if you don't think you have a story problem, then I'm not the person you should hire. Would that be something that you would but you would rally around, Well, I wouldn't be that blunt, right, I'd say, are you sure you've got a lead problem. Let's talk about some of your marketing and sales metrics, right, Let's look at sales cycle times. Let's look at deal sizes. Let's look at how many deals you win and lose. Let's look at how many people ask for a discount. Let's look at some of the website metrics that look at some of your demand gen metrics. Are you open the up to the idea that you might actually have a story problem that has to be fixed before you can generate more leads, and certainly before you can generate quality leads that will convert to sales. And as you've seen and heard me say many many times, I refer to to to lead...

...gen demand gen. There's a downstream function from story creation and development and validation, and I call those downstream functions garbage in garbage out. I'll explore that with the CEO, and I'll ask them questions around those metrics and see if a lightbulb goes off and they say, you know what, You're right. I think we do have a story problem and or at least we have an opportunity to fix the story. And if we fix the story, refine the story level up, call it what you like. If we can improve that story, then de facto we'll like even if we change nothing on the demand gen side and nothing on the sales enablement side. Just by percolating that improved story through those two functions, we're more likely to get what we're looking for, which ultimately is more qualified sales opportunities through demand gen and more of those opportunities converted to say us through sales plus marketing sales enablement. Once a fractional CMO was hired, how do they launch an engagement on the right foot? What are the keys to establish in a successful partnership? And I'd be interested in learning more about your onboarding methodologies, the conversations that you have with the CEO after they make the decision to hire you, how you align your capabilities with their expectations so that when you start an engagement, everything's aligned. Both sides know what's going to happen, what needs to happen, so that there's not a disconnect. And I find it in my practice if you don't have that alignment and you and there's a disconnect, then it happens pretty quickly. Thinks are not happening the way both sides expect, unhappiness and disappointment coming to come into the mix, and the engagement goes parachete pretty quickly. So what's your approach? What are your thoughts and making sure that when you hire a fractional CMO and they're always excited when the higher refraction because it's a marketing leader, someone new and fresh and exciting that you're gonna do amazing things. But how do you carry themmentum on? How do you turn the concept and the excitement into reality. Yeah, you know, it's it's funny because I've actually got better at doing this as I've started to to do it, and and honestly, I didn't do the best job I I think in my first few engagements. But what I've learned and the process I have now is essentially there's three elements to it. And you use the word a little bit earlier. Right at the end of the day, anything in life, disappointment comes from misset expectations. So it's all about setting expectations. And I kind of do that in three ways. First of all, I get alignment on the process, and I get alignment on the priorities. Right, so I get sales buying and obviously CEO buying that we must at least test and validate the story and get that right before we can fix or scale demand gen and sales and april. So one, get alignment on the process and priorities. Two, we want to scoreboard, right. People want to see progress, So let's make that tangible by defining the process milestones and metrics. Right. So for example, let's let's agree and let's baseline customer feedback on the current story. Let's take the landing page and let's just review it with a handful of customers or customer proxies or prospects and just find out what percentage and love it and would love to love to learn more about the product versus what percentage would not and then let's fix the story, create new landing page, go through that process again and retest that metric after we've updated the story. Similarly, it's baseline pipeline and revenue. Let's baseline some leading indicators like engagement rates, conversion rates, win rates, south cycles, all that good stuff. Again, let's baseline that before we start doing making changes, and then let's measure them on an ongoing basis after we make some changes. And then third, so that's how we can measure success. Let's agree on how we're going to measure success. Let's baseline what we're doing before I start, and then let's look at the positive hopefully the positive impact on those important metrics um after we start to work our magic um. And then the third is people are impatient, right head of sales CEO. Everyone wants to see some quick wins. I think you can get some quick wins early in the process. First of all, you don't have to take months to rework the customers story. Talk to a bunch of customers, understand why they buy, the problems you're solving for them, the specific use case, the key metric that needs to be moved up into the right Make sure that you're talking to the to the subset of customers that love the product npscore nine or ten. You know, the folks that say they'd be severely disappointed we took the product out of the hands.

Use that you can do that kind of research in in a few weeks. Quickly update the story and then start running those landing page tests and provide real data to the CEO and the head of sales that the new story works better than the old story. And you haven't done anything yet in terms of rolling it out to demand gem programs and updating all of the sales training tools and materials. But you've you've already got a win because you've already proven that customers like the new story more than the old story. Then you can Then then you can start to bake the new story into some very high profile tangible points of presents, which is typically the website and a sales des Then make sure it flows through to all external points of present. So if you're on G two and and cap terror, make sure that the company linked in profile page is updated. Make sure that all the employee pages on LinkedIn or updated. So that everything is consistent with that story. Then you can start working with demand Gen. Bake the new story into their programs, and we should see improved engagement and conversion on the demand Gen stuff. Bake the story into the sales training, into the sales deck, and we should start to see some improvements on sales metrics like shorter sales cycle, is, bigger deal sizes, fewer discounts, and so on. So get alignment on the process number one, process and priorities number two, define milestones and metrics for that process. And then three, deliver quick winds where some of those winds can be delivered way in advance of making changes to demand Gen and sales enablement. And honestly, I'm kind of learning this as I go along. Mark. It's it's in terms of how I do it as a consultant versus how I do it as the in house marketing head of marketing. So this is kind of my latest snapshot of how I think about it and how I position it. Yeah, like the fact that you mentioned in patients, because one of the problems with being a fractional CMOS, you're often seen as the silver bullet, as the magical elixir that's going to change marketing and going to revive leads and sales. And one of the realities, one of the things that I run into on a regular basis is that if the how you as a fractional CMO, and we're not as expensive at full time CMO, but you do pay a healthy retainer to have a fractional CMO. The first few months you're established in that foundation, you're trying to build the customer store. You're doing research and trying to get as much insight as intelligence that you can, and it takes time to get up to speed. And yes, you can have some quick ones. You can update the website, you can tweak the sales deck, but it may take you two or three months to actually find your stride and really start to move the ball tactically. By that time, the CEO is looking at the spreadsheets, or are your expenses and where what am I getting from the fractional CMO, because they really haven't produce something tangible. Again, it goes back to their fascination with leads or their obsession with leads. The question would be, how does a frational CMO quantify their success in the short and long term Given that a lot of what we're doing over the first three to six months, maybe a lot of block and tackling the fact that it's it's not sexy, it's it's not going to generate fantastic results, but it's necessary grunt work that needs to happen so that you established that great foundation so that really excellent marketing can happen. Well. I think the first thing that I've learned is you can't take two to three months to fix the story. You've gotta time box it. You've got to make it. You've got to make it full six eight weeks and do the absolute best you can in that time frame and move on because people don't have the patients to wait three to four months for you to to refresh the story. And quite honestly, you and get the improvement very very quickly, especially if they have happy customers. The quickest the quickest tactic that I've found two to get points on the board is to help a company transition from selling product benefits. They think that companies think they're ahead of the game when they're selling product benefits over product features, but actually, if you've got happy customers, the silver bullet is case studies if you've got case studies. Nobody believes a vendor even when they make grandiose product promises around benefits versus features. Um. But if you've got customer case studies. The last company I was at, I had the you know the above, the fall. The entire right half of the above. The fold area on the website was just rotating case studies and they were just images that with a headline on the case study, and there was about twenty of them, and you could click on any one of them and go to a landing...

...page to describe the problem, the solution, and the benefits. We did the same thing with email. Instead of just pushing out cold email drips that are talking about the problems we solve and why we're the best way to solve them, we just pushed out case studies because the case study is your is the short cut. It shortcuts the prospect's brain to these guys have something I want, because you should only be the only folks visiting your website and the only people you should be pushing this case study content to are people like those customers that you've already delivered for. Instead of getting an email or looking at an ad where somebody's promising to revolutionize X or transform why it's a company that looks just like me, that solved a problem just like the one I'm trying to solve and got up into the right improvement in just the metric I'm looking to improve. Now, I'm interested in the company behind this story. I'm interested in the product behind it. Talking to customers. Talking to those kind of super happy customers is the fast track to dialing in the story, and I think you can do it in six to eight weeks, not three to four months. And two you can immediately start pushing those through through demand gen and and making sure the sales deck starts. Everybody puts customer success stories at the end of the sales that put it at the beginning with people are reason to listen to the next twenty minutes. Don't tell them about the company on the first slide, certainly don't tell them about the product. Start with three or four customer case studies, and then people will pay attention if those case studies are relevant to what they're trying to do. Again, that's a very long why need answer. If I net it out, you can short cut the story optimization process by really and This only works with companies that have a lot of happy customers or at least dozen normal You can get that down to four to six weeks, maybe even less if you really put a lot of time into it. That's much better than than three to four months. And set that expectation up front, right, it's gonna take six weeks. I gotta talk to half a dozen customers. I gotta talk to your head of sales. I've got to talk to your number one sales rap. I've got to talk to the head of customer success. I've got to talk to your number one customer success RAP. And I've got to distill all that down. But in four to six weeks, I can give you a new customer story that I think will probably work better. And in the meantime, I want you to start running customer case studies at the top of your website. And if you're running drip campaigns, I want you to replace emails. Are talking about product benefits with emails the showcase customer success. That's great insight. And I'll tell you two hacks too quick. When hacks that I use when it comes to new clients. One is, obviously I try to get the customer story done as quickly as possible. But I will to customers asked to talk to customers. And it's always interesting when a CEO says, whoa you really you want to talk to our customers. They try to protect them or even hide them. So I'll talk to customer and I'll say to the CEO, listen, I think it's important that I talked to them independently because the customer will be more open to what they think and feel. It's not on the record, it's not going to be used for market it's going to use your customer intelligence. And I'll go back to the CEO and say, guess what I learned. They said this, this, this, they would like this, this, this, and they are unhappy about all these things, and the CEO it's it's mind blowing in many cases because they don't talk to customers and they don't get that insight. I can do a little bit of leg work and deliver some really good insight. The other thing that I've actually found is before you go to the other thing, I want to really double click strongly on what you just said. So the very first engagement I did, I used GRAIN and I recorded all the customer interviews that I did and grain would would transcribe them, and I shared them with the CEO and the head of sales, and I got the exact same reaction you've got. Oh my goodness, I had no idea that people had an issue with that or the people really like that, And and they because they don't, because the head of sales and the CEO don't talk to customers, and because you and I are very good at asking all the right questions, not only about their experience with the product, and what they love and what they don't love, what they love about the company, what they don't love. The problem that the straw that broke the camel's back, that actually triggered the buying process in the first place, where they were looking how they were evaluating different vendors, why they chose you, why they have stayed with you, and asking these questions and exposing both the good news and the bad news. If there's one thing you could change about the product, would it What would it be? If there's one thing you could answer the product, what would it be? Rate our customer service? Want to five stars? If it's not five stars, tell me why rate the product? Ease of use want to five, it's...

...not five, tell me why not? And that just that just produces so many insights. Obviously you and I are going to use to bake into a new story. But you share those videos with the CEOs and then like sharing it all over the company. To your point, it is mind blowing to them and it's mind blowing to us, and they've never done it before. And it's great. As he said, you can double down on it because it gives you to the insight you need to move forward with developing the customer story. And the other hack that I have, and it sounds kind of old school, is a customer newsletter. So I'll ask a company, do you send a customer newsletter? And and some of them do. It's either monthly or quarterly. And you look at the newsletter and it's completely uninspiring. There's no storytelling. It's all about product. Product. Product has nothing to do with the customer. And this is something. So what I'll do is I'll come up with a very simple template for a customer newsletter. Here's the going on with their product. Here's some inspiring work done by customers just like you. Here's some of the events we're going to and I'll give them a lot of different things to look at and to read. And I did this with the client recently and we got tremendous feedback. And there are two quick benefits. Here are two really great benefits. You're one is it engages the customer and shows them that you care. It delivers insight and advice and guidance. And a lot of customers feel abandoned by many companies once they come in the door. A company rarely engages with them. They don't educate, the don't excite, they don't inspire. So even a boring vehicle like a newsletter can generate some good reactions and good feedback and and some good upsell opportunities. And I think that's why it can be a very good quick when I completely agree. And and not only is it informative in terms of his his product enhancements, his new features, his where you can find us if you have to be going to any of these trade shows. But by sharing wins, you're helping your existing customers feel good. The other companies like them are also continuing to choose you, and so it reinforces the fact that they made a good decision by choosing you, nobody wants to be sold and then as far as they know, nobody else ever bought the product. Right, if you can constantly share other customer winds until your point, throw in some of other information around how the product is being continually improved and enhanced to make it even more valuable and more valuable money for them, and where they can find you, how they can engage with you, if you can solicit their feedback as part of that process, then yeah, And it's funny because everything that you and I have talked about, it all comes back to the customer. It all comes back to building a stronger bi directional relationship with with the customer. They are they are the they are. If there's a silver bullet in market and in B two B business, it's the customer, and in particular happy customers, because not old customers are equal. So we don't necessarily going to have some customers that maybe shouldn't have a product in the first place. They don't like it, they don't use it for whatever reason. We don't necessarily want their feedback. What we want is the feedback from the subset of customers. They just love the product, They tell people about the product, they provide testimonials case that is, they provide great feedback on how the product can evolve. And the silver bullet in B two B business not just marketing because it helps SUX sales, product and success, is to is to open up that channel and keep information flowing back and forth. We spent a lot of time talking about the customer story and the fractional CMO model. The other area that we need to discuss is positioning, which is part of the customer story. The idea that being crystal clear on what you do, who you serve, why what you do matters to the people that you serve, and how your unique, different or better underpins marketing, sales, customer success, and product development. And I am an advocate of a wildly enthusiastic advocate for positioning, and sometimes I feel like I'm Don Quixote tilting against windmills. I'm running up a hill madly but not get anywhere when it comes to getting people to recognize that positioning is a need to have, not a nice to have. I'm curious about your take on position I know you're a fan as well. I know it's a key part of how you operate, but whether you think that positioning gets short shrift, whether it's one of these marketing vehicles that a lot of companies. Yeah, positioning is important, but they don't pay enough attention to it, especially now when there's so many competitive options and demand is soft that if you don't stand out, you're not going to do very well. Interesting your thoughts on positioning and and how you get companies to buy into the idea that positioning matters. Yeah, And I think the easiest way I find the easy this way to do that, it's just to make it very...

...tangible. I think positioning sounds like this abstract, you know, theoretical marketing construct. But as soon as you start asking people, you know, last time you were in the grocery store and you're wandering down the aisles, why did you choose a particular product? Why did you use a product that you never word, you've never needed before, And when you were looking at the two or three brands there, why did you pick a particular brand. At the end of the day, customers need to know why should they even change the way they're working today? So you've got to essentially sell your category. There's a better way to do what you're doing. There's a better way to move you know, trial conversion rates from x percent to white percent, and it's this new way you haven't thought about. And by the way, we're the best at doing that and proving that you are the best at doing that. And so you've got to give reason. You've got to give people, whether it's buying consumer products in the grocery store or whether it's it's it's a human being that trying to decide if they need a new product, and if they do need a new product, which product to choose because there seems to be half a dozen similar products. You've got to answer very clearly, very concisely, why should they pick you? Why are you the obvious choice for their particularly use case for their particular industry. And that's what positioning does, and it's it's no different than what car manufacturers do to make you choose their their SUV versus somebody else's, or their sports car versus somebody else's. And it's no different from what CpG companies are doing as you walk down the aisle and they're trying to get you to pick their tooth based I think the key is if you've got to make it tangible, you've got to make it relatable and make it clear to them that if people A don't consider them and then be don't choose them, all the money that they've invested in product marketing and sales and support is all for not. Because you've got to make people want to try and buy your product. And positioning is how you convince people to want to try and buy your product. And if you have, if you don't give them a clear reason, they're not going to do it. And I go to a lot of people's website, there's a ton of information about why you should why you should need a CRM, why you need email, why you need a learning management system. The people that are going to your website probably already know why they need a learning management system or an email marketing solution or a CRM. They're not there to for you to confirm why they need a product in their category. They're there to figure out if you're the best in that category for their particular needs. And and that's what you've got to do with positioning, is you've got to say, if you need a product in this category, we're the best fit for you and your use case for these clear understandable reasons and by the way, I ha all the customer proof points to prove that I really am the best in this category for what you need, and you'll particularly use guys. I think one of the challenges with positioning comes down to deliverables. You can create brand positioning statements, value propositions, strategic narratives, a lot of things that are frankly used internally as as a blueprint or or guidance, and I think CEO will look at a positioning exercise and go, I'm paying you for this? Is that all I get? And the one thing that I did want to stress is during a position and engagement, you're talking to customers, you're talking to key stakeholders, you're doing a lot of industry research. One of the key deliverables in my mind is the discussion that you have with the senior leadership team and the questions that you ask and the issues that you raise and the things that you make them think about. And to me, that is there's such huge r y and doing that on a give you an example of I was working with a company that's involved in property management for condos and they had a story problem. We went through the process and we talked to customers. I must have talked to ten of their customers and had series of means with the with the chief revenue officer and the CEO, and the c r O said to me, you know, I've already started to change my sales deck and what I say to customers. I went to a conference and I tried our new story just as a trial run, and it resonated and I can already see the value of this exercise. And to me, I'm getting tremendous r O I already and I ain't even done any of the templates completed, some of the templates that we as marketers like to roll out. I think it's important for people to realize that even the exercise of positioning is so valuable as you go through the process, and that you take different approaches in different perspectives to get your story right. And then from positioning it lends itself completely into storytelling and messaging. Is that, as you said earlier, you can tell your story on social media G two, in cap Tera and all those awesome places. I...

I personally think the R wife position is massive if only people would recognize that that is the reality of the exercise. Yeah, and positioning is not an input to the story. It's the headline to the story. Right, the position is the headline to the story. Where the best for this for solving this problem, or addressing this business need, or delivering this business impact for these companies, perhaps in this industry. Right, it's it's you can you can. You can niche down by use case and industry, but you need to be the either the best at any price or the best at an affordable price. You know, none of us buy second best in anything, right, We don't buy second best pair of socks. We don't buy the second best of anything. But we modify what's quote best based on our needs, our use case, and what we think is a reasonable cost. And so to me, position is just the headline of the story. It's the headline on your website. It's expanded by the subhead on your website. It's the title slide on the sales deck. And it's the elevator pitch that the sales reps use at trade shows when they pick up the phone and they talk to people. And you're right, you can very quickly document the evolving positioning just in a couple of sentences. A headline and a subhead and have people start testing it and see what the feedback is. And then I do as I mentioned before. I like a process where you literally just bake a headline, a subhead, a graphic, three reasons why, three value drivers, three reasons to choose us, put it on a landing page. Do it for the old positioning and the old story, do it for the new one, and just measure what percentage of people like it. Let them score the new story versus the old story. Because when you're talking to the CEO and you're talking to sales, what you don't on is positioning to be a marketing deliverable. This is me giving something to you with no with no supporting evidence it needs to be. Here's what we've developed together. I spoke to you. I spoke to you. I spoke to your top performing sales reps. I spoke to the head of customer service. I spoke to all the best customer service reps. I spoke to all your happiest customers. We collaborated on this story. The story is not owned by marketing. It's the development and delivery of the story is owned by marketing, but the story is owned co owned by the CEO. Marketing sales success and product. The one thing that will add to our positioning narrative is the idea that positioning is fluid and dynamic. I was listening to a podcast between Chris Walker, a very well known maybe marketer, and the head of a company called Bravado, which offer they help companies hire sales people. During the bTB sas boom in the last couple of years, this company was explosive. Growth went from zero to six million dollars in revenue in one year two thousand and twenty one. The economic landscape changed. High tech companies in particular stopped hiring twenty to fifty sales reps a quarter and went to two to five. This company's revenue projections plummeted by in two months. Suddenly the idea of offering a white glove premium service didn't resonate anymore, and the company had to pivot its product and its messaging. And the messaging was really interesting, as you see explained. It went from we can hire, help you hire aggressively quickly too. We can help you replace the ten of your sales people who are underperforming. We'll swap them out. We'll bring in all these other really great sales people and will help you improve your sales. And I thought that was a really interesting illustration of how position is not a set and for at a kind of proposition, it's something that evolves over time. And and as a marketing leader, how do you know when your positioning needs to change? That's easy when the primary existential metric of your buyer changes. At the end of the day, your positioning your product as the best product to achieve a particular impact on the business for the decision maker and the buyer. Using your example, they thought back then the biggest problem was was hiring good people quickly and efficiently. Now they think the biggest problem is basically getting rid of the dead wood and back filling with quality replacements. Positioning is always a reflection of your customers most pressing business need that you are uniquely qualified to solve. And if their perception of the problem they're trying to solve with the business impact they're trying to achieve, changes, then you've got...

...to recast your positioning because you're all you're doing is positioning no pun intended or pun intended, your position your product is the best solution for this really big problem or this really urgent business need that you have, and if your business need your business priorities change, then I need to make sure that I still position my product is the best way for you to achieve that. By definition, if the most pressing problem that you can solve for your customers changes over time, then your story changes because you're referencing a different problem. The only thing that changed in your example was the problem they referenced. They still said, we're the best way for you to do X, where X was the problem. It's just that the problem changed from hiring good people quickly to getting rid of deadwood and back filling with goodwood. This has been a great conversation, although I have to admit you broke a cardinal role for my podcast is I advertise the fact that this is a thirty minute conversation, that it's perfect for walking your dog, and that at more like a light meal as opposed to a five course meal. But you and I have spent the last fifty six minutes talking about fractional CMO, customer storytelling and position. It's a great conversation. It's a conversation I love happening because I think all of it is super important, and I hope that people see the value in what we're advocating, and we live, you and I live in a very customer story strategy of world as opposed to tactical assication and and brute blunt force. And I think it's really important for people to appreciate that marketing is a mix of things. Some things have to happen in the short term, some things are underpinned what you do for the short and long term, and that's what makes for successful marketing. So I really appreciate your insight. One final question for you is where can people learn more about you and what you do. That's easy, Malcolm Louis dot com. The only tricky part of that is no one can spell Malcolm, so it's m A L C O L M so two else everybody misses the foot the second out dot L E W I s at gmail dot com. And of course they can see you on LinkedIn. You're very active there in terms of writing content and commenting other people's posts. I am, and you know it's interesting. I don't get a lot of engagement because I'm fairly new to LinkedIn, but I do it because I A. I love the process of posting something because it forces me to think of a particular topic and try and boil it down. And as markets that's part of our job right is to take complex ideas and make them simple. And two, if I was looking for somebody to hire, I'd want to see examples of their thought process and they're thinking I'm fairly new to aggressively posting content on LinkedIn, but I'm on there and I do post stuff. Currently doesn't get as much love as I'd like it to get, but I love the process. And for anyone that is thinking about working with me, take a look at some of that content and you'll get a very good idea from my thought process, and you'll like it or you won't. At least you'll get the opportunity to make a decision. Well, thanks Malcolm for the great conversation, and thanks to everyone for listening to another episode of Marketing Spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review, subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcast app, and of course shared bia social media. To learn more about how I work with bTB sas companies as a fractional CMOSP advisor and position in a messaging consultant, email Mark at Mark dot c A or connect with me on LinkedIn. I'll talk to you soon.

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