B2B Brand Transformation in 3 Acts
Powerful narratives tend to follow a 3-act story structure: the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. Act One is about establishing characters and their challenges in the world they live in; Act Two is about the actions they take in response to said challenges; and Act Three brings the story to a climax, effectively giving characters a new sense of who they are.
In this fascinating episode, CMO Paul Stoddart lays out the 3-act story behind Epicor’s recent brand development. Tune in to learn how Epicor identified where it was lacking, discovered a new purpose that aligned its brand strategy to its business strategy, and brought its new promise to life through its employees and customers, effectively transforming the organization from the inside out.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Why brand strategy needs to be aligned to business strategy
- How Epicor transformed its marketing organization
- How Epicor made its brand promise real
Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 239 on YouTube
- Story Selling by Nick Nanton and J.W. Dicks
- RTU Episode 225: Marrying B2B Brand to Customer Care
- RTU Episode 229: Growing a B2B Juggernaut
- RTU Episode 218: Awareness Matters: How One B2B CMO Cut Through
- RTU Episode 217: Precisely How to Change Your Brand Name
- True Story by Ty Montague
- [0:27] Act I, Scene I: Aligning Brand Strategy to Business Strategy
- [8:16] Act I, Scene II: Identifying Epicor’s Brand
- [16:23] Act II, Scene I: Epicor’s Marketing Transformation
- [20:44] Act II, Scene II: Making Epicor’s Brand Promise Real
- [31:12] Act III: Act II Continued
- [40:23] Paul’s Rebranding Dos and Don’ts
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Paul Stoddart
[0:27] Act I, Scene I: Aligning Brand Strategy to Business Strategy“That's the standard process. Going in, digging that understanding internally and then externally, and then laying out the brand strategy to match up business strategy.” —@paulstod @Epicor Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Hello Renegade Thinkers! In my prep call with every potential guest, I give myself 30 minutes to find the storyline, an exercise that is both thrilling and challenging. After 239 episodes, I can’t be sure if I’ll find a new story or at least a new angle into a story that you haven’t already heard before. But that’s my goal because if we tell a good story together, you’re more likely to find some insight-rich nuggets, some morals to the story that you can apply to your business challenges.
Now to share a little inside baseball, there are really only four plots that I typically follow. Four that were outlined in a book called—and it’s a real good book—Story Selling by Nick Nanton and J.W. Dicks. These four plots are: one, overcoming the monster. Think pandemic pivots like Episode 225 with Dhanusha Sivajee of The Knot. Number two, rags to riches. That’s startup success stories, like Episode 229 with Ran Avrahamy of AppsFlyer. Number three, the quest. Here we focus on outcomes and obstacles, like Episode 218 with Kevin Sellers of Ping Identity. Then fourth, rebirth. Here we’re talking mainly about a rebrand like Episode 217 with Kevin Ruane of Precisely.
When I spoke with today’s guest, imagine my glee when he described his journey as a story with three acts. That’s right, a story with three acts, which we will now explore for your listening—or viewing if you’re joining us on YouTube. Raise the curtain and please welcome the star of today’s story: Paul Stoddart, the CMO of Epicor. Hey, Paul.
Paul Stoddart: Drew, thanks for having me.
Drew Neisser: How’s it going?
Paul Stoddart: It’s going great. Yourself?
Drew Neisser: Good. Where are you, by the way?
Paul Stoddart: I’m actually in Austin, Texas.
Drew Neisser: Ah yes, the cool part of Texas.
Paul Stoddart: They’re your words. I appreciate them. I agree.
Drew Neisser: Are things picking up in Austin? Can you go to see and hear music?
Paul Stoddart: I’m not sure it’s quite that open yet. I would say it’s more open than other places, and I spend half my time in Seattle. I’d say Austin is definitely a little bit more out there than the Seattle crew for sure.
Drew Neisser: That would make sense. Alright, let’s set the stage here. Is there a prologue required before we jump into Act I? What’s Epicor?
Paul Stoddart: What’s Epicor? Great question. Epicor is a 50-year-old organization, effectively an ERP organization predominantly focused on the mid-market. I would say it was for a long time considered the gold standard of ERP. Most recently, we would describe it as one of the world’s best-kept secrets. That’s the journey we’ve been on—to recapture, if you’d like, some of the fame of who we are.
Drew Neisser: Now, typically for a marketer to say, “Best kept secret,” is not necessarily a good thing. That’s kind of our job—to make sure that our companies are not a secret. It’s March 2020. This is Act I, I believe. Give us the situation.
Paul Stoddart: Well, pretty much. I joined. I guess that’s it. I’ve been with Epicor for a year now so you’re absolutely right. Back in March 2020—I joined on April 1st. There’s a noticeable date right there. On April 1st, I joined Epicor. The reality was understanding this best-kept secret. What is it and why is it not more prevalent out there? Why do people not truly understand who this is?
The customers do. The people who actually work with Epicor or know Epicor or love Epicor have been with Epicor for almost generations. But why isn’t that secret being shared more broadly with people? That was Act I, it was seek to understand.
Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about that. Let’s get into some of the things that you did, or you and your team did, to really get a handle on what the brand is and it stands for.
Paul Stoddart: Like any brand refresh, in many ways, I joined not really aiming on going through a brand refresh. At the end of the day, what I came to do was, how do you uplift marketing?
My hypothesis coming in, in many ways, was a case of there’s probably a generational shift that needs to happen from technology and capability. And partly that was true, but the reality was we soon realized that the brand as you were speaking with people just didn’t match who we were internally or what our customers are saying about us.
It became really obvious pretty quickly that there was a piece of brand work that had to go onboard and therefore you have to go through the process. You know the process as well as I do—brand strategy follows business strategies. Let’s make sure we’re all clear on what the business strategy is.
We’re lucky. We’ve got a really strong CEO, very strong leadership team. The five-year strategy was clear, but I would say the brand strategy didn’t actually match it. That was the first flag, number one: “Hey there’s a gap here where we’re pointing and what we’re doing as an organization versus what is required for the company to be where they want to be in five years’ time.”
That’s the standard process. Going in, digging that understanding internally and then externally, and then laying out the brand strategy to match up business strategy.
Drew Neisser: I’m gonna go in a little bit because everybody does this slightly differently. When we talk about a gap between the brand and the business, can you talk about what kinds of things, what did that gap look like?
Paul Stoddart: For us, I think there was a desire and appetite from a business perspective for us to grow our international markets. We’re a global organization. We’re in 140 countries, but the reality is the majority of our businesses is in America. There was a—”Hey, we need to grow the international business. We want to be serving these countries better than we are today.”
But I would say the brand strategy, even the marketing strategy, really wasn’t aligned to that. It was overly weighted towards the Americas. You’re never going to affect your business strategy if you don’t have your teams aligned to the right problem.
Drew Neisser: Right, that’s one and that’s a combination of reassigning resources. I’m also imagining that once you say, “This is not just about the US, it’s about international,” it also changes how you have to think about the brand. Or am I making that up?
Paul Stoddart: You’re absolutely right. Epicor is an organization going through acquisition, so there’s a little bit of dilution there as well. As organizations come on board, you do a little bit of give and take, here and there. The reality is, maybe it was a little bit more diluted than it needed to be. It wasn’t really clear—we’re very clear on who we serve. We serve five industries, and we serve five industries incredibly, incredibly deeply, but that wasn’t necessarily as clear as it could be even internally for the organization to know.
It’s clear-cut. We’re not going to be going into other industries that we can’t serve to the quality that we expect to. We have a promise that we deliver to our customers and if we can’t deliver against that, we’re not going to do it.
You’re absolutely right—the brand strategy, there are things you have to lean in there and actually maybe cut away some things and say, “Hey, this is an area which isn’t a focus for us and shouldn’t be a focus for us.”
[8:16] Act I, Scene II: Identifying Epicor’s Brand“Brand for me is internally focused and externally felt.” —@paulstod @Epicor Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: It’s interesting, I was going to home in on that a little bit with who you serve. The fact that you said, “We only serve these five industries,” that alone is liberating. It gives you a chance to focus. That vertical strategy obviously helps, but what else did you need to discover in order to help you move along this line of, “Okay, we’re a US-based brand that does serve the global market,” so we’ve got geography and we’ve got verticals, but what are some of the other things that you needed to identify to help get you to a new marketing strategy?
Paul Stoddart: It’s the case of rediscovering who we were. I would say a big part of it was getting that singularity of focus on what we really are versus what we’re not. Most organizations—you think you know who you are, you spend a lot of time looking at your competitors and a lot of time with your customers. You think about what a customer needs and you’re always trying to deliver that. You’re looking at your competitors and going, “Wow, they’re doing some really interesting things over there and maybe we should talk about that a little bit.” But you can lose your own way talking about what makes you great, what is your secret sauce.
Candidly, Drew, for us it was about the rediscovery of who we really are and what makes us special. It was an amazingly impactful journey to do so, because when you actually replay back to the organization—”This is what you know others say about us, the external market, our customers, and actually ourselves.” When you condense that and replay it back, you get that palpable shiver-able moment where you’re like, “Wow, yeah, that is us. That’s really incredible.”
I remember one of the phrases we heard was, ‘You’re our essential partner and we’re essential businesses.” You have to remember, my first year at Epicor was actually going through COVID. “Essential businesses” was a really impactful statement for someone to say at that moment in time. To say we were their essential partners, you’ve got to stop and think for a moment here. don’t try and be anything else; lean in on what you are.
A lot of it comes down to then, what are your brand values, what’s your narrative? Let’s make sure that narrative is really clear and let’s lean on who we are. It’s the rewriting of the architecture, if you like, updating it, but a lot of it was already there, 80% of it was there. It’s about refreshing it and making it clear again.
Drew Neisser: That would have been tremendous. I’ve talked about this on the show before—particularly April, May, June, the introduction of this character, I called the CF-No, who basically said, “I’m sorry, unless you really are essential, as in keep our business operational, we don’t want to talk to you now.” A lot of companies were frozen out and scrambled to try to figure out how they could become essential. It became speed of return, so “Could you lower my costs quickly? Then I might consider it.”
There you were already at an essential place. I could see how that would be reassuring. When we talk about some of the milestones, first of all, did you do all this work in-house?
Paul Stoddart: We worked with an external agency, Together Design based out of the UK, that helped us all through the brand work, doing the brand strategy with us. Incredible set of partners. And then our internal team here. Very small, dedicated team, but brand for me is internally focused and externally felt.
I think everyone at Epicor would say they’ve heard me say that numerous, numerous times. This wasn’t about being done to, this was about us owning our own destiny and understanding who we are again.
Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about the internal part of this. I love that expression. I’m going to ask you to say it again, externally what and internally felt?
Paul Stoddart: Internally focused and externally felt.
Drew Neisser: I see. What does that mean, how do you bring that to life?
Paul Stoddart: Well, I think the reality is that anyone can tell a story. You referenced a book in the beginning of the call—Ty Montague wrote a book about storydoing versus storytelling. I think the reality is anyone can tell a story, and you can say, “This is our brand, here’s the veneer,” but, does undercover really match what you really say?
Brand needs to be internally focused. Anything you do inside will be amplified exponentially outside, the good and the bad. For me as a CMO, I recognize that the reality is the brand experience that we have goes way, way beyond the brand team and the marketing team.
The reality is, our procurement department has got as much impact on our brand as, in many ways, I do. If you want to buy from Epicor, is it a seamless and easy experience? Or is it a terrible, tragic, horrible one? Therefore, you have to look broadly internally and say, “Okay, are we delivering on this experience we want to give to people?” Then it will be externally felt correctly.
Drew Neisser: As you’re going through this process, were you as the marketer making a list of—I’m going to just call them experience fixes that needed to be addressed before you could go to market with a new promise?
Paul Stoddart: I guess you could say yes. I think the reality is, again, most people within the organization knew what the challenges were. What it gave us the ability to do was ratify why we should be focusing on the now. Because if we want to actually truly refresh our brand and say to the market, “Look, this is who we are. We’ve refreshed it so it’s easy to understand,” then we have to be able to deliver to that.
Things that maybe were on the backburner became something which had to become a priority. To your point, back on the CF-No, the whole COVID dilemma is that things that were on the backburner suddenly became a priority for our customers and for us. That gave us a great chance to look at how we deliver on our promise of a simplified experience, a better experience.
Drew Neisser: All right, well, all of this is music to my ears because everything in my next book talks all about how the internal audience is the critical audience in this process, both from an understanding, but then as a communication and as you described it as an action. So much of what we think about with brand is about what you do, not what you say.
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One CMO described huddles as, “Timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment.” Another CMO called them: “The cross between an executive workshop and a therapy session.” If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit CMOHuddles.com and let’s talk.
[16:23] Act II, Scene I: Epicor’s Marketing Transformation“We make with our customers, for our customers. That transpires into everything we do—how we do our product development through to how do we actually, on a day-to-day, operate.” —@paulstod @Epicor Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Now we’re ready to talk about Act II. What we didn’t really talk about is where you ended up. Part of Act I, I’m imagining, is you got to come up with a summation of the new brand and a plan, but how did you end up summarizing the new brand?
Paul Stoddart: For us, it went a little bit beyond the brand. For us, it was actually a moment in time to step change the whole of the marketing organization to recognize that B2B has changed as a whole entity. Again, I would say, COVID for us drove the fact that traditional mechanisms where we may engage with customers no longer were on the table for us. Heavily event-driven trade shows, webinars those sorts of things, very quickly, people who had webinar fatigue and couldn’t go to events.
Again, projects which were on the backburner or tactically were things people were experimenting with became priority number one for us. We had to have a completely different capability to be able to deliver for our customers. It wouldn’t be on brand, to be honest with you Drew. The brand allowed us to be very clear on what we had to deliver.
We had to really clearly deliver on our promise—we make for you, with you. We make with our customers, for our customers—how do we actually now deliver that? From a marketing team perspective, what capabilities, what processes do we need to now be able to deliver again to that? They’re very different than they were a year ago like I said, both market dynamic-wise and because, for our organization, we just needed to up our game a bit.
That was the big transformation drive we’ve been on. It’s recognizing, what are the skills, the capabilities, the processes, the technologies, you need in place for marketers of today and the next five years versus yesterday and the prior five to ten years.
Drew Neisser: It really was every department in every company had to regroup because 40-50% of so many B2B organizations depended on physical events for leads. And not just leads, but helping to close sales. You take that off the table—and it’s funny because a lot of folks did see success with virtual events in a short period of time. But then even that became a difficult thing.
I want to make sure—did I hear a tagline? “We make with you, for you.” Is that internal language? I just want to make sure I got that.
Paul Stoddart: It’s our promise. Honestly, when I look at a brand framework, everyone tends to go, “Hey let’s look at our narrative, our vision, our mission.” Normally your values are in there as an organization. You might be looking at your identity and your tone and all of those sorts of things. Quite often, what gets overlooked, from my perspective, is the promise to the customer because everything else is internally focused, as it should be. It’s like, “Hey, we want to make sure that we represent ourselves correctly.”
But that doesn’t say to the customer what they should expect from us, so therefore for us, our promise was really important. That really is that we make with our customers, for our customers. That transpires into everything we do—how we do our product development through to how do we actually, on a day-to-day, operate.
Drew Neisser: Was there a promise in place before this?
Paul Stoddart: No. We were probably more rallied around, and still are, around our mission. That’s really important. That’s a great guiding light and North Star for the organization internally to rally around, but I’d say that maybe was being communicated a little bit too much externally and didn’t make sense to our customers—that feels like much more about you than it is about me.
The reality is, what we heard loud and clear from every one of our customers was, “If you work with this organization, if you work with Epicor, you’re in a partnership, you’re in a real relationship.” We don’t need to be exposing what our five-year mission is. What we need to be explaining is what does that partnership mean and what can you hold us accountable to. That’s the promise.
[20:44] Act II, Scene II: Making Epicor’s Brand Promise Real“We need to culturally be willing to be learners, not knowers.” —@paulstod @Epicor Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: What were some of the things that you needed to do to make that promise real?
Paul Stoddart: That’s a great question. It depended on different parts of the marketing organization. In product marketing, in many ways it was the case of, do we have the right customer advisory boards in place? Are we actually speaking with customers and getting their input? Are we sharing early? Are we willing to take feedback? Are we transparently sharing in the organization over to the product development team? Are we researching things that customers are saying like, “Hey, we think we would like these things in the future”?
So, are we investing in the things that they want versus us following the shiny object internally? That’s terribly easy to do, especially with technology today. You want to follow AI and AR and VR. It’s like, “Maybe. That’s exciting, but that might not be what your customer wants.” Product marketing-wise, that’s one example.
But also through to—we’ve got really strong and well advocates. Our PR team, for instance, was like, “Okay, are we engaging with the right people at the right moments? There are people who want to tell the story. Let’s make sure we’re working with them, so that they can have their moment of fame as well.” There are people out there, like I said, they’re essential businesses. They are the ones that are keeping the economy running. It’s pretty spectacular when you speak with them.
Drew Neisser: Interesting. Okay, we have product marketing, obviously, yeah. Getting that customer advisory board together is so important. Really, it’s an initial test of brand strength— customers importance to your business to them. If they want to be part of it, then it really matters to them. If they don’t, then they go, “Yeah, yeah.”
Advocacy is another interesting thing because that gets very tricky when you’re talking about something like an ERP, which I would imagine is part of the core of a business and is that something you want to share publicly. I imagine you might run into that, so finding folks that will talk about it publicly makes a lot of sense.
Were there other areas from an employee standpoint that generated a sense of pride that they’re working at a place that mattered?
Paul Stoddart: Yeah, I think so. I think ultimately that worked to truly understand who we were where you can unashamedly say, “Look, it’s okay to be proud of this. We don’t have to always be comparing ourselves to others. It’s okay to actually say the bar is high and we’re setting it.” Our customers are saying that this is actually what is really important to them.
I think it’s easy to get lost on what you read and what you see elsewhere. Candidly, internally it’s been a pretty exciting time for us. Not saying everybody has been on the journey—there’s a few people who are kind of like, “This is almost too good to be true” and can’t quite get there. But the majority of people were like, “Wow!” It was here all the time, it just needed to be unleashed a little bit.
Drew Neisser: The folks that can’t get with the program, well that’s okay too. It’s like having a target audience you’re going to say no to. It becomes a filter for, I would think, employee success or non-success.
Let’s get specific here in terms of—this is a really interesting, customer-centric approach. You’re putting all your eggs in: “We’re really thinking about our customers every second of the day and embedded, if you will, as partners.” It is a large promise. What are the things from a marketing standpoint could you do or did do to make this real?
Paul Stoddart: There isn’t a silver bullet, Drew, like, “Hey, we turned on account-based marketing” or “Hey, intent-based data did yadda yadda ya…” It’s not like that. There are a million things from a process perspective. I think it’s culturally that was the biggest dynamic change. It’s gonna take the longest to really proliferate throughout the whole of the organization, but it is what’s made the change here. We’re really clear and upfront, myself and my leadership team, we’re like, “Yeah, let’s get really clear on some principles we want people to operate by.”
There were some things that were holding us back. We very much as an organization were in service to other parts of the organization. I’m making it up, but, “If sales want that, then we should go deliver it” versus “Let’s actually be proactive and actually really delve into understanding our customer journey, understanding their needs, and presenting back to the organization as marketeers, ‘This is where we need to be going, and here’s how we’re going to deliver against it.’”
We need to culturally be willing to be learners, not knowers. It sounds like a bit of a strange one but you’re always looking for disciplined expertise. Don’t get me wrong but the reality is nobody knows more than anybody knows. Make your data transparent to everyone in the organization and say, “Hey, this is what I’m seeing and how I’m interpreting it. Here’s my plan. But if anyone spots anything else let’s have a conversation.”
We’ve seen quite a dramatic change in the organization from a culture of approvals and yes/no conversations to ones that are incredibly collaborative exploring ideas and looking for tenants for success. Let’s put something into the market quick, test it. Fail fast, it’s fine. Failure is fine as long as you’re not damaging your customer, obviously. Cultural changes being the big “aha.”
Drew Neisser: You said a couple of things that I just want to put a punctuation point on. What I think is so interesting is that it required cultural change in order for this thing to be real and be forward-looking. For a lot of folks, this is one transformation that seems to happen—you know marketing has evolved when it’s no longer an order-taking department for sales. It’s something that’s actually driving not just message, but the whole go-to-market play in partnership with sales. That’s a moment in time in marketing department maturity.
One of the things that also seems to hold these transformations back is that comp doesn’t change and if we’re rewarded for exactly the same behavior before a brand change. Did anything change on that front?
Paul Stoddart: That’s an interestingly tricky one. No, not necessarily from a marketing perspective.
I think, again, if we went back to “Your brand strategy follows your business strategy” and we got clarity over our business strategy, it became clear that maybe our compensation for some of our salespeople actually wasn’t completely aligned to our five-year strategy.
We were very much a cloud-based organization, but we weren’t necessarily compensating people as well as we should be, on driving that activity. There were definitely some changes in that regard of, “Hey, compensate for the behavior you want to see.”
From a marketing perspective, I think it was slightly different. Like a lot of organizations, we measure, “Hey, there’s excellence, you’ve achieved your targets for the year, and then there’s needs improvement,” like a standard review type thing.
I would just say that it was a little bit off-kilter. I would say the marketing organization felt like the standard you should expect at the end of year is, you exceeded, you were excellent in your review. The reality is the majority of the organization should have achieved their target for the year. Maybe our goals aren’t actually aspirational enough.
Drew, that was actually a really interesting point, which is raising the bar within the organization. Saying, “Hey, we’re going to raise the bar, we want to do better work. By the way, that means your review is probably going to look like you’ve done less well, but actually, that’s better.” There have been very few people who have my rarified air of 1%. Not everybody can be there. That’s been a little bit of a change as well, but I think all for the better.
Drew Neisser: How you are evaluated is as much a part of this as how you’re paid. Often when you’re looking for cultural transformation, you definitely have to get into that avowal form. Otherwise, people are just going to keep doing business the way they’ve been doing business, and you’re talking about a transformation that’s pretty significant and one that you’ve got to get everybody on board with.
[31:12] Act III: Act II Continued“It's about setting great milestones, it’s about setting great expectations, it’s about delivering against them, and it's actually about celebrating successes.” —@paulstod @Epicor Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s see—we’ve aligned the brand strategy with the business strategy, we’ve done a lot of work with building out some of this customer experience, we’ve done a lot of work with employees changing evaluations. What’s Act III?
Paul Stoddart: Act III is a little bit of an ambiguous one, but importantly so. I genuinely believe that the endpoint, the destination if you’d like, should never be reached. I get accused by some of my team of always laying tracks down faster in front of us than we can get to where we’re going and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s kind of my job.”
Act III is a little bit like that Drew. I say to people, Act III is yet to come. We’re actually probably never going to get out of Act II because Act III is about how the business is going to change. It just is. In the next 12 to 18 months, the market is going to change, the business could change, we’ll be way closer to our five-year aspirational goals as a business, and we’re going to need to pivot as a marketing organization as well. Act III is really about being prepared to be spontaneous. You’ve got to prepare to be spontaneous.
Everything we’re doing right now, if we’re creating tools or processes that are rigid and don’t allow for flexibility and allow us to grow and allow us change, if we create a mindset of being knowers and not learners, then we’re never going to be able to deliver for Act III. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to Act III, but the reality is it’s there as the, “Hey we’re always going to be prepared for it.” A little bit ambiguous, but strategically so.
Drew Neisser: I’m thinking of a survey. This last year, ironically, people in service industries and white-collar jobs are working more hours. They don’t have their commute but they’re working more hours. There’s a sense of work that never stops in this work-life home thing. I wonder how, in that framework, if there is no Act III and we’re just always going, how do you stop and say, “Hey we did something. We have places to go.” Is there a moment in time where your team gets, “Great job guys, here’s what we’ve accomplished”? How do you celebrate success in this, “You’re never there yet”?
Paul Stoddart: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s a great callout and something to be super aware of. I’m really aware that I’ll be a, “Hey, atta boy, well done,” and I’ve moved on. The reality is the organization needs a little bit more love. Candidly, I know that’s an area that I have to keep revisiting, so thank you for the reminder.
Drew Neisser: [Laughter] I’m sorry.
Paul Stoddart: The reality is that it’s about setting great milestones, it’s about setting great expectations, it’s about delivering against them, and it’s actually about celebrating successes. It’s sharing the work you’ve done and sharing it unashamedly and getting the recognition for that work.
I’m lucky, I’ve got a good leadership team that recognizes like, “Hey, we’ve got people that are doing incredible work.” When we hit those milestones, they do make sure that people get the recognition. My point I think, as a CMO, my job is to be like, “Hey, the bar’s just gotta keep improving.”
If someone leaves the organization, I’m not looking to replace a person. I’m looking to get someone better to actually take it to the next level. If we’ve achieved something with a piece of technology, that’s fantastic. We just have to make sure that we know what’s next. It might be doing more with this, it might be rationalizing, it might be simplification, but let’s not rest on laurels.
Drew Neisser: Got it. One of the challenges for folks recognizing this situation—they go, “Oh no, I do have a brand problem. There’s a disconnect, but I’ve got to keep the business running and I’ve got demand gen, I’ve got to fill the pipeline with X percent of leads.” What did you do? The brand part takes time. How long did it take you from, “Okay we’re going to tackle brand” to “We’re going to rebrand”?
Paul Stoddart: We probably did it in an accelerated fashion. The reality is the strategy work of it was a good six months. I would say normally it takes people a good year. I’m very lucky, our partner, Together Design, are brilliant and we were very aligned on what we need to do and how we need to do it.
I also had an executive leadership team that were ready. They knew it needed to be done. I think normally people have to take the organization on that journey to get them prepared for, “We need to do this.” I was lucky. I walked into that. They were probably more ready for it and I was.
Drew Neisser: Right, that makes sense. That’s key. If I were to put a list together of what you need to have in place in order to fast-track a rebrand, the executive committee is one, two, and three. They’ve got to be on board and willing to participate. That’s part of it.
While you were doing this, you’re redoing that, was there still pressure or things that you had to do? After all, we were in a pandemic and the way that marketing used to generate leads had to change. How did you balance this rebrand work with, “Well, we still need leads in the pipeline”?
Paul Stoddart: Absolutely. You had to fly a plane and rebuild a plane. The reality is, we have a lot of good mechanisms and a lot of good engines and people in the team. This isn’t a throw the baby out with the bathwater situation. There’s lots and lots of good.
It was more, in some cases, realigning what we were doing and making sure that dots were connected, and teams were connected to the right goals and with each other.
Then there’s the inevitable. Our events team were like, “Hey, we have to pivot. We’re not going to be in-person running big events. We need to very quickly learn in a breath and adopt and address virtual capabilities.”
That’s why I love the team. They are learners. They’re like, “Hey, we’re gonna go and we’re going to understand this. We can see who else is doing it, what works well and what doesn’t. We’re going to find other avenues to keep the business being driving forward.”
For us, it was a parallel exercise. Things don’t stop because you’re re-looking at your brand. We were refreshing our brand and rewriting our narrative so that it made sense internally to match what people were saying externally. Once you have that, all of a sudden things aligned really quickly.
Drew Neisser: I just want to make sure that I understand. 6 months from, “We’re going to do this” to “We have it,” how much time did you allow for internal indoctrination? I’ve talked to CMOs who actually had certified training programs that people had to go through to prove that they actually knew what the new brand was about. How much time did you spend on the internal, we’ll call it “re-indoctrination.”
Paul Stoddart: It’s ongoing, Drew. It’s absolutely ongoing. Going back to the internally focused, externally felt, we brought the organization on the journey with us. This wasn’t something we did to them. The reality is, as we went through all of the exploratory exercise and then were thinking about architecture and naming and simplification, the business did that with us. From engineering through to the sales team it was like, “Be part of it.” Ultimately, if we do it to you, people are going to push back. If they’re part of it, they’ll understand the rationale of why you’ve done it.
The reality is at the point of, “Okay, we’re ready to bring this to our customers, to make this live.” I would actually say the internal organization was more ready than we technically were able to deliver. We had to refresh a website with however many tens of thousands of documents and pages, etc. Our internal teams were literally biting at the bit to be speaking with customers. It was like, “We need you to hold back. Let us get everything ready first.” Testing to bring the company along and being internally focused—that accelerates the ability to deliver.
Drew Neisser: No doubt, you just have to bring them along. Ultimately, the company is the people and if they are not buying in and they aren’t a part of the process, it just crumbles. That’s the part that’s hard and you simply can’t shortcut.
[40:23] Paul’s Rebranding Dos and Don’ts“As a B2B brand, what is your promise to your customer? Are you willing to actually say it out loud and be held accountable to it?” —@paulstod @Epicor Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: We have a bunch of CMOs listening and they’re going, “Maybe I’m ready now to do this rebrand.” Give us two dos and a don’t.
Paul Stoddart: Two dos and a don’t. The first is, do have the open conversation with your peers and the LT about what it really is going to mean. The reality is, if you are going to refresh and a rebrand, you should want to do it because you think there needs to be change, not because you’re trying to prove what you’re doing is right today.
For us, it was a case of there was an appetite and people recognized the need. I don’t think we could have done it within the timeline we wanted without people wanting to lean in and make it happen. You’ve got to have that buy-in; that’s got to be number one.
Number two do—I think the reality is, really focus on the narrative. It’s easy to fill out a brand framework and put in words and cross them off the list and make people happy and placate people here and there. But the reality is, if you write a narrative which is true and correct, everybody internally in the organization should read it and say, “Oh that’s me, that’s us.”
Everybody externally, your customers, should be able to read it, and say, “Oh, that’s them.” Your prospects should be able to read it and say, “They’re the people I want to work with.” The narrative for me is actually the crux of everything in many ways. If you get that right and you’ve got that triad of people who are like, “Okay this is the thing,” everything goes from there. It’s pretty exciting.
Drew Neisser: And a don’t?
Paul Stoddart: Don’t ignore the promise. I think it’s easily overlooked. People spend time on it, should you have a vision and a mission, we’ve got values, blah, blah, blah, but all of those things are internally focused.
The thing that we love about great brands—name any of the consumer brands—you can pretty much articulate what they’re committing to do with you. As a B2B brand, what is your promise to your customer? Are you willing to actually say it out loud and be held accountable to it? That’s a big one.
Drew Neisser: I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s awesome. Alright, well, Paul this was a really interesting and instructive story, so thank you so much for being on the show.
Paul Stoddart: Thank you.
Drew Neisser: To all the listeners if you enjoyed this episode, do me a favor go write a five-star review and tell the story about what you listened to.
Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.