How B2B Marketers Can Stand Out and Have a More Strategic Role
To be more competitive, it is important for B2B organizations to rise above all the “digital noise” in the marketplace. To achieve this differentiation, marketers need to be able to take on a more strategic role.
How do they “get that voice at the table”? What core competencies do they need to be able to stand out?
Join us as we take a deep dive into this topic in this week’s conversation with marketing expert Stacey Danheiser (Founder & CMO, SHAKE Marketing). During our discussion, Stacey talks about why many B2B companies are drowning in a “sea of sameness”, what mistakes to avoid, and the importance of conducting market research. Stacey also talks about the five competencies she believes every B2B marketer needs to stand out and how they can take action to position themselves and their companies more strategically.
Topics discussed in this episode:
Christian Klepp, Stacey Danheiser
Christian Klepp 00:00
Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for B2B marketers that helps you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry, and take your marketing to new heights. Each week, we talk to B2B marketing experts who share inspirational stories, discuss our thoughts and trending topics, and provide useful marketing tips and recommendations. And now, here’s your host and co-founder of EINBLICK Consulting, Christian Klepp. Welcome, everyone to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast, where you get your weekly dose of B2B marketing insights. This is your host Christian Klepp. And today I am joined by someone who is on a mission to help professionals elevate their impact as B2B Marketing Leaders. So coming to us from Pompano Beach, Florida, where I’d much rather be right now, Stacey Danheiser, welcome to the show.
Stacey Danheiser 00:49
Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
Christian Klepp 00:52
It’s a pleasure, Stacey. And I’m really looking forward to this conversation, because it’s so it’s about a pretty important topic, if I do say so.
Stacey Danheiser 00:58
Right? Absolutely. Yes, me too.
Christian Klepp 01:01
Okay, so let’s kick off the conversation with something that you and I discussed in our previous conversation. Many B2B marketers and their companies, for that matter. They’re drowning in this whole sea of sameness, as they call it, right. And they’re trying to stand out amidst all this digital noise. So I guess the first question is going to be two pronged. So why do you think that this is the case in the world of B2B marketing? And why do you think that organizations have an abled this play it safe approach, which has ultimately led to a lack of differentiation?
Stacey Danheiser 01:35
Yes, well, let me just I’ll give you a brief introduction and kind of background of myself and why this topic is important to me. So I spent 14 years in corporate marketing, I started my career in B2C. And then I switched over to B2B. And there were a few observations and things that I noticed that were different between B2C and B2B. And the first was that customer research seems to be optional in B2B, whereas in the B2C world, you would never think about spending millions of dollars on a campaign or product launch without first testing it and getting insights and feedback from your audience. And so I spent 14 years as I mentioned in corporate, and then I left to go do my own thing consulting with companies primarily in the B2B space, on how to build a marketing foundation, how to tap into what their customers value, and ultimately create a value proposition that helps them stand out. And what we noticed a few years ago, me and a couple of my colleagues was that there was this kind of copy paste mentality happening within B2B marketing and sales. And we were really curious about this. And so we started doing some research. And we did a scrape of all of we took the telecom industry, the data center, industry, and then UK universities. And we did a scrape of the top 30 global players, websites and Twitter feeds. And within those industries, and we found that every single one of them was telling the exact same story. They used the same jargon, they were overloaded with words that were oriented around their product or their industry, or we are I statements versus you statements. And then the why us story was the exact same as well. And we noticed that there was no proof points is mostly like lofty, empty promises, you know, we help you transform your organization, we help you grow sales. And we now as consumers of that information are all like rolling our eyes thinking, Yeah, but show me the proof. You know, everybody says that, let’s show me a real life story. And I’ve personally talked to a lot of these companies where people have a bad, a bad taste in their mouth, because they were promised something and that it ultimately wasn’t delivered. And so while there’s a lot of marketing classes and advice out there about what to do, you know, there’s advice on how to do product positioning, for example, or how to create your value proposition How do you know get better copywriting and messaging, but there’s not a lot that was discussed about how, how to do your job. And what we discovered after doing this research is that there’s a huge competency gap with how marketing and sales people are showing up to do their job. And so, you know, the result is that they don’t actually know how, and so they end up defaulting to it’s just easier for me to go to my competitors website, copy something from their, their website about, you know, how they explain what they do, and then make it a little bit better, right, change a couple of words and, and reword it and then put it out there. So that’s kind of one thing that’s a prevalent sort of practice is like, well, let’s just go see what they’re doing and we’ll just kind of copy it. The other thing that we know Notice that there are really six reasons why companies are falling into this trap of playing it safe. The first was comfort blanket of success. This happens in really mature industries and organizations. Right? It again, we talked to a lot of companies that were kind of at the top tier, they’re not motivated to change. I mean, think of like Blockbuster. They, they were like, well, we’re never coming down, we can only go up. And when you have that mentality, it’s like, this worked for us before. Why should we change now? And so there’s that mentality of, you know, if this this thing seems to be working, I’m not changing. The second is risk aversion to trying something new, so that this is really a cultural thing, right to how well does your culture of your organization accept risk want to do experimentation? The third is inexperienced executives. I mean, I personally have worked for organizations where there were people that were untrained, and, and unskilled, frankly, in leading the marketing organization leading the product organization, right. I mean, these are, these are two functions that really should be innovative. And if you have somebody that’s not in that role that’s experienced and how to do to do that, and thinking innovatively, then, of course, they’re going to default to just copying and pasting and doing exactly what their competitors are doing. The fourth was inward looking teams. So you know, this is especially kind of a pain point for me within the B2B world, which is, let’s not talk directly to our customers, let’s just all sit in a room and Ida about what we think our customers want or need. And really, what happens is, it’s just a bunch of opinions being thrown around, and the loudest voice wins. So whoever comes in with the strongest opinion, typically, then everybody defaults, like, Yeah, that must be right, let’s gonna do that.
Stacey Danheiser 06:51
The fifth is being locked in an organization or industry mindset. So there’s a prevalent practice of, you know, you’ll see this on job description must have five years industry experience, right. And so you have even people jumping from one job to another, but they’re staying within the same industry, they’re just basically bringing the exact same practices that they did a last company over to this other company. Now, you know, multiply that by many years, and all of a sudden, you have the, the mentality is like, we’ll just all operate the same way. And then last, which was my favorite reason, and this was directly out of the mouths of the people that we talk to was pure laziness. But actually creating differentiation is hard. I’m creating distinctiveness and marketing is hard. It’s just easier to see what’s working and try a few things and copy something that we think will work. And so those are the six.
Christian Klepp 07:44
Just give me a second here. Oh, that was incredible. I mean, you unpacked so much in those paths in these past couple of minutes. And some of that really, like struck a chord with me, because it reminds me about some of my past experiences when I was working in corporate and I couldn’t, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, like, where do we start? Like the comfort zone thing? I mean, like I was reading a case study about well, the case in point. Kodak. Right? Yes. So that was another perfect example of a company that just refused to innovate, and they just did not. They just did not adjust to those ongoing market dynamics, and that ultimately led to their demise. Right. Yeah, the Inside Out versus the outside looking in approach. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we see that time and time again. And I think to your point about risk aversion, I mean, that’s the one. That’s the one description that keeps coming to mind, right. When you when you think about the circumstances around B2B marketing, right? How often have I worked with companies that would always thought and I’m preaching to the choir here, I’m sure that we’ll always talk about, like, you know, Stacey, we need to come up with something more creative. We need to be innovative, we gotta make do something different. We got to differentiate ourselves. And then you come with a new idea. And they ultimately are their own worst enemy, because they are either, you know, they have these very restrictive guidelines that tell you what you This is like this laundry list of what you can’t do because it’s off brand, or whatever it is, right. And there’s absolutely no room for flexibility. Right? I almost find that mentally suffocating because how are you man? How are you expected to come up with something different if you’ve got so many restrictions? And so your last point, I mean, absolutely. Like how often have you heard that discussion, whether it’s from marketing or sales that let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing all these years, but we better have some different results, right? Better results, right?
Stacey Danheiser 09:52
Yes, yep. Exactly.
Christian Klepp 09:55
And how exactly is that gonna? How exactly is that gonna work? Right?
Stacey Danheiser 09:58
Well, and I always love I think it’s Gary Vee says, you know, marketers, marketers ruin everything. Because, you know, we come up with something creative and innovative. And it’s really cool at the beginning. And then everybody copies it. And it’s now it’s no longer effective, right? And that just happens all the time. And so I mean, I always, I always think of like, the early days of the pandemic, as an example, where you got an email from a company that says, you know, we, we care about you, we’re just reaching out and, you know, during these difficult times, and maybe the first one you got, you’re like, Oh, that’s really nice. And then by the 50th email that you’re getting from companies that you haven’t heard from for two years, you’re like, Okay, Billy Billy.
Christian Klepp 10:38
Yes, exactly. That’s, that’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right. You talked about it a bit already. But like, why is it important? Like, you know, when you’re talking about standing out, like, why is it important for you to do your homework? And when I say homework I’m talking about? Well, thanks, that you just mentioned, research, and coming up with a strategy instead of diving straight into the execution, which we’ve seen quite a bit of as well.
Stacey Danheiser 11:04
Yes, yeah. I mean, I think everything in my, you know, my personal sort of viewpoint and philosophy is that the marketers job is about connecting to what customers want, and delivering value to the customer. Now, we, my colleagues, and I wrote a book called Valueology, this was several years ago, which was dissecting kind of what is value? What’s the value proposition? Why is this so confused? I mean, you hear this advice everywhere add value, add value, what’s your value, share your value. But the reality is value means something different to everybody. So depending, there’s so many different circumstances. And you know, we like to say value is in the eye of the beholder. And when you think about that, from a marketing standpoint, all of a sudden, that becomes really complicated, right? Because you have, especially in B2B, 12 different people may be on the buying committee that you have to communicate to, they all care about something different. So there’s a little bit of legwork required, as to finding sort of that golden thread that the company is trying to achieve. And then nuancing, the message for each of those people on the buying committee. You know, you cannot do that without doing your homework. If you jump straight into tactics, you’re basically just kind of throwing stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks. You know, and believe me, I’ve worked with my fair share of marketing departments where that was the approach. But I’ve also, you know, worked for some really great organizations where we were very strategic and thoughtful and, and that’s kind of my approach. Now, when I work with organizations, I’m like, we will go through these steps, these six or seven steps to build our foundation before we’re just going to start executing. Because the last thing we need right now is more mediocre content and more sameness, if we want to really be different and stand out, it’s going to require a different way of thinking. And it’s going to require us doing our homework. And the primary thing of what I mean by that is, we have to know what our customers care about. And we have to know, you know, and this is maybe an unpopular opinion, but we also have to know who else they’re considering. And so you know, sea of sameness. I see advice out there, that’s like, don’t pay attention to your competition, ignore your competition, but the reality is, your customers are not ignoring your competition, right? And if you are just you might unwillingly be contributing to the sea of sameness and that confusion, because you’re not spending literally five minutes, you know, looking at your competitors websites, and just comparing the message is to see Oh, are we actually saying the exact same thing? Let me put myself in the customer’s shoes. I can see how they might be confused.
Christian Klepp 13:44
Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m sure you’ve read some of these reports. I mean, you know, take your pick. Gartner, Forrester McKinsey, talking about the B2B buying process, and that and that journey and what that looks like, and I’m sure you’ve seen the one from Gartner that buyers journey is anything but linear, right? It’s haphazard, at best. And sometimes they tend to go back and when the what I mean by that is like they’ll conduct their own independent online, offline research, they’ll ask and in, in group chats on Slack channels, the last their colleagues like, Hey, have you heard about this company? Because they need to verify whether said provider is even a right fit for what they’re looking for? And I think it was the Gartner report that said that if they’re considering purchasing they, they might they might spend 70% of the time actually talking to sub suppliers. Yes. Yep. Still a small percentage, right?
Stacey Danheiser 14:41
Well, I just I saw a stat actually from maybe that same report that said, What was it like 43% of buyers? B2B buyers don’t want to work with a sales rep at all right? And so they would prefer to just buy independently online. Now the interesting part about that was that the flip side They said 20, the buyer’s remorse is higher 23% Higher amongst B2B buyers who don’t work with the sales rep. So what does that mean? It means that they’re actually they’re thinking they may have confidence in their own ability to make the decision. But then they immediately regret or have purchase regret or buyer’s remorse. Because, you know, they’re questioning, did I actually get all the information I needed? Was there something out there? That was better? Right. And so I think of the opportunity for marketers, and salespeople to really be a curator of content at that point. And to know, okay, look, I know what our competition is saying, I know what we’re saying. We have independent studies that kind of compare the two of these things, helping them sort of distill all of the available information. That’s really where it’s, I think, the next level of being able to add that value versus right now we have a lot of one sided conversations, right? I know my product. I know what we do better. But I don’t know how it compares to anything else. And I don’t know what else you might be considering. So therefore, how much value can I possibly add in your purchase process?
Christian Klepp 16:12
That’s absolutely right. And you just made me think about a, in fact, an interview I conducted with a client a couple of months ago. And while he was in a sales role, and one of the things he said that I thought really hit home was, you know, they’re not about like trying to push their product and getting the prospect to buy the product. They’re trying to take more of a consultative role. Right? To understand, first of all, who it is they’re talking to what role this specific person plays in their ecosystem, what their goals and objectives are, what they’re mandated to do for that financial year, and then try to figure out how might they be able to help that person to get to get to where they need to go? I know, I make it sound really simple, but I mean, it’s, so it’s taking that I will say it’s not counterintuitive, but it’s a little bit like, it’s a different approach, from what you know, like the traditional sales role was right?
Stacey Danheiser 17:06
Yes, yeah. And I think maybe the lens that I hear when, like, I love that, and I think the lens, too, is like, we, you know, it’s almost like an interview, right? Where it’s like, we’re both interviewing each other. And we might determine at the end of this, that we’re not a good fit. Right, right. And it’s, I’m not going to push my product and push my way into your organization, if ultimately, I think it’s going to fail. And so I think that’s very different approach than just, I want to sell you something, and I don’t care if it works or not, right, I just don’t care if you even implement it, I just want you to buy it and sign the contract. And you know, you can, you can decide later how you implement it. When I think I think that’s like, you know, just to sort of get off on a little tangent about value. The value proposition in the sales process is you’re just making a promise, I promise that I’m going to deliver this thing for you, I promise, I’m gonna simplify how you’re doing your job. You we actually never know if that happens until we circle back and that the people have what you know, what we like to call value in use, they don’t actually experience that until they use the product. And so, you know, a lot of organizations put all their energy and effort into acquiring a new customer, and then kind of hand it off to a junior level Customer Success person to do all the onboarding all the implementation. And they never circle back to say, like, hey, you know, we promised to simplify your jump, did that actually happen? Let’s meet quarterly and figure out how we can measure how much we’ve simplified your job. Were you able to hire more people? Were you able to change somebody’s job? You know, how many hours do you think we’ve saved you from automating some of these tasks? So I think there’s, you know, there’s a huge opportunity, sort of on the backside to confirm that the companies are getting value.
Christian Klepp 18:56
Yeah, no, absolutely. And I mean, let’s not forget, at the end of the day, in many cases, when it comes to B2B companies are selling highly complex products and services. So this isn’t a simple case of a salesperson saying you have to go buy my product. I’m just gonna give an example. Imagine if somebody is doing that, who is selling computational software for the aerospace industry? I mean, there’s no way that that’s gonna fly. Right.
Christian Klepp 19:24
Yeah. You know, you mentioned something, you mentioned many things in our previous conversation, but one of the things that really stood out was you talk about this also on LinkedIn, I believe the five competencies that you think every B2B marketer needs to stand out. So again, two pronged approach. Tell us what these five competencies are. And if you can please provide an example.
Stacey Danheiser 20:07
Yes, okay. So, I want to just say that, first of all the five competencies make up The acronym value, okay, v a l u e, because we believe that the job of a marketing and sales person is to connect to customers and ultimately add value. This was based on research of conversations with B2B marketing sales, B2B Mark marketing and sales leaders across both the US and the UK. And we published all of this in a book called stand out marketing. So that’s it’s kind of based on that framework, there’s a bunch of research that went into it, surveys, etc. And what we ended up hearing was, look, there’s these, these five competencies are what marketing and sales people need to, to help their organization stand out. What I want to just note, before I go through all of these is that I want, we wanted to make this book really actionable for the individual practitioner, okay, I’ve worked for really large organizations, and I know it can feel overwhelming sometimes when you feel like things are out of your control, right, I want to make all these changes, and I want to do all this really great work. But meanwhile, I’m, I’m restricted within the confines of my of my organization, and changing people’s behavior. These are things that individual marketers can do right now, to help change their role and elevate their role. And to be seen, you know, as a as a valuable resource kind of internally, but also to customers. So that’s sort of just my preface on the context of this. So. So with that, I’ll walk through each one of them.
The first is called visionary, V for visionary. And this is the ability really to have foresight into what’s happening. It’s, it’s looking at the market dynamics, not only just in your own Industry and Market, but also your customers, Industry and Market and being able to connect the dots, right, like looking out, spending time with kind of imagination. Innovation, when we think traditionally of visionaries, those are people that are seeing things like three or five years out, and companies that you know, I mean, Apple, of course comes to mind, right, or companies that are really plugged in HubSpot also comes to mind for me, because they just launched a creators program, as an example, right, trying to bring podcast hosts onto their platform and really supporting this creator economy, kind of like in a Netflix fashion, almost that wow, what if we built a platform where people, we have really, really great content, and people are coming to it, that is way beyond the thing that they’re selling right now. Right? So you can just almost imagine, like, where are they going with this? This is gonna be way beyond some CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Same thing with Amazon, right? They started as a book retailer, now they’re selling the whole world. So companies that are really good at that. They are those, the what can individual marketers do kind of right now is, you know, we like to encourage people to seek perspective from an alternate point of view. So, you know, some really actionable things I would say is like, one, go join some associations, go join some communities, start connecting with people outside of your organization, to to hear, like, what they’re doing and what different things and some of the most innovative things that you can do is, is join things that are outside of your industry. Because a lot of this stuff can just be applied. It’s like what’s going on in the manufacturing industry? And how might that relate to me? Right, what’s going on in some of these other companies, and even mature companies that have been around for a really long time, something about what they they’re doing has worked, you know, so plugging into these different industries, and figuring out how you can internalize that and take that to your own organization. Subscribing to things like TED talks, and spending time reading, like science and technology, predictions, and magazines and publications are really a way to kind of get your brain oriented in this kind of imaginative world. It’s not, you know, beyond what’s happening today. So that’s the first one.
This second one is called Activator, and A for activator. So this is traditionally where marketers rate themselves pretty highly. This is the ability to get stuff done. But behind activating we think of activating it’s actually two pronged one, you have to kind of collaborate internally and get all of the forces stabilized, to then be marching toward a stated goal. And so it’s not just hey, we’re going to execute and we’re really good project managers. It’s like the orchestration of getting things done. And one of the key pieces to this is getting buy in. Now, a lot of efforts, marketing efforts in particular are an organizational change efforts make you think of what marketing is ultimately selling, there’s a lot of change that goes into that. And a lot of those fail because time is not spent on getting buy in. So when I mentor, marketers, and we have, you know, conversations about how to be a better leader, we spent a lot of time on this buy in piece. And so one thing that you can do, as a marketer is figuring out who are my key stakeholders? Who do I actually need to be successful in my job? There might be other people on your marketing team, of course. But beyond that, what about the sales team? Are there specific sales leaders that could help that have influence to help break down walls? What about the product team, even your finance team, who is reporting and pulling report about your budget and what you’re doing and the impact you’re making is it can be a massive stakeholder for you. So getting taking time to build relationships with these people, sitting down on a regular basis to get feedback from them all sort of helps with your ability to activate and get things done. I mean, imagine then, if you, if you have an idea, then you have a process and all your stakeholders are already on board, it becomes much, much easier to execute, and that you then have a shared responsibility for the outcome. versus, you know, a lot of finger pointing is what we see in organizations like, Well, that was marketing’s idea, and it didn’t work now they’re just wasting money. So you know, make it a shared responsibility that it was everybody had input, and that everybody was really on board and excited about the potential outcome.
Stacey Danheiser 26:45
So that’s A. The L stands for learner. So learner is my favorite one. I would say, just because, you know, this is actually what I ended up hiring for. I look, I look for marketers, that have sort of that learning mindset, right? That I don’t know the answer, but I can go find it. And that they’re, they’re constantly learning, I have on the flip side, worked in organizations where I’ve seen the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) work themselves out of a job, because they lost touch with learning, right? I mean, if you think that your learning is done, like, that’s the day that you start to become obsolete. And, and so this is about staying plugged into what’s happening. And so some of the barriers that we hear for how to develop as a learner is, you know, the number one barrier, actually, for marketers is, I don’t have time. I have no, I’m so busy executing I have a really long to do list. I don’t have any time to learn.
Christian Klepp 27:46
And we’ve never heard that before.
Stacey Danheiser 27:51
Yes, I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s a basically what you’re saying, whenever I hear that, of course, I think of it’s not a priority, right? It’s a week, it’s, if you say, even you know, I use this, like if my kids say this, or my spouse or whatever I’m like, oh, so what you’re saying is it’s not a priority. And it’s the same thing, right? For marketers, if you’re saying you don’t have time for learning, it means that it’s not a priority, but it’s to your benefit. And your career success kind of hinges on the ability to constantly stay ahead and develop yourself. I mean, the, you know, get 1% better every single day. And so, you know, you might, you might ask, okay, well, what should I learn, and we have this table in the book that has like five, five different categories of where you can start. So the first is around the market, you know, how much do I really understand about the market that we’re operating in? What are the market trends happening in the next five years? I mean, this one is very, very integrated into a couple of the other competencies, especially visionary, right? Because it’s like, if you’re not spending time learning this stuff, then you could never become a visionary. So that’s kind of the market piece. The second is the customers, right? How much do we do we understand about our customers? Do we know who our ideal customer is? Do we know what their top needs and pain points are? Do we know what they’re trying to gain or achieve in their business? And when I say customers, I’m talking about the whole buying committee, right? It’s like you have the organizations that you work with, and maybe the industry, financial services companies as an example. But then you have the individual buyers, what about you know, who’s responsible for making the decision? Is it IT (Information Technology) is HR (Human Resources) marketing for the county, you know, who specifically is your target market? So, so diving into that, and really understanding why customers choose to work with you versus somebody else? The third is the competitors. Right? We’ve talked about this a lot. Who are our top competitors, what else are our customers considering? How does our message and value proposition compare? You know, I think there’s a lot of arrogance, especially in SaaS (Software as a Service) companies that oh, we don’t have any competition. You know, nobody’s doing what we’re doing. And that might be true from a functional sort of product features, situation, but the reality is people are seeing the problem today, they are just doing it in a different way, maybe not with a software, right. And so that’s your competition, your competition is what they’re doing today, it might not be a traditional, you know, software company that you’re competing against. The fourth, and this is a big one is around understanding your own company and product or, or services. So a lot of times, you know, marketers are kind of coming in, they get a crash course on, here’s our customer, here’s all the programs, here’s all the MarTech that you need to use to be your to do your job. And they get no product training at all. And they’re expected to go build brilliant content, you know, and connect the dots about the product, but they’ve never experienced the product, they’re not a user of the product, they and then they don’t understand the product at all. Meanwhile, like on the flip side, the sales team is getting like, several months of training, right and ongoing training about the product. So marketers can never compete with that, because they just don’t, unless they grew up in that industry. And they are a user of the product, there’s usually a huge disconnect there. So understanding the product and what it does also understanding the business goals, what is our revenue target? What are our most profitable customer segments? What are our most profitable products? Right? I mean, not all things are created equal. And I, I always kind of recall my time as a corporate marketer, where I had, I don’t know, six different verticals I was responsible for and all the different, you know, we 50 products, and it was like I, we all these things are not created equal. So of the 50 products, which ones were going to give attention to, if I didn’t understand the business, then it was basically like, well, who’s coming, coming to me yelling the loudest for attention, versus making that decision objectively and looking strategically at, okay, here’s the six verticals, here’s where we think we’re going to have the biggest opportunity this year, here’s the products that naturally fit within this vertical on what these customer sets would want. Right? And so there’s a little, a lot more planning that goes into that. And then finally, is your individual role as a marketer? You know, what do you need to be successful? Where do you want to take your career? What are your top strengths and weaknesses? And then kind of looking at well, then how, how can you develop those and get better as a marketer? To develop that, and, and just an example, I guess, of a company that does really, you know, prioritizes learning would be like Amazon, they have, you know, leadership training, at&t has their at&t University, right? Like, large companies have training and development where it’s taken very seriously that, you know, look, we’re making these resources available, because we know, if you become better, we get better employees, and we ultimately the output is better. So if you’re working in a smaller organization, where you don’t have that, then you have to do that for yourself.
Um, the U stands for usefulness. And this, I like to just sort of one. Yeah, this is like at the heart of, you know, what I how I describe a marketer’s job is like, if you’re not doing something useful, don’t do it. But I mean, if you look at right now, what’s happening? There’s content overload, right? Marketers are just pumping out more and more and more and more, everybody’s content budget went up and content distribution has gone up. The problem is that customers are not finding one thing useful over another. Right. So now we’re just creating more sea of sameness with content, because they’re like, Okay, well, now I have six reports, and they basically all say the same thing. You know, I don’t know what to do, how can I make a decision? So being useful is essentially you have customers on one side, and you have your company and products on the other. And your job is to build like a usefulness bridge between the two? How can we get our customers over the bridge to see that our product is the answer. And this requires, you know, one that you know, your customer, obviously, to that, you know, you’re that you know, your solution and your product, and that you are trying new things, right. This is this is like, I think we’re like fearless experimentation comes in, because the bar keeps raising as to what customers might find useful, right? I mean, we I’ve seen reports about thought leadership as an example. It’s like, well, what, back in the day, it might be a handful of companies that were producing these reports. And now all of a sudden, everybody wants to be a thought leader. So they’re all we’re producing, quote, thought leadership reports. But the question is like, how are these? How are these things relevant? Are you creating content? It really aligns with how buyers are making decisions, are you plugging in and using your your sales team and, and really understanding kind of not only how buyers are buying, but actually how salespeople are selling so that you can align those two things. And you know, as I mentioned earlier, become a curator of content, like sometimes you don’t even need to create anything new, it could just be, hey, we put together a useful guide of other people’s stuff, the six, the six articles you should read when you’re planning for this type of solution, right, and maybe there might, they may not be your articles, but the fact that you’ve saved somebody hours and hours of time, going through the web, and looking at videos or articles, you know, and doing that work for them, is extremely useful. So it’s about constantly staying plugged in as to what your customers would find valuable in that situation, let me give you an example of a company that I think does a really good job for usefulness would be Salesforce, you know, I mean, they have an entire resource center that is organized by role, it’s organized by industry, you can organize by content type, you could go basically find what you need. And they’re making the organization of that also easy. They also do events, you know, Dreamforce, that expand way beyond their product they’re bringing together you know, professionals and leadership, even, and development, things that are way beyond kind of what they’re selling, just to be a useful resource to people and knowing that, wow, if you’re, and this is just shows, like how plugged they plugged in, they are to kind of the customer side that, you know, we were talking about the implementation and not being oblivious that selling this thing internally, and then implementing it internally. And then getting everybody on board to use it requires significant change management. So it’s like one skill that they’ve figured out, you know, that they’re successful customers have is the ability to, to lead change management. And so they’re, they’re equipping, you know, their customers to do so.
And then lastly, is E. Evaluator. And this one, so the ones that will, I’ve asked this question of marketers, and I would, you know, ask listeners today, if, upon listening to these, like, which one do you think you need the most help with? And the ones that we typically hear are? The highest in that question are visionary and evaluator. So evaluator is, you know, are we making good decisions? Are we are we actually collecting data? Are we analyzing the data? Do we know what good looks like? And you know, does every single marketer need to have this ability? Not necessarily, you need somebody really good on your team? Who can analyze data? If you’re a team of one, then then yeah, that is something a skill that this is rates very high in terms of kind of like where the future of marketing is going. And this is the ability to just ask questions. So you know, imagine that your CEO (Chief Executive Officer) or CFO (Chief Financial Officer) is coming to you and saying, Hey, I have a really great idea. I think we should, you know, start a podcast or I think we need to go be on Tik Tok or whatever. And that you’re you have some type of evaluation criteria, as to instead of just saying yes, which I think a lot of marketers kind of default to Okay, well, let me go get started on that. No, it’s saying Hold on a second, like what? You know, number one, what’s our objective here? What are we trying to achieve? And is the answer actually starting a podcast? Or could the answer be something different? And I used to, like, love these conversations with the sales team, because they would always come to me and say, we need to do a billboard, you know, and I’m like, Well, no, hold on. What are you trying to do here? Well, we actually just want to create awareness with our with our target audience. Okay. Well, there’s other ways to do that, besides a billboard. So…
Christian Klepp 38:55
That are not that expensive. They’re not cheap last time I checked.
Stacey Danheiser 39:02
Exactly, exactly. So being able to ask those really hard questions. And a lot of this is like, one skill we say that is needed to be a good evaluator, of course, is the ability to analyze data, but it’s actually having some political savviness. Because, you know, if you’re, if you’re getting ideas, especially from your CEO, or other members of the C suite, you can’t necessarily just say, No, that idea is stupid, right? You got to go through a little bit of a process to gather some data and to show why that might not be a good idea. Or maybe you’d be pleasantly surprised and figured out. Yeah, this is something we can, we can check out. So and this this is the other piece too. Like I think a lot of where marketers get stuck in terms of the ROI (Return on Investment), right because we get the question of, we don’t know if this thing is working or not. So I go back to the activator role that we talked about right the buy in and getting agreement early on. on what does good look like? And how do we know? You know, what are those little milestones that we’re looking for? I mean, some, especially marketing is a long game. And so, you know, everybody says, well, the, the end goal is revenue true, but you might not get revenue for a year or two. And so, you know, if you pull the plug too early, you know, you never know what could what could have happened and think of like, influencers. Think of sponsorships, right. Think of PR (Public Relations), some of these things are long, long game, and you might not produce an article, and all of a sudden get, you know, watch your sales go up, it might take a little bit of time. And so you know, being able to identify kind of what those milestones are, and then being able to just kind of keep people, people in the loop. And companies that I think are really good at evaluator is really more on the consumer side. I mean, if you think of, they’re, they’re definitely experimenting more, right, and they’re, they’re there, they will put money into something that they think is going to work. If it doesn’t work, they pull the plug and kind of move on. Right? It’s not like, well, let’s just sit here and think about it for two years. And let’s pull all the data never take any action, right? That’s why these things kind of work together. It’s like, if you’re only an evaluator, you’re going to spend your whole entire life building out what if models and actually never doing anything? Right? Because you might be too fearful to take the leap until you get to 99% accuracy. And I’ve worked for organizations like that where it was, you know, definitely spreadsheet overload, in terms of like, how much data can we possibly collect? versus kind of taking that next step of let’s just try something. So I think of like, Adidas is a great example of all the collaborations that they’ve done with celebrities, right? They’re like, Okay, this person’s sounds interesting. And let’s, let’s try to develop some yoga clothes, like, traditionally, you don’t think of Adidas and yoga clothes, but they’ve, you know, they have a couple of collaborations with some celebrities who are into yoga. And so they’re like, well, let’s just try it. Let’s go in there and see what happens. So I think that’s, that’s like a huge sort of skill that’s definitely needed. So that rounds out our valued competency framework. Sorry, I did a lot of talking there.
Christian Klepp 42:14
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was 14 years’ worth of marketing experience. Yeah. Which was inserted into like, 15 minutes. Thanks so much for that. I mean, like, all really insightful and valuable points, I think, two questions. I mean, I had a lot of a lot of questions. But in the interest of time, I’ll ask you two. Out of all of these attributes of these competencies that you’ve, that you’ve just mentioned, would you say that one is more important than the other? Or which one would you say marketers should prioritize?
Stacey Danheiser 42:57
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. Um, so two things. One, we’re building a self-assessment tool right now that marketers can go through and figure out where their specific gap is, what I have found, so we ultimately really want to enable teams to look at this, right? Because if you’re a team of one, then of course, you look at these competencies, and you’re like, Well, I’m going to be good at one or two of these. And then maybe that’s where I’m gonna go focus is on the ones where I’ve had a weakness. But if you have a team, that it should be more obvious, right? Because you would say, ideally, we have a gap in evaluator that is going to be our next hire, right? We’re either going to train somebody within the team to do it, or we’re going to hire somebody that has that skill set, because there’s a gap in the organization. And the other thing I have found is like, it kind of depends on the stage, the stage of the organization, right? I think a lot of times, you might like as marketing teams are getting started, they ultimately end up hiring somebody who’s like an activator. That’s the first role that’s usually hired, right? We need somebody who would come in and do all this list of things that we know we need to do. We’ve been poor at execution. We need them to do somewhere along the line that starts shifting now into I need you to be more of a visionary, I needed to be more creative, I need to be more innovative, right? So there’s just kind of this natural progression of, of how that marketing role evolves, and it just, you know, I would answer. So one, it depends on the stage of the company, too. It sort of depends on the marketer as well, because you’re going to naturally find that you have strengths in certain areas, and that might help determine sort of your career path. You know, in you may say, I like being an activator. I like being the one that’s getting stuff done. I’m really good at I’m super organized. Like, I don’t really want to be a visionary, I don’t have any inclination to do that, then it would be okay great, you guys can, you’re gonna need to hire somebody. But when I, when I talk with CEOs and especially of scaling companies and helping them kind of build this foundation, that’s what I found that there is a transition from, we need somebody to do all this list of things. And then we need somebody really creative, right? And somewhere along the line, that that starts to shift. And, you know, I would just say, there’s always a way to balance out your team. Like, even if you’re a team of one, you’re, you’re likely outsourcing marketing to an agency, right to freelance writers or graphic designers. So you’re already kind of piecing these roles together without probably even knowing it. That if you’re, if you have a creativity gap, you know, and visionaries not your string, then that’s when you would bring in a consultant, right? That’s when you would bring in a freelance creative, that’s somebody that’s going to think strategically at ahead for you, because that’s just not within your wheelhouse.
Christian Klepp 45:53
Yeah, no, that’s a fair point. That’s the first point. The second question, which you’ve kind of already answered, in the past couple of minutes, but more often than not, when you’re dealing with senior management, you tend to deal with people that are relatively impatient, right? So they’re always looking for the ROI. They’re always looking for instant results. But as you were, you rightfully alluded to on this isn’t, you know, a marketers role is not that of a performer of miracles. Right? Like these things take time. But how do you how would you address this, this impatience by managing expectations, I think might be the right way to phrase that.
Stacey Danheiser 46:33
Yeah. How would I Okay, so a couple thoughts on this, I work with a lot of C level folks. And I think one it is about setting expectations and delivering and basically laying out a framework, what does good look like? I mean, you have to realize that most people in a C level role CEO, CFO, do not come from a marketing and sales background. Right? So there’s this advice out there, like go work for a CEO who gets marketing and, you know, go work for us. And I’m like, okay, good luck, there’s, you know, 13% of companies have somebody who came from a marketing or sales background. So if you’re lucky enough to work for one of those 13%, you know, great, but if you’re not, then the reality is you’re going to be the educator, you’re going to be educating them on what good looks like. So, you know, we have frameworks in the book. And then I also teach marketing strategy, where I lay out the framework, and I’m like, This is what good looks like there’s seven steps. Step seven is execution. If we skip steps one through six, and we just start with execution, you’re, you’re gonna waste a ton of money. And you’re going to be eventually, probably in one or two years, coming back and starting at step one. So but as long as you kind of laid that expectation that this, these are the steps, this is the process, if we are all agreeing to skip all the steps, then here’s going to be the outcome. Right? And it’s kind of painting that picture of what, what good looks like, I mean, these you’re kind of in control of defining what good looks like, I was very surprised when I left, be when I left corporate to go start my own thing, how much confusion CEOs have with what’s the difference between marketing and sales? And I write, yeah, and I was like, why don’t you you’re CEO of, of course, you would know the difference between the marketing and sales. They, I have had so many conversations, on educating between what’s a marketing role? What’s a sales role? What’s a marketing role? What’s a sales role. So when I say that, you know, you own sort of the framework and, and outlining what good looks like it’s coming from that point of view that they actually don’t know, they don’t know what good looks like, and they’re expecting you to tell them. So that’s, that’s number one. And number two, I have a very, I guess, strong opinion about how to get a seat at the table. And the number one thing that we hear from CEOs is like, the way to get the seat at the table, is to become the voice of the customer. No other function around that table should be more plugged into the customer, the marketing. And you may say, Well, what about sales plugged in? Yes, sales is plugged in, but they’re plugged in from a short term perspective. They’re plugged in because they want to close a deal this month. They’re not looking at I want to close a deal in a year or two years. Right and outlining sort of that trajectory of where the industry is going. Where product roadmaps fit in. it’s more transactional. Yes, exactly. So marketers I have personally you know, I do we do customer research as well and personal Lean, you know, the feedback that we’ve gotten is like, A, we were able to get a seat at the table, we were not invited to strategic conversations before. But the second we presented customer research, all of a sudden, it was like, oh, marketing’s adding value to the conversation, they have a different perspective that we don’t have. They need to be part of this. So when I, you know, when you go to back to the impatience question, I find that presenting customer research is a really good place to start. Because there’s usually a disconnect about internal perceptions versus customer perceptions. And we all know from personal experience, how hard it is to change perceptions. So just right there is by saying, you know, impatiently, do you think you’re gonna do one campaign and change everybody’s perception? No. And so then I use examples, right? Of like, what was your perception of this? And what was your perception of this company? And they’re, you know, then it starts, the light bulb starts to go off, like, oh, yeah, that’s gonna, this is gonna be a long, a long time. Like, we can’t just go out there with, Hey, we redesigned our logo, and all of a sudden, we have a different perception of our company, right? Or, Oh, we started a blog, and therefore our perception of our company is going to change. And so I, you know, I think those are those are basically the two things that I would say, and, and, you know, my personal experience, kind of what I’ve seen work.
Christian Klepp 51:03
Absolutely, absolutely. Stacey. Well, this conversation was dynamite. I mean, we could go on for another five hours. but, thank you,
Stacey Danheiser 51:13
Bore everybody to death (laugh)
Christian Klepp 51:17
Contrary, on the contrary, I mean, you really, you really dropped some nuggets in this conversation, I have to say, I mean, I was furiously taking notes. So thank you so much for coming on. And, you know, quick intro to yourself and how folks out there can get in touch with you want to talk a little bit about your, your your online community?
Stacey Danheiser 51:35
Yes, yes, yes, yes. Okay. So Stacey Danheiser, please connect with me on LinkedIn. And you’ll see a link on there to join, I have a free B2B community that I’m just kind of getting up and running. The whole term mission really, is to help elevate the B2B profession. I hear from a lot of marketers, I don’t want to be an order taker, I want to be seen as more strategic, I want to get a seat at the table. That’s really the purpose behind the community. We do events, and we bring in speakers and just all with the idea of kind of helping to, to get these folks a seat at the table because I believe marketing is a strategic function. It’s not, it’s not a tactical function. And so that’s the community. It’s called soar marketing society, you’ll see a link on my LinkedIn. And then my book, as I mentioned, with standout marketing, and that’s on Amazon. So I appreciate that.
Christian Klepp 52:27
Fantastic. Once again, Stacey, thank you so much for your time. Take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Stacey Danheiser 52:34
All right. Thank you. Thanks. Bye now.
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