EVP Marketing Chi-Chi Liang - CMO JD Dillon
September 3, 2021

B2B Branding on a Budget

Guest: EVP Marketing Chi-Chi Liang - CMO JD Dillon - CMO Luanne Tierney, Alloy - Tigo Energy - Betterworks

No budget, no problem! Said no one ever. Except, maybe, the savvy CMO who’s got the magic touch when it comes to making something out of nothing. As Gartner’s CMO Spend survey showed marketing budgets being slashed across all industries in 2021, marketers are being asked to do more with less—and while that’s absolutely a challenge, CMOs are stepping up to prove how important marketing is.

Today’s show features three CMO guests at start-ups, two of which had virtually no marketing staff when they came onboard. Tune in to hear a bevy of practical insights into how to stretch a small budget in big ways from Chi-Chi Liang of Alloy, JD Dillon of Tigo Energy, and Luanne Tierney, who had just left her role at Betterworks.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How 3 CMOs built up marketing departments at startups
  • Tactics to try and mistakes to avoid with a small budget
  • How B2B CMOs can stretch marketing dollars

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 256 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Thinkers Live!
  • [1:20] Building Up Marketing at Alloy
  • [8:31] Building Up Marketing at Tigo Energy
  • [15:36] Building Up Marketing at Betterworks
  • [21:21] Tactics for Driving Cost Effective Leads
  • [29:00] On CMO Huddles
  • [31:13] Common Mistakes Made by Small Businesses
  • [35:55] Where Would SMB CMOs Spend if They Got a Big Budget Increase?
  • [42:20] How CMOs Can Stretch Marketing Dollars

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Chi-Chi Liang, JD Dillon, and Luanne Tierney

[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Thinkers Live!

Drew Neisser: Hello! Yes, you’re hearing me before the Renegade Thinkers Unite intro—and you know what that means, we’re going to be playing a recording of Renegade Thinkers Live, our livestreaming show about hot marketing topics featuring some of the most amazing CMOs from CMO Huddles and some cool new gins.

Today’s show is with Chi-Chi Liang of Alloy, JD Dillon of Tigo Energy, and Luanne Tierney, who had just left her role at Betterworks (she’s currently Head of Partner Marketing at Fuze)—and they talk about their experiences establishing marketing at small start-ups with small budgets. It’s an exciting challenge for the savvy CMO, and these seasoned leaders share a ton of really helpful tactics for growth. Now, let’s get to it!

[1:20] Building Up Marketing at Alloy

“We really wanted to interrogate that and think about what made sense given where we were with our product and our business.” —@chichi_liang @goalloy Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. If you’ve ever worked at a start-up, you know both the exhilaration and exasperation of what it means to make marketing magic, to make something out of nothing—no budget, no resources, and occasionally, no clue where to start. But here’s the good news—there’s no bureaucracy to grind down your ideas, there’s no limitation to your imagination, and there’s not a heck of a lot to lose by being experimental.

You get to learn fast, fail fast, and iterate until something sticks. And you get to make up for an absence of budget with sheer ingenuity. So as a student of marketing and marketers, nothing brings me more joy than talking to CMOs at start-ups, which is exactly what we’re going to do on this show.

With that, let’s bring on Chi-Chi Liang, EVP Marketing of Alloy. Hi Chi-Chi. Nice to see you, how are you?

Chi-Chi Liang: Hi. I’m doing well. How are you Drew?

Drew Neisser: Good thank you. So, set the stage for us—what was the marketing situation when you arrived at Alloy in February of 2020?

Chi-Chi Liang: When I got there, there was a one-person marketing team which, for any of us who have done that, that is an incredibly hard job to do. So, you know, one person marketing team. From a system standpoint, we had Salesforce and HubSpot, but that was primarily used as an email tool without any scoring, without any clear lead-to-opportunity funnel process definition.

Strategy was like weekly plays that sales and marketing were trying to do without any overarching go-to-market strategy, without a clear ICP or segmentation or verticals. And the programs that we were doing were, you know, there were a lot of them. They were all one offs though. They weren’t really connected to one another. They weren’t unified under an integrated campaign theme. That’s what I stepped into.

Drew Neisser: So other than that, everything was perfect!

Chi-Chi Liang: Yeah.

Drew Neisser: Now, one of the things that is so clear when you describe this situation—if you hadn’t been in a marketing department that had all of those functions, you wouldn’t have known what you were missing.

I do want to suggest to folks that sometimes it really pays to work in a larger organization and learn the skills of marketing and then bring them to a startup. Let’s talk about where you started given that you’ve got so many different things in terms of what strategy to go with; you have very little staff, you have very little technology. Where’d you start?

Chi-Chi Liang: Yeah. Staff and team was first. I was actually fortunate in that the one-person marketing team that was there, she’s fantastic and just was getting pulled in every which direction, so I was able to get her to focus on what she wanted to do anyway, which was more on the content side, communication side, brand side of the house.

And then I had a lucky gift drop in my lap right before I joined where one of the other former employees of the company who was an SDR really wanted to shift over into product marketing and try it out. A junior employee, hadn’t really done it before, but I was like, “Sure, why not?” Product marketing was also my background so I felt like I could help coach and guide someone in that particular function.

And then I hired right away a person to run demand generation and was fortunate enough timing-wise to find someone who I had worked with before who was available, so all of that came together pretty quickly in the beginning. I got kind of lucky there.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. So, we have content, we have product marketing, and we have demand gen. It covers a lot of bases there.

We’ve talked a lot in CMO Huddles about product marketing and how hard it is to fill that role, so interesting that you decided “I’ll fill it with somebody—I’ll teach them it” because you know it, as opposed to trying to find a product marketer.

And just for any CMOs that are listening right now, that may be the trick here. If they know the product, you can teach them product marketing. Interesting. So, staff was first. Then what was the next step?

Chi-Chi Liang: The next thing then was actually more the product marketing work, just getting very clear on who our buyer was, who our ICP was, and actually start the actual positioning and messaging work.

So, you know, very tactically sitting with my new V of M and sharing with him a template in terms of “Here’s like a messaging framework document. Here are the different parts of it. Let’s start working through this together and fill it out to the best of your ability.”

And the beautiful thing was he had already been in the company for a year or so, so he had and was in a position where he was talking to prospects on a regular basis. That was helpful. And then you iterate on that.

That to me is always where you want to start because all of the great demand gen and all these other things that you want to do, you need to make sure that you understand who you’re targeting, what your value statements or positioning is relative to the challenges that they’re having. To me, in my mind, you always need to start there.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. And just for anybody who’s listening, if they weren’t sure what ICP is, its ideal customer profile, right? One of the key things here with this is, you can’t take a shotgun approach. You really do need to narrow things. So, when you say ideal customer profile, I believe you are talking about a finite group of people.

Chi-Chi Liang: That’s right. Actually, when COVID hit, because I joined shortly before it did, that actually was an exercise I think everybody had to go through. It was really rethink, like, who should we be targeting now based on who might be doing okay in COVID?

Because there were a lot of companies that were struggling and therefore, they’re not going to be a good target for you, so the timing of that actually sort of coincided well. Not to say that COVID was good generally speaking, but in that regard, it gave us a chance to really sit and think about what specific verticals within consumer goods—because that’s where we generally focus, consumer goods—but what verticals within them are the ones that are actually going to do okay? What size company do we want to go after?

It was one of those things where the company started more, I think, very typically, right? A smaller tech company and it’s trying to push its way up, so we really wanted to interrogate that and think about what made sense given where we were with our product and our business. It was then using that and then working to build out a very specific named account list off the back of that, align with sales and how to go after that, and so on and so forth.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. We’ve got two key takeaways here. Build the team first. And by the way, we could just go straight to Jim Collins and Good to Great there. It’s always build the team first, find your hedgehog concept, and then, of course, roll it out. In this case, we decided you were focused on target. Cool.

[8:31] Building Up Marketing at Tigo Energy

“I did my first press release three days in. Press releases matter a lot to the CEO. They matter a lot to the board.” —JD Dillon @TigoEnergy Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Let’s move on and bring in JD Dillon, who is the CMO of Tigo Energy. Hey, JD, how are you?

JD Dillon: I’m great, Drew.

Drew Neisser: Good. Let’s describe the situation when you got to Tigo eight months ago. How many employees, how big were you? Talk a little bit about your situation.

JD Dillon: I had it great. I had twice as many employees as Chi-Chi, like two. I’m sure it’s a common situation. I had two employees, but I had five dotted line, multi-hat employees, which in marketing at a small company often means, for instance, in Brazil, there were two salespeople. One was the sales leader. The other was half sales, half marketing. I had multiple, multi-hat people. They did marketing-ish things.

Drew Neisser: That doesn’t feel ideal, JD. Did you sort through that?

JD Dillon: No, I just formalized it a bit by having a regular meeting to give a little bit of meat to their multi-hat. I put them on an org chart that was dotted line.

I actually had a regular meeting—because it’s worldwide, I alternated Wednesday mornings or Wednesday nights—me and my employees had half the guys and gals, so I started a little bit of structure to make it feel like more of a team and they responded accordingly.

Drew Neisser: We’ve got team. That was priority number one—sort of work with what you have. And then from there, let’s talk about “All right, we’ve sort of got employees, but what next?” What were some of the things that you looked to do?

JD Dillon: I happen to believe 100 percent in the book, which we’ve talked about before, The First 90 Days.  I’m a huge believer in that. I followed that as a playbook, as kind of an academic playbook.

But one of the things I did that is marketing-like is, I had interviews with half of the company. Which is daunting if you’re a company like GE, but for us, that meant about 40 people and a dozen customers in various parts of the world in various levels of channel.

I had 40 interviews with internal employees and then a dozen external interviews, and I asked them all the same exact questions. Gathered it up, generated some data, captured it in a document, and presented to the board of directors and the CEO—unfortunately I hate this, but it’s such a well-worn analysis—is a SWOT.

I find them very tired, but they’re tired for a reason. Oftentimes stereotypes or stereotypes for a reason, or, you know, old school practices are there for a reason. So, I did a SWOT and generated a simple strategy from that.

Drew Neisser: How long was it and did you give yourself before you started getting messages and campaigns in the market?

JD Dillon: 31 days.

Drew Neisser: 31 days. What took you so long?

JD Dillon: Because I presented at 30 days, because that’s the first tranche of 90 days, what I did do was jump on the one priority that I knew the CEO had. I did my first press release three days in. Press releases matter a lot to the CEO. They matter a lot to the board. For the company, they’re a big deal. So that I jumped on and those were my quick wins. But I purposely said no to almost everything until I published my SWOT and marketing plan.

Drew Neisser: Just to buy yourself some time. Because you could execute and you could do some stuff, but it’s not going to add any value and it’s not building off of anything that you can ascertain. And you don’t know which direction to even point.

JD Dillon: Absolutely.

Drew Neisser: All right. So 30 days, you present the SWOT. You’re in the market now 31 days, what are you learning, what are you doing?

JD Dillon: My strategy was three-pronged and it had a graphic to go with it. I’m in solar—I took a wonderful picture and my strategy was lightning, thunder, and structure. I had a wonderful picture that I found which had lightning with the storm behind it going on to a solar roof. I was able to say lightning, thunder, and structure.

Lightning is sales enablement, thunder is public relations, and structure is messaging and business processes. I relate everything into those three. There are four things in each of those three buckets that I won’t go through, but the bottom line is that was 12 tactics going into three strategies. And if I can’t funnel into one of those things—for example, social media—I don’t touch.

Drew Neisser: You don’t do it! Because you can’t do everything because you don’t have a big enough team. You’ve got to have priorities. By the way, I love lightning, thunder, and structure for a couple reasons.

And I really think that some CMOs miss the opportunity to be communications experts and communicate in a way that’s unexpected because that’s what marketing often has to do. Just by putting lightning, thunder, and structure there, you’ve set yourself apart versus probably anybody else in the company.

One other quick story. Yesterday there was an announcement that no one had been hit or died by lightning in 2021. And then the very same day, some poor golfer got pinged. Anyway, lightning was on my mind. And of course, it always is because of my hero, Ben Franklin. But all right, let’s go on. That’s very cool.

The things that I heard there that I just want to emphasize on this show is you have an opportunity as someone with a small budget to be incredibly focused and keep the organization focused and get the organization excited about it. And the lightning, thunder, structure certainly did that.

[15:36] Building Up Marketing at Betterworks

“A marketing lead doesn't just happen overnight.” —@LDTierney @Betterworks Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Luanne Tierney, who was recently CMO of Betterworks and is now back to partner marketing consulting services running her own firm. Hi, Luanne.

Luanne Tierney: Hello. Where was the golfer hit? I’m a big golfer.

Drew Neisser: I want to say New Jersey? And by the way, I immediately Googled how many golfers have actually died by lightning and the number since 2013 to 2019: 10. Now, compare that to 40 fishermen and 18 boaters. You’re much more likely to get hit by lightning on a boat than you are on the golf course. So anyway…

Luanne Tierney: I wasn’t too worried; I was just curious.

Drew Neisser: Anyway, let’s talk about your time at Betterworks for a bit. I think you were about a hundred employees-ish or so. Well past startup, but still startup mentality. How did you first approach competing with your larger competitors?

Luanne Tierney: I joined just like Chi-Chi did, right in the beginning of the pandemic, what I did was, when I joined, I met with the sales team and I listened and I asked, you know, when they’re winning against the big guys, what do they say and how do we win? And then when we’re losing against our big competitors, why? We needed to get clear on our differentiation messaging.

Also, like the other two, I looked at the team and I said, “You know what, we do not have product marketing.” So, we took our head of SEs and turned him into the lead of product marketing so that he could really lean in on the messaging. And then I noticed there was a gap around content. I mean, content is king, whether you’re a teeny startup or a big company, so we hired a content marketing person and built an editorial calendar and then put a whole strategy in place to make some noise in the market.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Again—listening tour, which I love, and I sometimes I do cringe when I hear stories of someone going in full guns blazing right away when there are a lot of probably smart people in the organization who’ve been thinking about this problem. And they probably didn’t get it wrong, they just needed somebody to come in and listen a little bit. So a listening tour. Get the right team in the right places. All right. From there, what happened?

Luanne Tierney: Well, the other thing I would say as a part of the listening tour, I was very fortunate because our CEO, Doug Dennerline has a long history in this space. I really tapped him. He was at one of the big guys at SuccessFactors and sold his company. I had a total advantage there to hear—fortunately, you have a CEO who’s been a big player and then gone to the smaller sized company and wants to disrupt. That was also a big advantage to get inside and hear what customers or prospects want in terms of this next generation of a software tool.

The other thing I did was draft off some of our customers. We immediately interviewed them. We knew no one was traveling, so we would interview them over video just like you’re doing now. We captured their comments, why they chose Betterworks on camera, and then did some joint press releases like with Udemy and with some of the customers that were buying our software to create some noise in the market and show up bigger than we really were.

Drew Neisser: What is it, fight above your weight class or something like that? Press is one of those tactics that small businesses rely on quite heavily. The thing I always wonder about that—I mean, I know the answer, but I’m curious—were you able to track, “We got this coverage and then we saw increase in site traffic or lead generation” or anything like that?

Luanne Tierney: We tracked share of voice, which means how many times people are talking about you in the press that’s unpaid. We would track site traffic. We would also package up this content to post on social media and use it as an opportunity for our sales team to get in the door and have conversations with prospects. A marketing lead doesn’t just happen overnight, so you have to unpack it over time.

Drew Neisser: I’m so glad you brought that up. In B2B, I think it was on the podcast I did with Shirley Macbeth of Forrester where she mentioned that it’s like up to 28 contacts. 28 touches before you close a B2B sale. So, yes, the PR may not [do it] itself, but it’s how you use that article and the opportunity to have a third-party credibility. “Oh, look, they got some ink!” Get your salespeople to do it. So, again, we’re trying to make the most of every single activity.

[21:21] Tactics for Driving Cost Effective Leads

“I'm in the unique position to have no pressure to generate leads. But my goal is, a year from now, that will be where marketing makes its mark.” —JD Dillon @TigoEnergy Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I think we should bring everybody back on right now. Let’s get tactical, team. Let’s talk about some real tactics. We’ve talked a little bit about press releases. I’m curious, what about Google and spending money, keywords? Has that proved to be a useful way of driving cost effective leads?

Luanne Tierney: I think it’s one tactic in the effort. You could spend huge amounts of sums with Google AdWords, but like Chi-Chi said, you need to be clear on your ICP, you need to go after your vertical market, and then your Google AdWords need to be a component of your strategy. But I think we swung too much on that and pulled that back and focus on some other areas, because you could spend a lot.

Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about that. That’s interesting. Overspending on Google is an interesting challenge because it feels good, right? You’re only paying when they click on the ad.

So eventually, I’m assuming that there was an analysis done and the cost-per-click was translating that way down funnel into a cost-per-lead and the math didn’t look as good as you had hoped.

Luanne Tierney: You really need the complimentary content to go with that, a complete strategy. You can’t just rely on a Google AdWords to bring in a lead.

Chi-Chi Liang: I would double down on what you were saying, Drew. That’s actually where we were when we started. We had some AdWords running and they looked like they were doing great. But because we didn’t have all of our tracking and measurement set up just yet—we were still being modest with how we were spending.

But then once we actually got our tracking set up and we could see none of those or very, very few of those were actually converting into any meaningful opportunities, we completely changed the approach that we were taking there and actually started focusing more on LinkedIn as a channel, which is more expensive.

That being said, if you are really tight on your ICP, you have a target account list, then you’re willing to spend more per lead going after the right people.

Drew Neisser: I often hear from folks that LinkedIn is really expensive, but it’s not if you close a deal as a result of a lead that started on LinkedIn assuming the value of that customer is worth a lot more than the cost to that LinkedIn ad.

It seems like one of the things—and we haven’t really talked about—you really need to understand what a value per customer is, right? Relative to a cost per acquisition. Do you see yourselves somewhat in the direct acquisition business or is this more about getting leads and getting them to sales? Or both?

Chi-Chi Liang: I think it’s both. You know, when you’re in a B2B company—and our solution, which is in the targeting of consumer goods companies, and it’s like supply chain analytics and planning software—it’s pretty complex stuff.

You’re not going to be able to get the whole story or the whole message across just through marketing materials and content. You do need to have a live conversation. You do need to show a demo of the product. That’s where that partnership with sales, of course, is always so critical. Certainly, when you’re trying to market and sell more complex B2B solutions, I think it’s integral.

Drew Neisser: Got it. Let’s just keep going with some tactics. Has anybody tried a tactic that worked particularly well that surprised you?

Chi-Chi Liang: We did direct mail during COVID, which had its own challenges because people aren’t in the office anymore, so you had to go and figure out where they were. But I will say that, again, small company, small budget, and we got creative with the offering that we had, which was, we were targeting supply chain people who during especially the early days of the pandemic, of course—we all heard about it on the news. Every day was like they were firefighting, and they were just completely underwater.

So, we chose a gift that was a chocolate pretzel pizza that we sent to them that had a little hammer. It basically said, “We know you’re dealing with a lot right now. Take out your frustrations on this and not your colleagues or your customers.” I think because we were just a little bit, maybe a little cheeky with that, we actually surprisingly got a lot of responses to that.

Drew Neisser: Not surprised at all. Again, that’s what this show is about. As a smaller company, you can try things like that. A hammer and a giant pizza pretzel. That’s hilarious. I’m curious, JD, have you been able to get to any tactical things that you tried a little bit out of the box?

JD Dillon: Out of the box? No. I’m going to send you a little bit sideways here.

Drew Neisser: Okay.

JD Dillon: I am not tasked explicitly at all with lead gen. Zero. The CEO believes that sales sells and marketing markets and has got a little bit of an old school view about what that means. Therefore, I’m in the unique position to have no pressure to generate leads. But my goal is, a year from now, that will be where marketing makes its mark.

I’m going to take what I know can be done—frankly, by listening to things like the CMO Huddles—I know can be done on lead gen, bring it into the company, and that’s going to be the impactful aspect of marketing. But back to your precise question. I launched with with ON24—this isn’t a promotion for them, but they’re great.

With ON24, we do webinars and I’ve gotten 969 people to attend webinars in the first two months, which, for me, people mean “installers.” I have the benefit of going after a rather specific skill set. Installers, people that install solar. So that’s pretty specific. It’s a noble list of people albeit a long list. There’s 5,000 in the United States, but it’s a list nonetheless. Webinars have worked great.

Luanne Tierney: We did webinars during COVID, but we also saw webinar fatigue because everyone was doing webinars. So we created a Slack community and then used that as an opportunity to have like-minded professionals connect with each other, share best practices. That worked really well.

And then like you, we also did a global summit. We had a few thousand attendees, which we were thrilled with, and that that gave us some really good opportunities as well. We tried that webinar a week during the beginning of COVID and at first, everyone was attending. Then you saw people who were like, “I’m a little webinar-ed out.”

[29:00] On CMO Huddles

“Real life advice is fantastic.” —@LDTierney @Betterworks on @CMOHuddles Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’ll save the rest of the tactics. And JD, thank you for mentioning CMO Huddles, because I’m going to talk about that in a second. We have talked a lot about, in CMO Huddles, which we began in April of 2020, really helping in focusing on B2B CMOS and how they can make sure that not only do they have a seat at the executive table, but they are making significant contributions to their companies.

Just so you know, if you’ve never heard of it, it’s an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO described Huddles as timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment, while another called it a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. Chi-Chi, JD, Luanne, anybody want to add anything and share your experience on Huddles? Anything you want to say?

Luanne Tierney: Well, what I loved about the CMO Huddles is, as we’re looking at MarTech stacks and technologies, it’s a great place to have a sounding board to say, “Hey, have you used this technology and how has it worked or what are the things to think about when you deploy it?” Real life advice is fantastic.

Chi-Chi Liang: I also love—I mean, part of the service that you provide is that concierge service and help connect one to one when you know that there’s something that one of us is concerned about or has questions about and someone else has experience. I’ve taken and given in that sort of setup.

Drew Neisser: Which I’m grateful for. JD?

JD Dillon: I will add on to my previous endorsement. But I will tell you, you mentioned earlier Jim Collins and I happen to love Stephen Covey as well. To me, it’s the sharpen the saw of the seven habits. A lot of us, it sounds like we have small teams—but even if you have a large team, if you’re the CMO, you’re at the top of the marketing heap and you need other folks to grow and develop and challenge and hear ideas. To me, it’s sharpening the saw.

Drew Neisser: Sharpening the saw! I love that. Just happen to have a saw right behind me. Love it. Thank you, JD.

[31:13] Common Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

“Taking that time upfront to do a little extra vetting to save yourself some money later on.” —@chichi_liang @goalloy Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Let’s pivot for a second and talk about one of the things that small businesses struggle with. Sometimes they get paralysis because they don’t have that much money to spend. I’m curious if you’ve tried something in the last 12 to 18 months that didn’t work that you could share.

Or maybe in another job so it’s not current, but something that you’ve tried, that you just say, “I’m not going to do that again” or “I wouldn’t do it in these circumstances.” Anybody want to give us one of those?

Chi-Chi Liang: What comes to mind for me, honestly, I think we’re doing that all the time in marketing because there’s so many—I mean, I’m thinking specifically with third-party media programs, content syndication, those sorts of things.

For me, coming into Alloy, which was a new space for me, I didn’t have any experience with any of those media companies or vendors who were coming at us offering different demand gen programs. You’re testing those things out and you’re trying to figure out which ones seem to be the right ones for you, but there’s a ton of trial and error that’s involved in that.

Drew Neisser: Any error that you can share? I’m trying to save somebody a little time here.

Chi-Chi Liang: Yeah. I’m trying to think how this would be useful. I mean, you know, we engaged with one to do some research. Then off the back of the research, then obviously you have material and content that you can then promote and they can promote for us and all of that.

And then realizing as we were going through the process that they actually were not very well skilled at the research part—there’s probably something to be said about doing more upfront vetting even though everything sounded like it was the right approach and the right audience and all of that. It’s just really taking that time upfront to do a little extra vetting to save yourself some money later on.

Luanne Tierney: Drew, to what Chi-Chi’s saying—you have to experiment with your content. There’s going to be some vehicles that work really well. We talked a little bit about Google AdWords or LinkedIn or content syndication.

I don’t think there’s one thing that you avoid; you have to try, you have to experiment with the tactics based on your budget. But the one thing you have to get right is you have to have content because there’s really no other motion if you don’t have the content to try it in those channels. I think you have to have a real clear, differentiated message within your own content that you’re creating.

Drew Neisser: And when we’re talking about motion, we’re talking about thinking about a funnel, top, middle, bottom, where they are in the decision-making process, and making sure we have some videos, some reports, some user analysis, some comparison tool, something that will make it easier for them to ultimately make a decision. And hopefully that decision is around you. Is that a fair description? So it’s all sorts of different types of content along a pretty long sale cycle.

Luanne Tierney: Exactly.

JD Dillon: Drew, I heard your question a little bit differently. These are all good tips on outward looking, which is our day-to-day job calling of marketing. But in addition to that, most of us are probably—if we’re just starting at a company or a small company—we’re on an executive staff.

I will tell you a very vivid mistake. I thought it would be a good idea to reorganize our board presentation. Now, I happen to know that I’m right, just because I always know that I’m right. It was a horrible idea to exert my influence in the second board meeting and try to organize the rest of the staff to come up with a better way to do it when the CEO has been doing this for a while. So that was a “Hold on, slow the roll” and get some accomplishments under my belt before I start exerting areas like that.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. You know, you made me think, JD, we’ve got to do a whole huddle, maybe even a months’ worth on managing boards and solutions that people have done. You’re right, and some CMOs have mentioned in the past that they wish they knew some things early that they had to learn the hard way.

But my clear understanding is, sit in three before you say a word unless you’re forced to do so because chances are there’s somebody there who’s going to judge you or think they know marketing or whatever.

[35:55] Where Would SMB CMOs Spend if They Got a Big Budget Increase?

“Videos. More impactful videos.” —JD Dillon @TigoEnergy Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Well, this is the moment where in the show where we ask, what would Ben Franklin say? And, gee, I just happened to have bobblehead Ben to join us today with this because one of the aphorisms that he had that I like, it’s simple: “Little strokes fell great oaks.”

And one of the things that we talk about is a focus on a target. We’ve talked a lot about that, focusing your approach, getting the sales team and the marketing team all aligned and working together so that we are doing little strokes against big oaks. Thanks, Ben. That was awesome.

Let’s talk about just the job notion because there are a lot of CMOs who work at big companies and sometimes I think they get nervous about working at smaller ones. What’s the best part about working at a smaller company even if you’re resource deprived?

Luanne Tierney: Seeing the impact of your work. What I did when I joined Betterworks is within a week started communicating to the company: “Here’s what marketing is doing behind the scenes. Here’s what we’re doing.” I was very transparent about communicating with the team. You were hearing straight back from them because you’re in a small company—hearing, “Hey, I really like what you’re doing.

Thanks for being so transparent, sharing what’s working, what you’re fixing, where you’re going to.” And then also getting feedback on what you’re working on. You’ll know right away what’s working and what’s not. You know, they’re pretty open about that.

Drew Neisser: I love it. That’s great. You really do get to have an impact pretty quickly. All right. Next question for you all. If you had more money—we’re going to get a 10x in the budget because you just got another $50 million in funding—what’s the first thing that you would do? Chi-Chi?

Chi-Chi Liang: Build out my team more so that we can do more stuff and try out some of those investments that are harder to measure or take a longer time to drive impact, which I have not been doing because I wanted to make sure what little money and budget I have is very impactful. But if I had more latitude, that’s what I’d want to do.

Drew Neisser: Right. And that’s one of the interesting things about the challenge. You’ve got to show that you’re driving demand because it’s a small business that you need demand. Marketing really is a growth engine at that point. But that doesn’t mean necessarily you’re building brand or spending money on some of those things that may have a longer impact. Interesting. All right. JD, I just gave you another $50 million and you get 10 percent of that. What are you going to do first?

JD Dillon: Videos. More impactful videos. Because, again, go back to what I was saying earlier—it’s not as much for me to build demand. It’s videos. In my business with solar, drones over large installations can be photogenic and help tell the story of solar taking over the world. Solar has a tailwind and greater video content would actually increase the tailwind to have us benefit greater than the tailwind.

Drew Neisser: Tailwind and drones. Perfect. Getting you to video. I love it. Luanne?

Luanne Tierney: I actually was going to say video. It’s around content, because video is the number two search right after Google. How people search for content now, it’s YouTube. I agree 100 percent. And you don’t even need huge budgets around video. You can do it very cost effectively. But people don’t want to read long form content as much, so it’s short, snack-able content—investing in short snack-able content.

Drew Neisser: And what phase of marketing does that play? I’m trying to sort of imagine, you know, JD, I get the visual of the drone flying over. That’s very cool. But for Betterworks, more video from whom, about what?

Luanne Tierney: So you can have customer, you can do demos, you can do testimonials, you can have customers talking about how they deployed the solution and what worked and what they learned from it. And a lot of product, a lot of understanding of how to deploy it quickly, working with customer success.

Drew Neisser: And the reason that you couldn’t afford that is just you didn’t have the talent in-house or you couldn’t go out and buy the talent in order to produce those regularly?

Luanne Tierney: No, we were doing that. But I would add a lot more emphasis around that. We were doing it and doing a nice job, but you could if you could hire more, get more video, more content and have it go faster.

Drew Neisser: You could also probably produce enough that you could start testing so you could actually see. If you could produce enough, you could actually see it. And maybe there are some that would boost. I’m curious—and I was thinking, have you done any B2B marketing using Facebook paid advertising? Any of the three of you?

Chi-Chi Liang: A little bit.

Drew Neisser: I know that so many small businesses are living on it. I mean, it’s a really cost-effective way of marketing in the business. Just curious.

Chi-Chi Liang: I tried it at my last company where we were actually targeting more—I mean, obviously, it depends on your audience. We were targeting more data scientist, analyst types. Those who frankly weren’t on Facebook much. Now we’re testing it out again because we’re going after supply chain professionals, many of whom tend to be of a demographic that I think is going to be more likely on Facebook.

Drew Neisser: Right. And by the way, I meant Facebook and Instagram. Any of their properties.

[42:20] How CMOs Can Stretch Marketing Dollars

“You can't outspend your competition. You have to outthink them.” —@LDTierney @Betterworks Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’re running out of time, and I want to make sure that the CMOs and the other marketers who are listening get some real savvy advice on how to stretch their marketing dollars. We’ve talked about doing more videos. What’s your one bit of advice for a CMO who’s working at a startup about either how to stretch their dollars or just in general? We’ll start with JD.

JD Dillon: I would say be a player-coach is the only way to go. I personally write our own press releases. So, I took our press releases. We have no agency. I took it away from my team. I personally wrote it. It had been a while since I personally wrote press releases. I had edited them for a while. I dusted off my style guide, my AP style guide, and did it myself.

Drew Neisser: One is to make sure it’s as good as it can be. Two is just to stay close, JD, to what you’re doing?

JD Dillon: And lead by example.

Drew Neisser: And lead by example. Right.

JD Dillon: Everyone at a small company is worried, if you’re coming from a medium or a large company, that you don’t know how to get your hands dirty.

Drew Neisser: Right.

JD Dillon: And you’ve got a demonstratively prove otherwise.

Drew Neisser: I see. So, it’s not just about leading and managing. It is about doing as well. Interesting. Great. Really great insight. OK, Chi-Chi, what’s your advice?

Chi-Chi Liang: I’m going to repeat something we’ve been saying all along, but it is about relentless focus because you have very limited resources both in terms of people, time, and dollars. You want to make sure that you’re going deep versus wide and doing the homework that you need to do to make sure you’re selecting the right things to go deep on. But doing that focus, because once you get that, you get a bit of a flywheel going and then you can add more and more and more to it over time.

Drew Neisser: So, focus, by definition, pretty much means you’re having to say no to somebody in the organization. You might have a CEO who reads a book and has five ideas every week. You could have a head of sales who says, “Hey, I’ve got this target. I would love for you to develop this for just this one prospect.” So, talk for a quick second about how you say no.

Chi-Chi Liang: I like to pull in what our product counterparts do and say, “We’ve got a roadmap. Let me put that on the roadmap, we’ll revisit that when we’ve got some more time or resources to do that.” They know I heard them, they know it’s somewhere that’s not being forgotten, but we also can’t do it right now.

Drew Neisser: Love it. We didn’t actually say no. We’ll get to it. That’s what we’re saying. “We’ll get to it. Great idea. We’ll get to it.” Luanne, last bit of advice.

Luanne Tierney: I would say you can’t outspend your competition. You have to outthink them. In order to do that, you need to hire talented people that have modern marketing expertise who can roll up their sleeves and do the work.

Drew Neisser: Get it done. All right. All right. That’s amazing. That was a lot of insights in a short period of time. Thank you Chi-Chi, JD, Luanne, you’re all great sports. And thank you audience for staying with us.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Live is produced by Melissa Caffrey. Our intern is Sam White. Our botanical expert is Nicole Hernandez. For show notes and past episodes, please visit renegade.com, home of quite possibly the savviest B2B marketing agency in New York City. I’m your host Drew Neisser, and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

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