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Founder & CEO @ Authentic™ | Founder & Host @ Integrator Community™
How do you decide on messaging? What order should you execute your marketing plan? What is your unique value proposition, and how can you add marketing as a strategic partner to your go-to-market plans?
Jennifer Zick joins Closing Time to help B2B marketing leaders “Overcome Random Acts of Marketing®” and move toward a marketing strategy that drives your business forward.
Does your marketing strategy sometimes seem more like random acts than intentional initiatives? For many founder-led, sales-driven companies that reach the point of critical mass, a few things start to happen.
Naturally, founders typically prioritize product development and revenue-generating sales over marketing. At a certain point realize that they need to invest in marketing but don’t have the budget (or want the overhead expense) to add a new executive to the team; they either appoint the CEO, founder, or sales leader to the function and potentially hire a junior marketer or agency to help. Together, they take the “let’s throw spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks approach,” aka one of the channels, campaigns, and tactics should work, right?
Jennifer Zick and her team at Authentic refer to this as random acts of marketing – or the sporadic and unplanned marketing activities that lack a cohesive strategy or integration into an overall marketing plan.
These founders know that they need marketing, but they lack the expertise to know how to best structure the department and measure its effectiveness. To no fault of their own, they typically gravitate to the next shiny marketing object or the one where they can see the impact of their investment quickly. It’s the “Let’s put more money into Google” or “Let’s try this new channel because I heard about it on a podcast” mindset. Jennifer shares 15 telltale signs of random acts of marketing in this guide if you’d like to compare them to your current situation.
To scale effectively and move past random acts, businesses need to reorganize. Overcoming random acts involves putting the right leadership, programs, and structures in place. The goal is to create a sustainable, strategic, and sales-aligned marketing engine that delivers consistent revenue returns. Let’s find out how.
As with many things in business, moving past random acts of marketing begins by assessing a business’s current state. And no, we’re not talking about metrics (yet). Jennifer’s company helps many businesses at that critical growth point by appointing fractional CMOs who build clients’ marketing functions thoughtfully and strategically for sustained success.
They do this by employing an agile structure called the Authentic Growth Methodology. This begins with assessing the current state of every client’s marketing team and programs, with the goal being to identify strengths, pinpoint gaps, and establish the foundation needed to expedite results and guide execution.
Recognizing that some companies may lack mature or captured data, Jennifer recommends starting with your company’s purpose. What is your life-changing purpose for existence as a business? She then moves on to the foundational elements—ideal customer fit (ICP), brand messaging, technology, processes, systems, metrics, and KPIs. If you’re imagining a marketing plan, your purpose would be at the top, foundational elements next, and tactics and implementation at the bottom.
A critical aspect is defining the ideal client fit (ICP), which involves narrowing down the focus to create healthy, growth-oriented revenue. This step may seem challenging for founders accustomed to the notion that any revenue is good revenue. They often jump to questions like, should we be on social, what trade shows should we invest in, how can we start creating original content, etc? However, honing in on the ICP is vital before executing and implementing tactics.
Effective marketing strategy, according to Jennifer, answers a few key questions:
Who are we trying to reach (influencers, buyers)?
Why should they care/consider us (how can we uniquely help them)?
How do we get their attention (which channels/communication vehicles are effective)?
What do we want them to do, and what are we trying to achieve (how do we define and measure success)?
Where will we direct our resources (human effort, time, budget)?
The activation through channels naturally unfolds once these foundational questions are answered.
Not every CMO is a brand messaging expert. Their primary responsibility is to conduct the orchestra that is the marketing org and knit together the various components from purpose to execution.
Authentic has a network of Ally partners, including skilled brand messaging experts who are brought in to lead messaging workshops with clients, involving research, voice of customer surveys, and stakeholder feedback to craft a compelling messaging framework.
CEOs and founders, respectfully so, are deeply connected to their product or service. But that means they sometimes can fail to see beyond their sales-driven, established viewpoint. They often want to go after every market, using every channel to serve every need (which might have worked in their early-stage but not anymore).
Recognizing the challenge of being too close to one’s own business, Jennifer advocates for third-party involvement to articulate the message effectively–the goal is to break away from internal perspectives and gain an objective view of where the company fits into the current marketplace based on research, understanding market demands, and specific pain points of customers. This approach brings the right experts to the table, ensures compelling messaging, and ties together the purpose and how the message should be conveyed across the right channels.
How do you describe the role of marketing? “Marketing makes things pretty,” “they come up with creative ideas,” “they generate leads for sales.” Sure, they do all of those things, but confining marketing to simply creating brochures or handling basic lead generation and ignoring their role in border strategy is doing a massive disservice to your business.
Jennifer emphasizes a change in perspective about the role of modern marketing in growing businesses. Instead of being pigeonholed into creative tasks or demand/lead gen, marketing is the thread stitching together brand connections across all stakeholders. While demand/lead gen remains crucial, especially for early-stage companies, Jennifer encourages businesses to extend the marketing role across the entire customer journey–from sales enablement to brand experience and customer satisfaction.
Jennifer urges businesses to view their marketing budgets and teams as integral parts of the entire customer experience, encompassing retention, growth, and advocacy. Beyond customer interactions, marketing also plays a vital role in attracting and retaining talent and building trust with various stakeholders.
The ultimate goal is to empower the marketing org to use its limited resources in the most impactful and strategic way, setting them up on a sustainable path of growth and success.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jennifer’s business, the concept of random acts of marketing, or the Authentic Growth Methodology, visit Authentic’s website.
Do you feel like your go to market is more like random acts of marketing?
We’re going to talk about a more planful approach in this episode
of Closing Time.
Thanks for tuning in to Closing Time the show for Go to Market Leaders.
My name is Chip House.
I’m CMO of Insightly CRM.
And today I’m joined by Jennifer Zick,
who is CEO and founder of Authentic,
a community of fractional chief marketing officers.
Welcome to the show, Jen.
Thanks, Chip. Really glad to be here.
Hey, Jen, before we kick
in, do you want to just tell us a little bit more about Authentic?
I would be glad to.
So I started Authentic in 2017 without even knowing the term fractional CMO.
I just knew that there had to be a better way to help small
growing businesses move further faster with marketing strategy.
And I wanted to create a pathway through bringing experienced
marketing leadership to the table on a part time flexible basis.
That led me down the path of discovering fractional as a category
and being one of the pioneers in the fractional CMO space.
Yeah, that’s great.
And so that’s why
I wanted to talk about this today, because in the work that you do,
you and a lot of your fractional CMO’s work with hundreds of companies, right?
And so I think one thing has been shown in the work that you’ve done is there
have a general problem with marketing, right?
And a lot of them have programs that are in disarray
or maybe not planful, and so they seem like random acts of marketing.
So much so, in fact that you’ve actually trademark,
went ahead and
trademarked, the term overcome random acts of marketing?
So tell me more about that and what that means.
Well, it can sound like maybe a little bit of an insult,
but honestly, it’s a compliment because every business that I’ve ever met
goes through really a natural evolution as they grow and we work an Authentic
Brand, as you mentioned with hundreds of businesses across the U.S.
and sometimes beyond.
And these businesses are usually somewhere
past the $5 million revenue mark and growing beyond that.
And along the way, their stories have a lot of commonalities.
They’re often founder-led, sales-driven.
They’re starting to achieve critical mass.
And, you know, Chip, as a founder, an entrepreneur,
that getting to that stage where you’re achieving critical mass
means getting there, you’ve done a lot of experimentation along the way.
You’ve taken a hypothesis, you’ve refined it, you’ve trialed and error, different
messaging, you’ve tested different markets and you’re starting to find your fit.
So that means you’ve created some random acts of marketing.
And now to scale, you really need to reorganize
and put the energy in a specific direction to go to market.
And that’s when you need to overcome random acts,
put the right leadership in place and the right program
and structure to get there and create that true, sustainable strategic
sales aligned marketing engine.
Yeah, it makes a ton of sense and I can definitely see
how founders, you know, focus on building a product,
you know, building a go to market, definitely building a sales team.
Can I sell this as the founder?
Do we have product market fit?
How are our customers getting success from our product?
And marketing becomes maybe 40th on their list, right?
you know, even if they hire a marketing person,
their initial trials with marketing are probably pretty random.
Okay, so that moves us into.
So what do you do about it?
Well, I when I started Authentic,
I knew that we needed to bring both the wisdom of experienced
marketing leadership to the table on a fractional basis.
But I also had gathered
20 plus years of sales and marketing leadership experience in my background,
and I wanted to bring that leadership to the table with a consistent approach.
We call it our authentic growth methodology.
So when our fractional CMO’s are onboarding to a client,
we’re stepping into a moving train, right?
They’re doing a lot of good things, but they’re not necessarily confident
that when it comes to marketing, they’re doing all the right things
in the right way, in the right order, with the right budget
and the right resources to get the right outcome.
So we’ve leveraged our methodology,
which has continued to be shaped by all of our CMO’s
to bring some tools to the table quickly for audit and assessment.
So we’re looking at quantitative and qualitative inputs and data from
revenue teams and leaders in the company to quickly help assess
where are the strengths, where are the gaps
and what needs to be laid down in terms of foundation
to accelerate results and help guide execution.
So that’s really where we start
when we onboard as quickly wrap our arms around the current situation
and do a bit of a SWOT analysis so that we can help bring forward
an initial marketing action plan to be the catalyst
for an ongoing strategic evolution for them.
And that we can deep dive a little further
into what’s included in that methodology.
But that’s really where we start, where are we strong, where are there gaps,
what do we need to do in the first 90 days?
Yeah,. I’m super interested about that actually.
So it makes sense that you would start with metrics.
So I assume you’re looking at,
you know, overall performance of marketing campaigns,
You know, who you’re selling to today, what are your revenues,
what is your average deal size, maybe what channels are working, which ones aren’t?
What is your messaging look like and what else are you drilling into?
Well, there is data,
but there’s also data in terms of how the team would
measure their maturity on a number of different attributes.
So we’re really looking holistically. Right.
And we also have to start with the assumption
that we might be walking into a client situation where they don’t
have mature data or even captured data.
So when we’re working with companies
that are growing into that critical mass stage,
some of them have put down great systems and processes and tool to capture
baseline data, turn that into information that becomes intelligence insights.
But most of them are kind of all over the map.
We are starting with that foundation element.
And inside of foundation we’re looking at at what is your ideal customer fit?
What’s your ICP, what’s the profile of that?
And then what is the brand that’s going to resonate and what’s the go
to Market Message Foundation that matches up to your ideal client fit?
How does that need to evolve from where you are today?
And then we’ve got to look at technology and systems and process and data
and metrics and KPI and across all of those foundational elements.
Most likely they’ve been doing some of the things,
but we need to really pull it together and take it to the next level.
So it can be really scary for founders and sales leaders of early stage growth
companies to talk about narrowing down the ideal client fit.
You know, they’ve been living in the land of any revenue is good revenue,
but now they really need to focus on where’s our healthy, happy growth
revenue that creates the right kind of growth and balance in our business.
So that’s a really important place to start before you start executing.
Yeah, You know, as as a marketer who’s been doing this for a while
too, definitely. That’s the first thing I want to know
what do we sell and who are we selling it to?
Because I need to know more about those people.
What are their, what’s their pain?. What are their preferences?
Where do they hang out?. Where do they get their information?
All those things are super important.
We’ve actually talked about ICP a couple of different times on this program,
but it’s a great place to start for kind of any marketing strategy for sure.
And I like, you know, some of the challenges
that you ask your customers, right?
first talking about
ICP, who should we matter to, right, as a business?
Who are we trying to matter to?
And why should we matter to them?
I think is paraphrasing essentially what you ask.
Talk to me more about those questions and what you learn.
Well, it’s it’s fascinating because every time I speak
with a new prospect, the conversation usually starts with something like this.
Should we be doing social media?
Should we be on Instagram?
Should we be at more trade shows?
Should we divest from paid media and invest in more original content?
You know, the questions are at the tactical level
and I can’t possibly answer those tactical questions without leveling up.
So if I were to show you, Chip, a one page snapshot of everything that is
that a CMO on our team will eventually build into a marketing plan
with the authentic growth methodology at the very,
if you’d imagine at the very top of that page is purpose.
What is your life changing purpose for existence as a business?
And at the very bottom of that page is tactics.
What are we going to implement?
In between is the foundation we already talked about ideal
customer fit brand message, process,
technology, data and metrics, and then it’s activation through channels.
But all of that can be really overwhelming.
And so the way I take that, all down is that great marketing,
no matter what kind of technology, tools or tactics you’re using, great marketing
fundamentally always answers the question of
who do we want to matter to?
Why should we matter to them?
How do we enter their natural habitat?
And then when we get to their natural habitat, how do we build trust?
Because too many brands who have been founder-led and sales driven
go straight to, Oh boy, if I’ve got a potential ICP on the line,
I start selling.
But it’s really more about establishing trust in your brand, credibility,
being the kind of brand
that will bring them back around when they do have a buying need.
And so that’s how that’s the foundation of great marketing.
That is where our authentic growth methodology really takes the client
to stitching together from your purpose for existence down to tactical execution.
Once you know who you’re trying to target and why you should matter to them
and what their natural habitat is,
then the channels and the tactics start to unfold naturally.
Yeah, I love that.
And when I think about entering any market, you know,
you first need to have somebody know you like you trust you
and you need to have a good idea of who you’re trying to appeal to
and have hopefully
some sort of lofty vision and reason for existing in the first place.
So I think the cascading method you talk about makes a ton of sense.
So one of the things that you work on, I’m sure Jennifer quite often
is taking all that information and you build new messaging,
you work with the companies to build a messaging plan.
And so talk about how that initial framework helps you do that
and what sort of the initial messaging workshop might look like.
Yeah, well, when I first launched Authentic,
a Messaging Workshop was a required component
of every new client onboarding through our methodology.
given the way our methodology has evolved with our assessment and audit,
sometimes we’ve identified
that there is foundational work that needs to be addressed in terms
of purpose and business goals even before we get to messaging.
And we’ve also recognized that as CMO’s, not every CMO is gifted
with brand messaging as their core strength, right?
The job of a CMO is to be the orchestra conductor, if you will,
to see the big picture, to be able to knit together everything we already talked
about from purpose down to execution and going to market with that, right?
Essence. So the job of the CMO is to bring together
the right skills at the right time to orchestrate all the right pieces.
And so at authentic, we know we’re not an agency, we’re marketing leaders.
So we’ve also curated a network of Ally partners that are the ninjas of
different aspects of executing on the plan and building the components of it.
So we work with some really talented brand messaging experts
that we bring in and we orchestrate as part of the workshopping.
And sometimes that involves research.
Sometimes there needs to be voice of customer,
there needs to be some stakeholder research.
We need to understand the market and
we aiming at and how much market is available for us.
And then we can start to build
on that messaging together and the messaging framework.
And we even worked with one of our own ally network partners
for Authentic’s messaging, because here’s what we know to be true.
It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.
Within our own businesses, we think we know what we need to message
to the world, but we’ve been so close to it for so long
that we might not see from the outside what the message needs to be.
So sometimes bringing in a third party
to work with you and articulate that is super helpful.
And that’s usually how we approach the branded messaging side of it.
And then that results in a framework that ties together, Purpose
all the way through to how that message needs to be exhibited in your various,
you know, channels.
Yeah, I 100% agree on the objectivity that’s needed to do that effectively.
And often in fact, the CEO or the founder has even,
you know, more issues when it comes to thinking outside of the box.
You know, because they’ve got used to selling a product in a certain way
and they have an idea and, you know, they tend to trust their gut feel
whether or not it’s actually bears out in the the data.
And so some of the messaging that we’ve done at Insightly
has been starting out with the research to really understand
what the market, you know, what the market demands are and what
you know, some of the specific pain points are in the market
we’re trying to serve such that we can better solve it, right?
You’re very true about your accurate about the founder and the CEO role,
because especially if you’ve been the founder
who kind of gave birth to the original hypothesis and the original purpose.
Like I can speak for myself when I started Authentic seven years ago,
like there’s a lot of things. I can sell to the world and there’s a lot
I passionately believe in because of who. I am and the role I play in my business.
But ultimately, as a business gains shape and
that critical mass we talked about, other
people have to be able to sell what it is that you bring to the world.
And the world needs to be able
to understand your common sense language for the problem they have that you solve.
And the CEO founder is often the very last person who should
try to create that content.
They should absolutely provide that passion, that vision, that
the energy for the purpose that we’re bringing to the world,
but bringing the right experts to the table with the objectivity and the
word experience and a voice for the market is, that’s the right formula.
So one of the things that we’ve talked about also, Jennifer, is,
you know, in a lot of organizations, your fractional CMO has discovered
that marketing, if there is a team at the org,
kind of has been pigeonholed into maybe making brochures for sales
or they’re doing, you know, kind of basic lead gen,
which is all about sort of top of funnel activities, trying to capture marketing
qualified leads and phone numbers and email addresses and things like that.
So it’s not very strategic and sort of inherently kind of random acts.
So, you know, obviously the framework is about getting them beyond that.
But talk to me how you do that.
it really requires a change of perspective and a deeper understanding about what
the role of modern marketing needs to be to grow today’s businesses.
Because marketing, depending on the industry that you’re speaking with
and how progressive
they are, there’s one of two pigeonholes that marketing is is stuck in.
One is marketing is the department that makes things pretty and sound good,
and they spend our money
on creative things we don’t understand and we just hope it works
or if you’re more digitally savvy company, often marketing is pigeonholed,
as you said, on the demand gen side only,
you know, it’s all about marketing creates the leads and hands them to sales
and then sales works the deals and creates the revenue.
But in reality, whether you’re B2B or you’re B2C,
but specifically B2B, let’s talk about B2B, because that’s the
those are the teams that have the sales expertise usually, marketing
is the thread that stitches together the brand connections
across the the business for all the stakeholders.
And so when you’re an early stage company,. Demand Gen is a primary function
of marketing because without new business you don’t exist and you can’t scale.
But as your business becomes more mature, it becomes just as essential
to retain the clients that you do have, the customers you do have to retain them
and grow them and nurture them and turn them into success stories
and ambassadors for your brand.
And so you have to really flip the funnel and extend the funnel
so that the role of marketing, yes, it’s still Demand Gen, it’s still lead
creation, it’s still qualification, and it is sales enablement and support.
But then it’s also the brand experience for working alongside
of account management and with the customer experience
and like being the active organization that harvest the success.
What are the success stories, what are the,
the recommendations, all of the reviews,
how do we harness all that success to remarket it back to the world again?
So marketing really has to follow that entire customer journey.
And so I really encourage businesses to not think about their marketing budgets
as only lead gen or demand gen, but think about your marketing team
and your budgets and your roles spread across the entire customer journey.
And also, don’t forget, especially in the ecosystem
we live in today, that your brand
also needs to attract and retain great talent.
Your brand also needs to build trust with other stakeholders
investors, employees, prospective employees, partners.
Brand is everything your business promises to the world
and everyone who matters and how they experience that or not.
So you’ve got to be able to leverage all your marketing expertise
across that whole experience.
Yeah, I can tell you as a CMO,. I really touch all areas of the business
and it’s it’s why more of the popular ways to look at a B2B flow
now are the hourglass or the bow tie funnel or the,
you know, the flywheel type of thing because, you know,
having that journey in mind that ends in a customer and becomes
advocacy is just so critical for how to think about
go to market, especially in a B2B setting.
truly is a complete journey kind of end to end.
I think a lot of founders that you talk to probably don’t
think of it that way when you first talk to them.
No, and I think it’s because of the natural evolution of businesses
and how they’re born.
From where we started the conversation
founder-led, sales-driven early stage businesses
that aren’t doing a lot of organized marketing are winning
and serving and winning and serving and remodeling themselves as they go right.
not until they’re a little further down the road that issues like oh, retention,
oh expansion, oh diversification, oh, like product innovation,
those things start to become a reality.
And marketing is the thread that ties it all together.
And it is the voice and the perspective of
how we deliver on the promises we’re making.
We’ve talked to so many sales leaders, frankly, Jen,
on Closing Time, and it’s great to talk marketing with somebody.
So I’ve really enjoyed this, so I’m going to put you on the spot.
So looking into the future, because you mentioned the future of marketing,
what is the 2024 or 2025
sort of near-term future for B2B marketing?
Well, the biggest talked about innovation space
among our CMOs as we’re looking into the next year
or two, is all around AI
and this is why we love having a CMO mindshare community where we collaborate.
We have a Slack channel that goes 24-7 and a team that meets every week.
AI is a big topic of conversation in almost every business of every size
is experimenting with where it can add value
and testing what its limitations and liabilities are.
And so having that kind of willingness to experiment and explore is important
for the marketing teams of the future and to continue to understand the value
that only people can bring to the equation.
Ultimately, you and I know that, you know, we’re selling human to human.
That’s not going to change.
But the skill set that’s needed to leverage technology that keeps changing.
From the time you and I were early in the CRM space and the email space,
I mean, it’s changed exponentially.
So that pace of change is not slowing down.
And so marketing
teams of the future are going to embrace being leaders of and learners
and networkers draw on the collective wisdom of other marketers around you.
Yeah, for me, definitely it’s AI in the passenger seat and I’m Luke
Skywalker piloting the ship but that’s how I kind of try to think about it.
So it’s R2D2 and Luke
and I think that’s the best way
to think about it as a marketer, at least right now.
And that could change.
So Jen, I really enjoyed it.
Thanks so much for your thoughts today and hopefully we’ll have you back next time.
Thank you, Chip. It’s been a joy to spend some time with you.
always great to talk to another marketer and another Minnesotan, by the way.
And to all of you, thank you for joining us on this episode of Closing Time.
And we’ll see you next time.