In the third part of my four-part executive interview series with Hyde Park Ventures VC investor Tim Kopp, the former ExactTarget CMO and I discuss the similarities between modern B2B and B2C marketing and how organizations can balance investments between demand generation, branding, and messaging.

(See here for Part 1 of the series, Tim Kopp on Leadership, and Part 2 of the series, Tim Kopp on Employer Branding).

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My Top Five Takeaways from Our Interview:

1. The future of marketing is B2H: business-to-human.

“If you think about my career, I’ve spent the first half in B2C and the last half in B2B, and now I like both. I like businesses that work.

The distinctions between the two disciplines are eroding, and I’m thinking of marketing more now as B2H, which is business-to-human.

Even if it’s B2B, you don’t buy a piece of software literally from Oracle as a company—you’re buying it from a person. People buy software and solutions from other people that they know and like and trust more than they do from those they don’t—it’s not some amorphous company.”

2. Authenticity matters.

“Even though the word, unfortunately, started to become fairly overused, I think authenticity is a really key component of [B2H marketing]. The reason culture is so important is the brands that are working most effectively right now are the ones that not only have a brand promise, but that reinforce it in such a true and consistent way across all touchpoints.

It still amazes me—Microsoft products are so close to Apple products (they might even be better), and yet when I go to the mall, the Apple store has a line that’s out the door and nobody wants to go into Microsoft. That’s really about creating this brand promise and vision and story that people want to be a part of and then it’s reinforcing the consistency. It can’t be somebody in corporate dreaming up an idea and then creating a commercial. It has to be reinforced as you experience it.

It’s all about connectivity. I think that’s why you see B2B companies moving more to using events and webinars—things that rely more on a human touch. And I think it’s also why you see B2C companies moving more toward technology and automation. Create authenticity in your brand promise and reinforce it, but then drive through in a way that can create scalability using technology.”

3. Brand and Demand Gen are two sides of the same coin.

What’s the point of even creating a great brand to begin with? It’s to drive economic outcomes for a company. If it’s just to go create a cool thing, what’s the point? What’s the why?

The why is to drive an outcome for a company. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who believes more in branding than I do, but at my real core, I’m definitely more of a demand gen and a measurement junkie.

I don’t think the two should fight one another. I think they’re like two sides of a coin, and you should be thinking about how do you drive really pure economic outcomes? If your CFO or your head of finance is not your best friend as a marketer, then you’re not doing it right. You should not be running away from transparency and economic outcomes and what you’re being held accountable to. But you should also be thinking about in all those touchpoints, not how are you driving things that are purely transactional, but ones that drive relationships.

So I’ve thought about it as driving demand gen in the most branded creative way. And in the beginning, it’s kind of the sliding scale; I’m more in on demand gen because I want people to think, ‘That guy and that team, they’re magic. Every time I give them a dollar they turn it into three dollars.’ That’s what you really want people to start to think.

And then as you start to beat your numbers and you start to beat your goals, where else can the money go in the short-term when you’re beating them? The easiest thing to do is give more money to marketing.

You can spend more time and money worrying about marketing attribution than it’s worth worrying about. ‘What 12 touchpoints went into making something work?’ ‘I don’t know, but I just know it works.’

Instead, you should just spend time understanding the macroeconomic drivers of a business and that every time you give me a dollar, I’m going to turn it into three dollars. If you can solve that and have the finance team believe in it, you’re on your way, and then you can start to do a lot of the other fun stuff.”

4. The most overlooked part of marketing? Messaging.

I believe messaging is the most overlooked part of marketing—it’s really nailing who you are with such clarity that everybody understands it inside-and-out.

People are seeing the last half-mile of a marathon; you’re not seeing all the work, kind of, that went into it and the reasons it looks so elegant and beautiful.

If you were at Apple and an agency came to you and said, ‘I got it. What we’re going to do is show this little apple with part of it bitten out; what do you think?’ Or for Nike, ‘We’re just going to show this little swoosh; what do you think?’ It’s fine. It’s cool, I guess. But in some ways, it’s just the container. It can be whatever you want. But it’s more important that all the messaging and brand identity and everything fit into it in a smooth, clean, cohesive way that uses clear and consistent messaging.

If I had to pick the most overlooked or the most secret ingredient, the hardest lesson to learn is how to define points of parity and points of differentiation. Sometimes you think you’re so good at everything. And you can’t be. In fact, this is true in life and I think it’s true in business, it’s true in so many things: what is the one—you might have two if you’re really, really lucky—thing that makes you very different, and how do you build everything around that?”

5. You’ll get tired of your ideas way before the market does. But stay the course.

“For messaging and brand, when they work together hand-in-hand, it’s not about just flip-flopping campaigns all the time. Because what happens is, as a leader, when you’re inside of a company, you get tired of an idea before everybody else does. ‘I’ve been working on this so long, I’m tired of it.’ But the truth is, the market’s not tired of it. And if you think about any great brand that’s built over time, it’s just massive consistency. It’s just doing it over and over and over again so that people know it and can count on it.

Can you refresh it? Sure you can refresh it, but the great brands really withstand the test of time. You will get tired of it. Your agency can get really tired of it, too. When something’s not working, your tendency is to go to another creative agency and say, ‘Give us a new idea.’ But maybe that’s not the right answer. You’ve got to stick with it sometimes.”

Transcript

Tiffany: Okay, so shifting into pure play marketing, what do you see as you look out into what’s next, what’s the next big thing we need to be looking at as brand managers or as more MarCom thinkers?

Tim: If you think about my career, I’ve spent the first half in B2C and the last half in B2B, and now I like both. I like businesses that work.

The distinctions between the two disciplines are eroding, and I’m thinking of marketing more now as B2H, which is business-to-human.

Even if it’s B2B, you don’t buy a piece of software literally from Oracle as a company—you’re buying it from a person. People buy software and solutions from other people that they know and like and trust more than they do from those they don’t – it’s not some amorphous company.

So it’s all about person-to-person, human-to-human connections. Even though the word, unfortunately, started to become fairly overused, I think authenticity is a really key component of that. The reason culture is so important is the brands that are working most effectively right now are the ones that not only have a brand promise, but that reinforce it in such a true and consistent way across all touchpoints.

It still amazes me—Microsoft products are so close to Apple products (they might even be better), and yet when I go to the mall, the Apple store has a line that’s out the door and nobody want to go into Microsoft. That’s really about creating this brand promise and vision and story that people want to be a part of and then it’s reinforcing the consistency. It can’t be somebody in corporate dreaming up an idea and then creating a commercial. It has to be reinforced as you experience it.

It’s all about connectivity. I think that’s why you see B2B companies moving more to using events and webinars—things that rely more on a human touch. And I think it’s also why you see B2C companies moving more toward technology and automation. Create authenticity in your brand promise and reinforce it, but then drive through, in a way that can create scalability using technology.

There are a lot of things wrapped into this. But what I know is it does not work unless:

  • You have a great set of core values and culture that your people are tied into and believe,
  • Yave a brand promise and story that both your employees and your customers are a part of, and
  • You’re reinforcing it with the scalable technology architecture that really makes it all work.

Sounds easy, but it’s wicked hard.

Tiffany: It’s wicked hard. Aren’t you right about that?

So I know one of the things you’ve written a lot about the dial – especially for early-stage companies, between demand generation and brand creation/brand development, and where to set that dial at different growth stages. I’d like to hear a little bit about that.

I guess I have my own perspective – at the beginning, it’s all blood, sweat, and tears so there has to be this animalistic cry for greatness that you see that nobody else may believe.

It’s very brand-driven, yet you can’t always spend all your money and energy on forming the message completely because you have to exchange dollars and figure out if your economic model works.

So give me a window into how you think and maybe some background to inform where your spot on the map is around that.

Tim: One of the things we chatted about real quickly before we got started was our orientations or worldviews before we got into marketing. We both had more of a finance and accounting worldview.

So what’s the point of even creating a great brand to begin with? It’s to drive economic outcomes for a company. If it’s just to go create a cool thing, what’s the point? What’s the why?

The why is to drive an outcome for a company. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who believes more in branding than I do, but at my real core, I’m definitely more of a demand gen and a measurement junkie.

I don’t think the two should fight one another. I think they’re like two sides of a coin, and you should be thinking about how do you drive really pure economic outcomes? If your CFO or your head of finance is not your best friend as a marketer, then you’re not doing it right. You should not be running away from transparency and economic outcomes and what you’re being held accountable to. But you should also be thinking about in all those touchpoints, not how are you driving things that are purely transactional, but ones that drive relationships.

So I’ve thought about it as driving demand gen in the most branded creative way. And in the beginning, it’s kind of the sliding scale; I’m more in on demand gen because I want people to think, ‘That guy and that team, they’re magic. Every time I give them a dollar they turn it into three dollars.’ That’s what you really want people to start to think.

And then as you start to beat your numbers and you start to beat your goals, where else can the money go in the short-term when you’re beating them – the easiest thing to do is give more money to marketing.

It was a few years ago, they said the easiest way you could tell when Salesforce.com was about to beat a quarter or blow it out was when they took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, which shows that marketing is the fastest place to turn that lever. But you have to prove that marketing can drive those outcomes.

As you start to build that capital and trust, and people know that what you’re doing, you’re thinking about it from an economic mindset, not an activity mindset but things that can drive outcomes, it gives you the relational capital and the literal capital to go and do some of the funner stuff.

Then the challenge is getting your team to think about how brand and demand gen really tie together. My biggest branding days were almost always our biggest demand gen days. It’s just how do the two drive one another? I don’t think they’re quite as isolated as people think.

You can spend more time and money worrying about marketing attribution than it’s worth worrying about. ‘What 12 touchpoints went into making something work?’ ‘I don’t know, but I just know it works.’

Instead, you should just spend time understanding the macroeconomic drivers of a business and that every time you give me a dollar, I’m going to turn it into three dollars. If you can solve that and have the finance team believe in it, you’re on your way, and then you can start to do a lot of the other fun stuff.

Tiffany: One of the things I’ve seen on the agency side, in about 15 years in this business, we actually will not take on a brand project for a startup. In part, what I’ve learned, and so I’m aligned in your perspective here, is that they don’t know what business they’re in yet. And particularly as an outsider, you need some sense of steady state to be able to make it worth your dollars to say, ‘Well this is what the positioning is, this is what the logo is, this is why your website should say these words, this is your collateral, and your video should give this overview.’

When that is still in such a place of evolution, you need something that is far more agile than an expensive agency. But once you’re ready to accelerate and grow, and you need to make it super sophisticated and blow the crap out of it, which is demand gen and brand working together.

But [at first] be ugly with it. I think sometimes people, particularly in the technology space where the market leaders like HubSpot and Saleforce have beautiful things and are gorgeous, sparkly brands, they (technology startups) feel like they need to look like they are able to hang coming out of the gate.

Tim: I can tell you they (HubSpot and Salesforce) did not look like that 10 years ago. Ours didn’t.

Tiffany: Right.

Tim: Of the things that you touched on, I believe messaging is the most overlooked part of marketing — it’s really nailing who you are with such clarity that everybody understands it inside-and-out.

People are seeing the last half-mile of a marathon; you’re not seeing all the work kind of that went into it and the reasons it looks so elegant and beautiful.

If you were at Apple and an agency came to you and said, ‘I got it. What we’re going to do is show this little apple with part of it bitten out, what do you think?’ Or for Nike, ‘We’re just going to show this little swoosh; what do you think?’ It’s fine. It’s cool I guess. But in some ways, it’s just the container. It can be whatever you want. But it’s more important that all the messaging and brand identity and everything fit into it in a smooth, clean, cohesive way that uses clear and consistent messaging.

Tiffany: Totally. I want to harken back to one of the things we talked about earlier, which is the scarcity versus abundant mindset. So you just talked about how one of the most underappreciated things is clarity of message. There’s something about having an abundant mindset that says, ‘If I am amazing at one thing and only one, I’m going to be able to extrapolate that to a successful future.’ I think particularly for companies that are in startup or early stages, you start losing confidence that your one thing is going to be great enough.

Tim: Yes.

Tiffany: You look at Apple and Nike, they have this bravado of excellence now, but it really started with a single thing. And that’s a mistake, I see leaders lose their guts when it comes to actually putting a headline on a home page. They water it down to be everything for all things. But you’re just killing yourself.

Tim: I totally agree.

Tiffany: So that mindset is important.

Tim: If I had to pick the most overlooked or the most secret ingredient, the hardest lesson to learn is how to define points of parity and points of differentiation. Sometimes you think you’re so good at everything. And you can’t be. In fact, this is true in life and I think it’s true in business, it’s true in so many things; what are the one – you might have two if you’re really, really lucky – things that make you very different, and how do you build everything around that?

The truth is that’s actually what led to our whole culture exercise and of grouping everything as part of Orange. I was working on a messaging framework for the company, and we were defining the who we are, what we do, why we’re different.

It’s not too hard until you get to the why we’re different. That can take even three months for an executive team to synthesize why we’re different. Because your technologists might think it’s about a particular set of speeds and feeds. Your operational people might think it’s about our operational efficiency and effectiveness. And client success thinks it’s about one thing. But you have to be able to take all those things and go out in the market and hear what other people are saying.

What I didn’t want the answer to be as a marketer, but what the answer kept coming back to for our company, was: ‘It’s your people, it’s your people, it’s your people.’ And I thought, ‘Well great, what am I going to do with this?’ (LAUGHS)

Tiffany: (LAUGHS) Right, ‘How do I not make this trite?’

Tim: I kind of went, ‘Yeah, please don’t make it be that.’ But it was that. And that’s what led to the whole creative exercise. It was starting with the what and getting the messaging right and the differentiation right. And then it was, ‘How do we create the brand around it?’

That’s where I think for messaging and brand, when they work together hand-in-hand, it’s not about just flip-flopping campaigns all the time. Because what happens is, as a leader, when you’re inside of a company, you get tired of an idea before everybody else does. ‘I’ve been working on this so long, I’m tired of it’. But the truth is, the market’s not tired of it. And if you think about any great brand that’s built over time, it’s just massive consistency. It’s just doing it over and over and over again so that people know it and can count on it.

Can you refresh it? Sure you can refresh it, but the great brands really withstand the test of time. You will get tired of it. Your agency can get really tired of it, too. When something’s not working, your tendency is to go to another creative agency and say, ‘Give us a new idea.’ But maybe that’s not the right answer. You’ve got to stick with it sometimes.

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Tiffany Sauder

Coming from a family whose father never worked for another person his whole life, entrepreneurship ran high in Tiffany Sauder’s household. When the opportunity to take over a small Indianapolis marketing firm was presented to her, she leaped at the chance and has been expanding it ever since. For Tiffany, business is built to grow people – not the other way around – and Element Three exists to fulfill that vision. And as clients and employees grow, so does Element Three itself.